Freshening Your Home for the New Year {part IV – window treatment ideas}

Before I get to the subject at hand, window treatment ideas, I have to just say that this has been a technological week from hell. On Tuesday, my trusty laptop took ill and I won’t go into all the  details, but let’s just say that I spent too many hours on the phone, only to end up having to bring it into the shop. I intended to post this days ago, but it was impossible. Actually, part IV was supposed to have been about wall art, but since I had already begun my collection of images and that is on the sick laptop, I’m going to jump ahead to another way to freshen your home and that is with window treatments.

As a designer, I have generally had the philosophy that less is more. However, the window treatments should enhance the design, not overwhelm it. I am starting out with a beautiful living room that has beautiful architectural detailing and windows and I love that they left them bare.


Julie Nightingale Design

One of the most common things I see when visiting new clients is that they left up the hideous valance or drapes from the previous owner. Often-times, the window treatment is [hideously] decorative. I will be told that the client hates it, but for some reason, they never took it down.

If you want to freshen your home, one of the best ways is to divest.

Get rid of the ugly. Let the light in. A bare window is never wrong and is always better than one with an ugly dress.


via: drapes that suck

Oh, I’m so bad. I’m going straight to hell, I’m sure. But really now…

In addition to sucky valances, what else do you need to look out for?
  • skimpy drapes. The width of the fabric covering the window should be approximately 2.5 times the width of the window. For instance, if your window is 48″ wide, you will need approximately 120″ of fabric, plus an additional 6″ for the side hems and return (back into the wall, in most cases.) Since most designer fabric is 54″ wide, you will need one and one half widths for each drapery panel. If you want a more casual look, you can get away with a single panel unless the window is super large and then it will look dumb.


This room has other problems like too many arches, but that’s another story!

  • Problem #2 are drapes that are too short or too long.

short curtains remodelista

via Remodelista

There is a remedy for this if they are ready-made drapes which these appear to be. One is to add a border, but I have also discovered that the hems are usually glued together and it’s not difficult to undo them and then fold them over where you want them to be and then get a hot iron and “glue” the hem back!  Ready-mades come in either 84″. These are usually too short unless your ceiling is only 7 feet. The drapes should be hung several inches above the window and within a couple of inches of the crown moulding, (if there is one.). The next length is 96″ which is too long for an 8 foot ceiling unless you want them to puddle. I have NEVER had a client who wanted this! People who have full-time maids and no children, pets or friends can safely have drapes that puddle.


That is… unless you don’t mind the bottoms turning pretty shades of grey.

  • The next thing to worry about is lining. I favor thermal lining because it’s heavier, but still very soft and provides some insulation and usually eliminates the need for an interlining which saves my clients money. If there is embroidery and little threads, behind the fabric, you must use blackout lining or you will see the threads through the light! And if you use silk,  I do recommend interlining as well as blackout lining, especially for southern facing rooms or you will not have any fabric left in a few years. (or less)
  • Pitfall #4 is the fabric, itself. I love linen, but 100% linen can “yo-yo” and tends to wrinkle, so if it has a bit of something else in it, that is wonderful as it will give the fabric better stability. DO NOT USE WOOL. It is absolutely gorgeous, drapes like nothing else… buttttttt… it shrinks, rots, moths eat it, and it costs a zillion bucks. I promise you that will hate yourself and the idiot who sold it to you!

Is there more? YES!!! There’s a lot more and that is why you need professional help and professional installation. Believe me when I tell you that putting up window treatments is akin to neurosurgery. Do not attempt it yourself!

So, now that I’ve totally freaked you out about everything that can go wrong, here are some designers, who got it right! The proportions and colors are perfect and they chose fabrics and patterns that enhanced their spaces and conveyed the feeling of the room.

Great Window Treatment Ideas


This striking office is by the master of the Roman Shade, (and everything, actually) Vicente Wolf. His rooms almost always feature a unique blend of old and new and really old as in ancient. I love him to bits. Here, his choice of ultra shear linen makes an exquisite juxtaposition against the steely furnishings. Brilliant!

The next three images are by the equally brilliant Victoria Hagan. Victoria is also known for mixing new and old with the occasional bit of quirk. Her rooms are always based on classical forms, however. They are the epitome of timeless. Truly

| window treatment ideas |

I love the deep contrast banding here. This is something that I have done many times with great effect. Sometimes, we do a patterned fabric or have also done it in a plain fabric.




Also perfect. From a home in the Hamptons.


Kathryn Scott

Do. Go for drama! If you’ve got it, flaunt it! Elegance here, is achieved by choosing a fabric in a similar tone to the wall.


Urban Cottage

Casual elegance in a contemporary traditional room. ( I cannot say the word, “transitional.” Forgive me, but I just can’t.)


Don’t be afraid of pattern. Just remember that it needs to make sense in the total scheme of things. Above is one of my favorite tricks which is to trim a plain fabric with a contrasting one in a pretty pattern. (more about that later on.)


David Easton

The master, David Easton pairs up a contemporary geometric in an otherwise traditional living room. It brings the entire space into a fresh new level! Love it!


Linwood Fabrics

Love the pairing of these two dissimilar fabrics and colors.


Love this earthy but elegant room by the wonderful Thom Felicia.


Joel Woodard

Chintz is not dead— particularly when it’s as handsome as this one!


Jill Goldberg Hudson entered this photo in the World’s Away contest and walked away with the second prize. I wasn’t at all surprised. I was immediately taken with her use of the geometry, texture and color. Great job!


Kelly Wearstler’s well-known fretwork pattern for Schumacher looks fresh with neutral furnishings and grass cloth. (yes, it’s the same pattern on Jill Goldberg Hudson’s chairs, above, but in a different colorway.)


Above and below by Anne Hepfer


I can’t resist a Greek Key trim!


 A beautiful tailored Roman Shade trimmed with an inset ribbon.

Trimming. Trimming a drape or Roman shade such as the one above is a wonderful way to add interest to a solid pattern and connect design elements in a room. Here are some beautiful examples.


Cindy Rinfret


Lisa Palmer

This pattern was actually stenciled on to the fabric.


Lindsay Hair

I love the banding on this drape. It’s very custom and adds a visual interest that really works.

All uncredited photos are via pinterest



7 Responses

  1. Hi Georgiana and HNY! That’s not my room and so I can’t be exactly sure, but it looks like antique pine. There are places where they salvage it from old homes and sell it, but of course, it’s pretty pricey. That is a really cool floor!

  2. Laurel , please please let me know what type of wood and where I can find the hardwood floor from the pictures with white drapes pitaff # 4 here is your comment on the pic ” That is… unless you don’t mind the bottoms turning pretty shades of grey.” Thank you! gia

    1. Hi Jann, Thank you so much for your lovely comment! I want to take a closer look at your blog later on, because you also have some great advice. I also noticed that you have a lot of affiliates and it was so funny, but everything I’ve looked at in the past couple of days popped up on there. I’m in the process of adding some of them too. My best, Laurel

  3. You are so bad, but that’s why we love you 🙂 Great post, Laurel! This series should be “Decorating 101 with Laurel.” I think the drapes / curtains MAKE some of those rooms. Sorry about your laptop. I had server problems all last week. ciao, L

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