Window Treatments, Curtains and Blinds

Blinds in a bay window

The possiblilities for dressing windows are seemingly endless. You can choose between curtains of many different styles, Roman blinds, roller blinds, festoon blinds, venetian blinds. Each can be made from a myriad of different fabric types in a whole rainbow of colours and finished off with mixture of trimmings. Painted shutters come in many types and styles and modern window films can be used to augment or completely replace more traditional solutions. Your choice of which treatment to use will naturally depend on the size, type and style of the window itself.

Like every other element of your interior, the window treatment needs to fit in with the style of the rest of the room. With this as your overriding consideration you can look at the physical limitations you might face.

How much space is available above and to each side of the window? Are there any features such as radiators next to the windows or a decorative cornice above the window. This will influence your ability to install a pelmet and dictate whether you can use two curtains comfortably or settle for one curtain to sweep across the entire window.

 

 

Some people forget that their windows might be inward-opening until their expensive new swag curtains are installed making it an overly laborious task to simply open the window. Be sure that you check any window treatment you would like to use can be made compatible with this type of window.

The view through the window will also influence your planning. You will not want to obscure a lovely view with overly fussy curtains. Conversely, if the window looks out onto a fire escape you will wish to disguise the view as much as possible whilst retaining as much natural light as you can.

Try to make a measured survey of the window and the wall in which it sits (inluding anything like a radiator or a console table that also shares the wall) and make a scale drawing on a piece of paper (technically this is called an elevation drawing). Make a few photocopies of this and use them to sketch out the various window treatments you might consider using. This will show you how different styles will effect the balance of the window and how it will effect the feeling of the room.

Bay windows represent a special case. If the bay is large and there's ample space between each individual window, then it's possible to treat each window as a separate entity with its own pair of curtains. If this degree of space is not available then it's best to use blinds or shutters that fit snugly over the face of each window. Unless draught exclusion or a black-out facility is a main concern, avoid using a coninuous track to hang curtains that sweep across the front of all the windows or even across the front of the bay area itself. This arrangement makes a room feel less spacious and, unless the room is large, gives your interior the cramped air of a tiny theatre.

 

 

However if you choose to use curtains for any kind of window treatment there are considerable "invisible" advantages of sound absorption and insulation that comes from the use of large pieces of fabric. The main alternative to curtains comes in the form of blinds.

Roman Blinds - Popular and economical, this type of blind is particularly useful when space around the window is limited. Roman blinds are formed around horizontal battens that allow the blind to fold into attractive pleats as the blind is pulled up. These can be installed under elaborate curtain styles to provide a quick and convenient way of blocking the window without drawing the curtains. Use checked, striped or plain fabrics for the best effect and use trimmings, if desired, on the lower edge only. Roman blinds always need to be lined, preferably in a cream or contrasting plain fabric.

Roller Blinds - These are a popular choice for modern interior design schemes or utility rooms. The spring-loaded mechanism retracts the fabric by rolling it around a pole at the top of the window. This basic mechanical character means that they are more functional than decorative. Widely available in kit form, roller blinds can be made from plastic-coated material making them suitable for kitchens or bathrooms where ordinary fabric might be susceptible to mould and rot.

Austrian Blinds - Similar to Roman Blinds, these are operated by vertical cords rather than horizontal battens. This causes the fabric to create mini-swags as it is raised. Best suited to traditional decoration schemes these blinds can add extra opulence under traditional swags and tails curtain treatments.

 

 

Hanging Curtains

Curtain track - The most popular form of curtain suspension in the modern world is the curtain track. Usually made from white plastic, ceiling track can be affixed to either the wall or the ceiling. One advantage of track is it's ability to flex and/or twist allowing you to have a curved profile to your curtains when they are closed. But be aware that track is dependent upon the solidity of the surface to which it is affixed to define and limit the maximum weight of curtains that it can support. Therefore it is advisable to have track fitted professionally, especially if a curved installation is required. Curtain track often includes a cording system which allows you to open and close the curtains without touching the fabric, thereby reducing wear and soiling.

Curtain poles - The styles and types of curtain pole that are available are only limited by the imagination and good taste of the manufacturer. The pole is generally supported and held at an appropriate distance from the wall by a number of brackets that are made to a matching style. The most prominent design feature of a curtain pole is called the finial, one of which is situated at each end of the pole.

Curtain Lining - A curtain that has been lined is more substantial than an un-lined curtain and will therefore hang better and look better. Lining also protects your expensive curtain material from sun damage and dirt (an older window over-looking a busy road will let in a surprising amount of grime over time) and will add to the insulating and sound absorption qualities of the curtains. The lining should be detachable to allow for careful washing.

Pelmets - A traditional style of window treatment may demand a pelmet. This is generally made from a matching fabric with optional trimmings and serves to hides the curtain track in a visually pleasing way. A good rule of thumb when planning your pelmet is to ensure the drop (i.e. the vertical height) of the pelmet is as least 10% of the drop of the curtains.

Swags and Tails - Another traditional style which lends itself to classic and opulent room schemes. The more complex and full versions of this style generally only work well in larger rooms with high ceilings.

Article by Melvyn Fickling
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