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Window treatments are a key element of interior design

Whether the look is elegant or casual, the right window treatment can add pizzazz.

Claire Schwab photo

Whether the look is elegant or casual, the right window treatment can add pizzazz.

Besides picking paint colors, the one topic that consistently seems to stump many readers is window treatments. Homeowners are looking for guidance on everything from where to buy them, how best to hang them and what in the world to do with a sliding glass door. To get to the bottom of these questions, we consulted with Claire Schwab, an Alexandria, Va.-based designer and a certified window treatment consultant with more than 20 years of experience. Washington Post

Q. What's the best way to inexpensively dress a window?

A. If privacy isn't an issue, start with the basics: panels and a pole. They are so readily available now at places like Ikea, Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn, and they make it so easy. If you can go beyond that step, add a grass or woven shade underneath. The next layer would be adding decorative trim on the inside edges of each panel. You can add the trim yourself with a glue gun or have a dry cleaner do it for you.

Q. What are the most common window treatment mistakes?

A. The one I see most often is not hanging (curtain) panels high or wide enough. Other mistakes I see are: bad measuring, buying retail curtains and not pressing them before they are hung, and not having drapes that are long enough. They should at least touch the ground.

Q. Why should homeowners resist the urge to mount drapery hardware on the window molding?

A. When it comes to hanging panels, we need to go up and out. If you have room to install hardware closer to the ceiling, you should. It has much more impact and gives the room a taller, loftier feel. It also makes the windowsill look bigger, the ceiling look taller, and you're not covering your light or your view. If you are installing hardware yourself, make sure you're using the proper support screws that can carry the entire weight of your treatment. Consider contacting your neighborhood hardware store to see if they have someone who could come out and help you with the installation.

Q. Are there things to keep in mind when buying hardware?

A. You can buy it retail through catalogs so easily now. The one slip-up I see often is when people don't buy enough support brackets. Sometimes you need an extra one for the center so your treatment won't sag.

Q. Do you have any tips for installing hardware?

A. Ideally, you would hire a professional installer who has the appropriate tools for the job. That's what I recommend because I've seen too many people make mistakes. A nice way to hang a panel is to have it return to the wall (meaning the ends turn toward the wall) so it will block the light; an installer will have a special tool for that. They will also have a good steamer.

Q. Floor-length or windowsill-length curtains?

A. Windowsill-length went out of fashion in the '60s.

Q. What is the best fabric to use for curtains?

A. Silks are hard to beat because they hang so nicely. Then I would say a medium-weight upholstery fabric because it looks substantial. Cottons and linens wrinkle more easily and are more casual in appearance.

Q. What's the best way to address sliding glass doors?

A. Sliding doors are tricky. If you can only pull drapes to one side, you'll have to do something vertical. In that case, you can get shutters on tracks, which are framed to fit onto a window frame and move like a closet door. These shutters are custom, so they will be more expensive, but they are beautiful and easy to maintain because you can just wipe them clean. Another option is to have a pretty drapery that stacks to one side and use a valance on top to conceal the movable track.

But I would never advocate vertical blinds. They are cold and very commercial, and they provide no decoration whatsoever.

Window treatments are a key element of interior design 06/05/09 [Last modified: Friday, June 5, 2009 4:30am]
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