Have you ever entered a decorated room only to find it cold and uninviting? Often it’s because the windows are naked! Window treatments are a quick and easy fix to bring that comfort you crave into your home. And since drapes span floor to ceiling, they are an incredibly important visual element, bringing color and texture to your décor.
Blinds or drapes? Technically, a fully dressed window has both blinds and drapes; the blinds are what you open and close, and the drapes are just there to frame the window and add color and texture. But you don’t always need both, especially when you’re trying to keep things affordable. What your windows need depends on why you want to dress them in the first place.
You want more privacy. If you have neighbors close by or you’re on the ground floor, a blackout or thermal-lined drape is really all you need. When it’s closed, only Superman will be able to see into your home.
You want to control the light coming in. If light diffusion is your main priority, blinds are what you want, because they let you filter how much light enters the room. You can always add drapes for color and pattern if your budget permits.
Your windows are drafty. If you have older windows and the cold is coming through, I recommend going with heavier draping that can provide extra insulation. Once again, thermal-lined or blackout drapes are great options. Because air usually seeps out of the window sides, you’ll feel a big difference even when the drapes are open.
You want to add more decoration to the room. Drapes are the workhorse here. They come in all kinds of interesting prints, textures, and colors, so they are a great opportunity to play up the style of a room. Blinds are much more basic. You can always get a Roman blind, but they’re more expensive, there’s less selection, and they don’t allow you to control the light as regular blinds do.
Watch the width. When sizing drapes, follow this rule of thumb: the width of the drape should be double the width of the window. This may seem like a lot of fabric, but it’s important so the drapes undulate nicely and don’t hang taut when closed.
Solid or pattern? When deciding whether to get a print or a solid drape, turn to your walls. In rooms with wallpapered walls, go with a solid drape in one of the wallpaper’s colors to tie it in and balance out the pattern. In rooms with painted walls, pick an interesting print to liven up the room. If you have very high ceilings, you’re going to have a lot of fabric, so it’s best to choose a larger-scale print. The smaller the print, the more repetition in the drape, which can feel overwhelming.
Treat your patio door. If you’re not overly concerned with privacy, treat your patio door in the exact same way as the windows around it. Because patio doors are so wide, my rule of thumb for sizing drapes – doubling the window width in fabric – can get pretty pricey. But don’t worry! If the drapes are only there to frame the door and you plan to leave them open, you can make an exception to the rule because undulation isn’t an issue. Isn’t that a relief?
If you do need privacy, there are plenty of custom companies that make blinds for patio doors, although I must warn you, it can be pretty difficult to find ones that look good. As a last resort, you can also use a sheer panel in addition to a drape by hanging a double curtain rod. The benefit is that you can close the sheers without moving the main panel, but it’s definitely not the chicest option. Sheers can be bulky and they typically come out from behind the drape, so I recommend investigating blinds first.
Work with wood. I prefer the wood or faux-wood slatted blinds to other varieties. They’re easy to maintain, come in a wide variety of woods, and suit almost any style room.
Don’t forget to measure your window box. You know the length and width of your blinds will be sized to fit your windows, but don’t forget about the depth. Wood blinds have standard depths ranging from ½ inch to 2 inches. Make sure to measure your window box, i.e. where the window pane is in set, to determine the thickness of the blind you should purchase. If the window box is very shallow, you probably have to go with a 1-inch blind or thinner.
When choosing your color, think about the dust. One of the main benefits of wood blinds is how easy they are to clean – you can just wipe them off! So when decorating my office, I chose a nice white blind, and it looks great. But if you get lots of dust, or you’re looking to keep cleaning to an absolute minimum, go with a more forgiving color, such as brown or grey, where dirt will be less noticeable.
Shop in the right places. Having both blinds and drapes really completes the look of a window, and if you find affordable options, you can do this even on a limited budget. JCPenney, Overstock.com, and Sears all have a large selection of inexpensive window treatments.
Windows are one of my absolute favorite design elements because they’re just like artwork for your walls. Whether your view is a busy New York street or a bird playing in a tree, frame it beautifully with just the right treatment.