Curtain call: change a room fast with window coverings

Curtains and drapes are the first thing some people consider when they furnish a house or decorate a
room. Others see window treatments as icing on the cake. But many, especially those of us who can’t tell
a jabot from a cascade, find even the thought of selecting window treatments perplexing. Equally
daunting are the prices which can range from $20 to $20,000.
The choices appear limitless. Lined or unlined? Tailored or falling in lush folds that puddle on the
floor? Mounted where at the top of the window or just under the ceiling?
Even the vocabulary confuses. What’s the difference between a curtain and a drape? The two terms are
commonly used interchangeably, but draperies usually are fully lined, floor length panels made from a
heavy material. Curtains are constructed from a lighter fabric and can end at the floor, the sill or
below the sill. They can cover the entire window or only part of it as cafe curtains do.
Another element is a valance, a short piece of fabric that runs across the top of the window over the
header which is the top of drapes and curtains. A valance can be as casual as swag of fabric or as
formal as a cornice, a box covered with fabric. Both of these valances are easy to make, even for a
novice, and can be used with simple panels, sheer curtains or roman shades.
¥ Basics of Good Design
Deciding what is best for your space begins with the fundamentals of good design. Consider the style and
purpose of the room as well as any specific needs such as noise or light control or reducing heat loss
or gain through the window.
Window treatments can solve design problems. Make small windows appear larger by mounting drapes outside
the window frame. A low ceiling seems higher when the rods are installed close to the ceiling and the
drapes puddle onto the floor. For taller ceilings and tall windows, consider a more tailored look with
the drape just touching the floor.
Room size is also important. For small spaces, "stay away from a voluminous look. Traditional
treatments in a tiny space eat up inches," advises Christine Brun, an interior designer in San
Diego, Calif., and author of "Small Space Living."
Don’t forget to take into account adjacent spaces. Treat those rooms in a similar fashion as the one you
are buying drapes for, suggests Lisa Sinatra, president of DrapeStyle an online retailer with a showroom
in Costa Mesa, Calif.
¥ Making It Your Own
Consider your own individual style and what you want the window treatments to bring to the room. Some
curtains just hang there while "others define a room," explains Hasan Lodhi, founder and
partner of Half Price Drapes, an online retailer with a showroom in Livermore, Calif. Window treatments
often unify the other fabrics and colors in a room together or simply be a serene background. Fabrics
like silk, linen and silk taffeta inject elegance.
Getting a luxe look doesn’t have to be expensive. Even basic off-the-shelf panels can be individualized
by adding trim, tiebacks or a unique valance. In custom drapes a flannel interlining adds fullness and
fabric allowances are generous. For ready-made drapes, buy extra panels if you can afford it. Skimpy
drapes are a classic mistake, says Brun.
Rather than doing a full treatment in every room, think about dolling up one room and using simple
panels, sheers or shades in the rest.