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Dressing Up Your Windows

When you hear the word “draperies” – what’s the first image that comes to your mind? 

Grandma’s house? 
The famous Carol Burnett “Scarlett O’Hara” episode?
The crumpled panels you hung in your first apartment?

Many of us seem to make one sorry association after another when it comes to this  important aspect of creating a beautifully designed room.  Fearful of making a mistake, we often end up avoiding our windows entirely.

But by ignoring the windows, one can never quite hit that “bullseye” in achieving the beautiful, finished, “turned-out” room that you are after.  However, when carefully considered and well designed, your windows will take your room(s) from
“Just OK” to “WOW”!!!

There are countless ways to dress up your windows, another reason that many people avoid the issue. 

Store-bought treatments are always a temptation, as they represent a much lower investment, and therefore a “less costly mistake”.  Unfortunately, this decision is often the most costly mistake.  Consider what you have spent on furnishings, area rugs, and accessories.  Your entire investment and the impact of the room can literally be destroyed by bringing in shabbily made, poorly hung draperies from your favorite “big-box” store. 

Perhaps it’s time to consider the advantages of custom window treatments.  They do cost more, but they are a world away from the mass-produced variety in terms of what they will do for your room.  The following are some commonly asked questions:

Why Custom Window Treatments?

As a designer, my clients run the gamut from first-time homeowners to those who have been established in a home (or many homes) for years and years.  Some    have never considered installing custom window treatments in their homes; others, having seen what they do for the over-all beauty of their rooms, would never do without them.  You see, once you have experienced beautifully finished windows, you will never go back. 

This is not to say that every window requires a drapery or top-treatment.  Some rooms are blessed with architecturally dramatic windows that can and should stand on their own.  Windows in homes that have extravagantly detailed millwork and moldings, can be considered a work of art.  Often these windows do end up being adorned with extravagant window treatments.  However, it is my opinion that most often, they are the best left alone. 

Most of us live in simpler homes, and have windows that will greatly benefit from a carefully designed, understated, window treatment.

Why not just purchase a less expensive store-bought window treatment?  Custom treatments are too expensive for my budget.

Apples and oranges, as they say.  One cannot compare store-bought window treatments to the custom variety.  “Over-the-counter” treatments do not begin to have the richness and luxury of custom-made ones.

It’s true that custom window treatments cost considerably more than the over-the-counter types.  There is a good reason for this, and this reason can make or break the décor of your room. 

In terms of investment, consider your custom window treatments to be another piece of furniture in the room, like a sofa or china cabinet.  As a matter of fact, I often advise my clients to put a hold on certain last pieces of furniture, in order to do the window treatments first.  This way the room will have a finished look from the start.  Those two last pieces can wait.  Also, most prospective home buyers are delighted to find beautiful custom draperies in a home, and are willing to purchase them from the seller, thus adding another valuable selling point when showing your house for sale. 

What will custom window treatments do for my room that store-bought ones won’t?

Custom window treatments are designed specifically for your room.  Fabrics, details, proportions, are chosen specifically for your room and your windows..       Custom window treatments give stature and “finish” to the space, that it will never have without them.   

A high-quality store-bought window treatment, properly hung, can sometimes, but not often, create the right impact in a room.  My motto is, “better no window treatments than the wrong window treatments”.  Most store-bought treatments are skimpy and limp, imitating, but lacking the polish of the real thing.

Consider installing cellular shades if privacy is an issue, or nothing at all for the time being, and wait until your budget will allow you to spring for custom treatments.

But I always thought that custom window treatments are stuffy and overdone. I remember my aunt’s house… her draperies had tassels and tie-backs.

Your aunt’s tassels and swags have given way to a plethora of understated, youthful, and sophisticated treatments.  Design-wise, there are far too many possibilities to mention here.  Simple panels have become extremely popular, and can be done dozens of different ways.  The important difference between those which are purchased ready-made and those that are made for you, is in the richness and quality, as well as the expertise in the way they are hung.  A really good installer knows how to “sculpt” the window treatments, and hang them at a perfect height for the room.

Sometimes a simple “top treatment” is all that is needed.

Take a look at some popular “shelter” magazines for ideas that appeal to you.

Are custom window treatments energy-efficient?

They can be.  Draperies can be interlined in heavy flannel or wool, and then motorized to open and close at pre-set times to insure insulation.

Honeycomb (cellular) shades trap cold air in the winter and hot air in the summer, thus providing excellent energy efficiency.

Wood shutters buffer drafts.

How do I go about finding the right person to make my custom window treatments?

Your best bet is to ask a reliable interior designer or interior design store (known for its high quality merchandise) for a name.  Generally the two go hand-in-hand.
Important to note: Not all makers of custom window treatments are equal.  Once you receive a referral, ask to see some installations as well as pictures of installations done by this company.  Be ready to walk away if the workmanship is not top-notch.  There are many amateurs out there who call themselves professionals.  Be sure of who you are working with.

How does one choose the style of their window treatments?

There are many factors involved here:

· The “personality” of the room
· Your own personal taste and preferences
· The purpose for installing a window treatment:
                  (Will the window treatment be there for privacy?  Insulation?
                  Or is it purely decorative?)
· The proportion and structure of the window

Is it advisable to do one room at a time?

Definitely.  As a matter of fact, it is preferable.  The confidence you will gain from the success of the first room will propel you with enthusiasm to do the next, then the next.  This tactic will also enable you to be sure that you have chosen the right workroom and installer.


-Karen Saloomey
® All Rights Reserved

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