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Window Treatment Part A


It is a paradox that often the most decorative and unusual windows are the most difficult to cover. Whereas the great advantage of the common or garden variety that most of us own is that they can be disguised, enhanced, made to give an extra dimension of interest to a space and generally titivated both to their own advantage – and the room’s.

The main choices for most people seem to be between curtains or shades or blinds, or shutters. However, there are several other options for awkward windows, or windows that are not overlooked, or which look out to a beautiful view, or, conversely, a thoroughly displeasing one.

Quite apart from the increasingly popular louvered shutters, the folding variety and the old solid variety – which can be interestingly painted - you can cover windows with decorative screens, glass shelves holding say, colored glass and/or plants, or simply leave small windows that are not overlooked quite bare, with a single elegant plant or object on the window sill.

Dreary views or internal windows can be veiled over with stained glass or painted glass, and un-overlooked windows with a beautiful view can have their frames painted like picture frames to show off that same view. Beautiful arched windows which used to be so difficult to dress (do you curtain them and lose the arch? Or fix a rod over the top and loop curtains to the side so that you at least see the arch during the day?) there are now much less of a problem with the advent of versatile curved rods.


If you decide on curtains remember that their style will be set by the type of heading used which will also affect how both curtains and valances hang. Headings, most of which are now available ready-made (although there is nothing quite like the finish achieved by professional curtain-makers) include Pencil Pleats, French Pleats also known as Triple or Pinch Pleats, Gathered and Smocked Headings, Goblet Pleats, Flemish Pleats and Box Pleats all of which look very much like they sound.
Off-the-peg or Ready-Made curtains today are a huge improvement on the old limp things that were on sale before. They are available with nicely casual Cased or Tabbed Headings, Scalloped and Eyelet Headings which can all be slung from a huge choice of wood, painted, iron, steel, gilded or silvered poles or rods of some sort. Other casual headings include leather or canvas loops or plain clips which will also produce a scalloped look.

Unless you are curtaining a large grand room in an old house with high ceilings I would advise against elaborate swags and tassels, fringes and bows. Suitability is everything in decoration and grand curtains in an un-grand room are apt to look absurd, quite apart from the fact that the mood today is more for a discerning simplicity than elaboration. This does not mean that curtains should not make a statement, or be used to add pizzazz to a room, but rather that they should suit the proportions and purpose of the room and its geographical location and meld in well with your furniture and general decoration without costing as much as a small car. Neither, however, should they look skimpy and cheap. If you are going to curtain, curtain well.

If you have decided against the use of the more casual rods or poles for your curtains to hang from you will need some sort of cover-up to disguise unsightly tracks or fittings. If by chance you do have a grand room to curtain, the most formal cover-ups are Swags and tails which although they look as if they are made from one beautifully draped length of fabric, usually consist of several pieces skillfully joined together. It is essential to get the proportions right: at the deepest part, the swag needs to be between one fifth and one sixth of the overall height of the window whilst the tails should fall at least half way down the window frame. Simple swags can also be used on their own or over blinds. The more elaborate, are often trimmed with braid, piping, fringes or cord with contrast or patterned linings. As with curtains themselves it is crucial not to skimp on fabric but neither should you overdo.
Pelmets are mostly much less elaborate than swags and tails (although some very fine carved and gilded, or painted versions can sometimes be found in antique shops and if they fit the relevant windows, or can be made to fit, look suitably splendid in an old, well-proportioned house). Normally, they are made from plain wood which is either painted or covered in a matching or contrasting fabric to the curtains. Or they can be made from a stiff fabric like buckram covered in a chosen fabric, which can be either formed straight across the top of the window or be cut into different shapes like, for example, slightly Gothick-y points. Such shaped pelmets are very effective at disguising poor window proportions and can sometimes be made to fit right down the sides of windows, often to the floor. In this case they are called Lambrequins.
Valances are softer than pelmets and are never stiffened. They can be gathered or pleated by hand or with the help of appropriate commercial heading tapes, and designed with trims or edgings to contrast with, or match, the curtains. They can either be hung from a special valance track aligned to the main curtain track or they can be attached to a board which is either fixed above the curtain track or has the curtain track attached to the underside. These boards should be at least 5cm longer either side than the track.

Attached or Integral Valances look much the same as conventional ones when the curtains are drawn, but are actually attached to the top of each curtain so that the two halves separate when the curtains are drawn back, This avoids blocking out daylight but they are best used with a pole rather than a track which would then be exposed in the gap.

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About the Author

Nirit Ozer, Decor & You
Tenafly, NJ 07670

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