Creating stylish window dressings is an integral part of our interior design process. In designing a decorative scheme we decide how to dress the windows, whether with curtains, blinds, shutters or some other means. We also account for practical matters that affect the design such as radiators and other features. What follows is a short section of advice on choosing window dressings and a gallery of examples.
If you want to fit a quality, expensive fabric but are concerned about your budget, we would suggest a roman blind. The floral design below is an example where you effectively get more for your money. Roman blinds use less fabric than curtains and so you can select a more expensive product but use much less of it. Lining helps them to hang better and create a warmer feel. Sometimes a roman blind can seem a bit “unfinished” on its own; we would team it with a dress curtain to create a more complete look. For more information please read our separate page on roman blinds.
Most people will pull their curtains at night, but be wary of choosing a plain dark fabric. You will end up with large rectangular block of colour, which can look quite oppressive. A plain fabric works fine in a colour similar to the walls, but consider a patterned fabric to break it up.
You can create the “effect” of curtains, by using dress curtains with a roman blind as above. This is particularly useful if you are trying to avoid covering a radiator below the window. Dress curtains save money because they use less fabric, and the lined roman will block out the light. In the example below, you can see how we covered the fascia in curtain fabric. This looks like a curtain track whilst covering the headrails of the blinds.
Hold Backs, Tassels and Hooks
Don’t forget hold-backs, tie-backs, tassels and hooks to suit your window dressings. Check that the “embrace” is large enough; in other words, that the length of rope, fabric tie, or hold back is sufficient to allow the fabric to hang naturally. Your pleat dimension will dictate the correct size to restrain the curtain without it looking squashed.
Curtain poles come in many designs these days. For a bay window, you can order one that bends at the corners to suit your bay’s actual shape and dimensions. With C-shaped rings, curtains can sweep right round the corner over the supporting brackets for a continuous look.
We like the idea of a classic pole with a contemporary appearance. Below is one example with a minaret finial, but painted in a contemporary finish which happens to match the wall colour.
Remember when measuring for your curtains, the pole should be in position. You then measure from the bottom of the curtain ring in a number of places to check that the curtains will look right with the floor level; the top on the curtain will just cover the bottom of the ring so you can see the pole as in the image below.
Bay windows are a challenge for window dressings particularly if a radiator or a seat is fitted beneath. We’ve touched on a few ideas using roman blinds to avoid such features. But you still need to check how they meet at the internal corners of a bay. As a roman blind is raised, the fabric gathers in pleats and as it gains depth, two blinds may touch if they are close together. You can account for this when designing your pleat size so that they remain flatter when raised.
In part of the bay below you can see a deeper pleat to minimise any clash – here the windows were quite high so only part of the view was covered. You need to be more careful with lower windows. Before deciding, we hold a board across the window to help our clients see how much of a window would be obscured.
Roller and pleated blinds take up less room but you still need to check how the cartridges and headrails meet at the corners. Below is a set of pleated blinds in a bay.
Here is one option for dealing with a window seat. The dress curtains give a grand view to the window with the lined roman blind blocking out the light at night. The dress curtains have the added advantage of cutting out any light spill from the side of the blind.
Pleated blinds are no longer the nasty designs you probably associate with conservatories. Modern pleated blinds take up very little space when drawn up, so you can see through more of the window. New designs have a smartcord which works on a ratchet system to avoid lengthy strings dangling in the way. Battery operated blinds are also more in vogue and affordable.
Here is a closer view of a pleated blind. You can also find black out pleated blinds which they create by inserting an opaque foil in the honeycomb. They tend to be plain in colour rather than patterned, but offer a very smart look to a contemporary interior design.
Day and Night Blinds
Day and night blinds suit clients who need a very dark room, with the option of a translucent panel, or no blind at all.
This design also has side channels to minimise light bleed from the edges. Blackout is very important for people who work shifts and need a good day’s sleep. This blind has two smartcord controls: one for the blackout blind and the other for the translucent blind. You can adjust each in combination.
And here we have drawn both blinds open.
Prices for window dressings stretch from tens of thousands to less than £100. Roller blinds are at the more budget end of the scale, although you can find some fantastic ranges.
They come in an endless range of finishes and colours. They are also easy to keep clean, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms.
Some ranges are very stylish and interesting. In the bathroom above, we had a bespoke image printed onto the blind which we then supplied in the theme that we’d created for the space. If you’re prepared to spend a little more, you can cover the cassette covered in the same fabric as the roller (see image below) for a more complete look.
Venetian Blinds and vertical blinds
We don’t fit many Venetian blinds because of the need to dust the louvres. Having said that, we fitted a lovely chrome metallic Venetian in a bathroom recently which looked fabulous.
We also fit vertical blinds which look great, providing privacy at the pull of a cord. The rest of the block had verticals, so our client wanted to follow suit; but we added this roller internally to complement the decor inside.
Vertical blinds used to be associated with office life, but they are now much more acceptable, particularly when teamed with folding sliding doors:
In this south-west facing room, our clients enjoy their new extension without glare from the sun:
Other window dressings
Shutters are still popular. We don’t have much call to fit them, but below was one example in a rental property. Shutters come in all shapes and sizes; even fan-shaped for arched windows.
Window dressings offer many options for decorating your windows. For basic privacy during the day, you might fit a sheer fabric blind which you can remove and wash when required. As an alternative for a bathroom, for example, consider a window film; our favourite so far had been a historical map of London fitted to a sash window. Here is a contemporary window film that we applied to a living room window. If fitting these yourself, you need to be patient and follow the instructions to remove all the bubbles and tiny inclusions that appear from nowhere!
No window dressing
Finally, you should consider whether you need window dressings at all. Our modern, unfussy, interiors with large expanses of glass, look great without blinds and curtains. We ask our clients to try living with no window dressing for a short time; initially resistant, we find that they are still living without curtains or blinds several years later.