Beautiful window treatments including valances, drapes, and blinds.

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Choosing Window Treatments

Semi-Sheer Window Treatments

A common space such as a family room or living room doesn't usually require much privacy, but depending on the number of windows, it may always need light. Natural light helps brighten this living room, so the designer chose a beautiful semisheer fabric window treatment that offers light and subtle privacy even when it's lowered.

Tip: Choose the thickness of your fabric based on the amount of light you want in the space — a thick fabric lets less light through than an ultrasheer fabric.

Cellular Shades

Many bathrooms, especially those on the first floor, need maximum privacy. This bathroom has a hard window treatment called a cellular shade. Referred to as a top-down/bottom-up shade, this shade allows you to walk around without being seen and still lets a lot of light in.

Tip: It's constructed with a honeycomb design to keep the cold out and the heat in.


Bedrooms on the first floor usually need more privacy than bedrooms on the second floor, but both may require natural light. This very contemporary floor-to-ceiling drapery offers light as well as privacy. When it's closed, an entire wall of fabric still allows light in.

Tip: The drapery rod or track for floor-to-ceiling draperies can be installed on the wall or the ceiling, depending on what suits the room the best.

Roller Shades

Whether you have a bathroom on the first floor or on the second, closely situated neighbors can require privacy. This easy-to-install roller shade is perforated, allowing light to filter through.

Tip: Since window treatments at the back of tubs may be hard to reach, hardwire a roller shade so that you can conveniently manipulate it from a control panel or remote.

Blackout Curtains

Getting baby to sleep in the middle of the day can prove difficult with the sun blaring in — but not with blackout shades. Have a blackout lining — a very dense fabric that light can't penetrate — sewn onto the back of any drapery fabric.

Tip: For absolute darkness, install floor-to-ceiling drapes 18 inches past each side of the window. This will ensure that as little light as possible seeps in through cracks.


If your guests come for total relaxation, that may require sleeping in after the sun comes up. This bedroom has shutters installed with solid center panels to block out all light. This window treatment also blends seamlessly into the creativity of the overall theme of the room. Bravo!

Tip: These shutters were painted red for high impact, but if you want a more toned-down look, paint them the same color as your walls and watch them disappear.

Stained Glass

Should you have a great number of windows on or around your front door but want a little privacy, consider installing stained glass. This will turn your foyer into a focal point and prevent passersby from getting a full look into your home. 

Tip: A similar effect can be created with vinyl to save on cost. Contact a local sign company to create this look for your home.

Layered Treatments

Blackout curtains or shades are often necessary in a TV or media room. This media room goes the extra mile in achieving total movie theater darkness by layering a Roman shade and floor-to-ceiling draperies.

Tip: The more fabric you add to your windows in your theater or media room, the better the acoustics will be.

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Types of Window Treatments

Curtains & Drapes

Fun or formal, curtains and drapes are often the unsung heroes of interior design. Not only do they filter out harsh light and the gaze of your nosey neighbor, but they can set the mood and tone of a room. Whether you seek a gauzy, romantic look that lets in the breeze from your deck, or something with some serious light-blocking ability, you will be able to find a solution that suits your needs.

When considering curtains, it’s important to think about both form and function: First, consider any problems that you require your curtains to solve. Too much light? Trying to save energy? You will need a heavier or lined curtain rather than something on the sheer end of the spectrum. Are you looking to dress up a formal living or dining room? Then velvet or heavy silk might be the ticket. Households with kids or pets may want to say Yes! to easy washing cotton or rayon curtains.

Before you make a selection, you’ll want to make sure you have carefully considered all of the following: color, fabric, type of hardware needed to mount the curtains, and the shape and size of your windows. All of these different options will play into the selection that you make.


Ideal for living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms, panels look best on larger windows and sliding glass or french doors. They have a lengthening effect, and when placed slightly above the top of the window or door, can even make your room look more spacious! Panels come in any color or pattern you could possibly imagine. Buy already made curtains in your favorite patterns or have them custom-made with a fabric of your choosing.

Panels accented with a decorative rod, are a tried, true, and elegant solution that look great in almost any application (bathrooms and kitchens are possible exceptions.) When choosing your hardware, remember to consider the mood of your room: A heavier curtain rod will look more formal and dramatic, while a lighter rod will look breezier. A good rule of thumb? If your curtains have a fairly busy pattern, lean towards a less adorned curtain rod so as not to overwhelm your window.

Thermal/Blackout Drapes

These have come a long way in the last few years to combine style and function. Thermal and blackout curtains come in a variety of configurations, but all are designed to be energy efficient and light blocking. Use your thermal curtains to cool a space when you close them during the heat of the day, or to warm it when the winter sun is out. Blackout curtains are the answer to the daytime nap conundrum (for adults and kids alike!) or can be used to convert your living room into a media room. Because blackout and thermal curtains are heavy, once closed, they stay closed and let in almost no light by design.


Sheers are light and airy, but do come in a variety of colors. They are very versatile and can appear alone or paired with heavier materials and valances. Using sheer curtains underneath heavier drapes or curtains allows you flexibility in terms of how much light and privacy you have. Closing the drapes creates total privacy, while opening the drapes and closing the sheers lets in some light without making you feel exposed.


Tiers are hung on short rod-pocket panels. They are usually meant to cover the lower third of a window and are popular choices for bathrooms, kids rooms, and kitchens. Tiers work as part of a traditional or country look and are often paired with a valance.


People often refer to blinds and shades interchangeably. While the two have much in common, they also have some important differences. Both types of window treatments can add privacy and block out light, but shades can be the less expensive option between the two. The biggest difference, however, is that shades do not have slats or vanes. They are made of continuous pieces of fabric that roll-up via a pulley mechanism.

Another key difference between shades and blinds is that shades (especially shades made from lighter colored and more porous materials) are often used to filter or soften light rather than to block it, even when completely down. You’ll choose from shades made from a variety of different materials including cotton, polyester, and linen. Some shades may be coated with a PVC Fiberglass coating to help resist stains, dust, and to help the shade maintain its shape.

Pleated Shades

Simple and pleasing, pleated shades are a classic choice. They are made of a single piece of fabric, accented by crisp pleats. They come in a variety of fabrics and colors. Lighter colors allow more light to come in, while darker colors are the right choice for enhanced privacy and to keep light out.

Cellular/Honeycomb Shades

Cellular shades are quickly becoming a favorite in the window treatments market. They have honeycomb-shaped pockets between the back and front panels, making them cost and energy efficient. How? The pockets trap air, reducing heat loss in the winter and keeping your rooms cool in the summer.

Roller/Solar Shades

Choose solar shades to reduce glare and harmful UV rays. Another benefit of solar shades is that they are easy to clean with a wet cloth. Select from a variety of textures and fabrics, including eco-friendly bamboo and hemp blends for your green home.

Roman Shades

Roman Shades can be light and elegant, with a permanent folded bottom or multiple folds. They can also be made from heavier fabrics, which block the light. These shades are ideal for rooms where you want some light to come in, as they are not high on the light-blocking spectrum. Because they are so light and airy, they are also not the choice for energy efficiency. However, on looks, they deserve an A+! Cleaning Roman shades is easy -- just use your vacuum attachment and a light touch to remove dust and debris from inside the pleats.


Harder than shades, blinds can be made of wood, composite materials, aluminum, leather, or vinyl. The slats come in a variety of lengths and widths, and can be horizontal or vertical. Blinds offer great versatility in terms of light blocking: They can be completely opened or closed, partially opened or closed, or angled to let light filter in where and when you want it. If you are trying to decide between blinds and shades, consider whether or not you want a hard or a soft material and how important privacy and light blocking are to you. Blinds often win out over shades in these areas.

Wood Blinds

Wood blinds offer a touch of sophistication to otherwise run-of-the-mill vertical blinds. Choose from a variety of woods and finishes, from mahogany to matte. Wood blinds are most often used in living areas, rather than bedrooms or kitchens, as they can feel heavy.

Faux Wood Blinds

Faux wood blinds are both easier to care for and less expensive than traditional wood blinds. Composite materials have come a long way in the past decade, and faux wood blinds look very convincing. In rooms where you spend less time, choosing faux wood blinds that match the real wood blinds in your main spaces can be a smart cost-saving trick. Cleaning is fast and easy, making them a great choice for families with young children.

Vertical Blinds

Vertical blinds add dimension and perspective to tall windows and doors; because of this, they are often enlisted to dress patio and balcony doors. Available in both fabric and vinyl materials, you are sure to find a color and material that meets the needs of your space. Vertical blinds work well to block light, especially in darker colors.


ou probably had these in your first apartment or college dorm room. While they are not long on style, they are effective at blocking out light and creating privacy. If you plan to leave your blinds up most of the time, mini-blinds can be a cost-effective option. Choose from many different colors and from aluminum or vinyl blinds.


Shutters offer a classic, elegant look that privileges both function and style equally. Even sturdier than blinds, shutters can be expected to last up to 20 years! That’s quite a commitment to your window treatment, so it pays to make sure that shutters are the right decision for you. In addition to being sturdier than either shades or blinds, shutters also come with a higher price tag. However, given that you can expect your shutters to last for years to come and that they are a snap to care for once installed, shutters can be an excellent long-term window treatment.

It's worth pointing out that shutters can be both interior and exterior. We'll be focusing on interior shutters here, but exterior shutters can be a great choice for anyone who needs protection against strong winds, hurricanes, or sun. Exterior shutters are also a good option for anyone who doesn't want interior window treatments, but still likes the option of having exterior protection if needed.

When choosing your shutters, you’ll want to understand the differences between the major categories of interior shutters and that you will be choosing from wood, composite, or vinyl. Nowadays, more colors and finishes are available than ever before, so you can customize your shutters to an unprecedented degree.

Plantation Shutters

A popular choice for kitchens and other areas where you want to let in lots of natural light, plantation shutters differ from the traditional shutters you may be familiar with in that their slats are wider apart. (This is why plantation shutters are not usually recommended in bedrooms, as they are not designed to be light-tight.) Plantation shutters can be hung singly, where one pair of shutters covers the entire window, or they can be double-hung for a total of four separate shutters per window. This solution is perfect for bathrooms, where you may want to keep the lower shutters closed for privacy, while keeping the upper shutters open to let in light. Plantation shutters are among the most popular style of shutters on the market today and are often selling points when a home is on the market!

Cafe-Style Shutters

Imagine sipping a latte at a Parisian Cafe...with the sun blinding you. Cafe shutters are designed to prevent these types of mishaps by covering the lower half of a window, typically at table height. This makes them perfect for kitchens and dining rooms, but could also work in any room where you want to block out unsightly outdoor views, while still letting light into your home. Cafe shutters work well with curtains installed above them if you are looking for more privacy.

Shaker-Style Shutters

Shaker style or solid panel shutters are the type of shutters you imagine shutting out a bad storm and curling up with a book behind. They block out light and add privacy like nobody’s business because they do not have any slats and few seams. Traditionally, shaker style shutters have been recommended for larger rooms, as it was assumed that they could make a smaller room feel closed and shut off. While shaker shutters are probably best in a larger room, they can certainly be used in smaller rooms when you want to create a safe, cozy feel. One other option? Tall windows can be fitted with a top and bottom split of shaker and slatted shutters. This can either be the best of both worlds, or too much going on.

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Window Treatment Styles


A valance is a little bit of fabric that does a big job. It hangs across the top of a window, adding softness, color, and pattern to a hard architectural element. Purely decorative, a valance helps establish a room's style. At its most basic, a slip of fabric can be attached to a rod with clip rings. For more detail, add pinch pleats.

Simple Valances

The simple valance is a casual treatment that works well for family areas such as the kitchen, breakfast room, and bathroom. In rooms where privacy isn't an issue, the valance can hang alone. When privacy is a concern, the valance easily pairs with a hard treatment, such as a blind, shade, or shutters.

Box-Pleated Valances

Those who appreciate a classic decorating style will fall in love with the box-pleated valance. This tailored treatment is a natural in rooms where you want a formal air, such as a living room, dining room, or master bedroom. The stationary treatment's crisp stitched pleats lie flat against a mounting board, which is typically attached to the wall with simple L-shape brackets.

The box-pleated design is easily duplicated on furnishings such as table coverings, slipcovers, or bed skirts to unify a room. Here, fabric-covered buttons accent the corner pleats on the table topper to mimic the valance.

Simple Swags

Sometimes a simply knotted scarf worn around the neck is the perfect accent for an outfit. A simple swag on a window dresses up a room the same way. A loosely slung fabric strip, unlined or lined, draped over a decorative rod or wound over a tieback at each top corner of a window frame can add an abundance of style. The middle of the fabric strip acts as a valance; the ends, whether cut into opposing diagonals or simply hemmed, softly hang down the sides of the window.

Swags can be made of luxurious fabrics to fit formal decor or dressed down in cottons befitting a cottage or country home. The beauty of this style is its simplicity, so it's most appropriate used alone on windows where privacy is not an issue.

Balloon Shades

For the ultimate romantic gesture, nothing beats a billowy balloon shade. This sumptuous fabric shade features cascading scallops that culminate in graceful, blousy folds along the bottom. Cords strung though rings on the back make the shade movable, and as the treatment is raised, the vertical gathers create dramatic poufs. Because this treatment usually remains raised, it acts as a valance more often than a shade. The amount of fabric used--at least twice the width of the window--creates the opulent look. Large designs can get lost in the multiple gathers, so opt for solid-color or small-pattern fabrics. Be aware, too, that the number of gathers, pleats, or scallops creates different looks within the balloon-shade and valance family. An Austrian shade, for example, has less shirring and is therefore more tailored than its cousin, the balloon shade. Because this window treatment is so showy, use it in small doses.

Tie-Up Shades

Simplicity is the name of the game with tie-up shades. Sometimes called a stagecoach-style shade, this economical treatment uses fabric in its most unconstructured form: It hangs flat from a rod or mounting board, then the bottom edge is hand-rolled or folded to the desired position. Fabric ties, ribbons, or cords hold the rolls or folds in place. Adjusting the shade requires untying and rerolling it by hand, making this treatment more decorative than functional. Consider using it where you're likely to leave the shade down to hide an unsightly view or open in a room where privacy or sunlight aren't issues.

Roman Shades

For the look of luxury without yards of flowing fabric, a Roman shade is a wise choice. When closed, the shade is a flat fabric panel. When raised, cascades of deep, horizontal folds are responsible for the tidy look. Cords strung through rings on the back of the fabric give the shade its mobility. Some Roman shades are made without dowels or lining, resulting in looser, puffier folds.


Think of a cornice as a wood valance, it is typically made from plywood, assembled with wood screws and corner brackets, then painted or covered with wallpaper or fabric and mounted to the wall above a window. Like a valance, a cornice can appear alone or team with another treatment. Because it is usually made of wood, a cornice benefits from being paired with a soft treatment, such as a curtain or fabric shade, to temper its hard lines.

These structural lines are especially effective in rooms that lack interesting architecture. They can camouflage a window's wimpy trim or bring interest to a room that doesn't have crown moldings.

Rod-Pocket Panels

Of the many ways to attach a drapery panel to a rod, few match the ease of the rod pocket. In this treatment, the curtain rod simply slips through a channel sewn into the panel's top edge. The tighter the fit, the more dramatic the shirring. For a ruffled header, sew a pocket a few inches down from the top edge; when the rod is pushed through, the fabric above it fans out to form a ruffle.

Rod-pocket panels are commonly made of lightweight fabrics and left unlined for a casual look. But don't overlook this style for more formal decor. For a sumptuous style statement, consider plush velvet panels shirred tightly on a substantial rod. Because panels don't slide easily on a rod, especially when tightly gathered, they're typically used in the closed position or held open with decorative tiebacks.

Panels with Rings

Prickly metal hooks used to be standard fare for hanging draperies. Stuck into the back of a panel, the hardware was out of sight and out of mind. No more. Wood or metal rings that slide along a pole allow you to put hardware in a starring role, complementing virtually any style of drapery. Besides being fashionable, panels with rings are easy to open and close and offer an alternative to anyone who dislikes the cord-and-pulley system of traverse rods.

Pleated Panels

In the world of window treatments, pleated drapery panels are the classics. They withstand the whims of window fashion, adding elegance and sophistication to any room. There are several styles of pleats, all of which are sewn into a panel's top edge to create a decorative header. Pleats are often formed with the help of header tape, which is available by the yard at fabrics stores. Sewn to the panel's back, the tape forms pleats when pulled. Hooks are then inserted into the tape and hung on rings, or more typically traverse rods, which have a cord-and-pulley system for opening and closing the panels.

Table-Top Panels

The unpretentious look of tab-top panels makes them a natural for country and cottage decorating. There are many variations, but standard tabs are simply loops of fabric sewn into or onto the valance's top seam. The panel hangs relatively flat from these tabs, providing a good opportunity to showcase interesting fabric prints.

Because the curtain rod is visible between the tabs, you can add decorative rods and finials for more impact. To maintain the fuss-free feel this style evokes, use cotton or linen fabrics in simple checks, stripes, plaids, or florals. These are usually stationary panels, because drawing them across the rod can be cumbersome.

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