Just as there are many types of windows, there are many different types of window treatments and coverings as blinds, shutters, shades and curtains (to name the main options). The thing is it’s not always easy to know which window treatment to use on individual windows.
While we can’t make the decision for you, what we do below is set out an epic guide on the topic setting out pretty much everything you need to know about interior window coverings – types, materials, frames, styles and more.
Table of Contents
- I. Why Should I Buy Window Treatments?
- II. Types of Window Treatments
- A. Window Covering Options
- B. Materials Used For Window Coverings
- C. Styles Of Coverings
- D. Around The Window
- E. On The Window
- III. Before You Buy
- IV. How To Buy
I. Why Should I Buy Window Treatments?
Windows are a key element of every room in the house, as well as exterior spaces like porches and gazebos. Each window can let in light and air and provide gorgeous views of the landscape outside. When buying a window treatment, there are a few key aspects to consider. Let’s break it down so that you can choose the right treatment for your space.
A. The Goal Of Your Window Treatment
Consider the goal of your window treatment. Is it purely decorative, or do you hope to block light to create a dark bedroom, or insulate a cozy living area from drafts? Here’s a detailed look at the goals you might have. Often, your goal will be a combination of the items listed below, so use this list to help you get clear on what is important to you.
1. Decorative Effect
One goal of your treatment may be to integrate the window into your space or provide decorative value. With your treatment, you hope to add color, texture, and stylistic elements to the room.
2. Temperature Control
Your goal may be to cut down on a draft that is coming from your window panes if you live in cold environment. On today’s market, there are window treatments that have a thin layer of foam to provide insulation. A layer of thermal backing for insulation can also keep cold air in when the temperature outside gets too hot for comfort.
3. Light Control
Your goal may be to keep light out or let light in. Blackout shades, for example, are created specifically for this purpose and block up to 99% of incoming light. Sheer curtains, on the other hand, let ample light in, just softening the lighting slightly. Blinds with horizontal slats make it easy for you to control the light; as you tilt the slats, you’ll let in more or less lighting.
Source: Home Depot
The window treatment may cut down on visibility which can give a room a sense of privacy. This might be important to you for a bathroom window, for example. If you want low visibility in a way that allows light to shine through, you might consider frosted, textured, or stained glass window panes. You could also work with light-colored blinds that provide some light transfer.
II. Types of Window Treatments
What exactly is a window treatment? This phrase refers to the interior decoration of a window and its surrounding frame. This includes the covering over the window, like a curtain, as well as how the pane and trim are designed.
A. Window Covering Options
The cover over the window will block the sun, interrupt the transfer of heat, and add a decorative element to the window. Window coverings fall into two camps: hard coverings and soft coverings.
1. Hard Covering: Blinds
Source: Home Depot
Covers made with hard materials, such as slatted blinds and wooden shutters are typically fitted to cover the window pane only. They will leave the trim of the window exposed.
Blinds can be very useful for shutting out sunlight, especially when the blind is made with a thick, opaque material. Blinds are fastened to the top of a window frame and can be lowered to cover the window or raised to let in light. The blind is comprised of slats that can be adjusted to let light or airflow through.
2. Hard Covering: Shutters
Source: Home Depot
Shutters can be placed on the inside of the window, or (more commonly) on the outside of the window. Shutters come in a variety of styles, shapes, and colors. Some common forms that you may be familiar with include louvered shutters and shaker style shutters.
3. Soft Coverings: Shades
Soft covering options will create a subtler, perhaps more feminine look for your space. Shades made with fabric, flowing curtains, and long, thick drapes provide many varieties for dressing your window.
Shades are similar to blinds in that they roll down over the window to block light and control temperature. Typically, they are made out of fiber or bamboo and don’t have slats as blinds have. Because of this, they make excellent insulators.
Sometimes, shades can be combined with curtains to create the desired look. Because blinds are so effective at blocking light, they may be used for their functionality, with a curtain added on for aesthetic purposes. However, contemporary and modern rooms often use shades alone, to create a streamlined look.
4. Soft Coverings: Curtains
Did you know that some curtains can reduce up to 80% of exterior noise? Specially designed noise-reduction curtains might be perfect for a room that you hope to keep quiet, like a bedroom or library. Curtains can also affect the lighting and temperature control of a place.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of curtains is their look, and the way they can be used to enhance the impression of a room. Just check out our gallery of eclectic living rooms to see the way eye-popping curtains can affect a space.
Because curtains are usually made of fabric, there are many exciting and fun patterns and textures available. This makes it possible to find just the right print, in the right colors, for the room you are decorating.
5. Soft Covering: Drapes
Drapes differ from curtains in that they are usually double lined, and are typically made of fabric that is thick. Whereas curtains are predominantly used to add a decorative touch to a room, drapes can be thought of as more practical, though they are often lovely to look at as well. Thick, double lined drapes can be used to block out the sun, heat, or cold air.
They may hang from the top of the window to the floor in rooms with a formal design, instead of stopping at the window sill as many curtains do. Heloise, a style expert with a column in the Washington Post, tells us not to get too caught up in the exact difference between curtains and drapes, because “most of us (me included) use the words interchangeably.” When you shop, you might an item described with both words.
B. Materials Used For Window Coverings
Window coverings come in a wide variety of materials. Manufacturers make hard coverings with wood, wood composites, plastic, bamboo or aluminum. Soft covers are usually made of fabric, though some specialty materials may be used.
Thermal shades might be made with honeycomb fabric designed with air pockets that trap air to create an insulating effect. DIY enthusiasts can also create thermal curtains with warm window fabric along with decorative material to create layers. Noise reduction curtains can be made with dense microfiber.
C. Styles Of Coverings
The window covering that you chose will affect the look of your room. You can use this to your advantage by selecting a window dressing that brings out a design element in the place. For example, if your kitchen has a modern style, choose a treatment that has simple lines and a sleek look. Here are some styles that your window covering can enhance.
And the list goes on! The window covering that you choose will definitely either add to or detract from the style of the room in which they are applied, to keep your style in mind as you shop.
D. Around The Window
Now that we’ve covered window dressing options in both hard and soft categories, it’s time to discuss the window treatment options that go around the window, not over it. Often, a window has trim around its edges, creating a border between the window itself and the wall. Some contemporary homes have windows with no trim, or ultra-thin trim. Also, the window might have an interior jam, which is the face of the indent leading to the window.
Megan Braff, an interior designer, says that “window trim is an often overlooked opportunity to make a statement”. As she points out, it’s easy to overlook window trim as you design your space. Consider the ways that window trim could add to the atmosphere of a room.
Bright, cheery red or yellow window trim could create a whimsical, fun look, while dark tones might generate a grounding feeling. In addition to color, a window’s trim can make a statement when it is either simple or ornate. Modern rooms may have streamlined trim, while a victorian styled room could have trim with decorative flair.
2. Interior Jam
The interior jam is the section of wall that extends from the window pane to the surface of the wall. If your window has a deep inset, the jam may be quite extensive. Consider using polished wood, steel, or stone to play up this feature. Reflective surfaces like wood with a high sheen, will capture more light and reflect it into the room. Dark materials like some shades of stonework will dull the shine.
Another idea is to paint the interior jam with a bright color, to play up the light that is coming in through the window. Bright yellow works well for this.
Source: Home Depot
A valance is a short panel of fabric that hangs down from the top of the window. This panel is primarily a decorative piece, though it also controls lighting to some extent. There are many different shapes for valance panels, as the image above shows.
A cornice is similar to a valance, except that it is crafted with a solid board instead of free-hanging fabric. They serve to cover up the hardware used in applying the window covering and add decorative flair.
Some cornice styles are made with a stiff board that is covered with fabric. Other cornice styles omit the fabric and are made of boards or stiff plastic.
A window reveal is a thin line that can be painted around a window or created with wood. When done with paint, it is a small line around the window that makes the structure pop out to the eye. With wood, the reveal has a subtler effect but still functions to help the window stand apart from the surrounding walls.
The window reveal may also be referred to as a window liner. These words, reveal and liner, can be used interchangeably. The reveal may have functional aspects if it serves to join the window in some way the wall. It can also be purely ornamental.
E. On The Window
You can also dress up a window by working with the glass itself. Here are some methods.
1. Frosted Glass
Frosted glass decreases visibility while still letting in the light. In some cases, you may want to buy frosted glass panes and install them. You might also consider purchasing a non-adhesive frosted glass film that goes over the existing glass of your window pane for a hassle free alternative.
2. Stained Glass
Stained glass has been used for ages for decorative purposes. Traditionally, it is made with panels of colored glass that are welded together with metal. A neat modern alternative is stained glass film, which can be applied to create the same look.
Stained glass changes the color of the light that filters through a window, and adds intricate detail and an eye-catching element to the room.
III. Before You Buy
Here is a breakdown of everything you need to do before buying your window treatment.
A. Take Measurements
Before you place your order for a window treatment, you’ll need to bust out a measuring tape and take down some numbers. The process is slightly different for the various types of treatments. Here we’ll cover how to measure for curtains and blinds.
If you are buying curtains or blinds, take the measurements that you collect to the store with you when you purchase so that the seller can custom cut your treatment. Otherwise, use your measurements to guide your purchases online.
1. How To Measure For Curtains
To measure curtains, gather together a step ladder, metal measuring tape, pencil and pad of paper. Begin by measuring the width of the space you want to curtains to cover. It is best to have the curtains extend past each vertical edge of the window by about fifteen centimeters.
If there is already a curtain rod in place, start your measurement on the inside of the decorative ends of the rod. Next, measure for height. Again, you want the curtain to extend above the window frame by about fifteen centimeters. The drop is based on your preference. You can choose to have the curtain end right at the window sill, below the sill, or at the floor.
2. How To Measure For Blinds
.Blinds can be mounted on the interior of the frame, or so that they extend beyond the frame. If your window molding is deep enough to fit the hardware for inside mounting, the choice is up to you. What you choose will depend on the look that you want. If your window molding is shallow, then go with exterior mounted blinds. Decide this before measuring.
Next, grab a step ladder, metal measuring tape, and writing materials. For inside mounted blinds, measure the dimensions of the window, from inside-trim to inside-trim. For an exterior mount, extend your measurements beyond the trim to the place you want the blinds to end.
B. Get Inspired
When it comes to window dressings, the sky is the limit. Don’t get boxed in by the style that you grew up with, or often see in your environment. To think outside of the box, take a look through inspiring photographs of window treatments. Analyze how the treatment affects the look and feel of the room.
Does it add an element of comfort and coziness? Does it create a sense of calm, or draw attention to a stunning view? You may even want to hire or consult with an interior designer to get helpful insights and guidance.
C. Be Clear About Your Goal
As we’ve discussed, window treatments can be applied for a variety of goals. The aim of your treatment may be a combination of things: Increased privacy, energy efficiency, and a touch of style. Get clear on what your goal is before you buy your curtains. Figure out your main priority, and don’t stray from that as you shop.
D. Know Your Options
By reading this guide, you have furthered your understanding of what a window treatment is. Now that you know more about your options continue to explore. Think about combining elements, like an interior mounted blind with a colorful trim color.
E. Set Your Budget
How much should you expect to spend on your window treatments? That is up to you. Some treatments, such as stained glass or high quality exterior trim, might increase your property value. If that’s the case, you can think of the price of the treatment as an investment.
Set your budget ahead of time. Decide on the total amount that you would like to spend on window treatments, and then divide that by the number of windows that you are dressing. This will tell you how much to pay per window.
IV. How To Buy
Once you’ve taken down your measurements and gotten crystal clear on your goals and all of the possibilities, it’s time to shop. Here’s how.
A. Talk To A Professional
For some window treatments, you will need to have some construction skills for installation. An example might be if you want to have frosted glass in a window. This would require technical know-how, or that you work with an experienced professional.
Other scenarios where a paid service would be helpful include exterior shutters on a second or third story, or redoing your window trim.
B. Shop Online Or In Stores
Purchase your supplies by shopping online or in stores. If you are buying blinds or shades, shopping in person might be the best option if your window has unusual dimensions. A retail specialist can cut the blinds of your choice to fit the exact size of your window.
C. Try Out A Few Different Looks
If you are at all undecided about what style you want, consider buying several varieties and testing them out. Sometimes the best way to figure out what looks best is to see it and even take a few photos. Be sure to check the return policy in advance if you go this route.
Windows present homeowners with a lot of potentials. Through your window treatments, you can control the lighting in your home, increase your homes energy efficiency, and make a bold style statement.
Use your window treatments to the fullest by deciding on your goals and sticking to them through the buying process. Though there are many options, with the right approach, you are sure to find just the perfect treatment for your windows.