It’s time of the year I begin to get calls to update existing window coverings to something more current and efficient. There are so many types of window coverings it hard to narrow down what’s right. Most people are at a complete loss as to what they need or even where to begin looking. The most important thing to consider is WHY? What purpose should that window covering serve? What is its function?
- Curb Appeal / Street Facing Windows
- Room Darkening
- Sun Protection
The most commonly requested window covering for the front or street face windows are shutters. Shutters are a timeless, low maintenance option. The material of choice is wood. There are “faux” wood products that are essentially a type of plastic. It is thought the faux is less expensive, but not always the case. It the depends on the window size and shape, and of course the trim options selected. I do have a particular faux wood shutter product that I use in shower walls where privacy is needed. It can get wet and not damage the shutter. Perfect for when a builder decides that it’s okay to put a street facing window in a shower without privacy glass. Yep, that happens!
A less expensive option for curb appeal is the popular 2” blinds. Wood or faux wood blinds blinds come in an average 1”, 2”, and 3” louver sizes. The common 2” wood blind is often used on every window in a home. Reason why is it provides privacy, room darkening, ease of use, and fairly affordable. Many times, shutters are used on the front facing street view for curb appeal, then all other windows will get the typical 2” wood blind. The wood blind has been the go to source for years because they look great, they’re timeless, and require very little maintenance.
Many times, the wood blind serves a purpose such as privacy or room darkening. Then to add interest and decor, then window is frame out with a decoration soft window treatment such as a drapery, roman shade, cornice board, or valance. What you choose to decorate your window with depends completely on your personality and style.
A consideration with wood blinds is there can be problems with cords and tilt mechanisms. Child safety regulations have required manufacturers to come up with solutions and improvements in the way a cord is designed on the blind and offerings of cordless lift styles. There will alway be cords that are part of the blind to lift it up and tilt the louvers. They just don’t have to be dangling on the front side of the blind. What type will depend on who all lives in your home and how they will be interacting with the blinds.
During the last few years while the trend has been minimal and modern, roller shades have been very popular. They can add provide privacy, room darkening, total blackout, and shading with solar protection. Solar shades are frequently used on commercial windows such as restaurants and retail shops. One of the great things about roller shades is they can be easily motorized with remotes. Those high-up clerestory windows that need solar or privacy shades can’t be easily accessed to raise and lowered. Motorization is almost a necessity for those windows. Options for battery or hardwired with electrical power is available. If you like the simplicity of roller shades and want to motorize them, be prepared to pay, because it can get expensive. The upside now is the technology is getting better and better. Motorization options have broadened, and the result is better pricing. Still, when most people see the bottom line, they usually are fine with a standard lift control for those easily accessible windows.
Roller shades of the past, what I called Grandma’s Roller Shades, were operated with a spring mechanism. You would give the bottom of the shade a slight tug, and up it would go. Sometimes it would go up too fast and unroll, and sometimes you would tug about 10 times to get it exactly where you wanted it. Well that has all changed. You can still have a cordless spring type mechanism, but they are so much better now. My favorite and most reliable is a beaded chain or cord that is a continuous loop.
I have installed some very long and very wide roller shades using the beaded chain in commercial installation that required an extension ladder to reach. I have also customized a single motorized shade on a window wall that was about 142” wide and 120” high. That was a hum dinger of a doozy! Where there is a will, there is usually a way, as long as you are willing to pay to design a window shade to fit almost any window. There are some limitations. Roller shades always have to be rectangular. The window can be round, triangular, or and octagon shape, but the shade will have to be rectangular to cover it.
Solar shades are great to control the sun, head, and glare from large windows. You can maintain your view, but protect your furniture and floors of the damaging rays of the sun. What solar shades do not provide is privacy. There are different openess in the weave of the shade material ranging from 1% to 12%. The smaller the percentage, the less amount of openess, and the less amount of light will come through. There are some shades with a 1% openess that is sufficient for some privacy. It depends on the room and what you are trying to keep private. I don’t recommend bedrooms!
For blackout in a media room or bedroom, it is recommended to add side and sill channels. These channels allow for the shade to pass through the channel to eliminate almost all light seepage that can penetrate the room. A standard blackout shade without the channels will let light flood through on the sides and bottom of the shade. It’s not required, but certainly recommended if you want a total blackout.
SOFT WINDOW COVERINGS
Now that we have moved on from the cold grey minimalist modern look and on to more traditional design with a much more vivid color palette, custom draperies, roman shades, and valances are making a come back. Thank goodness! It has been a long dry spell of boring! You pick your favorite designer fabric, and I will create the customized window covering for you. I love doing customized window treatments, but they can get expensive very fast. There is no comparison in the quality of materials and workmanship in a custom drapery panel to a ready made drapery panel that can be ordered online or in a retail store. If you do need to purchase retail ready made panels, allow a minimum of four inches on each side of the window and a minimum of 4 inches above when doing your measurements. Also pay attention to the lining and if it will be sufficient for the “WHY” in your room. Unless you are doing sheers, I highly recommend some sort of lining. Also, the width of the panels should be double the width of the window. For example, if you window is 36”, then you need at least 72” of overall wide of panels to cover that window properly. Don’t forgot to includes those extra 4″ on each side in that calculations! If not doubled, the drapery panels look as if they are too small. When you close the draperies, there is will not be enough fullness, and they essentially look flat like a sheet hanging in your window.
Soft window treatments can be installed overtop of a roller shade or wood blind. You can also install over shutters, but consider the opening clearance of the shutter panels when doing so. Customized soft window coverings are the perfect way to dress up a room! It adds color, texture, and character to a room that might be lacking in all of those qualities.