ASK THE EXPERTS | Playing With Light
Playing with Light
Window treatment pros share some of what they know
By LAURIE PRIETT
Few things affect the feel of a home like its windows and their treatments, and few projects can be as daunting. The variety of window treatments is immense and the possibilities limitless. Whatever your style, you can find window treatments that will work for you, and have some fun in the process. Whether decorating a new room or updating an old one, looking for something contemporary or traditional, it’s easier than you think to create a look that’s uniquely you. Where to begin? Interiors assembled some local experts to shed some light on the issues.
Home fashion trends tend to be cyclical, and tastes often change annually. How often should people think about changing their window treatments? What reasons would you offer to someone who may see this as an avoidable expense?
Diane Fidanza and Rosella Clairmont, D&R Drapery Usually 10 to 15 years. My clients have changed their drapes over the years because their taste has changed and not because the draperies are worn out. We tend to avoid using large trendy prints or bold colours, as it’s easy to tire of them; we opt for more solids or lightly textured fabrics in a subtle colour palette, to create window treatments that have longevity.
Michelle Lombardi, Home Couture Interiors Window treatments can enjoy a life span of seven lucky years beyond which they’ll look tired and dated. Updating a space by infusing a new pattern, colour or texture is a cost-effective alternative to replacing the furniture. New elegant treatments in your formal spaces can create an attractive ambience for entertaining guests.
Elaine Basaran, Home Advantage Interiors Like any fashion, it can look old and tired quickly. I suggest changing or altering your window treatments every five years, depending upon how timeless the treatment is. Some treatments can be more a fad and may have to be changed more frequently.
Margot McTavish, Margot McTavish Inc. I don’t know many people who change their decor annually, but if you love change, readymade panels are an affordable option. They should be lined, weighted and full, paired with quality rods and finials. Custom window treatments if done well, should look fresh for up to ten years. Trends come and go, but style lasts forever.
Denia DeSousa, InVu Drapery A well-constructed drapery treatment, made from fabrics and linings suited to the environment can last for many years with proper care. For a client who views this as a long-term investment, I recommend classic fabrics and styles that will ensure a timeless treatment. Choosing a trendy fabric for a Roman blind or a tie-back is a minimal expense and can easily be changed trend to trend. The good part of home design is that the trends don’t change as quickly as they do in fashion. Expect a trendy treatment, colour or fabric to last for two to five years.
Stefano Girgenti, Owner, Girgenti Draperies & Interiors Window treatments are a long-term investment in a home or workplace. The investment should be undertaken with careful thought. Window treatments should be replaced with any type of renovation that is being done in the home to reflect the new style and needs of the renovation. They can assist in the selling of a home as well, which makes it more attractive to potential buyers. Choosing the primary window covering needs to meet your specific requirements. Drapery adds a different element to the room just as any decor item does to any room. Window treatments will also change based on the stage of life you’re in.
How consistent should a home’s window treatments be?
D&R: The homes today are more open-concept, usually on the main floor, so there should be some common denominator in the window treatments. You don’t need to use the same fabric or treatment on all the windows, but using a common colour palette along with a common trim, band or something to tie in all the treatments would work well, without overdoing it with one style or one fabric. For homes that have a more separate layout, treatments can be different altogether.
Lombardi It’s important that the window treatments are harmonious in the common areas of the home to create balance and flow. This is achieved through the repetition of fabric or coordinated fabrics, colour, design and decorative hardware or window shades. The colour of window shades and the lining of drapery panels in particular must be consistent.
Basaran: Most window treatments should be white or off-white when visible from the outside. Inside, each window in the room should be consistent and have either a coordinating or complementary fabric in rooms that are visible to each other.
McTavish: The front of the home should have uniformity to it, enhancing curb appeal. This doesn’t mean all the windows must be dressed the same way. Shutters could be the consistent choice on the main floor, soft treatments and blinds could be on the second floor. The colour overall is neutral off-white created by the lining, matching the neutral off-white of the shutter. There are horizontal soft blinds that mimic the look of shutters from the street. The rear of the home can be just as important if you have a garden or pool and entertain there regularly. The style of decor tends to remain the same throughout a home, therefore the windows treatments will naturally be similar.
DeSousa: Consistency with window treatments is as important for the outside of the home as the inside. All window treatments should be lined in the same neutral colour. Often matching exterior trim or window frames will give you a sense as to whether to purchase a white or ivory lining. If you have two windows that are identical, such as in a living and dining room, it’s best to treat them in the same way or close to it. This ensures an even flow from room to room. In addition, from the outside of the home, your eyes don’t have too much to focus on, which is what you want: The front door should be the focus.
Energy efficiency is increasingly important to consumers. How do contemporary window solutions address this?
D&R: For energy-efficient drapery, there are a number of options available. Linings available today address this issue. A blackout suede lining is a fully-flocked lining and is 100 percent blackout, preventing light from entering the room through the drapes. It keeps the room warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. There is a felt-infused lining which is a combination of lining and felt, this also does the same as the blackout, but this lining does allow light to filter through. Even using a regular lighter-weight lining can be very energy-efficient. Blinds are an excellent option in providing energy efficiency in the home, as well.
Lombardi: Energy efficiency is most commonly achieved through the use of window shades. Shades that diffuse light deep into a space during daylight hours are designed to reduce the use of electrical light. Shades that are insulated will reduce heat loss and heat gain. Solar shades that control heat generated by the sun will allow heat in during the winter and minimize the amount coming in during the summer months. Drapery panels are also effective when lined with blackout lining or double lined. Lining will also protect the lifespan of delicate fabrics such as silk and cotton.
Basaran: Blackout lining is a wonderful way to block out the sun’s damage to furniture, floors and can be a great way to save on your air conditioning bill in the summer and heating bill in the winter. Many blinds will have the same effect. Sheer weave roller shades are very effective to keep the sun out but still allow visibility through them.
McTavish: Factory-made shutters and blinds have all the specifications readily available. If you need to cut the potential damage to hardwood flooring and fabrics caused by UV rays, there are products on the market that address that issue in varying degrees.
DeSousa: The secret to truly energy-efficient drapery is in the lining. Using heavier liners, or interlining the drapes will assist with insulating the windows when drawn.
Girgenti: There are many specific products that address energy efficiency. For example, honeycomb shades are energy efficient in absorbing heat, and sunscreen shades are excellent at blocking ultraviolet light to protect your flooring and furniture without blocking a beautiful view of the outside.
“Green,” organic, eco-friendly materials and systems have come to the fore in recent years. How has that impacted this market sector?
D&R: There has been a demand for natural materials – silk, cotton and linen – but it’s unclear as to whether or not they’re treated with any chemicals.
Lombardi: Many savvy consumers are seeking eco-friendly products. The window treatment sector has responded with the introduction of natural materials. Bamboo, reeds and grasses are among the natural materials being currently used by manufacturers of window shades. Fabric manufacturers are marketing environmentally conscious fabrics made of all-natural and sustainable yarns or recycled components. Look for organics to take centre stage, particularly wool, linen, cotton and hemp.
DeSousa: Cotton and linen blends are becoming increasingly common for almost any room in the home. Consumer awareness of the benefits associated with using linings that contribute towards energy efficiency has also increased. The appropriate linings used on a functional drapery treatment will help to keep
homes cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
Girgenti: There are now new products that are eco-friendly. The materials used in certain types of window treatments are environmentally friendly, which meet regulations regarding formaldehyde and VOC emissions. In addition, these materials are fully recyclable. There are also treatments that are bacteria free – they do not promote the growth of fungus or bacteria especially in rooms with high moisture like kitchens and bathrooms.
Panels seem to be gaining traction from a design standpoint. Is that something consumers are embracing?
D&R: Absolutely. Because the decorative rod has been the focal point on most windows, all that is required are panels. We either use an exquisite fabric, embellish the panels, or incorporate the valances with the panels to include the decorative rod. It’s tricky at times, but a lovely look when completed. We’ve seen a decline in the use of valances, except for smaller windows in bathrooms or kitchens.
Lombardi: Gliding window panels are innovative and exciting because they are relatively new, but so were vertical blinds at one time. They are clean, crisp and sleek, appealing to the high-rise condo application or commercial project and perhaps best suited to the contemporary client. The gliding panel is not high on my list of “must haves” for all homes.
Basaran: I’m finding that not many people are embracing them. Sometimes people like to stick with what they know. Most condos or more contemporary homes will have more use for panels, but not many traditional homes will.
McTavish: In the demographic I work in, panels have never been out of fashion. The material used and the amount of fabric that hits the floor or puddles has changed the look of panels, but basically they add wonderful framing to a window treatment. They suit modern, transitional and traditional settings. The header can be stylized to suit the space (e.g. grommeted or pleated), fabric choices are more diverse then ever, they can be lined or unlined, working or stationary. They’re very versatile.
DeSousa: As in fashion, trends come and go and always repeat. We are seeing a departure from the ten-year trend of hotel style decor in the home – a refreshing change when first introduced, but it has left many homes feeling a bit cold and void of personality. Panels are back in a big way. They play a large role in creating an inviting and warm atmosphere in any room. Equally the trend to replace hard window coverings with soft ones is strong; many of our clients are opting for fabric shades instead of horizontal blinds. We’re also seeing the return of the valance. These new valance trends are simple in nature – such as box or inverted pleats.
What role are pattern, colour and texture playing in the contemporary window treatment market?
D&R: For a more contemporary look, we are seeing natural linens, metallic or shimmery fabrics as well as plain silks. Contemporary treatments are kept simple and streamlined, with minimal trims. However, to create additional interest, we have seen modern drapery banded with different colours, patterns or texture, whether it is down the side, on the bottom or in the middle of the drapery panel, it has become a popular trend, and works well with tall window treatments. The drapery hardware also plays an important role. We see a lot of pewter and chrome hardware, with glass or acrylic finials which complete the minimalist look.
Lombardi: The contemporary window treatment is all about sophistication and clean lines. Pinch-pleat panels, for example, made of silk, linen or cotton suspended by polished decorative hardware adds to the mid-century modern style. Rich metallic highlights with silver, gold, bronze or copper are being woven into materials to create surface interest and texture in drapery fabrics. Hot colour tones are being paired with neutrals to calm them down to a more sophisticated and contemporary look.
Basaran: I find that most contemporary treatments embrace texture more than colour. Some can be very bright and colourful and some more neutral but texture is important.
DeSousa: Outside of function, pattern, colour and texture are key. Two-tone patterns have been in high demand. Although stripes are still common, fretwork and lattice patterns are increasingly popular; the patterns are also larger scale. When dealing with window treatments you have a large surface that allows you to exhibit a dramatic or intricate pattern. It is usually best to take colour inspiration from a key piece in the room. The great thing about drapery is that there are few limitations in your colour palette, pattern or texture.
Girgenti: Pattern, colour and texture are key when selecting any item for your home or workplace. Window treatments are a long-term investment...it isn’t something you will change every year. It needs to reflect the style of your home.
What sort of materials are you seeing the most of – from traditional to high-tech? Which deserve more time in the spotlight?
D&R: We re still seeing a lot of silk, as they come out with new colours and patterns all the time. These silks work well in both the traditional and contemporary setting. There has been a surge of metallic materials, or fabrics that have a metallic thread weaved into them, which create a subtle shimmer. These metallic threads are weaved into many types of traditional fabrics such as velour and silk, which can create an interesting traditional treatment with a more modern look.
Lombardi: The timeless materials most often specified are silk, wool, linen and cotton. Barkcloth, a dense cotton fabric popular in the 1950s and 1960s, is currently enjoying a retro resurgence.
DeSousa: Natural fibres such as linen, cotton and flax have increased in demand. There are also a lot of new fabrics with varying degrees of Lurex. Depending on the amount of Lurex, you can achieve a slight shimmery undertone to full-blown shine. There have been improvements in the technology used to produce faux-silk; in some cases, it takes a trained eye to tell the difference. The benefits to the use of faux-silk fabrics is they often have a high level of polyester that resists moisture, fading and rot from sun exposure, making it a lot more resilient than real silk.
Girgenti: Silk fabric for drapery treatments. Silk is now available in many more colours, either as a solid, stripes or print. It’s now easy to use for styles from modern to traditional. Silk is timeless and of high quality – and much more affordable now than in recent years.
Where are consumers likely to notice the greatest difference between today’s window treatments and those of, say, their parents and grandparents?
D&R: Two or three decades ago, window treatments were the focal point of the room, they were functional and very layered. Today, they’re simpler, less fussy and used in a more decorative manner. Treatments are more streamlined, and the focus is on the material and the decorative rod. The drapery treatments today enhance the decor of the room, and not overwhelm as they have in the past.
Lombardi: The greatest obvious differences in the marketplace are efficiency, technology and selection. Going green in window treatments was not a consideration then. Neither was high-tech: Motorized window treatments now range from window shades to drapery panels offering convenience and luxury with the push of a button. The selection of products that are available today is endless, as are the options that can be applied to them. Understanding what you need and want is key.
Basaran The simpler the better now: Box-pleated valances, roman blinds and drapery panels are all tailored, simple treatments and very popular. Years ago, people had drapery, sheers and swag and jabot valances. These were very heavy treatments and also costly.
DeSousa: Today’s window treatments are not filled with ruffles and scoops. They are simple and elegant. They transition easily from room to room, often with subtle embellishments to add a sense of uniqueness.
Girgenti: There are many more options to choose from: more products, styles and colours, with increasing benefits for your window treatments. For example, the traditional vertical blind was the only option in covering patio sliding doors; today, the traditional vertical blind is still a great choice, but these windows can now be covered with Luminettes, Vertiglides, Silhouettes, shutters, sunscreen shades and panel tracks.
Is there one misconception that consumers should abandon when it comes to dealing with window treatments?
D&R: That custom drapery is very expensive. There are options for a custom look without the expense. We have created a website to purchase custom drapery at a very reasonable price, providing you do some of the legwork yourself. There are stores that carry readymade high-quality drapery, but they’re usually sold in standard lengths and width that may require alterations.
Basaran: There are many different qualities of blinds and drapery treatments. If you are purchasing blinds that you will be using on a daily basis, do not buy low quality. The phrase “you get what you pay for” is so true when it comes to window treatments.
DeSousa: Not all window treatments are alike. When purchasing a readymade product, are the drapes lined properly? A good lining will protect the fabric and the room from the harmful rays of the sun, help to weigh it down, and will not rot or soil with condensation. Are the panels weighted? This will help to ensure the panels do not “wing out.” Weights that are coated with vinyl help to protect the lining and the fabric from rust stains caused by condensation. Is the lining sewn separately at the bottom hem? Often the fabric content of the lining differs from the face fabric. This means they will shrink or stretch at different rates. Having the lining sewn separately means the one fabric will not pull the other, making it pucker and hang poorly.
Girgenti: Window treatments play a key role in a room setting. It changes the entire look of a room – it can either make or break the look of a room. It is also one of the most overlooked purchases when buying a home or renovating a room. Individuals should plan and budget for window treatments in the early stages of renovating and decorating their homes.
Lombardi: The greatest misconception is that a blind constitutes a window treatment. I’m here to shatter that myth. The blind, whether Venetian, wood or roller is designed to offer privacy, control light and be relatively cost effective, what it lacks is style. Pair blinds with panels to soften the look and keep in mind that the thicker the vane the heavier the fabric should be. Bonne chance!