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Great home project: Find the right window treatments

Of all the design decisions homeowners make when decorating a home — paint color, furniture, fabrics, rugs, lighting, accessories — window treatments often get overlooked or receive inadequate attention.

But window treatments are an important piece of the decor puzzle in any home. Sure, curtains, drapes and blinds can complement a decor scheme and look nice, but they’re also important for privacy, light, hiding awkward features, providing insulation and more.

If you’re thinking of upgrading your window treatments, this guide will help you navigate the process more easily.

Jacob Snavely Photography, original photo on Houzz

Project: Installing window treatments

Why: Taking your window coverings from something that merely suffices to something that makes a statement will help your space look its best. Imagine the living room shown here without the patterned drapes and it’s easy to see why window treatments can act as the icing on the cake.

But they’re not just decorative. As mentioned earlier, window treatments are an opportunity to better control privacy and light, hide awkward features and provide better insulation.

Who to hire: A window treatment professional or an interior designer is your best choice. Designer Karen Ruggiero of Judith Grossman Decorating says the industry is constantly changing, and a knowledgeable professional will be privy to the many choices available on the market. He or she will be able to consult on color, pattern and design and to properly measure and install your window treatments.

Related: Hire a Local Expert on Interior Design

If you DIY, the material (and sometimes size) choices are more limited and you sacrifice professional expertise for the sake of convenience. You’ll need to do your own measuring and installing too.

What to Consider

1. Know your goals for privacy, light control and insulation. First determine the function of your new window treatments. There are usually three considerations: privacy, light control and insulation. You may be looking to satisfy just one or a combination of all three. Rate their importance on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being not or minimally important and 10 being the most important, to help solidify what you’re hoping to achieve and better convey your requirements to a professional.

Privacy. Do you have nosy neighbors? Can passersby see inside your house? Or maybe you live in a rural area on a big plot of land and privacy isn’t a concern. Consider the room’s function and how much privacy you’re seeking. Are you comfortable with onlookers seeing distorted figures through semitransparent sheers at night? Or do you seek a completely opaque window treatment?

McCroskey Interiors, original photo on Houzz

Light control. How much light do you want entering into the room? Do you want the option to make the room completely dark or to just filter out some harsh rays in the middle of the day? Is a poorly situated streetlight irritating you at night?

For media rooms and bedrooms, like the nursery shown here, you might want to consider adding a blackout lining to drapery panels and shades to prevent light penetration.

More public living spaces, like living rooms and kitchens, are ideal for allowing filtered daylight to penetrate. Mesh solar shades filter light without blocking the view. They come in a variety of colors and degrees of opacity.

Insulation. Is your priority to keep heat inside during the winter and block it from entering in the summer? Insulation is an especially important factor if you have an older home with drafty windows.

Cellular honeycomb shades and room-darkening fabrics can help increase the insulating factor. Also, you can use multiple treatments on one window to increase insulation — a shade paired with drapery panels, for example.

2. Identify any architectural highlights or limitations. Take a close look at and around your windows and note any architectural features or hardware that might interfere with different types of window treatments. Alternatively, be aware of components that shouldn’t be covered up, like beautiful stained glass.

Is the window abutting a wall? Window cranks are likely to interfere with the operation of window shades. If you have baseboard heaters, you may or may not want to hang drapery panels in front of the heat covers. Ruggiero warns that doing so will prevent heat from easily entering the room and can contribute to dust buildup behind the panel. While it could be a maintenance and efficacy concern, she says it’s typically not a safety issue.

Karen White Interior Design, original photo on Houzz

Wide windows could be a limiting factor in your treatment choice too. For example, the maximum dimension for most window shades is between 96 and 120 inches. If your window is wider, you’ll need to install two or more shades to cover the window, or pay for an expensive customized solution. Ideally, the break between the two shades should be at an architectural feature such as a window mullion, as shown here.

3. Decide mounting locations. There’s no one correct way to approach all window treatment designs. Some choices are dictated by site specifics, but the rest is personal preference. Here are a few typical considerations.

Inside versus outside mounting. Shades can be inside- or outside-mounted. Inside-mounted shades are good for allowing decorative molding around the windows to remain visible. Outside-mounted shades attach to the top of the window trim and tend to not show light through the edges.

Lisa Scheff Designs, original photo on Houzz

4. Movement options. Consider how often you will adjust your window treatment — several times a day or just once in a blue moon? How much flexibility do you want? Here are some common types of movement options.

Top down or bottom up. The option shown here offers the most flexibility in terms of light control and privacy, because the shade can be opened from the top or the bottom to create different openings that serve different functions.

Cordless. A manual option that raises and lowers shades without the use of a cord. Parents with young children or adults with grandchildren or expecting grandchildren should consider cordless treatments because they offer the highest degree of child and pet safety.

Continuous loop. This option replaces the conventional but dangerous dangling lift cords popular in the past. The loop is encased and offers precise positioning.

Motorized, programmable shades. These offer flexibility and will minimize wear and tear from physically handling the material. Plus they can be battery-powered and controlled by a customized app.

Other Considerations

Fabric type. Fibers have different strengths and weaknesses. While you might like the look of a particular fabric, it might not suit your lifestyle or situation.

Related: Find a Fabric for Your Lifestyle

For example, Ruggiero warns against using linen for drapery in homes where humidity is a problem. When hung in a humid environment, they grow in length. “What was once a floor-length drape now puddles on the floor due to the humidity or dampness,” she says. Linen isn’t a good choice in dry climates either, she adds, as it will do the opposite: shrink.

Style. There are countless design styles and accoutrements for window treatments, like different drapery pleats, grommets, decorative passementerie, tiebacks, specially shaped cornices and a bevy of hardware.

Perusing images of window treatment styles is a great way to familiarize yourself with styles you do and don’t like before starting your project.

Pattern matching. Ideally, you want your eye to move around a room, and balancing pattern, color and texture achieves this.

If you have multiple windows and are planning to use a patterned fabric, you’ll need to visualize how the pattern will play out in the space. Also plan to purchase extra yardage to accommodate the pattern repeat so the treatments are balanced side by side.

Megan Meyers Interiors, original photo on Houzz

Drapery length. There’s no hard and fast rule for drapery length; it’s a personal decision, Ruggiero says. The conventional length barely touches the floor. However, some draperies terminate at the windowsill, as shown in this bathroom. Others end below the window apron, or pool or puddle on the floor.

Designing Solutions, original photo on Houzz

Valances. Valances are traditionally installed at the top of a window, but designer Debbie Wiener of Designing Solutions took a slightly different approach here. She installed these three-quarters of the way up instead of at the top because it’s where the window ends and meets a transom window. She says the molding between the window top and the transom was double wide, so it made sense to install them there.

DIY measuring. Different window treatment styles require different measurements, so a how-to measuring guide here would be exhaustive.

Most online window treatment companies offer detailed measuring guides on their websites and indicate the dimensions of their premade products. You may need to adjust accordingly if, for example, you’re planning to use drapery panels with a header, rod pocket or drapery clips. A window treatment professional will provide measuring services.

Getting It Done

How long will it take? When ordering a custom treatment from a designer or window professional, expect to wait about four to eight weeks. This can vary based on fabric availability and workroom and installation schedules.

Best time of year to do this project: Ruggiero says the spring and fall are the best times to get a jump-start on new window treatments, because most manufacturers offer free upgrades twice a year, like cordless or top-down, bottom-up options.

Cost: Below are ballpark prices for different window treatments. Costs are based on average-priced materials, without upgrades, for a 24-by-36-inch window.

○ Roller shade (fiberglass): $90
○ Honeycomb shade (single-cell): $300
○ Natural woven shade: $300
○ Fabric Roman shade: $400
○ Aluminum blind: $120
○ 2-inch wood blind: $200
○ 2-inch faux-wood blind: $180
○ Wood shutter: $300
○ Drapery panels (full-length, lined, not including hardware): $600

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