Not very handy? Use a professional installer who will ensure your window coverings hang properly. Photo Credit: Sunbrella® Fabrics
This is one window treatment experts say should usually be custom-made and professionally installed, since there are many tricky variables involved. “The best looking shutter projects are measured, specified and installed by an on-site professional carpenter,” says Steve Walton, president of Shades of the Future, in Beaverton, Ore. “Find a quality vendor with a portfolio that demonstrates an ability to accomplish difficult projects. You want a trained design consultant who can measure their own projects and will be on-site with the installer for delivery.”
How to Buy Window Treatments
Whether you like the ease and affordability of shopping retail or plan to go custom-made for your window coverings, these tips will ensure success.
- by Maryann Hammers
You’ve been flipping through the pages of home magazines and spending weekends wandering through fabric stores, showrooms and home-improvement shops. You’re ready for new window coverings, yet wondering where to start. Here are some considerations:
Retail or Custom?
If you’re a confident do-it-yourself type, you can save money by buying window panels, shades and blinds from a retail store. But realize that unless your windows are standard-sized and perfectly symmetrical, the fit may not be perfect, and you’ll have fewer choices of features, options, colors, fabrics and styles.
“Avoid ready-made drapes in satin or polyester because they’ll look too shiny and synthetic,” says Roz Murphy, an interior designer who specializes in high-end residential window treatments in Dallas. “Instead, look for properly lined linen, silk or cotton fabric panels or a great woven-wood or bamboo shade.”
Prefer to have your hand held through selection, design and installation? Go custom—at least in rooms you spend most of your time. “Designers use their expertise to guide you through fabrics and styles,” explains Janice Cairns, president of Breeze Home Fashions in Kennsaw, Ga. “Embellishments such as banding and trim will always assure that your draperies won't look like anyone else's. You have unlimited choices.”
Measure, Then Measure Again
Exact measurements are critical. Use a steel tape measure (never cloth), and get someone to help. The most common measuring mishap? Transposing width, which is always listed first, and height, always listed second.
“Measure, measure, measure your windows,” says Cairns. “I remember once making a valance for a client who measured the window herself. It came out 10 inches too narrow.”
Also allow for fullness. “If a valance is supposed to be shirred, that doesn’t mean buying just enough to stretch across the rod completely flat,” says Cairns. “Also, retail panels often come in 84” length, but many windows today are 96” tall. Don't let your panels hang like high-waters. Even 4" above the floor looks silly. IKEA has great panels that come in 119" length that you can shorten.”
For blinds and shades, there are different considerations, explains Cairns. “Decide if it is going to be outside or inside mount. If inside, do you have room at the top? If an outside mount, make sure you know where you are going to put the top of the treatment—on the molding or the wall? Do you have enough room above your window to put the shade on the wall?”
With correct, precise measurements, installing window treatments isn’t too difficult—particularly if you’re fairly handy.
Not very handy? “I strongly recommend using a professional installer who will ensure your window coverings hang properly and that the hardware works. Otherwise, the screws can come out of the wall and the brackets will begin to fall out. Installers can also do a professional measure,” Murphy says.
How you install your window treatments can be as important as the coverings themselves. When measuring and installing drapery panels, be strategic. “If a picture window is too small, don’t over-drape the window with too much fabric—but you can extend the window treatment to make the window appear larger,” suggests Jennifer Van Galder, owner of Maudlin, a custom furnishings and design manufacturer in La Jolla, Calif.
For challenging windows, a little bit of creativity can help. “Window treatments can aid your décor in so many ways,” says Van Galder. "If two windows are off scale from each other, make them appear even by sizing their treatments the same. Also, don’t have your rod ride right on top of the window frame—not only is that dated, but it also makes the room appear to shrink in height."