Well-Dressed Windows

By Nancy Moffett

Nothing finishes off a room like a well-dressed window. It’s the icing on the cake, the perfect rose in a crystal vase. But, with an overabundance of choices, where do you start to find the treatment you need to make the room comfortable while accenting your decor?

First, decide what you want to accomplish. Do you need room-darkening in a bedroom, light control for a family room; lots of light in the kitchen, privacy or insulation for cold spots? Every room may demand a different treatment. Rick Hauler, owner of Richards Window Fashions in Allentown, says that today’s shades, blinds, shutters and even window film can accomplish all these goals. Sandy Kuhns, owner of Kuhns and Heller Custom Window Treatments in Trexlertown, suggests taking photos of the room before visiting a showroom where you’ll find samples and visuals to help you decide what products and treatments will work for your home. Some firms also offer free, in-home consultations to help you begin.

Both Hauler and Kuhns agree that the days of the mini-blind and the heavy traverse drape over sheer curtains are gone. Kuhns says people want their windows uncovered during the daytime, so they choose a blind or shade for light and privacy control, along with stationary fabric panels for a finished effect. Hauler says some blinds are so efficient that they qualified for past energy rebates. “For instance, Hunter-Douglas’ collection of honeycomb shades carry high energy-efficiency ratings, especially the Duette® Architella® with its honeycomb-within-a-honeycomb design.” To be most effective, they should be mounted inside the window frame. According to Hunter Douglas, “…as much as 50% of a home’s heating and cooling energy can be lost through its windows.” Products carry varying amounts of insulation value, so it’s important to understand those values if you’re looking to reduce energy costs by keeping cold and heat out.

Also at the forefront are Roman and roller, horizontal and vertical shades. Many of these insulate and also block harmful UV rays. Hauler notes the Hunter Douglas Vignette® Roman shade has an added suspended lining to create a dead air space for greater insulation. And, the variety in style, color and fabrics is abundant. For larger windows, patio and French doors, today’s vertical shades are a far cry from the floppy plastic panels of old. They come in sheer, woven and room darkening fabrics, as well as faux wood, genuine wood and aluminum. Another option for verticals is ADOwrap, according to Kuhns. The head rail and vanes of existing vertical blinds are “slip covered” with seamless fabric that gives them softness and color, while the original vanes provide privacy.

New lift systems for blinds and shades eliminate dangerous dangling cords, Hauler notes. Remote controls are also becoming popular for big windows and hard-to-reach places like behind couches and tubs. New to the Lehigh Valley are plantation shutters, popularized in the South. They block sun, insulate the opening and can be made of wood or composite. Another new material is window film that reduces solar energy buildup and cuts off almost 100% of ultraviolet rays.

Diane Bieri, store manager, and Diane Peters, soft goods specialist, at Ethan Allen in Allentown, concur that the trend is toward shades or blinds with fabric-treatment side panels or drapes, with or without top treatments. “It’s really important to have window treatments relate vertically to the horizontals in the room,” Bieri says. While Kuhns sees elaborate top treatments on the decline, Peters and Bieri say valances finished off with braid, loop fringe, cording or tassels are still in demand from their customers. Top treatments can be done in such configurations as pole swags, jabots, box pleats or cornices. The consensus is that formal treatments versus more casual styles run about 50/50.

Turning to fabrics, casual linen looks are becoming more popular, while manufacturers are showing many more new designs than they had during the recession. Peters notes linens with detailed embroidery in multiple colors, in medallion and rounded geometric patterns, for instance. Bieri says they take sections of these fabrics and use them for cornices and on hems. Another fabric trend is larger patterns, while faux silks and fabrics with sheen are being replaced with matte finishes, also for a more casual look.

Kuhns says her customers are trending toward more simple treatments with traditional elements. “They don’t want the big drama type of treatments fashionable 10 years ago,” she says. Hauler notes that soft treatments are coming back after about five years of less draperies being used over blinds and shades. But all agree that long panels finish a window, with even stationary panels going to the floor. Puddling (extra fabric that spills onto the floor) gives an elegant look, but varies with the treatment. More casual styles puddle 2 to 3 inches, while formal draperies can overhang as much as 6 to 10 inches. For treatments without valances or cornices, metal and wood rods are available in many finishes and styles. Regarding the overall effect, Bieri says, “People still want an elaborate statement in the room, with beautiful design, no matter what the style.”

Whatever fabrics, styles or light control methods you choose, the best way to start is to visit a showroom and consult with expert designers. The result will be window treatments that help make the room comfortable and add the “icing-on-the-cake” you were looking for.

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