When you think about the materials that our homes are made of, they are all “hard” surfaces – wood, drywall and plaster, glass, metal, concrete, brick, stone. These are used because they are strong and durable, but they need complemented by something soft to make them comfortable for us to live in.
One of the best ways to do this is to “layer it up” and there are many combinations of window treatment layers that can be used to keep your windows from blank holes in your walls.
Granted, some of us prefer to live and work in minimalistic environments with hard surfaces, angles, clean lines and bare windows…..or some degree of this. But many of us are comforted by being surrounded by soft fabric and the privacy of some covering at our windows. Whether you prefer a simple approach or several softly draped layers, you have many choices. Start with your need:
- When privacy is the priority – Depending on the height of your window and proximity to public areas or other buildings, you can either apply a solution to the whole window or just the lower half. Some of your options include blinds, sheers, shutters, café curtains and shades are all adaptable to either full or half privacy needs. Combine these with a valance or cornice, and/or drapes for more interest and a softer effect. Keep in mind that sheers will provide privacy during the day, though not as much after dark, when lights inside reveal your interior.
- Form over function – If your priority is style rather than the more practical concerns, your imagination is your only limitation. Pick your favorite types of treatments and combinations of fabric colors and patterns to create a unique and stylish solution that is all about your room’s personality….or yours. Add trims for even more style. This can be as simple as a coordinating solid color fabric or as elaborate as a multi-colored tassel trim. Save money by doing a layered look rather than fully functional layers – like stationary side panels and sheer inserts.
- Clean lines – To suit your minimal or semi-minimal style, think about blinds, shades, drapes with less volume, stationary side panels, or sheers with a simple wood or upholstered cornice. If you’re somewhere in between minimalist and traditional in style, full window shutters with a cornice or simple drape or sheer panels are a beautiful solution.
- Opulence – For those who crave lots of rich fabrics around them in either a formal or semi-formal style, you have a wide variety of fabrics from which to choose, from warm textures like velvet and linen, to shimmering silks. Whatever fabric suits your room’s style, it is layers, the drape’s volume and the trims that give you an opulent effect. Think very full drapes that puddle on the floor and gather back during the day. Layer these with sheers, wood shades or blinds, draped and trimmed valances, or elaborate wood cornices. For extra opulence, add elaborate trims to panels and valances.
- Layers with light – Especially in northern climes, layering our window treatments is important in the winter, but so is letting in as much light as possible. A cornice seals the top of your window, preventing heat loss without covering the window. Drapes provide an additional layer of insulation, but can be opened during the day to let in the light. A bottom layer such as sheers or cellular shades will let in the light while your drapes are open, without giving up all of your cold weather insulation. Another option is an insulated shade or shutters covering only the bottom half of your window, preventing cold drafts but letting in the light.
- Blocking out light – Bedrooms and media rooms often require black-out window treatments, preventing interruption of sleep and interfering with TV/movie screen image quality. The best options for these rooms are tight-fitting shades or full-coverage drapes in dark colors with black-out linings. Even a small amount of bright light infiltration, such as direct sunlight or headlights, can be a problem. Layering these with a closed cornice and extending the drape beyond the edges of the window opening will be most effective.
- Masking the view – For rooms that look out onto unattractive views, such as parking lots, building walls, fences, streets, or commercial developments, you can mask this view by either lightly or fully covering the window. Again, light filtration and privacy may be a consideration in your choice of solutions and determine how much of your window you cover. Bottom-mounted blinds or half-shutters and a valance or cornice may be sufficient, or drapes over a sheer panel. If the object outside your window extends above your eye-level, you may want to opt for full-coverage shutters, blinds or shades.
- Energy efficiency and comfort – We love having lots of windows – big windows – in our living and working spaces, but heat gain or loss can be a big issue. Layering your window treatments can solve these problems with ease and style; layers can be added or removed seasonally with little effort, easily pulled out with your flannel sheets, comforters, and sweaters in the fall, then packed away again in the spring. In the summer opt for blinds, sheers or shutters and a valance then add insulated drapes in the winter.
Choose layers that complement each other, either by similarity or by contrast. Soften blinds and shades with gathered or swag valances. Give structure to sheers and drapes by topping them with wood or upholstered valances. Warm up sheers by adding a layer of drapes. Add interest with color and pattern in your fabric selections. Add texture to sheers, blinds and shades with tactile fabrics like velvet, burlap, linen, raw silk, crinkled and heavy weave fabrics.
Your window treatments offer a great opportunity to use a fabric that you love, even one that’s expensive. A valance, shade or cornice don’t require as much fabric as drapes or upholstery, so you can have that pricey fabric you love without spending a fortune.
Make the most of your windows by layering it up!