Renovation Essentials: Window Treatments

The term "window treatment" is often used interchangeably with "curtains" or "drapes." However, window treatments are not only soft fabric coverings for windows, but they are also hard fixtures such as shutters, blinds and shades. As lovely as they can be, the best window treatments should serve a functional purpose as well. Window treatments provide protection from the heat and glare of the sun, cold drafts and the prying eyes of neighbors.

Hard Window Treatments

On a functional level, shutters, shades and blinds provide privacy, sun and wind control.

  • Louvered interior shutters such as the popular Plantation shutters, provide excellent ventilation and sun control while adding an attractive architectural element to the space. The simple Venetian blind provides the same type of control, in a more utilitarian package.
  • Grass or bamboo shades provide similar function to the standard roller shade, but are significantly more attractive and can stand alone. They add a masculine textural element to the design as well. The humble roller shade provides practical protection from the sun and works well under other treatments such as valances that cover up the top of the window so the shade is hidden when rolled up to the top.

Soft Window Treatments

Soft window treatments can be exquisitely beautiful and yet they should also be functional.

  • Drapes and window panels are luxurious in their expanse of beautiful fabrics, but they are also indispensable if your windows are drafty. In the old days, tapestries were not just wall decorations, but coverings for doors and windows in old castles providing important heat control. Today's drapery treatments can provide the same function, especially if made with thermal insulation. Doing double duty are light block drapery panels in which a block out liner (rubber sheeting with a flannel backing) is sandwiched between the face fabric and standard plain lining.
  • Sheers and lace panels are best used in conjunction with a more substantial treatment for light control and privacy and can be used with drapes or under valances and shades.
  • Fabric shades come in many styles from simple storm Roman shades to frilly London shades. Trims and tassels can really dress up the treatments for more fanciful or formal look. And yet, these shades are still functional as they can be raised or lowered from fully open to fully closed, depending on the need of the moment.
  • Valances are a purely decorative treatment for a window. While they usually have little functional value (they don't move and they only cover the top of the window), a simple valance can make one feel warmer simply by adding a soft fabric element to a hard window. They also serve to draw the eye upward, which makes one feel that the windows and ceilings in a room are actually higher than they might really be.

Even the most basic window treatments can cause quite a dent in the budget due simply to the fact that most rooms have multiple windows. So, whether one is going all out or working with a more modest plan, it's always best to take into consideration the functional aspects as well as the decorative aspects of any kind of window treatment. A quality window treatment can even be considered an investment in "green" living if they reduce the energy (and costs) used to heat and cool year round.

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