From the December/January 2015 Issue:

Problem-Solving Window Dressings

    By: Mary Vinnedge |

Drapery panels, sheers, shades and top treatments do some heavy lifting in functional, fetching rooms

Today’s most-desired window treatments tend to be pared-down, yet they must rise to the age-old challenges of providing privacy, controlling light (and sometimes sound) and bringing window sizes and positions into proper balance. The sheers, drapery panels, valances and cornices, and shades that are currently popular in New Jersey can be huge problem-solvers, say Patty Morrison, window treatment specialist with Stitch N’ Sew Centre of Lakewood; Ellen Salkin, owner of The Elegant Window in New York and president of the Central New Jersey Chapter of the Window Coverings Association of America; Kelli Chitty, owner of Interiors by Kelli in Sea Girt and WCAA past president; and Sagri Frieber, owner of Accents by Design in Bedminster. Keep reading to see how these window treatment experts are able to do it!

Article Photo
enlarge | Courtesy of Interiors by Kelli
Ups and Downs
Windows of different sizes or installed at various heights within the same viewing area drag the eye up and down and all round. Chitty confronted this problem in a Wall Township kitchen that steps down into the family room and has a complicating set of French doors. Undressed and viewed together, the windows and French doors seem to start and stop randomly.

She used the French doors, which must open and close under the valance, to determine the height and drop for all valances along the left wall. On narrow windows (one is shown) that flank the family room fireplace, she repeated the valances but placed them lower so the windows’ arches still show.

Article Photo
enlarge | Courtesy of Interiors by Kelli
So Awkward
A wall cloaked in draperies can cover a multitude of window sins, Morrison and Chitty say. Morrison describes a situation in which a bedroom had only one wall where the king-size bed could be placed, but the mattress edges extended halfway into the windows. Stitch N’ Sew “flooded the wall with panels that gave a place for bedside tables,” Morrison says.

Chitty used the same idea in her Sea Girt office with a combination of velvet side panels and sheers. (Chitty points out that “these aren’t your mother’s sheers” being used today—they’re silk, linen, embroidered and much more attractive.)

WEB?BONUS: For another example, visit, go to Article Archives and search for “Healing Havens.”

Article Photo
enlarge | Photos by Patricia Burke
Tall Order
Window configurations that soar two stories —common in recently built family rooms— let natural light pour in. But ultraviolet rays can fade wood floors, rugs and fabrics. They also compromise privacy and put glare on computer monitors and television screens. “You must cover them if there’s a TV in the room,” Salkin says. Sunburst treatments, available through workrooms and with many types of shades, work with round-topped windows, she adds. One thing to avoid with tall window groupings is splitting the highest windows from the lower ones with the treatment, Morrison says, because then “you don’t even notice the beautiful two-story windows.”

In the Highland Park home pictured here, Salkin used Hunter-Douglas three-quarter-inch room-darkening shades to control light.

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enlarge | Left: Photo by Patricia Burke Right: Photo by Mary Vinnedge
Glaring Problem
Depending on a window’s exposure and time of year and day, heat gain and strong sunlight can render a room unusable. A clever fix from Frieber: Use two shades on each window; the one closest to the glass is a simple room-darkening shade that’s concealed by an outer decorative shade facing the room (like the one she designed on the left). The inner shade is invisible until it’s lowered (shown in the photo of another window on the right).

Article Photo
enlarge | Courtesy of Interiors by Kelli
The Matter of Size
Small windows are common in older houses. Even some newer homes have small windows between kitchen cabinets and in bathrooms, Chitty and Frieber say. Hanging a window treatment beyond the sides and above the window frames can visually scale up a scrawny window. Or if a window seems too large for a small space, a treatment hung inside the frame can make it seem less dominant.

Chitty designed this London shade to cover only a little of the window but a lot of the wall above it. The extra coverage helps the small window hold its own next to big wall cabinets.

Article Photo
enlarge | Photos by Patricia Burke
Private Screening
Window-treatment designers say linings can be key to solving privacy issues. Standard interlining can significantly darken a room and prevent nosy neighbors and passersby from seeing inside. “Room-darkening” linings and interlinings—often called “blackout” linings—reduce incoming light to the bare minimum while providing privacy; they also prevent infiltration of a bit of noise. But Frieber says the ultimate is an English bump lining —it resembles super-thick flannel—that keeps out light and also deadens quite a bit of street noise.

English bump, pictured left, is versatile enough to be used in many window treatment styles —draped, gathered, pleated— including the example at top from the Accents by Design showroom.

Article Photo
enlarge | Courtesy of Interiors by Kelli
Hardware Hang-Up
Tall windows can leave such a narrow space between the tops of the windows and crown moldings, Chitty says, that there’s no way to install drapery hardware on the wall. In such situations, special ceiling-installed hardware rides to the rescue—providing the mechanics for draperies while still revealing the millwork. She used such an installation in the Fair Haven dining room pictured left.

Mary Vinnedge, the founding editor of Design NJ and now a regular contributor, writes from her home in Texas.

Article Photo
enlarge | Photo by Patricia Burke
WEB BONUS: Finding Window-Treatment Utopia

Here’s what four designers give as their road map to window treatments with great looks and longevity:
• Window treatments should always enhance everything else in the room — the architecture as well as the room’s (and furnishings’) overall style, says Sagri Frieber of Accents by Design.
• Always invest in well-made window treatments, Frieber says, and use a less-expensive fabric if the budget dictates a sacrifice.
• Proper measuring and installation are crucial, says Ellen Salkin of The Elegant Window. With a particularly complex design or challenging set of windows, a workroom fabricator may need to visit the site.
• If you’re on a budget, Patty Morrison of Stitch N’ Sew Centre says, you can phase in your window treatments, doing one room every six months to a year.
• Window treatments should stop either at the sill or continue all the way to the floor. Floor-length panels should just skim the floor or puddle onto it. (Frieber says the hems on treatments that stop too short can often be let out.) Caveat: Morrison warns that puddling in high-traffic areas — especially where there are dogs and kids and lots of floor maintenance — probably isn’t practical.
• Every window treatment should be lined, Frieber says. Lining adds body (helping a treatment hang and drape well) as well as durability.
• Use the appropriate scale for window treatments and hardware. The fullness of pleated/gathered window treatments should be two to 2 1/2 times as wide as the window, Frieber says; Kelli Chitty of Interiors by Kelli says sheers need triple fullness. Morrison and Chitty add that hardware for a big window should be substantial — so, for example, don’t put a 1-inch-diameter café rod across a 6-foot-wide window.
• Do apply decorative trims to store-purchased window treatments. “They will add pizzazz and give your ready-made drapery a custom detail,” Chitty says.
• Install window treatments higher than the window molding, Chitty says, adding that a good rule of thumb is to install decorative hardware halfway between the ceiling and window molding to add height.
• To make your window appear wider, install drapery panels outside the window molding, usually with the edge of the drapery about 2 inches over the glass, Chitty says. (The rest of the panel will hang in front of the wall.)
• Most designers can sketch or use software to show renderings of treatment options. Sometimes this is as important for showing someone why an idea won’t work as well as showing one that will, Chitty says. Another great resource is the M’Fay pattern book, Morrison says.
• Limit the big-scale, multilayered window treatments to generously proportioned rooms. “[Big treatments] can make small rooms feel claustrophobic,” Frieber warns.
• Clip-on café rings look cheesy to Frieber. She suggests hiding them under a cornice or valance. The valance shown in this treatment by Frieber would hide such rings perfectly.
• A scaffold is usually an installation necessity when windows exceed one story in height, Salkin says.
• If the wallpaper matches the fabric used on the window, the patterns should align for an interrupted flow from the wall onto the window, Frieber says.
• Salkin’s advice to window treatment designers: “Always listen to your client and let them know you hear them” to be sure that a project ends happily.
— Mary Vinnedge