From the August/September 2013 Issue:

Clear View

    Writer: Ren Miller |

We raise the curtain, so to speak, on what professionals would like you to know about window coverings


Article Photo
enlarge | Linda Principe Interiors designed treatments for the soaring windows in this Chester home. For the double window, Principe designed panels and swags of striped silk interlined and lined with Silky blackout (a light­weight fabric that drapes well). The flat pelmets are solid green silk (also lined and interlined) and trimmed with a button and single tassel. Photo by David Van Scott
Do your draperies not quite reach the floor or close completely? Did those sage panels you chose in the store turn out to be a different shade from the sage on your walls? Is the flashing traffic light outside your bedroom window still keeping you awake despite your store-bought blackout shades?

Perhaps it’s time to call a window-coverings professional. A trained and experienced professional will be able to provide window coverings that function well and look good while also conserving energy, protecting furnishings and serving as one of the most visible statements about your design aesthetic. We asked members of the Window Coverings Association of America, New Jersey chapter, and some other professionals what homeowners should know about window coverings.


Article Photo
enlarge | The complemen­tary treatment on the fireplace wall is asym­metrical because of the window design. A single swag drapes across each arch, and pelmets are stapled to the board that holds the panel and over the swag. The size of the swags and panels made them a challenge for fabrication (Rose­marie Garner of R. Garner Custom Designs in Upper Montclair was the fabricator) and installation. For the main window, for example, installers had to climb separate ladders and hoist the board holding the heavy 18-foot panels. Photo by David Van Scott
What You Should Know
1. Choose a Listener In your first telephone call or face-to-face meeting, evaluate how well the window-coverings professional is listening to what you want. “There is nothing as terrible as going back to a client’s home for a second consultation and showing ideas and renderings that are not what she wanted,” says Ellen Salkin, president of the WCAA New Jersey chapter and owner of The Elegant Window in New York City. “It’s also important to understand that window treatments, although not necessarily the focus of the room, can make or break the room.”


Article Photo
enlarge | The Duette Architella shade by Hunter Douglas has the highest energy efficiency of any shade on the market. Rebates on this and other shade styles are available, says Lois Croce of Metropolitan Window Fashions. Courtesy of Hunter Douglas and Metropolitan Window Fashions
2. Understand Custom Design A department or home improvement store might have lower prices, but that’s because of quantity manufacturing of standard sizes, colors and patterns. “Window treatment designers, meanwhile, offer a specialized service,” says Roberta Dara, treasurer of the New Jersey chapter of WCAA and owner of R.D. Design Studio in Kinnelon. “We do not just come in, measure and pull items from a shelf. We are like psychiatrists—we listen to clients’ wants and needs. We evaluate and then advise them on how to achieve their goals within their budget. We guide them through the process of designing and choosing the best styles and fabrics.” As Salkin explains, “Custom window treatments are made to fit your window and, if done correctly, your treatment won’t look like anyone else’s.” Is there ever a reason to purchase off-the-shelf draperies? Budget is one. “A family needs to be able to sit comfortably—they’re not going to appreciate custom window treatments if they’re sitting on the floor,” says Francine Hyland, a WCAA member, design and décor professional, and owner of Fringe LLC in Westfield. “However there are instances when window measurements or design elements cry for something distinctive, creative and custom.”

3. Understand the Cost Many factors go into the cost of custom window treatments. “It takes hours to plan and design the right window treatment,” says Linda Principe, national president and former New Jersey chapter president of WCAA and owner of Linda Principe Interiors in Monroe, offering interior design services and specializing in window treatments. Then fabric and trim have to be researched and selected, decorative hardware has to be ordered, and after everything arrives it has to be sent to a workroom for fabrication. “We spend many hours discussing the details to ensure that everyone’s vision is executed properly,” Principe says. “After the window treatment is completed and everything is checked, I am always on the job site to ensure that it is hung exactly the way I envisioned it.” Mary Gorman of CoCo Curtain Studio in Ridgewood says homeowners should look at custom window coverings as a long-term investment. “They will remain a focal point in the room longer than you may anticipate, much like a piece of furniture.”

4. Consider the Economic Value Balance the cost of custom window treatments with the savings they will bring. Window treatments can create R value by blocking drafts and seasonal sunlight, which can help save dollars on heating and cooling costs, says Helene Marcovecchio, a WCAA member and owner/designer of HPM Interiors, a design and workroom in Mount Laurel. Kim Kiner, vice president of the Hunter Douglas Design Products Group, agrees. “The functional benefits window coverings can provide beyond light control and privacy include enhanced energy efficiency, harvesting natural light to reduce the need for artificial lights, UV protection and more.” How much savings? A properly insulated window covering can reduce energy costs by 15 percent, says Lois Croce, director of design at Metropolitan Window Fashions, a group of specialty stores headquartered in North Plainfield with additional locations in Paramus, East Hanover, Lambertville and New York City. “Hunter Douglas, the industry’s leading manufacturer of custom shades, blinds and shutters, offers federal tax credit rebates and other savings opportunities (see hunterdouglas.com/taxcredit).”

5. Camouflage Problems “The size, scale and shape of a window can be changed with a properly proportioned window treatment,” says Deborah Hall, a member of WCAA and owner of Designer Draperies & Innovation LLC in Hainesport. If a window is too short and narrow for a room, you can make it appear wider and more in proportion by mounting a valance higher with side panels extending out onto the wall,” she says. “You don’t need to live with out-of-proportion windows.”

6. Direct Light, Protect Furnishings While sunlight can illuminate a space, it also creates glare and gives off heat and harmful UV rays that can fade and damage fabrics, furnishings and artwork over time. “How many times I enter a home to see hardwood floors with marks where area rugs once sat as well as faded furnishings,” Marcovecchio says. Hunter Douglas’ Kiner suggests, “If you like the light and views but not the rays, look for window coverings that are sheer but with adjustable vanes for privacy and light control. Rotating vanes or louvers can be used to direct light where it’s needed most,” she says. Of course, for bedrooms, window treatments that provide maximum room-darkening are a good choice to ensure a solid night’s sleep.”

7. Create Ambience “Window coverings can transform a home with the beauty of diffused light, creating a comfortable ambience for living,” Kiner says. “The right ones can softly diffuse the light and draw it deeply into the room for a well-lit, shadow-free interior.”

8. Create the Finishing Touch Window treatments are the “wow” factor that adds the finishing touch to any room, says Lois Croce of Metropolitan Window Fashions, a member of WCAA. Her firm’s decorators educate customers about layering the window and the basics of achieving privacy and energy efficiency. “But our team also stresses that adding fabrics and color through top treatment and drapery panels allows the homeowners’ personality and style to come through in a unique and welcoming way.”

Design Advice
We also asked the professionals for tips on choosing window treatments.

1. Your Style “I strive to give clients their own personal style that fits their personality and the function of the space,” says Ellee Nolan Asaro, a WCAA member and principal of Trade Mart Interiors in New York City. “I put my energy into creating a hand drawing of how my clients’ windows will actually appear. This gives them the opportunity to visualize why they are purchasing custom draperies.” Her take on the final appearance of a window covering: “It’s like putting a bow on the package.”

2. How High, How Wide “If you purchase ready-made sheers or curtains and want to hang them yourself,” Linda Principe says, “put the curtain rod on the wall outside of the window and not on the molding. It will look more finished.” Nina A. Spinelli, president of The Decorating Store at Terminal Mill Ends in Union, agrees. “Do not sacrifice the design just for the sake of not covering up some molding if it should complete the beauty of the window treatment,” she says. “Additionally, some customers are overly concerned about not covering up even an inch of window glass. When this trumps the design, the window treatment could look incorrectly measured and out of proportion.”

3. Quality Materials Invest in high-quality fabric and products, whether it be panels, fabric shades or wovens,” says Mary Gorman of CoCo Curtain Studio. “Window treatments provide privacy and light control as well as finished décor” so you want to be sure they will stand up over time.

4. Texture The trend in all interior design is to use neutral colors with textural interest—don’t forget windows. “Texture is needed in every room, whether casual (rough, nubby or earthy) or formal (smooth, elegant fabrics),” Kiner says. “One option: Upload a photo of your room using The Art of Window Dressing iPad app to see how a variety of products and textures would look in your home. With it you can test-drive Hunter Douglas styles right on your own windows.”

5. Details Another way to add interest to neutrals is with details, says Spinelli of The Decorating Store at Terminal Mill Ends. “Here is a great opportunity to add detail with trim, color or pattern,” she says. “The details make a job look custom and reflect your personal style.”

6. Color Window coverings can take up a substantial portion of real estate on the wall, so it’s important that drapery fabric and paint or wall covering colors work together. “I always send memo samples to the client and ask them to live with it in all types of lighting,” says Kathy Hamilton, a WCAA member and owner of Window Alternatives in Jackson. “Then we can make a good decision.”

7. Material Things Organic materials for window treatments are beautiful, says Lois Croce of Metropolitan Window Fashions. “Natural linen has become the most sought-after fabric for custom draperies and soft shades,” she says. “The fabric is elegant, soft and durable—and it drapes beautifully. We’re also seeing a shift to a more casual look in the living room and dining room with linen or silk side panels pinch-pleated on a decorative pole with rings. Grommet-top draperies also look great because of their symmetry and tailored styling. In today’s window coverings market, we feel that ‘simple’ is the defining characteristic of classic, well-designed styles.”

8. Convenience Window coverings can be opened and closed at the press of a button, which is especially convenient when windows are very large or out of easy reach. “Motor­i­zation options are getting more and more easy and affordable at the window,” says Kim Kiner of Hunter Douglas. “There are also free apps for precise control of your window fashions from a mobile device.”

The Window Coverings Association of America (wcaa.org) is the only national non-profit trade association dedicated to the retail window coverings industry and to its member dealers, decorators and workrooms.