Dressing Challenging Windows

Challenging window shapes require creative design and a thorough knowledge of the solutions on the market today. Architects design windows that suit the buildings they are planning; rarely thinking about how the occupant is going to dress them for light and privacy control.  It’s the job of interior decorators and designers to find those solutions, based on your window challenge, needs and tastes.

Let’s look at some challenging situations and possible window covering solutions:

Graber pleated shades for arch-top windowsRound and Arched Windows – The easy solution to this shape window is to embrace its beautiful roundness and not cover it at all; focusing your attention on dressing the other windows in the room and letting this one stand out.  The worst thing you can do is ignore the shape and put a straight rod and curtains or a blind over it.  There are many creative solutions for this type window: a shade panel stretched on a frame to fit the window; a custom made round or arched shutter; a fan-shaped pleated blind; a sheer fabric gathered on a curved or circular rod….and many other possibilities.

Graber vertical blinds for tall windowsReally Tall Windows – One of the problems with these windows is that they can feel out-of-scale with the rest of the space and everyone/everything in it.  The first option would be to break them up by installing shutters, blinds or decorative panels on one-third to two-thirds of the height, bringing them down to a human scale.  To soften these treatments, you can add drapes (with or without a valance) over top to either the top of the first treatment, or the full window height. The other option would be to embrace that soaring vertical line and cover them in full-length sheers, drapes, or shade panels (again, with or without a valance).  This is a dramatic and high-energy treatment, taking your eye immediately to the high ceiling.

Really Narrow Windows – These windows are challenging because of the limitations on the amount of room needed for the mechanical window treatments such as blinds and shades.  The best options are window films, sheers gathered on top and bottom rods.  Shutters and decorative panels are also options.  The other way to address this shape of window is to make them appear wider that they really are by treating the wall as part of the window.  Install a wider curtain rod to allow for hanging a drapery panel next to the window opening.  The same can be done with sliding panels and vertical blinds.  This works especially well on windows that are tall as well as narrow.

Graber roman shades stacked windowsStacked Windows – Whether you’re dealing with a 1970s geometric grouping of windows, or the recent trend to stack a small window on top of a window or door, you have many options.  1) Treat each window individually with top- or bottom-mounted blinds or shades, decorative panels, or window film.  2) Where privacy is the only issue, add shutters, blinds, or café curtains to the lower windows only.   3) The simplest solution is to treat them all as one unit with a single blind, drapes/sheers, decorative panel, or sliding panels.  4) Divide them into vertical groups with two or more full-length blinds, or full-height drapery panels spaced at regular intervals between the vertical groups of windows.  5) Break up a large grouping of windows by leaving the top row uncovered, adding a valance or cornice across the top of the next row, and drapes or sheer panels spaced at intervals between the vertical groups of windows below. 6) Pick one window to feature a stained glass or decorative panel, treating the others simply with window film or individual blinds.

Graber bi-fold shutters, deep-set windowsDeep-Set Windows – While usually found in historic buildings of solid masonry (stone or brick), these can also be found in some modern buildings and in basements. You can treat deep-set windows with drapes, sheers, shutters, decorative panels, blinds (horizontal, cellular, or vertical), shades and valances.  The main difference may be in the hardware you need to use: a tension or side-mount rod for drapes and valances, and top or side-mounting headers for blinds and shades.  Like other windows, you can combine treatments or only treat 1/3 to 2/3 of the window height, based on your privacy/sun issues.

Graber drapery rod for bay windowsBays, Seats and Alcoves – Many historic buildings – and even some modern ones – have bay windows, alcoves, window seats, and tower rooms that aren’t quite rooms.  We often use these nooks as retreats, benefitting from a drapery or other treatment to provide privacy from the rest of the room.  To achieve this, install a drape or sheer to the window side of the interior wall, the room side of the interior wall, or on a rod installed between the jams of the opening using side-mounted hardware.  Options for treating the windows themselves include shutters, blinds, shades, decorative panels, window film, sheers and drapes.  Curved and angled rods are custom fit to the space and can be mounted on the wall or ceiling.  This is especially useful for full coverage of banks of windows in these spaces, to reduce heat loss/gain.

Graber shades for wall of windowsWalls of Windows – The best of both worlds: enjoying a wide-open view of the outdoors while comfortably inside a heated or air-conditioned building.  These window walls make spaces feel so much larger and more welcoming, but how to achieve privacy and light control when needed can be a challenge.  The solutions really come down to what type of hardware you use, because there is often no wall surface above the windows to mount the window treatment to.  Many of the options – blinds, shades, shutters, drapes and sliding panels – can be installed with ceiling mounted hardware.  Make sure you can “stack” your treatment back beyond the window opening, or can raise/lower them fully (in the case of blinds) to restore your view when you want to.  If the view isn’t all that great, but you love the light, consider using decorative panels mounted to the window or ceiling and floor.  Window film can also be a good solution, used on some or all of the window panels, or on the lower portion of all the windows.

Graber custom shutters on angled windowsAngled Windows – Many buildings in the Modern styles have “slanted” or angled-top windows that follow the roof line.  Like round windows, these can be really challenging.  Blinds and shutters are your best solution and can be custom-made to match the window’s angle.  Drapery panels can also be cut to fit the angle, but will not be operable.  Instead, install them as stationary panels using pegs or medallions at regular intervals, giving the drape its pleat or gather.   Your window treatment can also be dropped (on tall units) to the bottom of the angle, leaving the top portion untreated.  Valances and cornices are also an option for the tops of these windows.

The solutions we’ve offered here are certainly not the only ones available for each situation.  Talk to a designer to find the right solution for your challenging windows.