From curtains to blinds, there's a lot to consider. Interior designer Deirdre O'Connell shares how to approach this all-important aspect of any room.
Window treatments is a blanket phrase for the wide gamut of window dressings available. It’s important because in some shape or form, they are essential in every home. While their dressing plays a pivotal role in the all-important aesthetic, their function is even more valuable given their impact to affect temperature, light dispersion, and privacy.
As with most things in interior design, the choices and types are endless and overwhelming. Whether to go for a classic French pleat drape, a ceiling hung wave track curtain, fabric romans with a leading edge, plantation shutters, blackout roller blinds or sheer voiles, or a mix of all the above, the job is enough to stop you in your tracks.
Where to start
Know the style of the room you want to achieve and stick to it. Classic, modern, Scandi, contemporary, rustic: the window treatments play a huge job in supporting the look of a room. Do some research and understand what designers have used on windows in similar rooms. Take heed of the style of curtain, the fabric, the track or pole they used and the way it’s hung.
The fabric choice is key, and it should relate to the room style. Choose linen or cotton fabric for a casual, relaxed room, or for elegance and formality, choose a silk or wool satin fabric. You need to love this fabric. Order samples of your preferred fabrics before proceeding and keep the sample you’re using. It will allow you to co-ordinate many parts of the room furnishing.
A plain or subtle weave fabric in a neutral tone is a safe bet and will give a warm and welcoming room. If the window is a focal point in the room, consider a coloured or patterned material, so the eye is drawn towards it.
Tasteful white and off-white curtains are enjoying a phase right now. They are stylish and elegant and work in many design schemes.
For a classic contemporary, luxury look, interior designers will often add trims, fringes or beading to window treatments for that fanciful extra. The French call them passementerie, and choosing a co-ordinated or contrasting trim gives a sophisticated and unique look.
Speaking of, if you’ve the budget and the type of room and windows to take them, boxed pelmets and tailored cornices add status and formality, while concealing the curtain hangings, particularly when a mix of curtains and blinds are used.
Fabric roman blinds are a classic choice that function well, especially in bedrooms (over radiators), bathrooms and the kitchen, where curtains get in the way of cooking. Roman blinds also work well layered with floor-length curtains for an elegant look. In a kids’ bedroom or playroom, choose a fabric roman blind in a pastel-coloured fabric and add a playful bauble trim for some interest and fun.
Whether you line and/or interline the curtain panels is up to you (and your wallet), but the additional layers tend to really enhance the look, while keeping in the heat and blocking drafts.
Look at contemporary tracks and rods, and how curtains are hung. Powder-coated industrial tracks or painted antique wooden poles offer two very distinct looks. Finials (the ends on the curtain pole) can help or hinder the overall look.
I’m working lately with a number of first-time buyers and what’s popular in new estate builds is a contemporary ceiling hung wave track curtain with the addition of a voile. It looks great and is functionally exactly what’s required.
Unfortunately the functional requirements often dictates the style. In many Irish homes, the radiators are positioned underneath the windows, so closed curtains isn’t an option if you need the heat. I’ve seen stationary curtains used as a decorative approach, under romans or blinds, and it’s a nice layered look.
For blinds, nothing beats the value, efficiency and range of options from Luxaflex. Available nationwide, their rollers, Duettes, venetian and wood blinds look great in new builds and older houses alike.
If you have a number of different types of window in the same room, consider a mix of roman blinds and curtains, in the same fabric.
If you’re building a new home, speak to your builder or architect about leaving gaps and clearance for curtain hangings, through dropped ceiling work or coving. Ideally window treatments are reviewed very early on in house planning, together with the lighting and mechanical. This considered approach is elegant and refined.
Motorised options are becoming more and more common in smart homes and are a lovely luxury in the morning, and indeed all day long.
My advice, if you have the budget, is to let the experts in, especially if you have interesting windows like that in a period home. Custom-made curtains look many times better than pre-made and it takes all the guessing away. Most fabric shops will know the name of a good curtain maker and will advise you.
In terms of specialists, Mary Wrynne is top class and her work with interior designers and architects often features on the pages of the glossy magazines. Estate Fabric & Home are experts and easy to work with. They are nationwide with locations in Tipperary and Newbridge. Material World in Naas are in business a long time and are very helpful.
If you’re using pre-made curtains, choose relatively neutral or simple patterned fabrics. If you have a fabric idea in mind, get a sample of something you love from a fabric shop, and bring it shopping on the high street to match it. Do some research on the format, tag tops are contemporary, and ring hooks are enjoying a spell right now.
Make sure grommet rings match the colour of the rod or track you’re using, and they should work with the rest of the hardware in the room too. Really consider the width – a fuller curtain looks better and I’ve seen tricks of using a third, or fourth (!), pre-made curtain panel to bulk up the look. Lengths are important too and know if you want the curtain to kiss, puddle or pool on the floor. Precision in measuring is key.
The key overall for window treatments, is co-ordinating all the pieces of the picture. Gather together samples of your room wall colour, floor colour and key furniture fabrics to choose the curtains, bring photos of examples you like, and make sure to co-ordinate the colours, metal and wood finishes.
It really does pay to invest in quality curtains and blinds.