Window Coverings ABCs

The array and depth of so many types of window coverings can sometimes overwhelm a homeowner or business owner with an urgent need to make a choice!   This short primer takes a brief look at a handful of window treatment options that offer expedient, functional and stylish personality to your office or home….including blinds, valances, panels and shutters .

Are you a fan of the popular makeover, house flipping programs on television these days?  One of the most popular home decorating TV networks…HGTV tells us in their “Top 10 Window Treatment Trends,” all-natural woven shades of the matchstick and bamboo variety is one of the most requested window coverings.  While offering privacy by diffusing light, they still allow you to view your beautiful outdoor surroundings.

But whether your tastes are trendy or traditional…you can rejuvenate your window styling with one of these excellent designs.


Affordability and practical ease of use keep blinds as one of the most popular window coverings year in and year out.  Complete privacy and sun blocking can be achieved with a flick of the wrist …and with the right choice, offer light filtering slats as a compromise.  Horizontal or vertical, wood or faux-wood, mini and venetian…the variety of options is staggering.  Clean lines, durability and practical light-weight design, blinds continue to grow in popularity as a perennial window coverings choice.


Photo by Flickr user Alosh Bennett



With a traditional yet versatile flair, valances allow you to dress up your windows without breaking the bank.  They can be hung by themselves or layered on top of curtains, sheers or shades in coordinating colors.  Just about any room is candidate for tailored valances that contain a sewn-in rod pocket at the top with a straight-edged bottom, inviting light to fill up the room. Installing a tier curtain beneath the valance permits a smaller square of a larger window to be visible. Balloon, scalloped, Australian and shaped valances have the same basic look, but differ in decorative shapes and pleats. Easily hung in minutes with a utility rod, valances are one of the most cost effective ways of adding real character to your windows.

window coverings san jose ca

Photo by Flickr user

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Top Designer Advice on Choosing Window Treatments

Scot Meacham Wood, formerly of Ralph Lauren Polo…and since leaving there in 2001…owner of his own self named San Francisco design firm, describes his personal style as “A fresh interpretation of European style, with a dash of Southern hospitality.”  In this interview by HouseBeautiful on the topic of choosing window treatments, Wood articulates seven (7) specific characteristics that he incorporates into the process.

Q: “How do I choose window treatments?”  —Sarah Z.

A: Sarah, maybe it’s just my southern upbringing — or my unending love of textiles — but, I’m a sucker for a beautiful window treatment, so I’m usually going to err on the slightly more lush side of things on this particular topic! Whenever we’re working on a project here at the office, part of our job is allocating budget resources to various parts of the project. Drapery is always one of those places where it pays to spend a bit of money. Beautifully designed and installed drapes will immediately elevate any room!

The other amazing opportunity that window treatments offer is the chance to manipulate the architecture and mood of a room. You’re basically placing a great deal of textile in a space — and well-placed drapes will work wonders.

Here are a few things that always stand out to me:

1. Fullness
Traditionally, you should be looking at 2 to 2½ times the width of the window for the fullness of the drapes. So if your window is 4 feet wide, the ungathered panels should be at least 8 feet wide, or even better, 10 feet.

2. Length
For classic side panels, you really have to go all the way to the floor. If you’re looking at ready-made drapes, make sure that they touch the floor, even if you have to buy the next size up and have them hemmed.

3. Functionality
Oftentimes — and especially when privacy isn’t an issue — we design drapes that really only function to frame the view. Even in these cases when the panels don’t really need to close, they should at least look like they could close.

4. Textile
There are never going to be any hard-set rules about choosing drapery fabrics. This is where design stops being a science and begins to be art. If your other furnishings are leaning towards solid colors, here’s your chance to bring some pattern or at least a punch of color to the room.

Read More – HouseBeautiful

Best Window Coverings for Balancing Lighting & Privacy

How do you make the best choice for a window covering based on individual rooms of the house?  It boils down to 5 or 6 factors that are fairly unique to everyone’s situation:

  1. Budget
  2. Tastes
  3. Needs & Decorating Style
  4. Brightness Level you wish to achieve in each room

These will help you maneuver the decision making while considering a plethora of possibilities.   Here are some guidelines…room by room:

  • Living Room - Horizontal blinds or louvered shutters are your best option if privacy is your top consideration…since louvers can be inclined based on your preference for shade or light without the interior being any more visible to passersby.  If privacy is not an issue, anything goes!  If you choose drapes, err on the side of simplicity, keeping them in a shade similar to that of the wall.
  • Bedroom - Have insomnia challenges?  Then an opaque blind might be your best choice. It can be concealed behind a valance or dressed up with attractive curtains. Other options are rigid horizontal blinds or fabric blinds combined with some curtains for greater opacity.
  • Kitchen –  Pleated blinds or curtains may be more soft and decorative…but wood blinds and faux-wood blinds are easier to maintain. The more rigid the blinds, the easier they are to clean.
  • Bathroom - Horizontal blinds are a practical choice for the powder room.  But choose a waterproof material (faux wood, for example), particularly if the space is poorly ventilated or the blind is close to the shower stall.

plantation style hybrid shutters shutters blend the beauty of real wood and advanced modern materials

Two other special situations that aren’t rooms per se…but warrant some unique consideration:

  • French Doors. Solar blinds (or perforated blinds) are perfectly suitable, as they reduce the glare and heat from the sun and protect furniture from UV rays. Also popular are light-filtering sunscreens (with Sheerweave) with their Japanese style and the lovely luminosity they confer on large windows. Fabric blinds are a good choice as well.
  • Windows above electric baseboard heaters – Rather than hemming your curtains so that they hang just above the heater, simply move them away from the heat source with a mounting bracket (available at most hardware stores), which attaches to the baseboard heater. The effect is more elegant. As for blinds, allow a clearance of at least 30 centimeters from the baseboard heater, and if possible, avoid vinyl or plastic-based materials.


Read More – StyleAtHome


Window Treatment Trends

You may not think window coverings and treatments to be on the hot list of Google Trends, but you might be surprised at the variety of perspectives that have a genuine keen interest in the latest developments around what many consider to be a purely aesthetic endeavor.  Whether you’re an interior designer, a high rise office building facilities manager, a vintage clothing boutique owner…or an everyday homeowner that’s finally ready to make constructive energy efficiency changes…the window coverings industry is alive with new developments

Even though they are beautiful, the inherent value of window treatments is function, which addresses some of our most basic needs such as privacy, energy efficiency, UV-light protection and light control. 

~ Kim Kiner, VP – Hunter Douglas Alustra Collection and Design Studio

Ultimately, it’s “personal taste…should dictate the final results regardless of what is trending” says Doris Gagel, long time window coverings business owner in Canada.  She poses her three decades of industry experience as a question to her customers:  “Is this something you want to replace in three to four years or can you live with it for 20 years?’ Given the cost, it’s usually better to do something you know will still be nice for years to come.”

Here are snipits from a range of perspectives on what’s current in the genre of window treatments.

Designer Window Treatments – HouseBeautiful

Whether you’re looking for elegant draperies, Roman shades, or a simple swath of fabric, [there are] window treatment ideas that will complement every room in the house. [read more]

Window Coverings Make or Break Room – MapleRidgeNews

If you’re looking to add panache to your home, window coverings should be right at the top of the to-do list.

Window coverings have the potential to really make or break the ambiance, comfort, warmth and personality of a room or a whole house… [read more]

What’s Trending in Window Coverings – WaynesvilleDailyGuide

Add a window treatment like shades, shutters or blinds to add style, warmth and privacy.

“Window treatments set the tone for the rest of the room. They offer more than just a way to pull things together,” said Rona Spiegel, owner of New Jersey’s Lifestyle Interior Designs. “Window treatments give homeowners privacy and protection from harmful UV rays of the sun that can damage their furnishings. Window treatments also provide sound baffling in a space, absorbing noise and getting rid of the echo in a room. Diffused light coming in through the windows is also a mood elevator, especially in the middle of the winter when the sun is at a different angle.”

[Read more]

Alustra Screen Shades - Hunter Douglas

Window Size and the Art of Illusion

Creating the illusion of a larger space within the confines of existing architectural design elements may seem daunting at best, but can often turn out to be a magical feat.  Small odd-sized windows for example, can be framed with window treatments in a way that offers an overall improvement to the living or workspace.  Sometimes you can even craft a room with no windows at all…into something that actually feels like there is an opening.

Windows were originally purely functional in primitive dwellings.  Their only purpose was to let smoke escape from the cooking fires that burned inside. Aesthetics weren’t even considered.  But as man eventually became more affluent and frivolous…beauty and aesthetics got baked into structural design…and the architectural word “fenestration” was born. Merriam-Webster defines it as:

fenestration - the arrangement, proportioning, and design of windows and doors in a building

window coverings for small & odd sized windows(Photo:

Part of the reason why the replacement window and door industry thrives and homeowners are so willing to spend the money to make it so…is that there are very real benefits of increased energy efficiency and improved mechanical functioning.  But sometimes, replacing windows outright is not viable or cost effective. That’s where the tricks come in…rather…where the opportunity to create the illusion of more space comes in.

Read More – DailyHerald

Smart Film?

Smart Window Film, Switchable Window Film, Digital Window Covering, Electronic Office Window Partition, WiFi Enabled Window Treatment…the list of nicknames and applications for home and office space go on and on.  Though this explanation was created as part of initial crowdsourcing efforts last year (2013), Sonte is beyond the initial phase of raising capital and already had its second debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month.

SONTE Film is the first ever Wi-Fi enabled digital shade that instantly switches windows from opaque to clear in less than a second. The film pairs with a free smartphone app that allows users to turn SONTE Film “on” for see-through windows and “off” for opaque windows. Users can also use the app to control a room’s privacy and transparency setting. The customizable digital shade is easy to install and affordable, and doubles as a projection screen.

Our reason for starting this project is simple – curtains have been around for thousands of years without much improvement. The small advances that have been made, such as motorized shades and smart glass, can be extremely expensive and complex to install. With SONTE Film, we set out to revolutionize the industry of windows and curtains. Our goal is to make our smart film technology affordable and easy to install for all.


SONTE Film uses smart technology that allows the film’s transparency to go from clear to solid when an electric current is applied through it. SONTE Film will give you the option for privacy on demand by adjusting the opacity of the film on your window.

SONTE Film is also Wi-Fi enabled and simple to use. Our team designed the iOS / Android app, which you can download for free, to control SONTE Film from anywhere in your home or office at a touch of a button.


SONTE’s sleek digital shade solves common design roadblocks such as bulky blinds and expensive window treatments with an affordable and easy installation process, which you can watch here.

And, because you can cut the film into any shape or size, it can be applied to just about any glass surface including living room windows, kitchen windows, bathroom windows, office windows and glass partitions, which you can see here.

The wide-ranging benefits of SONTE Film include:

Lighting and shading
UV and infrared protection
Energy savings

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Bay Window Treatment Treasures

6 expert interior designers from HGTV share their best secrets for  adorning bay windows…whether they’re situated in breakfast nooks, bedrooms, living rooms or the home office.  See how a variety of window treatments, fabric and hardware can complement and improve any room.

  1. Drapery Panels – Designer Amy Bubierhe believes the best placement for drapery panels is on the return walls of the bay window. “They should frame the bay, not clutter it or obstruct the view, so choose fabrics wisely,” Bubier says. To prevent draperies from looking short, designer Jessica Nixon says to hang them as high as possible. Raise the rod to two inches below the crown molding to visually raise the ceilings in any room.
  2. Contemporary Valance – A valance is a top treatment offering a great solution for making a room feel more open and inviting.  Designer Dave Stimmel likes to use shutters in a formal room…with a fabric valance on top with coordinating seat cushions and pillows.  In other rooms, he suggests using a fixed valance with operating shades underneath for the option of privacy.
  3. Roman Shades – are a way of updating your bay windows with a functional yet elegant window treatment.  Designer Amy Bubier often likes to use flat Roman shades because they frame the window but still provide the option for a colorful and textural window accent.
  4. Bay Window Hardware – A bay window’s inherent layout can present challenges to finding a rod that works well.  Designer Wimberley Earp of Casa Fiora suggests using hinged elbows that swivel and allow for a continuous rod application. A great solution for window seats are ceiling-mount brackets. “The type of rod you select will fit with the style of the room — you need to determine the look you want to achieve,” Earp says.

Read More – HGTV

Motorized Shades vs Smart Glass

Motorized Shades have been a mainstay of the custom window coverings industry for several years.  One of our most prominent suppliers, Hunter Douglas, even has available a smart phone app available that allows motorized window fashions to be seamlessly integrated with any home automation system…making fashion and function non-exclusive concepts for window coverings and interior design.

As in any industry, time and technology march forward…bringing newer competing options that could be more effective and efficient…depending on individual needs.

Benefits of Smart Glass over Motorized Shades

Already cozy and comfy with your motorized window treatments that work so well?  Why even consider a new techy alternative called Smart Glass?

There are three main reasons to consider smart glass for your business or home: energy efficiency, aesthetics, and practicality.

  1. If it’s mounted inside of a building and it’s supposedly designed to reflect or reject heat (e.g., motorized shades) …it’s already at a disadvantage.  Once solar radiation makes its way past a structure’s glass windows, much of it stays inside the structure in the form of heat. The best-in-class smart glass is electrochromic…and can reject up to 91% of the solar heat gain, whereas solar shades typically allow two to four times as much solar energy to enter a structure. Note that PDLC and SPD smart glass windows typically perform no better and in some cases worse than typical solar shades, although there are some that perform quite well.
  2. Aesthetics - Smart glass wins because there are no pockets or slots in the soffit or ceiling to worry about. Unlike when shades are in the “down” position and there are gaps along the edges where light enters (unless side channels are installed), most smart glass windows are uniformly dark across the entire window, although some still have a small sliver of light where the electrical conductors are located.  Smart glass also can be used in “butt glass” window installations where glass sections are joined with a sealant (often at angles) with no mullion. While curved draperies could work in such scenarios, they could not preserve the clean angled look of the windows.  Roller shades would be impractical because the ends would overlap and destroy the continuity.
  3. Noise & Maintenance - while there are really quiet roller shade motors on the market, all of them are noisier than any available smart glass.  –  The longest-life smart glass, electrochromic, is non-organic in nature and at least one manufacturer has been tested to ASTM standards with an expected life of more than 50 years.  This longevity can be especially important in challenging installations such as slanted or sloped windows, skylights, or very high windows where scaffolding would be required for servicing.

Read More – Smart Glass vs Motorized Shades

French Drapery Dynasty is Window Decor Amour

Houlès – French family design company selling full spectrum fabrics, window treatments and foot-long tassels

Founded in 1928, Houlès is a family-owned French Company that has since earned international notoriety extending beyond Paris and Europe to the United States and the rest of the cosmopolitan design hubs around the world.  Originally a wholesaler of upholstery supplies, the family patriarch, Félix and his son André Houlès established the parent company in the heart of Paris known as the Faubourg Saint-Antoine area, the famous mecca for architects, interior designers and upholsterers. Originally named “18 rue Saint-Nicolas”, Houlès has since honed its business to focus on creating and editing trimmings collections…now a well established worldwide industry icon.  Today, Houlès designs, manufactures and sells four main product categories: Fabrics, Trimmings, Curtain Hardware and upholstery supplies. Houlès provides its client base with a complete range of window treatment decoration, wall-covering and furniture upholstery.

Hotel Claridge - Paris France

Claridge Hotel (Paris, France) – the combination of Houlès DRYADE fabric and Houlès trimmings brings elegance .

There’s a segment of international homeowners at the more flamboyant end of the spectrum demanding drapery and window treatments with more than a dash of color and a moderate privacy.  Blatant bling is what they crave… with tremendous tassels, a flair for fringe, curtain rods and finials fit for a palace.  In fact, Houlès trimmings decorate curtains on windows of the Élysée Palace, the official French presidential residence. Also, Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater uses Houlès trimmings on its main stage curtain.

Though the company enjoys a broad network of agents around the world, with growth markets including Russia, the Middle East and even a Manhattan showroom in the the U.S…roughly 80% of the company’s business is residential.  But aside from its Paris storefront, where everyday shoppers are welcome, the company deals exclusively with interior designers and other professionals. Houlès provides the materials for complete drapes, but customers are expected to find local help to assemble and hang them.  A decorator can coordinate an entire room around drapes, including furniture upholstery and wall coverings.  But Houlès focus, however, is on trimmings, such as the decorative edges of curtains, the tiebacks used to keep them open and the handmade tassels that hang on the tiebacks.

As Houlès design manager, Régis Perry creates classic collections of window trimmings.  He consults archives or sometimes visits the Louvre, where he gleans inspiration from Old Master paintings. A more elaborate trimmings collection can take up to a year to develop.  But of all the many trimmings collections he has created, which one did Perry choose for his own home?

None, he admits. He has velvet curtains, but no tiebacks or tassels. “We have a modern house,” he says. “We do have some trimmings on the sofa, but not a lot.”

Read More – WallStreetJournal

Child Proof Window Coverings? Voluntary Recall

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) work jointly on consumers behalf to raise awareness about older window coverings products  with exposed or dangling cords that can pose a strangulation hazard to infants and young children.  Each year, October is the official National Window Covering Safety Month when the jointly raise awareness by urging parents and caregivers to check their window coverings for exposed or dangling cords that can pose a strangulation hazard to infants and young children, and to retrofit or replace them with today’s safer products.  Only cordless window coverings or those with inaccessible cords be used in homes with young children are recommended by the WCSC and CPSC.  Listed among the top five hidden hazards in American homes, with infants and children dying each year from accidentally strangling…corded window coverings pose a very real and life threatening danger for kids.

This week (11/25/13) the Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) jointly announced with Health Canada…a voluntary recall on a specific style of corded window blinds and shades called “bottom-up top-down” (BUTD).  Made in various dimensions and colors, most of these products are custom made. The good news is that FREE retrofit kits are available to consumers in both Canada and the United States by visiting or by calling (800) 506-4636. The retrofit kit converts the joined cord device for the intermediate rail operating cord to separate cords, and includes cord cleats to help keep cords out of reach of young children.

These basic window cord-safety precautions are also highly encouraged by the WCSC:

  • Move all furniture, cribs, beds and climbable surfaces away from windows.
  • Keep all window cords well out of the reach of children.
  • Install only cordless window coverings in homes with young children.
  • Make sure tasseled pull cords are adjusted to be as short as possible.
  • Continuous-loop pull cords on draperies and blinds should be pulled tight and anchored to the floor or wall with a tension device.
  • Be sure cord stops are properly installed and adjusted to limit movement on inner cords on blinds and shades.

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