Decorating Difficult Windows
Windows are an essential component of any home. They let in sunshine and scenery, reflect the home’s architectural style, and are important considerations for heating and cooling. Window treatments are used to address the practical considerations of light, privacy, and temperature control, as well as aesthetic preferences in home decor. With certain types of windows, balancing these needs can be tricky. Here, local experts offer advice for dealing with some common window conundrums.
With bay windows, there are really two types to talk about: bay windows, and bay walls. A traditional bay window extends out from a flat wall, and features a substantial sill. With a bay wall, the walls themselves form the bay shape. If you have a classic bay window with a sill, Ashley Hilbish of Curtains, Blinds and Bath in Forest, has several suggestions. “Roman shades are the most popular option because it takes care of the beauty factor and privacy in one pop,” she says. Plantation shutters are also very popular, providing a “clean, crisp look,” but it’s best to have professional help with the measuring and installment, since it can be tricky to fit the shutters in a small space. For clients with a modest budget, Hilbish says, “We have stock rods that will angle and accommodate any stock valance.” She notes that 2.5-inch-wide pocket rods are very popular and user-friendly. Woven wood shades are another attractive option.
Bay walls are more common in new construction, and since there’s often a bit of space between windows, it’s easier to hang mounting hardware to dress each individual window. While there are many beautiful custom options available for bay walls, unless your windows are unusually sized, stock materials may be an option for limited budgets. You can also dress the bay wall as a unit. Kathy Potts, of Decorating Den Interiors, says, “Sometimes bay windows are treated as a whole, and panels are hung on the walls on either side of the opening.”
Large Bathroom Windows
For a large window over a garden tub, privacy is usually the main concern. Hilbish recommends installing a plantation shutter with a “divide rail”—a horizontal, 3-inch piece of wood which lets you operate the bottom and top louvres independently. Hilbish says this option is “by far my highest recommendation, and the most popular” in their store. Potts has even managed to put shutters on a large curved window above a tub. “It looked great and the client was very happy,” she says. Alternatively, “top-down bottom-up” shades, in cellular or woven fabrics, can provide similar privacy options. Mounted to the sides of the window inside the frame, this style allows both the top and the bottom of the shade to be adjusted. If reaching the window treatment is difficult, consider motorization shades or blinds.
Front Door Sidelights
An entry door with sidelights adds light and curb appeal to many homes, yet privacy here is also a consideration. Shades in materials such as woven wood, Roman, or cellular can be mounted in many sidelights, though their narrow widths generally require a custom order. For a simple solution, Hilbish suggests curtain panels with a top and bottom rod. She recommends a lightweight or sheer fabric, adding that this arrangement is very budget-friendly. Hilbish also notes that, surprisingly, plantation shutters can be made in very narrow widths, and praises their practicality, saying, “You can shut them all the way for privacy, or open them for light.”
If you’re looking for a bit of a showstopper, Potts carries a product that looks like iron scrollwork, but is actually made out of lightweight wood. These faux grilles, she says, come in many shapes and patterns and can be attached to the outside of the sidelight, giving it a custom look and filtering the view. Potts says, “It’s a way of dressing up the window without changing the whole door.”
While privacy is rarely an issue for skylights, light and temperature control definitely can be. Potts says remote control shades can solve this problem. Curtains, Blinds and Bath offers adjustable cellular skylight shades that can be opened and closed either by remote control or with a long pole. While using the latter option is more affordable, Hilbish says it’s still a custom option, since it requires specially-fabricated materials. “A starting pricepoint would be about $300 per skylight,” she notes. If something more affordable is desired, Hilbish says it’s sometimes possible to place tension rods on either side of the skylight and use stock sheers to filter the light. “A seamstress can alter the sheers to fit the opening, and the entire thing can be taken down during winter, when people often want more light.”
The Palladian window, a central arched window flanked with two rectangular windows, is a classical feature from Renaissance architecture that remains popular today. We’re not sure what Andrea Palladio used for drapes when he designed it in 16th-century Italy, but today the main dilemma is what to do with the arch. Draping the curve itself is extremely tricky, and liable to look dated, so it should be considered only if excess light is a problem. In that case, a specialty-shaped shade can be made, but it will not be operational. Hilbish says Hunter Douglas does make a moveable shade but warns that these tend to be very pricey. A custom shutter can also be designed, which can be tilted open or closed and provide a more architectural look.
An easier and attractive option is to install drapes above the arch. Potts prefers this to placing a rod just below the arch, which cuts the window in half. “I like to treat the window as a whole, accenting the arch in some way and dressing the sides.” Hilbish also favors this approach, noting it will add height to the ceiling and provide light and privacy options when needed. “Visually, it looks nice to take it all the way up,” she says, adding, “You can also place stationary panels on either side, just for looks. This creates warmth with the fabric and softens all the woodwork around it.”
Typically smaller windows placed above doors or other windows, transoms can be purely decorative, or functional, allowing air flow and heat dissipation in homes built before the advent of air conditioning. Generally, this extra light is considered desirable, but if it’s causing a problem, such as sunfading on art and fabrics, there are several options. As with Palladian windows, going above the transom will unify and elongate the room. However, Hilbish says this usually requires a custom length, so hanging a rod below the transom is a more economical option. A large, adjustable shade can also be hung above the transom.
Transoms are often found above a door, generally along with sidelights. In this case, it’s best to use the same treatment on both the transom and the sidelights for a unified look. Here again, Roman or woven shades are effective and have a clean look. Potts has used faux iron grilles in transoms for a decorative accent.
No matter what type of window you’re looking to dress, knowing your budget, along with your functional and aesthetic preferences, is key. Once you have these considerations in hand, a window professional can help you select a treatment that will both insulate and beautify your home.
Arched Windows, bay windows, Curtains Blinds and Bath, Decorating Den Interiors, difficult windows, front door sidelights, James T. Davis, large bathroom windows, skylights, transom windows, window dressing, windows