Difficult Windows – Window Treatment Dos and Don’ts

The topic of difficult windows is one that I get a lot of comments and emails about.

So, let’s take a look at some common difficult window situations and look at both what to do and also what not to do. If it’s an image that’s a “don’t do that,” I would prefer it not be pinned to pinterest. Thank you.

The other day I received an email about a very common type of difficult window.

A difficult window situation that’s very common is usually found in today’s “great room.”


I mean, it would appear that one just can’t have too many windows stacked on top of each other. Right?


And, on top of that, we are often forced to deal with the ubiquitous arch. Don’t get me wrong. I love arched windows, but in the appropriate proportions and settings. Please refer to this post for more info about that.


difficult windows - the ubiquitous arch

Ahhh, yes. And, there’s that quarter round window that has been my nemesis for many years. Remember this living room? If you have a window like that, please check out the link for my ideas, plus those of many readers.

The current home-owner says that the previous owner hung curtains from the top of the lowest windows.  I don’t think that’s a good look because it is too bottom-heavy.

The logical solution, as I see it would be to hang draperies above the next grouping of windows; just underneath the big arch.


But… Laurel, what about the quarter circle windows? Won’t that look funny to have curtains?


That’s a very good question. Let’s see?


big difficult windows copy Wayfair geometric fabric

I think if we cover up about two thirds of the window, it’s really fine. I think the proportion of the curtain is just right, as well.

The drapery panel width isn’t indicated here. However, if the drapes don’t need to close, I would do a double panel. That means two widths of fabric that are 54″ wide. You could maybe get away with a panel and a half, but not a single panel as shown here. (I found these ready-made panels on Overstock)

I also created another version showing a plain fabric that is a similar color to the wall.

big difficult windows copy Pottery Barn Twill Velvet
That’s actually an image of a Pottery Barn velvet twill curtain. However, it only comes as long as 108″ – nine feet. And, that looks to be 10-11 feet. So, let’s say you’d like to use a ready-made curtain to save money. But, the curtain is too short.


Below is one of my favorite solutions for that problem window situation.


big difficult windows curtains contrast hem

We add a deep contrast hem to extend the length. How long? Well, sometimes if you’re lucky, you’ll have a low window sill. Usually, the hems range from 12″-27″ Or, from about 1/5th – 1/6th the total height of the drape.

A while back I received a similar difficult window from another reader.


big window (1)Below is an idea that I don’t think is very successful for a similar difficult window.


floor-to-ceiling-curtains-long-curtains too skinny long draperies - difficult windows

The tall super skinny panels give a match-stick-like appearance.  I would not do that.


big window shorter drapesAnd, like in the first example, I would not hang the curtains underneath the first transom.


big window drapesI think this looks pretty good.

The third option would be to go all the way up, but the sharp angle of the ceiling means the rod would have to come in further and I think it would look cramped and weird.

It balances out the large transoms and creates more drama.


Let’s look at some other difficult windows


Some of these were handled beautifully. And some, not so well, IMO.


While we’re on the topic, let’s stick with more Palladian and arched windows


These are very often troublesome for obvious reasons.


Design-by-Jane-Lockhart Difficult WindowsJane Lockhart

I think that this is beautifully executed.


chris holt interiors difficult windows window treatmentsChris Holt

This is an especially challenging situation. We have a corner and a Palladian window that doesn’t follow the natural line.


The solution is to hang the side drapes and follow that line along the back wall.


sejour-luxe-hotel-particulier-parisHotel Particulier

Normally, I’d like a little wider panel flanking these doors, but the simple panel seems to understand that it is not the star of the show. Nosiree! Not when you have these exquisite French doors and arched transoms.


Tall Arched windows - best solution for difficult windows

The one above is perfect, however. Sorry, original source unknown. If you know whose work this is, please let me know, and I’ll give them the credit.


arched windows difficult windowsoriginal source unknown

This is a good example of a rod that logically goes over the arched windows.



No. I would’ve run the rod across like the one above. And please no scary hooky things.



Sorry, but this one gets a “no” from me. I wouldn’t have done any drapes here, unless perhaps it was possible to go above the arch.

And, no truncated rods! I never saw this until a few years ago. It’s so bizarre, IMO. The drapes should look like they can close even if they don’t. And please move the painting over so the drapes aren’t eating it. Thank you.


KIPSBAY-markham roberts difficult windows

This is from Markham Roberts’s fabulous room at the Kip’s Bay Showhouse. His window treatment is beyond glorious.


And he used a panel and a half which even if the drapes are not meant to close is the appropriate amount of fabric for this size window and ceiling height. I met Jamie on the Design Bloggers Tour a few years ago. Super nice guy! He was unveiling a line of furniture for Theodore Alexander.


transom windows


marisa lafiosca interiors difficult windowsMarisa Lafiosca

Love what Marisa did here! If you too, love transom windows, click here for one of my favorite posts.

billy roberts atlanta homes lifestylesBilly Roberts via Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles

Wonderful treatment in this library. I love the layering of the treatment for light control.


luxesource.com difficult windowsLuxe

Great solution for a large window with French doors and then a smaller window.


susan bednar long difficult windowsSusan Bednar

Beautiful living room. Sometimes the crown moulding can be a challenge, but it looks like they got it just right.




I would’ve been fine with a little Roman shade layered over the blinds. But, definitely a “no” to the valances. IMO, they’re too fussy and bright.


corner windows


anne-decker-difficult windows corner windowI adore this room but I would love to see double the amount of fabric on this window. It doesn’t even look to be a full panel.


cotton-basketweave-curtain-curtains for corner windows

This is almost right from Pottery Barn. You can find the cotton basketweave curtains here. I would’ve added on more panel in the corner. It looks a little skimpy.


Tobi Fairley-bedroom- via Traditional Home corner windows - difficult windows

This bedroom by Tobi Fairley has some difficult corner windows perfectly executed.


Schumacher Hothouse Flowers Verdance

That’s Schumacher’s Hot House Flowers in the Verdance colorway.


super tall windows


interior designer,

Phoebe Howard can do no wrong.

That looks pretty perfect to me!


bay windows


I have a special fondness for Bay Windows which began during my years living in northern California


Summer Thornton - Bay window - with Roman Shades

Summer Thornton – Bay window with Roman Shades


Dining Area - lake view - bay window - monochromatic color scheme - round Table Hickman Design Associates - round dining tablesEthereal curtains look just right in this bay window in a lake house by Hickman Design Associates


mc-living-room-setteeThis one’s mine. (if you don’t remember)


This is a bay window with a deep sill so the drapes have to be mounted in front.


When we measured for the drapes, we didn’t realize until the valance came down that there was NO PLACE to put our rod. It’s difficult to see here, but the window frame and opening was flush with the ceiling! Fortunately, we had time and the builder created a 4″ soffit for us to hang our drapes on! It looks so much better too!


***Note: Insist on the window treatments coming down if at all possible before measuring.


cotton-basketweave-curtain-pottery barn - curtains difficult windows
Another view of the Pottery Barn Basketweave Cotton Curtain in a bay window


This post about custom drapery rods and hardware is a good one to check out. There is also information about how drapery rods for bay windows.


small windows


Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 1.32.03 PMJennifer Reynolds


Can’t tell you how much I love this!

This is obviously a basement room with tiny little slits for windows.

They put up some silhouette shades and drapes and then created “windows” with art. Brilliant!


windows of different heights



For the doors, I would’ve left off the drapes and either left them plain or added Roman Shades. This situation is always a big challenge.


windows too close to the fireplace


dining-room-mock-up-of-window-treatments-draperies-and-roman-shades-1addicted 2 decorating

I love what Kristi has done here and especially that she has combined drapes and Roman shades. Since the windows on the right are different from the windows on the fireplace wall, this is a viable option. In so doing, it breaks up the sameness and makes the fireplace wall that much more of a focal point.


Story Time


About 16 years ago I had a client who had built her home and had been in it for about 10 years. I did her living room. There was a lovely fireplace in the living room but the windows flanking it were 1 inch away from the mantel.

One inch.


Apparently, nobody caught this obvious boo boo.


There was a good three feet on the other side of each window. If the windows were 18″ over the windows would’ve been a good distance from the FIRE and centered.

We did drapes pulled back to the opposite sides and it really helped create the illusion that the windows were not so close.

via shine your light blogjpgSoft pretty eating area. Here, I would’ve done drapes with a ROD on the window on the left and then Roman Shades out of the same fabric over the built in area.


daun currey difficult windowsDaun Curry


This is a woman with nerves of steel (or else some really good prescription drugs) ;] and an AMAZING workroom.


Think about what it took to pull this baby off!

And a Greek Key to boot!


Some of you have asked about radiators.


Yes, they are a pain in the butt sometimes. Usually, I just do Roman Shades, woven woods, or maybe you’d like to do interior shutters. Sometimes, you can put curtains that aren’t meant to close.

For some other hideous decorating mistakes I’ve made with fabric, please click here.





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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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