Treat your windows right

Beautiful window treatments can make all the difference 

to any room.

Window treatments are essential for blocking out light, maintaining privacy and, for interior decorator Candice Olson, hiding her pregnancy. “Thank God for blinds,” says the host of Divine Design on W. “It's my way of protecting my neighbours from me!”

Window treatments come in a variety of styles, colours and materials to help you achieve the look you want and the coverage you need. But with so many options, narrowing them down can get a little tricky.

Selecting window treatments 
Function should be your first consideration, says Kimberley Seldon, host of Design for Living on HGTV Canada and STYLE AT HOME decorating editor. That includes the desired amount of sunlight and privacy, as well framing or distracting attention from a view. “Look at the room architecturally,” adds Candice. “If it's a beautiful window, sheers are the answer. If it's a problem window, drapery can hide a lot of flaws.”

Next, think about the look you want. “Any style of treatment can be used in any type of room – it's the decor that dictates the style,” says Kimberley. “An elaborately pleated drapery and valance look perfectly fine in a formal, traditional room, but absolutely out of place in a modern interior.” Still, some rooms have issues that need to be addressed. In a kitchen, for example, Candice prefers to keep things simple, taking into account airborne grease and food particles. For the bathroom, a soft sheer and simple valance work to soften hard surfaces. And don't forget about the humidity. “Anything with body will just sag, so it needs to be on the simpler side,” she says. Bedrooms are tricky with both softness and light-blocking priorities. “Typically, we'd do multiple layers, like a decorative side panel, a sheer behind that and then a blackout roller blind,” says Candice.

Budget is always an important factor. “It's amazing how much drapery fabric costs,” says Candice. “And wood shutters are a nice, clean, simple treatment, but they're super-expensive.”

And finally there are the trends. Trim is all the rage for fall, with traditional flat braids, cords, gimp and ribbons taking on a new life in tone-on-tone modern window coverings, says Kimberley. “It's like adding a beautiful necklace to a simple dress – it makes all the difference.” Going natural is also turning heads. “Anything that has a natural texture just takes the edge off of modern interiors,” says Candice. “It's a way to balance everything else that's so sleek and streamlined.”

Weighing the pros and cons
Window treatments fall into three major categories.

Blinds are screens typically on a roller or have vanes or slats and come in an enormous variety of materials, from fabric to wood. Keep in mind that many also come with poles and cords, which could be hazardous if you have children.

  • Venetians offer flexible light control and can be inexpensive.
  • Cellular shades are coveted for their honeycomb shape: two layers of pleated fabric connected to produce air pockets, which increase insulation.
  • Verticals, usually made of PVC or fabric, also offer high light control and extra insulation.
  • Roman blinds, which fold together when up and lie flat when down are well-suited to modern interiors and offer a tailored look.
  • Motorized blinds are a boon to loft living and two-storey windows, but are very pricey.
  • Shadings, another expensive alternative, have fabric vanes held together by sheer fabric on either side. Light always penetrates to a certain degree, but vanes allow for privacy.

Curtains are fabric that hangs from a rod or valance and can be tied back. Curtains refer to treatments that don't reach the floor – those that do are drapes. While curtains add elegance, natural materials such as silk fade in sunlight, while sheers allow sun to penetrate and fade your upholstery and carpeting. Therefore it's best to add a blackout liner placed between two layers of fabric or behind single curtains in your choice of material and colour. For natural materials, Candice suggests opting for a synthetic mix – polyester and linen, for example – to help the coverings last a little longer. If you have children, be wary of any hazardous trim or accents.

Shutters are often wooden hinged or solid panels that cover a window for privacy and light control. Popular right now are plantation shutters, which have thick, wide slats. Wood offers great insulation and a clean look, but shouldn't be used in high-humidity areas like kitchens and bathrooms. In some instances, shutters can also come across as stark, says Candice. “If windows are small in scale relative to the overall wall they're on, or if there aren't numerous shutters to create a rhythm of repetition throughout the space, shutters can sometimes look quite cold or bare on their own."

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