New Series: Answering Reader Questions - My Attempt to Explain Window Treatments (and More) to My Dad

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Do you guys remember that I'm working on a man cave for my dad? Since my mom moved into the nursing home last year, the formal dining room in their home has gone virtually unused. My dad still has us and others over for dinner, but he prefers the casual settings of the patio or kitchen, so recently we sold all of his furniture and started working on the dining room, turning it into a tv room/office for him. 

(Note: It's hard to work for family. That's all I'll say about that, although I'm sure my sister will be laughing when she reads this).

I'll have a big reveal on that room as soon as the last pieces arrive at the end of this month - I can't wait, because I think it is coming out great.

But, I mention it because of this recent conversation I had with my 73 year old dad (who has never been involved in a window treatment discussion ever in his life, other than to ask my mom why the hell they cost so much):

Me:  "Dad. Here are the curtains and hardware I want to order for your new room."
Dad:  "What? Why can't I keep my old (fancy-schmancy blue floral) ones?"
Me:  "Um. Because they'll look like hell in your man cave? They're floral?"
Dad:  "They were expensive."
Me:  "I know. The new ones won't be expensive."
Dad:  "Well, why would I trade nice expensive ones for new ones that are cheap?"
Me:  "Dad. Can you just look?"
(Dad looks)
Dad:  "I don't understand (as he is looking at the website Half Price Drapes) ...  where are they from?"
Me:  "This website that we're looking at. It's called Half Priced Drapes."
Dad:  "Who makes them?"
Me:  "Half Priced Drapes."
Dad:  "I don't understand."
Me: (sighing)  "I know."  

Ok, so he knows less than I thought.  I'll spare you the details, but I realized that my dad, like some of my more traditional and older clients, DOESN"T KNOW that you can buy curtains that AREN'T' custom made.  He doesn't know about "off the rack."

Our conversation continues:

Me: "Dad, Mom spent like $3000 on these because she went to a seamstress, bought fabric, and had them custom made.  You don't have to do that.  They sell them already made.  All of mine in my house are like this, and they are like $100-200 a panel instead of up to 10x that."
Dad:  "But are they nice?"
Me:  "Well, yeah, many are. I wouldn't buy them for me or for you if  they weren't."
Dad:  "Well, why did mom spend so much then?"
Me:  "She didn't know any better."
Dad:  "Why didn't you tell her!?!?"
Me:  "She didn't ask."
Dad: (takes the Lord's name in vain)

 Anyway, we ordered them, and I'll show you in a couple of weeks when the room is finished. 

My dad had SOOOO many other questions, and I'll spare you all except my favorite exchange:

Dad:  (very stressed) "I don't understand what the hell you're doing!!!" as I was hanging the new curtains in his room.  
Me: (no response as I'm sweating profusely and balancing precariously on a chair as I attempt to hang the very very heavy velvet double width curtains with no help from him). 
Dad:  "Why won't you tell me what you're doing?" 
Me: "You didn't ask and you're making me crazy and you don't need to understand. Please just go away!" 
He did, but I think I heard him swear under his breath.

Later, as he walks in to see them: 
Dad: "Oh. They look nice." (pause) "Why did it take you so long to hang them?"

Deep breaths, repeat mantras, etc.

I'm partially kidding - it has indeed been a stressful project, but I've also enjoyed doing it and would, despite what I've said earlier, do it again.  I'm thrilled that my dad likes the room, and I really like it too.

I thought I'd tell this story today because my dad raised a LOT of questions about window treatments, like, for example:

1.Why/when do I need them?
2. Do they have to be custom?
3. Should I have curtains or shades?
4. Others that he didn't really ask, but that came up anyway (i.e., what NOT to do).

I'm treating these as reader questions, and here we go with the answers:

1. Do I Need Window Treatments?

A. When You DON'T Need Window Treatments

Ok, most of the time I'm going to tell you I think the windows should have something

Here are the rare exceptions:

i. If you have a window like this, and you don't want to treat it, don't.  
It looks awesome as is: 

ii.  Or if your windows are industrial or ornate and you don't want to distract from them:

iii. Or, there is a lot else going on in the room and you really don't need any more pattern or fabric. 

In this case, the floor is busy and the view is nice, so a plain window is ok (although I could argue that a simple valance would look nice, but I can go either way here):

In my own family room, I took the curtains down (as well as the shades that are in this photo).  It is a lot brighter and I like it, for now.  But I go back and forth on busy rooms like this, and like I said, can go either way:

B.  When You DO Need Window Treatments 

i.  If Your Room is Very Formal and calls out for them:

I can imagine different treatments in this room, but I can't imagine none:

This is almost always true in traditional or transitional dining rooms: 

 ii.  If You Need Privacy

Here, the shade is for privacy and the valance is for a finished, softened look. You don't need the valance, but it finishes the look and softens the room nicely (fabric helps soften hard cold surfaces like tile, marble, porcelain, etc. in bathrooms):

I'm not sure if this shade is for privacy or to block light, but it accomplishes both in a simple way (of course you can be more ornate, too, but I love how this ties in to the bench seat and adds texture):

iii.  If it is a bay window or is above a built-in bench

These pretty much always look better with a valance or shade. 
I don't know why - they just do:

2. Do They Have to be Custom?

No. If you want to do custom, go for it! But you don't have to. For shades I like Smith and Noble.

For curtains, there are a millions places, including Pottery barn, Restoration Hardware and others.
I am partial to Half Priced Drapes, as I mentioned above:

3. How Should I Treat My Windows?

There is no "proper" answer to this.  In fact, it depends more on what you want to accomplish than how your window is shaped. 

Here are some looks you can achieve:

A. For a soft, romantic, and/or feminine look, try full panels in silk or taffeta. Tabs tops and ties and curved rods add to the romantic feel:

B. For a modern look, use a track systems and plain fabric:

C.  For a clean and masculine or simple, finished look, use a small scale pattern or solid fabric in a simple shade:

A slightly softer but still crisp and finished look - here, the shade it just slightly curved:

 D.  This look is modern/transitional, and works well in boys rooms and any other room that you don't want to feel too feminine:

 How Should I Hang My Treatments?

Rule: High and wide, not covering any glass, or covering as little as possible

Correct (although I could argue that it would look a lot better with a different rod):

On bay or connecting windows, sometimes we hang 4 panels instead of just two on the outer edges, so a little glass gets covered, but not much:

 See how high these next ones are, and that they just touch the outer edge of the window frame? Perfect:

You can even do this over shutters, which I have done in two of my own homes:

 The same rule applies with shades - hang them high! 
Up to the molding and covering not more than 1.5 panes of glass:

 Even on this type of window - hang them high:

I don't have many rules, and always say people should do what they want. Also, I take no pleasure in criticizing other people's work. BUT, there are a few things that are going to make your windows look really cheap and dated. 

4.  Here are what fall into my very rare "don't" category:

Hanging style: 
Too low and not wide enough:

Curtain styles:

i. Too fussy for me, and definitely dated. I'd prefer to see a shade or valance at the cross bar: 

ii. Cafe Curtains.  To me, these are always a no. I much prefer a shade or simple blinds, even the top down/bottom up kind:

iii.  Unlined (looks cheap), hung too low, not wide enough for the window:

iv.  Whatever you call these.  I have never liked them. They don't give privacy, they don't block light, and they don't add to the look, so I say skip 'em:

v. Swags.  Too fussy - simple panels with no top treatment would update this room in a heartbeat:

vi.  Draped valances. Some people will like this next one, and that's fine - if you do, then by all means do it! But I'm personally not a fan of these draped valances, although I don't hate it. 
But I'd much rather see a plain 8-12" roman shade at the cross bar:

vii.  I don't love the fabric, but I really don't love the swags. Skip them for a cleaner look. And skip the mirror and hang the curtains wider to maximize light:

Ok, that's everything I have to say about window treatments.
 I hope you enjoyed it, and wish me luck in the last couple of weeks working with family!


Here are my favorite sales today - the scarves because the one I used for Ellie's room art is here:

 And a gorgeous beach house sale:


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The enchanted home said...

Very good post. i love the conversation between you and your cute! I agree though working with family is experience shall we say?
I realized in looking over your pictures that I really favor simpler designs, nothing super overdone, clean pretty classic window treatments..good luck with your man cave project!

Sandra Lee said...

This was really great Stacy and your Dad is funny! Your pictures with the do's/don'ts was right on point. Thank you so much. I had my fingers crossed hoping my drapes didn't show up in the don't section. Close but not quite!!!

KL eternalicons said...

Laughed out loud at your conversations with your father. Had many, many similar whilst I renovated my parents house last year. Trying to get them to understand / agree to mixer taps and a walk-in shower were priceless conversations! This is a great post Stacy. Lots of simple explanations with good illustrative images!

Merlin said...

I took all the curtains out our Arlington home lower level (course, we're on a hill.) Only bamboo blinds at the cabin. (Saves on cleaning drapes!!) franki

Jennifer@ClassicStyleHome said...

That's hilarious! My dad has come up with some of the funniest comments (without meaning to)when he sees something new around my house. If it's not functional he doesn't understand it. He's tried to clean up gross spills with my Anthropologie dish towels and use my decorative watering can to water my flowers. He just didn't get that there's nice towels and then there's towels for cleaning. My watering can was a piece of junk because it leaked according to him. When I said it's decorative and not meant to be used he looked at me like I was crazy!