You’re in an elegant opera house or theater. A hush falls over the audience as the orchestra strikes up the overture. Spotlights play on the massive folds of the heavy drapery as it slowly separates, revealing the stage set.
Draperies add drama, framing the view out the windows when open, and when drawn, creating intimacy and warmth. Since they began to replace wooden shutters in the 1600s, curtains and drapes have been fashioned in wool, silk, velvet, brocade, moiré, damask, chintz, linen, cotton, and more.
For maximum impact, drapes should go to the floor. (I know, being an inch or two shy of the floor keeps bottoms from getting dirty, but it’s like looking at something that doesn’t fit. And drapes that look like high-water pants make the ceiling look lower.)
Some lighter materials like sheers, silk or summer-weight draperies are meant to “puddle” at the bottom for dramatic effect, and look very elegant in high-ceilinged rooms. However, if you have pets that might like to adopt the “puddles” as a second bed or worse, like to climb drapes, these aren’t for you.
The peek-a-boo factor
Function comes first. Is the purpose of the window covering for privacy, decorative, or both? Window treatments have many functions, and can help insulate a room from cold or heat, and protect furniture and floor coverings from fading from direct sunlight.
When you have a beautiful view, large windows bring the outdoors into your living space, and window “dressing” acts as a picture frame. But there are things to consider beyond aesthetics, such as privacy and temperature.
Unless you’re on a mountaintop with no neighbors, you’ll have to factor privacy into your choice of bathroom and bedroom window treatments. (And in high-humidity areas like bathrooms, faux-wood blinds may be your best choice.)
In New Hampshire, if your bedroom faces east, you’ll want room darkening shades when the sun rises at 4:30 a.m. in the summer. In the winter, when the sun sinks at 3:45 p.m., west-facing rooms need windows that take advantage of every bit of light, and window treatments that can buffer drafts.
Speaking of peek-a-boo, there are a number of different curtain or drape “toppers” that not only add style, they act to hide the hardware.
- Valance: this adds softness and, ornamented with tassels, fringe or as a reversible fabric – color. Pleated valances add a more formal flair.
- Cornice: Where valances are made of fabric, a cornice is stretched fabric over a box, or can even be just stained wood. They add architectural interest and elegance to a formal room.
- Swag or scarf: not as popular as they once were, these are best for informal or casual, feminine, beach or lakeside décor when used by themselves. But they’re very easy to put up, and portable when it’s time to move—or for a seasonable changeover to, say, insulated panels in the winter.
Those choices are nothing compared to the myriad of fabric treatment options: tab-top curtains hung on a simple rod (Colonial), café curtains (so sixties), velvet portieres with tassels and gold rope tiebacks (very Victorian/Baroque), balloon (cottage look), etc.
Other window coverings are blinds, shades and that oldie but goodie: shutters. (The first roller shade, by the way, appeared in the early 1700s.) Even here the selections are dizzying. There are shades and blinds with honeycomb for insulation and room darkening; slatted blinds in all sizes of wood, plastic or faux wood; cordless and with wands or remote controls.
Hang ’em high!
Well-made, quality window treatments should last a long time, making draperies an investment in your home. Here’s where working with a professional designer can make a beautiful difference.
Besides function and style, you need to consider room proportions, height and width of room and windows, and how you’ll hang them. How many panels will you need for fullness? How many inches to allow on either side of the window when curtains are pulled back?
Did you know you can make low ceilings look higher with window coverings? (Hang the rods high—which means you’ll need enough length so the drapes “kiss” the floor.)
Lined, unlined, or interlined panels?
What materials are best to prevent fading?
Okay, enough questions! Working with a 3W Design team ensures you won’t make any inexperienced—or expensive—mistakes. We can make sure your window treatments set the stage for a stunning room.