Getting Started on Window Treatments

From setting a budget to the finishing touches, follow these seven steps from decorating pros to create the perfect window treatments for your home.

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Set a Budget
"Some people think they’ll spend $100 or $200 a window, but that’s going to buy you a basic blind in today’s market," says Barrett. Be realistic about what you can afford. Do a little homework in stores to get an idea of fabric prices, and surf the web for costs on blinds, shutters and ready-made draperies.

Window treatments "are not the least expensive thing to do in a room, but there are ways of saving money," says Donna Babylon, author of More Splash Than Cash Window Treatments (Windsor Oak Publishing), who makes all her own window treatments. (Before you roll your eyes, Babylon points out that all that’s really involved is cutting out rectangles and sewing straight lines.) A consultation with a window treatment expert may well be worth the cost ($50 and up for two hours) if it helps you avoid mistakes, Barrett says. Find professionals through friends, furniture and fabric stores and the yellow pages.

Set Priorities
What rooms and what windows are the most important for you to dress? Barrett suggests you do the rooms you really live in first, such as the bedrooms and the family room. Try to set a schedule for doing other rooms, so you don’t end up six years down the road with the same inexpensive aluminum blinds on the windows that you first threw up there for privacy’s sake.

How Do You Live?
Do you have kids? Do you entertain a lot? If your window treatments will go in a high traffic area such as by a sliding glass door, opt for durable, washable materials (nylon, acetate, acrylic, cotton) and save the silk for another window. Similarly, if you cook a lot you don’t want delicate fabrics in the kitchen, where they’ll absorb splatters.

Next, think hard about function, says Kara Roberts, merchandising manager for Smith+Noble. Do you want your window treatments to provide privacy? Control the light coming in? Frame a beautiful view? Insulate against cold and noise?

Some basic guidelines: For light control, blinds and shutters offer the most options, since you can tilt slats or louvers to allow in just the amount of light you want. If it’s a bedroom that needs to be totally dark at times, opt for blackout shades or blackout lining for draperies. For energy efficiency, honeycomb blinds actually trap hot or cold air in cells, keeping the room cooler or warmer with the season.

To block noise, "the more fabric you put up, the quieter it is," says Babylon. Consider layering window treatments such as a shade, then sheers, then lined floor length draperies (add a fabric-covered cornice at the top).

Charles "Pete" Randall, author of The Encyclopedia of Window Fashions, faced all these questions when he and his wife moved into a Mediterranean Spanish-style house in California a year ago. "There were zero window treatments in my home office," Randall says. The room boasts an ocean view, so Randall opted for vertical blinds. "I can block a little bit of light and still have the view," he says.

Find Your Style
There are no hard and fast rules in choosing a style, says Randall. Currently, there’s a trend toward "cleaner, urban looks – less fussy," says Roberts of Smith+Noble. That translates into natural woven wood shades, Roman shades and new flat panels that run on a track inspired by Japanese shoji screens.

Barrett suggests clipping inspirations from magazines and books. "If you can’t make up your mind, then narrow the focus and just pull things you don't like," she says. "If you show me a pile of tailored cornices and Roman shades that you hate, that’s one product category we can eliminate."

The Encyclopedia of Window Fashions offers hundreds of examples, and includes charts for stack back widths, general yardage requirements and explanations of drapery terminology. (This is very helpful for those of us who didn’t know that jabots are decorative pieces of fabric hung over seams or between swags on a valance.)

Think about the feeling you want in any given room. "If it’s a family room and you’re only in it at night and you want a cozy, comfortable feeling then you need some layers and softness at the window, not just blinds," says Barrett. Window treatments can reflect both your home’s architecture and your personal style. This means that maybe my minimalist approach to our living and dining rooms (white solar shades) may be just fine — they’re simple, uncluttered rooms with clean lines.

Measure
Measure more than once, to make sure you’re covering all your bases. For detailed info on the right way to measure, consult the internet. A few resources: www.croscill.com, www.hunterdouglas.com and www.homedecorators.com.

Install Them Correctly
Draperies should be hung at least four inches above the window frame and should overlap the frame two to four inches on either side of the window. Standard length for draperies is 1/2 inch from the floor, although now many draperies are cut to stack 1-1/2 to 3-inches onto the floor, the way pants cuffs break at the ankle, says Barrett. The "stack back" — how much space the draperies take up on either side of the window — should be approximately one-third the width of the window.

Don’t Forget Decorative Hardware
"People should change their finials like they change their earrings because it can really change the personality of a room," says Henry.

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