Designer Tip: Master a Beautiful Window Treatment

Although many people think curtains and drapes are one in the same, there is a difference by definition and use, even though most of us use the words interchangeably.

Curtains usually are a lighter fabric, thin or sheer. They are not lined and allow the natural light in. I do not recommend curtains in a space where privacy is desired since you can see through them. They can also be colorful, and add a completed, decorative touch.

On the other hand, drapes are made with more weighted fabric and typically are lined. They are used for blocking out the light, cold and heat, as well as for privacy. They can hang from the top of windows to the floor for a more formal look.

Curtains or drapes add to the beauty of the room and are as important to the finished design as art and wall color. A beautifully executed window treatment can transform a room into a dramatic show stopper. The current trend is floor length panels hung on a metal rod or decorative rod with understated finials. The look is simple and elegant. Unless the window has detailed architectural style, adding curtain panels can be the final layer that completes the room.

Typically, the first thought when the project for window treatment project begins is STYLE; however, function comes first.

The window treatments of a home can perform many more functions than just simply look pretty and match the styles and color scheme of the home.

Window treatments:

  • can create privacy
  • can frame a beautiful view or hide an unsightly one
  • can provide either an elegant, casual, subtle or dramatic background to the rest of the interior décor
  • can pull together the room with its furnishings
  • can be the focal point of any room
  • can either diffuse or augment outdoor lighting
  • can insulate against the cold of the winter, the heat of the summer
  • can protect the floor coverings and furnishings from the sun
  • can influence a home as much as any piece of furniture, therefore window coverings should be considered as “home furnishings”

If you want treatments that provide privacy or total darkness, you need lined curtains. If you want the light to filter through or if your curtains are simply decorative, unlined will work. The lining is more expensive but there are other advantages — lining can shield fabric from sun damage, making curtains last longer. A lining also adds weight, which protects against drafts and helps fabric fall more luxuriously. For maximum durability, light blockage, body, and insulation, you can get curtains with an interlining, too—a layer of flannel-like fabric sewn between the lining and the “face” fabric. When working with clients and custom drapery, I typically will choose to line with interlining. This is a common option for custom-made curtains but not available in less expensive ready-made panels.

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Next, you should determine whether you prefer the treatments to be operable (open/close) or just panels to soften the window and complete the room.

Header Style. There are so many options for the Drapery “Header” which is the top of the curtain from where it is hung onto a curtain rod (i.e. pleated, pocket, grommet top, etc). My top favorites are Pinch Pleat, Inverted Box Pleat, French Pleat, and Goblet Pleat; but there are more to choose from depending on the space.

Placement.  This is the most important rule for professional-looking, attractive window treatments: Hang the curtains close to the ceiling or crown trim to give your room a luxurious illusion of extra height. The pole or valance should be positioned a minimum of 4 inches and a maximum of 12 inches above the top of the window in most cases. Even an inexpensive or unlined curtain panel can look well done and professional when hung at the proper height above the window.

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Executing the Plan.  There are so many beautiful ready-made options available today if you decide to go in that direction rather than having custom-made through a work-room. Here a few that I found that are universal in longer lengths to achieve a professional look and would work in just about any space. I will continue to add more options as I resource.


“The details are not the details. They make the design.” ~ Charles Eames

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