Window Treatments 101

No matter how much you love natural light, there’s no denying the beauty and functionality of a carefully chosen window treatment. However, with so many options, picking the perfect privacy-enhancing shade can seem overwhelming. Here to help narrow down which treatment is right for your windows, Annie Elliott of the Washington, D.C.-based interior design firm Bossy Color shares her five favorite styles. And while this outline is certainly no substitute for an in-person expert who can help with making selections, it will help you start seeing your windows in a whole new light.

Natural woven roman shades. The versatility of this style is what makes them appealing to Elliott. “I love them in kitchens, kids’ rooms, bathrooms, and I have them in my bedroom,” she says. While there are seemingly endless options in terms of color and material, Elliott prefers more neutral varieties.

Fabric roman shades. Either used alone or under drapes, these clean and simple window treatments are always a favorite, and they don’t require a lot of fabric. While patterned roman shades can add much-needed interest to a room, solid colors with tapes or trim add structure and color, and translucent roman shades are quiet and subtle—perfect for filtering light while providing privacy at night. In addition to deciding on your fabric, you’ll need to choose whether you want a straight or relaxed bottom edge. If you’re going to raise and lower the shades often, Elliott recommends flat romans, since relaxed roman shades require a bit of adjusting to get a nice, even drape.

Drapes over roman shades. “Layering ring-top drapes over roman shades (natural woven shades or fabric) is usually the most complicated window treatment I recommend—and they’re not very complicated!” Elliott says. With this combination, which works well in living rooms, the drapes don’t have to close. “They can be decorative side panels,” Elliott advises.

Ring-top drapes. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, drapes have some practical benefits as well—they provide an effective layer of insulation if your windows are drafty, and the fabric can reduce echoing by absorbing sound. A classic choice, drapes can look traditional or modern depending on the hardware and fabric, Elliott says. While big, structured florals are generally more traditional, a plain fabric can be more at home in a modern room (especially when the fabric is the same color as the walls). Regardless of the style, all of the drapes that Bossy Color recommends have the following characteristics: straight, with no fabric or metal tiebacks; tidy pinch pleats at the top; exposed metal rings on simple metal rods; and a length that “kisses” the floor, rather than bunching up or “puddling.” Finally, don’t forget to add trim. “Even a simple contrast banding on the edges will let people know these treatments were custom-made for your home,” Elliott says.

Brisbees. According to Elliott, Brisbees, or “The window treatment formerly known as café curtains,” are best used in a solid or tightly patterned linen or semi-sheer linen-y fabric. “No elaborate florals. No crazy color palettes. Just simple, ring-top panels on a small metal rod mounted slightly higher than the window’s center point.” Great for a breakfast area, Bossy Color recently used them in a client’s bay window to provide privacy from passers-by.

TSG Tip 199 from Annie Elliott of Bossy Color, adapted from Bossy Color’s design resource, “Our 5 Favorite Window Treatments.” Bossy Color is featured in The Scout Guide Washington, D.C.