Make the most of your windows

A well-dressed window provides a natural focus of attention. Imaginative use of curtains, blinds, shutters or screens can completely transform any room.

The need for privacy may be an important factor in choosing your window dressings for the living room. Although curtains are the obvious choice, they are by no means the only one – blinds, sheers and screens can be just as versatile and are often more economical where there is a large window area to cover.

In a room which is overlooked, a permanent screen of some kind – combined with curtains – is the best solution. Fixed sheers are a very popular solution, but you could use mirrored glass or even a solar reflective panel. The latter allows you to look out of the window while leaving passers-by with just a reflection of themselves.

An inexpensive way to make an attractive free-standing screen is to use a section of wooden garden trellis, painted to match the existing décor. This lets in a fair amount of light, at the same time masking an unsightly view and giving you privacy.

Another suggestion which works for a sash window is to hang a wooden blind (pinoleum type) over the bottom part, with a roller blind at the top.

Where privacy is not a consideration and you want to make the most of a view, Roman blinds may be the answer. Raised and lowered by a series of cords which fold them up into concertina-like pleats, they are highly versatile. When fully raised they look similar to a valance; when lowered the pleats even out and the blind lays flat against the window.

On a large expanse of glass – such as a picture window – use two or three Roman blinds of equal width rather than a single one, which might be difficult to handle.

Roman blinds can be given a subtle sophistication with a matching pelmet and a fixed sheer screen. The sheer looks best if it complements the blind fabric – some sheers have such lovely designs that they should only be stretched flat against the window.

Almost any kind of window treatment will work in the living room – it all depends on the sort of effect you are looking for. Choose the fabric carefully as this considerably affects the overall feel of the dressing. A velvet and, say, a candy-striped fabric can be hung exactly the same way, but the looks you achieve with them will be entirely different.

Use roller blinds if your taste is for big and bold patterns – these fabrics look much more effective when the design is not distorted by the pleated effect of curtaining. And if you cannot decide whether you want full-length curtains or blinds, use both. This combination is ideal when there is a radiator immediately under the window. With the blind down and curtains open, the draughts are kept out and the heat kept in.

Roller blinds are often hung inside the window reveal, exposing the bare surround and frame. If you dislike this, either team the blinds with complementary curtains, or outline the surround with a thin painted line of a contrasting colour. This creates a very attractive ‘framing’ effect around the blind.

Pinoleum blinds, which are made from very fine strips of wood sewn together with cotton are becoming popular for living rooms. They usually come in natural pine or stained green and blend particularly well into a modern or farmhouse look. Reasonably priced, they make an economical dressing for a large living room window. When fully let down, they allow a gentle amount of light to filter through.

Dining room/study

Whether the décor you have chosen gives this room a sophisticated or a practical atmosphere, eating or studying should be a comfortable activity. So, it is best to avoid anything too dramatic in the window treatment.

Shutters are a good, unobtrusive way of providing light and privacy control and make an attractive change from more conventional approaches. If the window is a wide one, it could take an open-weave bamboo type which opens and closes horizontally like a concertina.

Most of the shutters available are louvred but remember, the louvres do not always have to be fixed vertically. Wide windows or very tall windows look most attractive when their shape is broken up with alternate blocks of both horizontal and vertical louvred shutters.

Venetian blinds are ideal for rooms where softness is not the main consideration. They have moved on from the clinical white in which they first appeared and now come in many attractive colours to blend with most colour schemes. Their clean and simple appearance makes them especially suited to a study where you want as little distraction as possible.

Ruched blinds make an attractive option for the dining room – if the material is not too fussy. They have a gathered look even when let down and work very well in small rooms where full-length curtains would look cramped or overbearing.

Bedroom

When choosing window dressings for the bedroom, you should consider whether you want complete privacy – with every scrap of dawn light kept out – or bright, airy surroundings. Decide, too, whether the overall effect is to be exotic, simple or romantic.

Curtains are the most effective way of shutting out light completely.

Choose the double-tracked kind – with netting or a sheer on the inner track. These are curved so there is e no gap at the top of the window.

Ruched curtains in delicate pastel shades and flimsy fabrics soften any « shape of window and give the bedroom „ a romantic look. You can accentuate this effect by teaming them with ‘dummy’ curtains tied back at the sides of the window.

If you have a large enough window and want to go one step fui-ther with your curtain dressing, top the window with a valance. These look especially pretty when gathered into a series of pleats and neatly complement the dummy side curtains. For a totally co-ordinated look, you can match the bed linen and accessories to your window dressing fabric.

Fabric roller blinds make attractive window dressings for the simpler kind of bedroom. If you mount a blind upside down you can have it half closed to cover just the lower part of the window, giving you privacy and a fair amount of light at the same time. The pullcord can be extended and run from the top of the window frame to a small ceiling pulley and then on to a cleat near the bedside, so you can even operate the blinds from the bed.

Blinds in bright, simple colours look good for a child’s room, or for an adult bedroom with clean, modern lines. But, if you prefer something less stark, you can achieve a softer look by combining curtains or scalloped pelmets in the same material.

Bathroom

Most bathroom windows are frosted or dimpled in some way to give the room privacy. This is fine if the view outside is boring but not so good if you have a pretty and private outlook. If you want the view as well as your privacy, consider covering just the lower part of the window and leaving the upper part plain glass.

For instance fit mirrored glass to the lower part – and you have a vanity mirror and room-enlarger as well as a screen. Or fit a cafe-style curtain – hanging on a pole mid-way down the window – using heavy fabric or plastic which resists the bathroom steam.

Plants thrive in the steamy atmosphere of a bathroom and can be used to good effect as window decorations – either hung in the window in large baskets or arranged on rows of float-glass shelves set across the window. Depending on the number of plants and shelves used, this type of dressing can give you a lot of privacy, yet still let the light in.

Translucent sheer fabrics are another way to achieve this effect. Sheers look their best gathered top and bottom on to poles fitted in the window reveal. This lets through a shimmering light while maintaining a fair degree of privacy.

If you want something really hard-wearing and splash-resistant, roller blinds in PVC or oilskin are ideal.

Kitchen

Although you need to choose something very practical for a kitchen window, there is still lots of scope for introducing attractive colours and patterns. Some of the more spectacular roller blinds, for example, have complete scenes hand-painted or printed on them – the ideal solution to basement kitchen windows which offer nothing but a brick wall for a view.

Available ready-made in bright colours, vinyl blinds are hardwearing and need only a wipe-down with a damp cloth to keep them sparkling clean. Fabric blinds are slightly less practical but often more attractive. If you plan to make your own blind using a kit choose either a PVC or tightly woven cotton or linen fabric, which rolls evenly without sagging.

If the window is located above the sink – making it relatively inaccessible – a roller blind cord may be difficult to reach. In this case, a vertical louvre blind – a more recent variation of the Venetian blind – is the answer. They have a side opening and closing system which can be reached without stretching. Vertical louvre blinds also let in more light than roller blinds. If curtains are feasible, you might consider cotton gingham – an old favourite for kitchens, this fabric is never really out of fashion.

Landing or stairway

Windows which are located half-way up or at the top of stairs, generally do not need to be screened from passers-by. They can be given a treatment which is decorative but which does not actually cover the window.

For something different, try using stencils and transparent glass paints to make a pretty design on the window. Or, brightly-coloured and varnished wooden beads threaded on strings and glued to a length of dowelling could be fitted to the top of the window.

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