Window Treatments 101

Window treatments add a finished element to any room. But choosing the perfect window treatments for your space is a complex process. It’s not just about color or pattern; to find a window treatment that’s just right, you’ll need to take into consideration a number of factors -- as well as know some basic terminology.

First, let’s begin with some of the most common window-treatment terms:

 

  • Blackouts: Lined or coated window panels that are made from a heavyweight fabric with the intent of blocking light and insulating windows so that interior air doesn’t escape and outside temperatures can’t penetrate the rooms as easily. Blackout draperies may also be used to reduce exterior noise.
  • Blinds: Window treatments made of plastic, metal, wood or heavy fabric that come in horizontal or vertical slats, kept in place with string, cord or fabric tape.
  • Brackets: A piece of hardware attached to a wall or window frame to support a rod.
  • Cellular shade: A style of multi-layered or pleated shade that has a distinctive “honeycomb” fabric construction, and provides a high level of window insulation.
  • Curtains: Unlined, stationary window coverings made of lightweight fabric that are typically hung over windows using a curtain rod or decorative pole, and are often held back with tiebacks or holdbacks.
  • Draperies: Draperies -- not to be confused with curtains -- are made of heavier fabric. They can be stationary or mobile on a track, and can be paired with fabric tiebacks or fixed holdbacks mounted on either side of the window.
  • Finial: A decorative end piece that comes in a variety of shapes used to finish or cap the ends of a drapery rod or the top of a drapery holdback.
  • Grommet-top: Also known as eyelets, these are metal, plastic or rubber rings used to reinforce a hole in the fabric at the top of the drapery or curtain through which a curtain rod is placed.
  • Holdbacks: Used to hold curtain or drapery panels when pulled to the sides of the window so the panels can remain open.
  • Panel: A single curtain or drapery. Most window treatments require two panels, one for each side.
  • Rod pocket: A horizontal sleeve stitched across the top of curtains or draperies that opens to allow a rod to be slipped through.
  • Roll-up shade and roller shade: Flat shades made of fabric, plastic or vinyl that roll up onto a cylinder. Roller shades are spring loaded, while roll-up shades are drawn up with cords or strings.
  • Roman shade: The classic Roman shade has a fabric that forms pleats as the shade is raised; these pleats are formed by rings threaded with cords or tapes sewn on the back of the fabric that allow the shade to be raised and lowered. 
  • Shade: General term to describe blinds, pleated shades, roller shades and other opaque window coverings that can be adjusted to expose or cover a window. 
  • Sheers: Lightweight, translucent and finely woven fabrics.
  • Swag: A decorative treatment placed atop windows that features a soft, curving semicircle centered on the window top with fabric hanging down on both sides.
  • Tab-top: Fabric loops or tabs sewn across curtain tops through which a curtain rod is threaded creating a window treatment that hangs straight and flat.
  • Valances: Decorative window treatments that cover the top part of a window, used primarily as the top layer of a layered window treatment or alone as a decorative accent.

Now that you know the basics, it’s time to purchase your perfect window treatments. To guide you through this complex process, you’ll want to consider both function and form. Here, Sally Morse, director of creative services for Hunter Douglas, offers some tips to keep in mind when choosing window treatments.

Window Treatment Factor Number 1: FUNCTION

  • Energy Efficiency. Cold winters and hot summers are no match for window treatments that are designed to be energy efficient. Think about the direction your windows are facing and how much direct sunlight they receive to determine what level of energy-efficient coverage you might need.
  • Light. How much light do you want filtered in the room from the outside? Do you prefer to wake up to natural light in the morning or would you rather have an ultra-dark space that enables you to sleep in? Window fashions with rotating vanes or louvers can be used to direct light where it’s needed most, so consider this option if you prefer the appearance of slat treatments.
  • Convenience. If your windows are large or out of easy reach, you may want to consider remote-control-operated window treatments. Many companies offer a variation on the remote option, including Hunter Douglas -- their PowerRise 2.0 battery-powered remote control options are easy to use (and affordable), and they enable you to move your treatment to your desired position by shade, room, time of day and even activity (for instance, when reducing glare on the TV is an issue).
  • Noise. Window treatments can even help reduce noise. Consider treatments designed with features such as rear fabric air pockets that trap more air to provide sound absorption.
  • Privacy. Your home should be a private refuge from the outside world -- but not necessarily a dark cocoon blocked from natural light. Choose window treatments that provide both privacy and a view. Pair sheer fabric with fabric vanes to keep your view of the outside while maintaining variable light control and privacy both during the day and into the night.
  • Safety. Little ones running around? Keep their safety in consideration when choosing window treatments, including cordless systems.

Window Treatment Factor Number 2: FORM

  • Color. Color is always an important consideration in any home décor purchase. While white is a popular choice for window treatments, you can also add color with soft, light hues that expand the room. Coordinate your window treatments with the wall color, as low contrasts will keep the eye moving around the space. Reverse the technique to draw the eye to the window. You can also make the window or room appear smaller and cozier by using dark, warm colors and high contrast between the window and the wall.
  • Pattern. Pattern, like color, can add intensity on a large surface. Keep size and scale in mind when bringing pattern to your space via window treatments.
  • Proportion. The right window treatment (and placement of such) can help expand and enhance the feel of a room. Choose window treatments s within the overall scale of the space to maintain proper proportions. With a smaller window, try extending the window treatment higher or wider to make the window appear larger. For a window with interesting details, place the window dressing within the frame to keep the architecture visible. 
  • Texture. Texture is needed in every room, whether casual (rough, nubby or earthy) or formal (smooth, elegant fabrics). To easily integrate texture into a space, add it to your windows.
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Photo: Corbis Images