What the well-dressed window is wearing

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | May 19, 2014

Did the style of your custom draperies go out with padded shoulders and big hair? It's probably time to think about new window coverings -- at least see what you've been missing in the world of window fashions for 2014.

The latest window coverings present a range of styles that encompasses nearly all possible types of popular and once-popular treatments. Take roller shades and panel track window coverings, for example. Both have come and gone several times over the years, and they are once again current favorites in their recent incarnations.

If you are attached to a particular type of window treatment -- even one that hasn't been popular in years -- it's probably back in style with a new twist.

Today's window treatments address a whole smorgasbord of tastes, styles and practical needs that can please every homeowner:

  • casual, classic, or luxurious
  • shades, blinds, shutters, and draperies
  • traditional to contemporary
  • energy-efficient and UV protection
  • sheers, privacy, or blackout options
  • with cords or without for child and pet safety
  • wood, faux wood, and fabric materials
  • in colors, prints, block prints, solids, and wovens
  • eco-friendly and/or natural materials

New technological innovations like remote-control and solar-powered operation or innovative systems that use existing types of coverings in new orientations are being added every year.

Here are some of the latest trends and innovations in window fashions:

Dramatic drapery

Regardless of what you might have heard, draperies are back -- if they were ever really gone.

  • Many new home windows dramatically soar up two-story walls, spanning both levels, or with clerestory windows up above. For more impact than unadorned windows, Ashley Salzmann of Ashley Salzmann Designs suggests hanging draperies from the top story to the floor. For a more casual look, or for privacy on the lower level without having to pull the draperies shut all the time, install plantation shutters on the ground-level windows.
  • Luxury fabrics are in. Take advantage of higher ceilings by hanging curtain rods at least four inches above the windows or close to the ceiling to emphasize or exaggerate room height.
  • Don't forget to accessorize your draperies. The Artigiani line from Helser Brothers offers some breathtaking finials and tie-backs to complement their iron curtain rods.
  • Want to go high-tech? The BTX Tumo solar-powered motorized drapery system available through 3 Blind Mice operates by remote control or a light tug on the drapes. The motor charges from a solar-powered battery, eliminating the need for additional, cumbersome wires to the wall. You can integrate the drapery system into your home automation system.
  • The layered look -- the ultimate in well-dressed windows -- made a fresh appearance at the 2014 International Window Coverings Expo (IWCE): a roller shade and embroidered fabric trim flanked by drapery panels in coordinating colors and prints pulled it all together. Valances and cornices also play nicely into this new layered look.

Room with a view

  • Shadings: If you prefer the casual look of 2" blinds but wish you weren't blinded by the light when they're open, look into the latest hybrid window treatment -- shadings. Silhouette window shadings by Hunter Douglas and sheer shadings by smith + noble are two such solutions, but they are available from other window covering companies, as well. These elegant window coverings incorporate sheer fabric between the vanes so that when the blinds are open, they diffuse light while allowing you to see the outside view through the slats. If you like the look of blinds, a bonus benefit to these window treatments is that they can contribute to improved home acoustics, unlike hard materials such as wood and faux wood.
  • Double-view 2" wood blinds: If nothing but real wood will do for you, two-inch, double-view, wood blinds from Water's Edge double the space between the slats when open, providing twice the available view.
  • Plantation shutters: Shutters come in sliding panel and bi-fold configurations if you want an unobscured view of the sunset. But for the latest innovation in shutters, Comfortex's PanaView Plantation shutters stay put while you raise and lower the louvers by pushing them up from the bottom -- just like raising blinds.

Solutions for sliding windows

Patio sliders or any large sliding windows used to have very few covering options besides draperies and vertical blinds. If you're tired of being limited and want your sliders to look as good as the rest of your windows, custom sliding panels in almost any material you can think of provide endless possibilities.

Not what you really had in mind? Until now if you wanted matching window blinds throughout your house, you would have been out of luck, unless you didn't mind raising the blinds every time you had to go in and out through the slider. A glider blind track system developed by Water's Edge allows you to use multiple horizontal wood blinds to cover your patio sliders -- and without having to raise the blinds when you want to pass through the door. You can pull the individual section of blinds forward on the double track and slide it from one side to the other. It's great when you want to clean the glass, or if you want the slider open when a breeze is blowing and you don't want the blinds swinging into the room with every gust. The track can be operated manually or motorized.

Custom window coverings don't come cheaply. Nevertheless, if you've lived with your old custom draperies since MTV featured music videos, consider that you've probably already gotten more than your money's worth.

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.