Window treatments are a key part to the styling and accessorising a space, in fact your windows are arguably the most important feature of design in any building. From the way light enters a room or from the way the view connects to the world outside, it is all entirely controlled by your windows. In this short article I’m not going to talk about which window styles you should install – whether you need sashes or casements, double or triple-glazing, and what materials to use, etc., because that’s a major design choice for the whole building – that’s a discussion for another day. Here I will look at all the different “window treatments ideas” available and what works best in different interior designs.
Before we get started on your windows, let’s take the approach of an interior designer and remember to plan ahead with the first step being to measure everything around your window frame from floor to ceiling. Knowing what you want to achieve at the onset with your window treatments or during the construction process is essential. Whether you choose fully open curtains or Roman blinds you need to ensure you have enough space so that the amount of fabric doesn’t bunch or that the blinds don’t encroach on the lighting. Like all interior design projects, when you understand the architectural space in advance – you will get the best results and whether you want floor to ceiling curtains or Venetian blinds.
Getting your window treatments started
From a panoramic view of the landscape to a simple skylight in the smallest room, your windows are the major focal point for any interior design. It’s tempting to decide your walls, floors, and furniture early on and “worry about the windows later”, but that’s a big mistake! Begin any interior plan with a good long look at the windows:
1) Take a moment to stare at the view – do you want to exploit it, or hide it?
2) How much privacy is needed – is it different during the day and night?
3) Check the light at different times of the day – do you need to protect from direct sun, or grab every available cubic lux?
4) Think about the window in your overall design – will it be a feature statement, or a background source of illumination?
- When you’ve decided on the answers to these questions, here’s a list of the choices available to design your window treatments:
Probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of window design ideas is good old-fashioned curtains. The choice of fabrics, range of colors and styles is vast; from heavy velvet drapes, through billowing Gothic nets and Scandi linens to minimalist voile panes and designer prints. There’s different methods of sewing the headings, lining the back and weighting the hems, not to mention swags, tails, tie-backs, valances and pelmets. And we haven’t even started to look at the myriad of curtain poles available. From an interior design perspective, curtains are a wonderfully versatile tool in the complete design of a room and can be used to create a huge variety of looks, from traditional to contemporary. They will perfectly frame a view, can be thick for extra insulation in a room, or thin for part-shade or privacy.
The only drawbacks (excuse the pun) with curtains as a window treatment are the bulk and shape. It’s often impossible to draw curtains open wide enough to allow the full capacity of natural light through; this can have the effect of darkening a space which, in turn, can dampen the color scheme or increase the need for artificial light. Curtains are also useless when a window is sloped or angled; they rely on having a square perpendicular shape to drape properly.
Curtains will dominate every design – this is fabulous if you want to frame a picture window, or add drama or height, but not so good if you want a minimal look. Simply put, curtains are the easiest to work with but if the amount of light coming into a room is important, or you don’t want the window to be a statement – then look at alternatives.
Blinds are a window treatment available in a wide variety of styles and materials to suit all tastes and budgets. There are many different types of blind: vertical, Venetian, roller and Roman are the best-known styles.
Vertical blinds and Venetian blinds are perfect for controlling the light entering a room during the day, but useless at keeping the light out at nighttime. Vertical blinds are best for big expanses where you want something minimal and simple and are often used in offices, but the choice of color is limited. Venetian blinds can be more characterful, especially when the slats are made of wood or aluminium, but are limited in width as they become very heavy as they get larger. The temptation with both these styles of blind is to never haul them up or aside completely to allow the light in – it’s too much of a bother! So, the benefit of having blinds to maximize light is often lost after a few weeks of installation.
Roller blinds and Roman shades are made from a panel of fabric, so there’s a much broader choice of color, texture, and pattern. Quality patterns have the satisfying effect of lowering an entire tapestry of design covering the window at night to transform a room. These blinds are also limited in width due to the strength needed to operate the mechanism but, because they are much better at blocking the light at night and not good at filtering daylight, you won’t be tempted to leave them closed during the day.
Day and night blinds, also known as zebra blinds or duo blinds, are a combination of roller blinds and Venetian blinds. They are made of two layers of fabric, one light-filtering and one blackout. The layers can be adjusted easily to control the amount of light and privacy. Although mostly limited to plain colors, they’re a crisp-looking, modern design idea which is stylish and practical for a room that sometimes needs light, or dark, or in-between.
Pleated blinds are made of a single piece of fabric that folds up and down in a honeycomb or cellular pattern. Pleated blinds are available in a variety of colors and patterns and can be made of light-filtering or blackout fabric. They are usually made from lightweight fabric, which is useful if you need electronic operation and can be fitted to skylights and angled windows.
Blackout blinds are rolling panels of semi-stiff fabric that lower between side runners to completely obscure any light from outside at night. They’re not pretty, more like window coverings than window treatments, so you might want to disguise them behind additional curtains.
Many manufacturers of blinds offer electric mechanisms for opening and closing, which you’ll find very convenient if the window is hard to reach, but my advice is; if you don’t need it, don’t get a powered mechanism as they’re a big headache when they malfunction!
If you want electronic assistance and have a big budget, consider switchable glass, also referred to as privacy glass or smartglass, which is electronic switchable glass with adjustable opacity. It’s pure minimalism at the extreme.
Probably the most traditional way of dressing and protecting a window is with shutters. Originally designed as solid wood hinged panels to prevent intruders, they developed over the centuries into latticed and louvred doors to help control the temperature of a room.
Nowadays shutters are manufactured in a wide range of colors and styles for use both externally and internally. They are often designed to concertina or fold back from the window when open, allowing maximum light penetration. They can be tailored to awkward shapes and provide excellent light control and privacy.
Plantation shutters have the added benefit of adjustable slats, like a Venetian blind, that allow partial light into the room or permit the air to circulate whilst blocking direct sunlight. During a winter storm there’s something very satisfying about closing the shutters against the world outside.
Shutters are durable and long-lasting window treatment and can help to insulate your home and reduce energy costs. Many period properties look superb with shutters when the style matches the building. There’s almost nothing available on the market to suit modern properties, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a metalsmith or joiner to create a modern interpretation of the traditional shutter – how cool would that look?
Shutters can be expensive, especially when they are made of high-quality materials or cut to difficult shapes, and they need a proper carpenter to install, otherwise they’ll never hang correctly!
Choosing the right window treatment
The best window treatment for your interior design will depend on your needs and preferences. Always think about the following factors when making your decision:
Light control: Are you letting more in, or keeping it out, and does it change throughout the day?
Style: What’s going to complement your design, it will be a big feature in the room?
Privacy: Are you showing off a view, or blocking prying eyes?
Budget: How much do you want to spend?
Maintenance: How easy is the window treatment to clean and maintain?
Good luck and remember; whether you’re looking at window treatments or the whole house, it always helps to talk to an interior designer!
“An interior should be informed by the life that is lived in it.”
– Sandra Hinton, Founder –