Solutions for Problem Windows

Baffled by what to do with your windows? Treat them right with these decor ideas.


+ enlarge image The treatment on this Palladian window downplays the arch.

With their distinctive overhead curves, Palladian and arched windows are beautiful additions to most any room. Sometimes, though, you may want to play down the curves. One option is to subtly define the arch with drapery panels hung from a rod installed straight across the top of the window and pulled up and back with tasseled tiebacks strategically placed at the bottom line of the arch.

+ enlarge image One way to show off curves is to leave them uncovered.

If privacy isn't an issue for your arched window, simply start your treatment below the arch, leaving it unencumbered by fabric. To dress the entire window and flatter its natural shape, try using a swag and jabot treatment hung from an arched drapery rod installed just outside the upper trim. For privacy, outfit the lower glass with sheer cafe curtains or shutters.

+ enlarge image A curved valance follows the arch.

Here's a nifty way to treat eyebrow windows: Follow the form of the arch with a bendable rod and a span of fabric. Hang handkerchief-like pieces from decorative drapery pins or holdbacks installed in the window trim.

+ enlarge image Photo 1

Bay windows have long ranked high on homeowners' wish lists, and there are lots of ways to treat them. A wall-size bay can benefit from fabric panels hung between windows (see Photo 1) to keep interest inside and add warmth to wide-open spaces. Fabric-covered rods and rows of double swags visually link the windows. View multi-window bays as one unit.

+ enlarge image Photo 2

Another bay idea: Visually connect a trio of windows with a cornice or pelmet top treatment (see Photo 2). Cut-from-fabric diamonds lined with a stiff interfacing and tacked to a pelmet board link this triad. On the bottom half, keep things simple with cafe curtains hung on tension rods installed inside the window trim. The curtains provide privacy without blocking light or treetop views.

For picture windows, you'll get the most pizzazz by installing treatments across the top. Stationary fabric shades keep interest high and soften the glass expanses. Or you can add height by starting valances, fabric, painted cornices, or swagged scarves 6 inches or so above the top window trim.

Because glass doors need to open and close, choose treatments that stay clear of a door's working mechanisms. Sliding doors are best treated with drapery panels or vertical blinds that can be pulled to the sides. Bamboo shades, horizontal miniblinds, or sheer fabric panels shirred on tension rods installed at the top and bottom of the glass work well on French or glass-panel doors.

+ enlarge image Cafe curtains teamed with a narrow valance provide an easy-to-slide solution for cottage-style casements.

Because they open outward instead of upward, casement windows require forethought so treatments don't interfere with function. Many of the treatments that work for French doors work for casement windows because they're designed to move with the door as it opens or closes.

Hang valances or panels from curtain rods installed directly on the top edge of the window, so the treatment opens with the window. Hang side panels from a drapery rod that overlaps the wall and spans the window; the panels can be pulled off the window and over the walls when the window needs to be opened.

Swing-arm rods are another nifty solution; installed on the wall just outside the window frame, the arm rods and curtain panels are swung into the room when windows are opened.

Bishop-sleeve curtains: A series of poufs in a voluminous panel; created by gathering the upper portion in two or three spots with cords or tassel tiebacks.

Blinds: Treatments used to regulate light and privacy; available in horizontal and vertical slats made from plastic, metal, wood, bamboo, fabric, and paper.

Cafe curtains: Short panels hung across the bottom half of a window.

Cape Cod curtains: See Priscilla curtains.

Contrasting lining: A fabric different from that on the face of the treatment; creates interest for swags, jabots, and drapery panels.

Cornice: A wood box installed across the top of a window; can be upholstered with fabric, painted, stenciled, or wallpapered.

Curtains: Generally lightweight or unlined fabric panels shirred onto rods or hung by tabs stitched across the top of the panel.

Double-hung draperies: A treatment that features overlapping under- and overpanels.

Drapery clips: Decorative hardware in a variety of shapes that holds the top edge of fabric panels to an iron or wire rod.

Drapery rods: Wood or metal poles accented with decorative finials at each end. Rods run through matching or contrasting rings that attach to draperies.

Fabric shades: Flouncy balloon shades, pleated Roman shades, and fabric-covered roller shades.

Holdback: A metal or wood decorative hook that is installed in the wall or window trim to hold a panel back from the window.

Interfacing: A material used to add stiffness to drapery headers and tailored valances.

Interlining: A material stitched between the lining and face of drapes that adds body and helps drapes hold their shapes.

Jabots: Also called cascades and tails, jabots frame swag treatments; on wide windows they're often positioned between swags.

Lambrequin: A valance or cornice with long tails that run down the sides of a window.

Passementerie: Inclusive name for fancy trims, fringes, tassels, and ornamentation.

Pelmet: A flat-front fabric valance, similar to a cornice, mounted on three-sided "shelves" across the top of a window.

Priscilla curtains: Crisp white panels with ruffled edges. Also known as Cape Cod curtains.

Scarves: Hemmed lengths of fabric that wrap across a drapery rod or holdbacks installed at the top of a window for a swag effect.

Sheers: See-through fabrics used as underpanels for drapery treatments or for light curtains; the term is also used for the underpanels or curtains themselves.

Swags: Round-edge valances centered in a single window or combined in a series across the top of the window, usually lined and part of a formal drapery treatment.

Tension rods: Spring-loaded rods that fit inside the window trim; often used for cafe curtains and sheer panels on door windows.

Tension wire: A length of steel wire that runs across the top of the window and is attached with screw eyes to a wall or inner trim.

Tieback: Cording, fabric, ribbon, or rope that pulls panels off the window, usually outfitted with a ring that attaches to a small cup hook screwed in the wall or trim.

Traverse rods: Rods used for movable draperies.

Valance: A top treatment in a variety of shapes and sizes; can be used by itself or with side panels or cafe curtains.

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