A Crazy Bay Window Story + Tons of Tips To Get A Professional Look

Dear Laurel,

I have a bay window in my kitchen and I’m contemplating whether or not to add a window seat and cafe curtains, or perhaps Roman shades? The rods for the cafe curtains seem a little scary. Do you have a go to source for those?


I received this request from someone and I apologize that I don’t remember who. But, I thought that it would be a good time to discuss what to do with your bay window in terms of window treatments.


But a lot of this applies even if you don’t have a bay window.


Of course, we all know what a bay window is, but just in case you’ve been living in an igloo for your entire life and have no idea what I’m talking about, let’s take a look at one.

Or two.

Actually, I’m going to tell you a little (true) story about the very first time I ever lived in a home with a bay window.

In fact, it was two bay windows– in an apartment.


Show of hands. Who here is from the San Francisco bay area? Better yet. Palo Alto?


You’re going to love this! But you will need to hang on to something or better yet, sit down.


Back in the mid 1970s when I was still a teen-aged wanna-be-ballerina, I lived in Palo Alto, CA.


I lived in a flat that was the top floor of this home on Lytton Ave, near Cowper, built in the 20s or 30s. I had inherited the apartment at the age of 18 from my big sis who had gone off to Santa Barbara to go back to college. And yes, that is where I parked my car. It was a 1961 Ford station wagon that smoked, that I also inherited. lol (eventually, I got a better car)

The apartment was quite nice, but we used to laugh about the pukey-pink-beige walls. But our landlord insisted that white would get “dirty.”

Here I am, right at the time my sister went off to college; I was practicing in the living room. I was 18.


What was the rent, you want to know?


Right. The vestibule, alone would be $5,000 a month now in Palo Alto, especially in this prime location, one block from University Ave. But back in 1974, the entire top floor– living room, dining room, small paneled library, kitchen with eating area, bathroom, two bedrooms, two balconies, roughly 1,500 sq feet and all of the fresh apricots you could ever want to eat was a whopping…


Oh, please do sit down. :]





I KNOW. Total insanity!!!

However, after going through three room-mates who were all pretty bad, I decided that I needed to move. It was the summer of ’75.


A couple of blocks away, was a building that every time I saw it, my heart stopped.


This building. At the time, called Laning Chateau.  It’s now called Staller Court

With the ivy vines, the romantic Juliet balconies over French doors–swoon city!



And bay windows galore!


Above and below, two more recent shots, obviously in the fall.


photo: Sally McBurney

Oh, I wanted to live here so badly!!! Surely life would be perfect if I did?


You can read more about this building here.

An aerial view of Laning Chateau and surrounding area.

One day, in 1975, when I was 19 and a half, I walked in and asked to speak with the manager. I inquired if there were any units available.

And she said yes, there was one and she asked if I would like to see it.

I said, “yes, I would love to see it!”

It was a studio, with a separate eat-in kitchen and a large walk-in closet. It was on the top floor and faced south-west.

There it is!!! Right in the corner. Top floor. I got this image off of google maps. Isn’t that cool?

And it featured not one, but TWO gorgeous 3-sided bay windows. As you can see, from this recent image, taken from google maps, it was BLINDINGLY BRIGHT during the day when the sun was out.

Gingerly, I asked how much the rent was and she said, “$185.00.”

I told her that I would have to think about it and would get back to her shortly.

hahaha! I know, I know! What on earth was there to think about?

Well, at the time, 20 bucks a month felt like a very large expenditure for something that was one-third the size of what I already had! But I did not need that much space and I loved this incredibly charming, blindingly bright apartment!

So, I called my mom and she heartily gave me her approval.

My boyfriend helped me move in.

More in a sec.

Now, this is freaky. I found a unit that looks exactly like mine. (but it’s not because this one is on a lower floor)

The ceilings are nine feet and the windows are huge. My bed faced the windows and I used to love to go to sleep staring at the stars.

The kitchen. Exactly the same!

The closet which was actually wide enough for a full-sized bed, but I put my dresser in there. And yes, I had the same yucky wall-to-wall carpet. Didn’t like it much then either.

And the same bathroom. In fact, I’m wondering if this IS the same apartment, but no, it’s too low down! Gosh, I do remember that medicine cabinet!

Oh, just so you know. The price for this place has gone up a little since then.


But alas, life was not perfect after living there. My boyfriend showed up drunk, one too many times and my ballet life had become unbearable. I only lived here for four months because I decided that I had, had enough and moved back to Wisconsin on Christmas day in 1975.

It was only a year or two ago that I tried to find this place, only after over 40 years, wasn’t sure of the street. But, obviously I found it.

Do any of you who are about my age become nostalgic for people and places you haven’t seen in decades?

Today, the building looks like this.


They did a number on it a couple of years ago and of course, had to remove the ivy and didn’t put it back. I imagine because it does wreak havoc with the structure over time.


Well, I hope that you enjoyed going back in time with me.


However, we need to get back to the bay window situation.


There are several different scenarios for Bay windows.


A Bay Window with draperies, with or without shades and with or without a soffit.


christmas decorations that don't scream CHRISTMAS!

My living room at holiday time.

I’m a little embarrassed that I still have the cheap drapes up, but I did have the custom Roman shades made.

I have all of my rods custom-made, but you can get affordable rods at Wayfair for bay windows.

I’ve never used them, but they have very good reviews.

original source unknown

I know that a lot of you love shutters; particularly in the south. This is a good idea for privacy, as well. I do love the drapes, but this is interesting. They divided the panel, so that one little piece can go over. That’s a good idea, but I just wish that the panel in the middle were a little fuller

Beautiful contemporary living room by Sarah Richardson. Here she mounted the draperies over the small soffit which is perfect. Please note that these drapes are not full enough to close. They would need to be double what they currently are, to close.

The living room we did a couple of years ago. You may recall that the contractor had to put up a two by four so that we’d have somewhere to put the rod! The window is flush with the crown moulding!

And you can’t see it, but there is a deep shelf here. It’s a little too high to be a seat.


But, here’s a seat. While they could have done drapes, I think that these Roman shades over the window seat are perfect by the Kellogg Collection.


A bay window over a kitchen sink


Platt Builders

An interesting window situation, but when looking at the entire room, it makes sense. I do love it untreated. However, if there are privacy concerns, then I would do a cafe curtain out of plain linen and mount it on the mullion between the transom and main window.

A great source for cafe rods is Rejuvenation. That’s where I got the rods for the Bronxville kitchen.

This Old House

Love this bay window with the leaded glass. Ideally, it would be left without a treatment as is.

Otherwise, if this were my job and my client insisted, I would have to go and shoot myself. It would have to be a semi-sheer short drape mounted over the moulding, I think. The rod would extend the entire length between the two cabinets, but I would prefer not to have to do this.


A Bay Window behind an eating area with or without a soffit and with or without a window seat.


source unknown

This one has no window treatment, but if I were going to do one, it would most likely be inside mount Roman shades. They would be mounted underneath the transom. The bottom window is too tall for a cafe curtain.


Dining Area - lake view - bay window - monochromatic color scheme - round Table Hickman Design Associates - round dining tables

Hickman Design Associates

Stunning lake house where they wisely made the lake the star of the show that it is!


Now, might be a good time to bring up the subject of window sill length draperies. Personally, I’m not fond of them. Cafe curtains, if appropriate are fine. Sill length drapes are okay in a boy’s room or nursery. But of course, if you like them, that is fine.


Design Loves Detail

Sometimes, there is no choice but to do an outside mount Roman shade.

More about Roman shades if you click the link, above.


A fun design by Summer Thornton.


And that’s pretty much it for today.


For more about window treatments, please click here,  here and here.

Don’t forget to get your rolodex and/or paint collection orders in.


There are only five more days until the deadline (11:59 PM on November 13th) and then the price is going up for both products. You do get a price break if you purchase them at the same time. For more info, click here.

And paint collection owners. I know that I owe you a board for October. I promise that one will be coming soon and then there will be one more after that. And if you do not yet have the paint collection, but purchase it, you will be privy to the 12 bonus palette boards and furnishings which are my free gift.




38 Responses

  1. Love this post! There is definitely something about the 70s that is conducive to nostalgia…the fashion, decor and the issues of the day. Probably why The Mary Tyler Moore Show still plays today and stands the test of time!

  2. Thanks, Laurel, for another great post! We learn so much from you! I’ve read your other posts about window treatments many times,and have loved them all! We’ve just moved into a Queen Anne revival house. Our living room window is much like your present bay window, except that both side windows end at their respective adjacent walls, with only the 6 inch width of the window trim for curtains to rest on when open. The two spaces between window panes are 28″ wide. When there are uneven spaces of wall between windows, is it best to try and camouflage this by hanging even widths of curtains beside and between them? Are curtain panels ever hung on adjacent walls to continue the width? If this isn’t enough of a design challenge, I also have big old radiators on the adjacent walls! I would love to see a post one day about creative decorating around radiators!

  3. Oh Laurel – I love this story on many levels. I’ve noticed before that we are the exact same age (and our mothers are the same age). I remember rent in 1974 (though yours seems like a particularly sweet deal!). On another level, that first apartment has many of the same features as the home we are currently building, replicating an early 1900s home that we salvaged (same style doors and door hardware, 10 foot ceilings, etc.). And then the bay windows…we have one in our other home of the last 30 years, and I recently did Roman shades similar to the ones in the pic of your living room (made them myself, as that’s one of my talents). I always enjoy your posts, and find myself going back to them as I make decisions on the new home.

  4. So much fun to see old Palo Alto. Wow Laurel! You scored! I went to Stanford ’69 – 73 and schlepped all over trying to rent one of those pretty apartments in that neighborhood! No dice! I wound up in some pretty ugly tract houses with an assortment of roommates. Still a fun time!
    You do such a nice job blending lively personality with practical ideas!

    1. I guess I was lucky! Funny, you were leaving and I was coming. I’ve often said that everyone on the planet has either lived in Palo Alto or knows someone who did! haha

  5. Oh, I loved your story. You write so wonderfully. You were very mature at 18 and 19 to take on living by yourself. Loved the photos and especially of you.

    Thanks for mentioning sill length curtains as well as cafè.

  6. wow Laurel while I was reading the first part, I’m, like “windows. who needs info on windows when there’s a story of life-a bit of it-going on?”
    then I of course found that the second part-about window treatments- is extremely useful.( Would love to read about French doors one time..you know the three parts one? does one put curtains or not? I was scared into “not” but am not sure)

    but I guess it’s normal..I’m obsessed with windows and doors for example, and I know it’s much more of them being openings in a wall. It’s a promise, a secret garden, a hope..a bit of a life

    Yes I get nostalgic too-I was a very cute toddler in mid-sevenies-I saw pics! I’m nostalgic since..:)

    Thank you thank you for your wonderful post

  7. My favorite house of my youth was a 3-floor house in St. Paul, MN, that I rented with my friends. I think I paid $200 a month for my room and that was in the 90’s. Back then we had all original MCM furniture that we got at yard sales for cheap or for FREE. I would kill for our old sofa now. It was gorgeous. We sold it for 50 bucks when we all moved away.

    I have a question about drapes. Is it okay to just leave your windows bare? We just bought a house and the previous owners left their fancy Roman shades (the kind that can be set halfway down the window so nobody can see in from the street but you get all the light). I have been too busy with the move and painting and refinishing floors to even think about window treatments, but the more I think about it the more I don’t want to do them if they’re not necessary (like for privacy). We lucked out and got a gorgeous house with lots of Venetian plaster and millwork and high ceilings and I’m thinking maybe it looks nice without any drapery? Or is a living room, say, really only considered “finished” when it has drapes?

  8. Laurel, I loved this post and your walk down memory lane! Are you still that limber?!? Incredible to think a 19 yo could live in a place like that.

    Do you have any old posts on window treatments for French doors that open inwards? I have 5 sets that run across the front of our house. They face west, so hot hot Southern sun with an incredible view I hate to hide. I have only wooden blinds covering the glass, in part because the open floor plan limits wall space for hanging art.

    1. Hi Roxanne,

      No, unfortunately, I am not still that limber. But I still take ballet occasionally. Not as much as I would like, though.

      Wish I could help you with your door situation, but I’d need to research it and also see the situation in person. But, one idea is to see if the doors can open out. Not sure if an exterior door should do that, but it makes sense. Also, I’m presuming that you don’t need to use all of the doors. If it’s one in the middle, then, just push the drape aside to get out. Sorry, as I said; it would take a visit.

  9. Very nice post today!! I especially like the ballerina photo.
    But my question is about the cords on the Roman Blinds: None of these photos show the cords, but they must be there…. how do the people with beautiful homes keep them hidden?

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Good question! Well, they either photo-shopped them out, taped them up, or– there’s a cleat which is what I always do which holds the cords up and out of the way. You can tie them up so that nothing shows. But then you have to unwrap them from the cleat to let them up or down. But if you don’t move them very much, that’s a great solution.

      1. My workroom makes custom roman shades. Unfortunately, or fortunately, child saftey laws have been getting stricter about dangling cords on shades and drapes over the last 5 or 6 years. Cordlocks and cleats are just barely kosher, and I believe will be gone soon! Bead chains need to be secured to the trim with a tension device and shade lift system manufacturer are coming up with all sorts of alternatives that eliminate or modify the pull cord. Motorization is lately coming to the forefront. It has been quite expensive but is coming down in price, and I think it will be common soon. Some motorized shades you can operate with a cell phone or iPad. A plus is that it is a nice clean look if using the battery-lift systems or you have them hardwired them into the wall.

  10. What a romantic apartment building that is/was! But how did you know I live in an igloo, Laurel? 😉

    Do you think window treatments are the hardest thing in interior design? I usually know what to do with a room, but window treatments seem more difficult.

    We rented a big log house with soaring ceilings and giant windows a couple of years ago. The windows in the living room made a strong architectural statement. I tried to put curtains up in the living room, and had to remove them. They ruined the whole look – the whole point of the architecture was lost. Since it was a country house, privacy wasn’t so important. Yet, when I put curtains in my bedroom, they totally made the room look better. Window treatments are so specific and so complicated!

  11. I moved to San Francisco in May 1975. I rented a one bedroom apartment on Locksley Avenue, a dead end road around the corner from UCSF Medical Center. It had a enclosed garage space for one car and a wood burning FIREPLACE for $140 per month! I left in 1978 to move to Chicago to get married. Stupid idea, but I was “in love.”

  12. Hi Laurel!
    I have read your blog for maybe a year + and LOVE it. Thanks so much!
    The last pin on this post of the Summer Thornton design has a beautiful light fixture. Can you please, please get me the name and make? I still have not figured out how to do that even though I have read your blog on that. Anyway, there is a light fixture that is similar which you featured, I believe in the blog post with a guy getting his eye poked with the chandelier. I believe that light fixture was maybe Grammercy by Visual Comfort and was featured in another pin of a Summer Thornton design. That Visual Comfort chandelier, while gorgeous, is WAY TOO big for most rooms and the small version is too mini. This one looks just right. I NEED two of them for my dining room. 8 months with bare bulbs in a dining room ceiling socket is just a little too ugly although no one will get their eye poked out…any help is greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi, Jennifer. That whole space by Summer Thornton is one of my favorites. I believe it was featured in House Beautiful, so if you do a search on Google or in Pinterest for “Summer Thornton House Beautiful,” it may come up. You might find sources there.

  13. What a wonderful post! Will you share the source for the small striped sofa in the living room you did a few years ago? I can’t seem to find a small sofa with a bench seat and tight back! I have combed through your posts and this one would be perfect. Thank you!

    1. Hi Sara,

      That’s TCS Designs, a to the trade custom upholstery workroom. They only sell to designers, no stores.

      I’ve specified it in one of two sizes at least a dozen times.

  14. I lived in Sausalito in the early 90s. I had a 2 story condo, end unit, top 2 floors, 2 bed/2.5 bth., fireplace, pool, hot tub, 2 balconies, views of the bay, private parking, large kitchen. $1300 a month!!!! It was paradise.

  15. Laurel…I wish I’d seen this post about 2 months ago but I didn’t! I have 2 bay windows in my old Victorian home and in one room I put up 3 different rods for curtains
    ..I didn’t even KNOW there were rods for bay windows!! Dumb me! So they’re all a bit uneven the top but you can’t tell because I also have a soft cornice over each window. These windows have about 10″ space between each window. However it looks GREAT TO the eye…only when I leave this rental will you see many, many holes in the walls!! Plus, I found custom, lined with felt and weighted gorgeously made curtains at Habitat for $40!! My seamstress only charged $60 to remake them all fit!! Win/Win!!

    1. Hi Donna,

      Well, how were you to know?

      I didn’t repeat a lot of advice I’ve given in the past, but linked to it. And one of them, I recommend is a professional installation. And believe me, even the pros make lots of holes! It is definitely brain surgery- lol, but it sounds like you got a gorgeous result. Holes can be filled in. :]

  16. Love hearing your first apartment story. My first was a studio apartment at the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco. (For your readers who are unfamiliar with San Francisco, Nob Hill is a very ritzy neighborhood.) I only looked for rentals in nice neighborhoods, not because I was a snob, and Lord knows, not because I had a lot of money, but because I was a young single woman living alone, and my safety was paramount. (I later lived in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles.) It was an ugly apartment, BUT IT WAS $210.00 A MONTH! And I can remember scrimping and saving to make rent. Those were the good old days, right Laurel? The Laning Chateau/Staller Court building is beautiful, and easy to see why you wanted to live there. Personally, I love both shutters, roman shades and window seats -they just seem so cozy – but of course it depends upon the room. Thank you, as always, for the entertaining and informative post.

    1. Yes, the good ol’ days for sure! I’ve been to SF many times because for one year, the ballet class with the crazy teachers was there one day a week and both my sister and brother lived there for several years. Such a gorgeous city!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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