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Perfected Panes: How to Choose Window Treatments 

Perfected Panes: How to Choose Window Treatments

With such a wide array of available styles and materials, window treatments are an ideal way to inject color and elevate a space. They’re also practical, giving you a way to control the light, heat and privacy in each room. This guide explains different types of window treatments – from window blinds and shades to drapes and sheers – so you can choose the window treatments that create your ideal home.


When selecting window treatments, consider the ambience you want to create in the room. Window treatments range from classic, traditional pleated drapes to contemporary blinds and shades, making them a simple way to transform a room and add personality. The way a window is covered – or not – helps establish the design tone. Long drapes made from rich velvet add drama to a formal room. Roman shades with bold geometric prints and colors give a room a contemporary flair. Basic wood blinds topped with valances create a polished backdrop.

Curtains and Drapes

Versatile curtains and drapes are classic treatments that work in both casual and formal rooms. Rod-pocket drape panels hang from a rod inserted through the channel at the top of the curtain. The combination of lush fabric with a substantial rod looks elegant in a formal room, while lightweight fabric softens the space it’s in. Tab-top curtains that keep the rod visible work well in informal rooms, while drapes with visible pleats sewn into the panels’ tops are of the traditional style. The design works with rings and rods or a corded pulley system. Blackout fabric on the back of a panel helps block light in bedrooms and provides privacy.

Valances and Cornices

Short and sweet, valances and cornices add decorative interest to any window but work especially well as kitchen window treatments. A valance is a sheet of fabric stretched across the top of the window. Simple valances made from cotton fabric and a basic rod bring a burst of color to casual rooms, while tailored valances with crisp pleats relax a formal room. Cornices are valances made from wood and painted or covered with fabric or wallpaper. Mounted to the wall, cornices are well-suited for rooms without architectural details like crown molding. Both valances and cornices pair well with sheers, curtains or shades for privacy.


Simple and elegant, shades cover windows from top to bottom when closed to provide privacy and color. When used with curtains, valances or cornices, shades blend form and function in both casual and formal rooms. Billowy balloon shades form folds along their bases when open, framing the window with a romantic look. Tie-up shades – also called stagecoach shades – incorporate ribbons or strips of fabric into the design to hold the shades open.

Roman shades bring a tailored look into the room and are an excellent way to add color and texture in traditional, bold and contemporary spaces. A closed Roman shade lies flat against the window, showing off the pattern of the fabric and a pop of color. As it’s opened, the shade fabric stacks evenly, creating a billow effect at the top of a window. Window roller shades roll up at the top with the pull of a cord or a corded lift system and give the window a clean, modern appearance that blends well with almost any design style, depending on the fabric you select.


Sheers and lace curtains are airy and allow plenty of light through, making them ideal for rooms where you want softened sunlight. These fabrics provide limited privacy and work best in kitchens or in combination with heavier fabrics or shades. Sheers also look beautiful as swags draped across the tops of windows, fitting in well with traditional and rustic decor styles especially well.


Blinds are crafted with slats of metal, wood or other material, and are classic window treatments that provide excellent control of privacy and light levels in the room. Wood blinds – and faux wood – bring an organic feel to the room, while metal blinds add an industrial touch. Aluminummini-blinds are an affordable option for laundry rooms and garages. Vertical blinds that stack to the left or right of the window work well spanning sliding doors. Regardless of the blind type, pair with drapes and valances to add color and sophistication.


Choosing the best fabric for window treatments is important; the weight and texture of the fabric affect the amount of light that shines through and how well it holds up to sun exposure. Linen, canvas and damask are durable fabrics that drape luxuriously. Calico and gingham fabrics work well in casual rooms, while silk and velvet fit in with formal spaces. Tapestry and toile fabrics with elaborate designs add texture and design interest.


Window treatments also meet practical needs, especially when combined. Curtains or shades lined with blackout fabric fully block light from the outside, making them an ideal way to create a cozy bedroom. Shades pulled down and paired with drapes or curtains block all angles of the windows to provide maximum privacy at night. Sheers allow plenty of light into a room, reducing the need for lamps during the day and making them a sound option for living rooms, family rooms and patios.

Measurement and Size Considerations

Shades, valances, blinds and curtains can hang inside or outside your interior window frames, depending on the look you prefer. Positioning them inside the window frame creates a uniform look, but placing them on the outside of the window by mounting their hardware to the wall hides the frame.

Inside Frame- vs. Outside Frame-Mounted Window Treatments

Some window treatments – like blinds, shades, sheers and valances – are commonly mounted both inside or outside window frames. Other treatments – like curtains, drapes and cornices – are most often mounted on the wall around the window frame, with 1–3 inches on each side between the hardware and the frame. To size an inside-mounted treatment, measure the distance between the sides of the window casing where you plan to place the hardware to hold the treatment in place. Knowing the vertical distance of the casing also helps you determine the length for the blinds or shade.

For outside-mounted window treatments, note the length and width of the window frame. Measure the distance between the top of the window and ceiling and the distance between the bottom of the window and the floor. If the room has multiple windows in a row, write down the distances between the windows. These measurements are important when choosing the width and length of the window treatment and the hardware placement.

Window Hardware

Window hardware – from curtain rods to tiebacks – puts the finishing touch on your window treatments and create your desired look. When it comes to materials and colors, bright brass adds a touch of elegance to a traditional room; brushed aluminum, nickel and stainless-steel look sleek and modern; and wood tones add warmth.

Curtain Rods

Used with curtains and drapery panels, curtain rods suspend fabric over the window. Substantial rods with wide diameters are dramatic and create a focal point in the room, while narrow cafe rods are well-suited for kitchens and bathrooms with lightweight curtains. Tension rods fit inside the window casing and are useful for hanging sheer and lace panels inside a window. When choosing an adjustable rod, pick one wide enough that you don’t have to fully extend it to span the window. This provides extra support for the rod and reduces sagging where the rods join in the middle.

Double Drape Rods

Double curtain rods feature two sets of rods to frame the window. The inner rod, designed to hold sheer or lace fabric, is usually smaller in diameter than the outer rod. This type of rod makes it possible to hang two different types of curtains at the same time. To let in some light but maintain privacy, open the outer curtains and leave the sheers in place.


Finials are ornamental pieces added to the ends of curtain rods. Commonly made from wood, metal or glass, finials add a decorative touch to the window treatment. Finials in the shape of a fish, starfish or seashells easily fit in a beach-themed room, while those shaped like leaves, fleur-de-lys or simple round orbs look classically elegant. Try glass finials for a vintage-inspired look.


Tiebacks and tassels make it possible to open curtains without sliding them along the curtain rod. They range from hooks or knobs attached to the wall near the window to tassels and pieces of fabric that tie directly around the drapery panels. Stationary binds or knobs can have a vintage or contemporary style, and fabric tiebacks often have a traditional look.

Clip Rings

Clip rings attach directly to the tops of curtain panels through hooks or clips that slide over a curtain rod. These work well in formal and casual rooms and are easy to use because the curtains slide over the rod to open. Look for ornate rings in bright, bold colors and metallic hues to create a dramatic effect, or opt for sleek and shiny metals for a contemporary, understated feel.

The right window treatments and hardware soften a room, create dramatic focal points and add texture to a space. To create your desired look, it helps to know about different styles of window treatments and the effects they have on different spaces. Blending your window treatments with different hardware lets you create virtually endless design combinations to express your personal style.