The Best Drapes and Shades for the Most Difficult to Adorn Windows in Contemporary Residential Architecture
From new designs tied to the natural world (such as the floor-to-ceiling windows beloved by Modernist architects) to contemporary takes on elements from historic churches (like the clerestory windows found in cathedrals throughout Europe and the US), the bizarre shapes and sizes of windows in today’s residential architecture pose a number of challenges. These challenges, which range from fitting to cleaning, are also prevalent in choosing and installing window treatments; follow below for contemporary window treatment ideas for each modern style from bay to bifold!
Floor to Ceiling Windows
Floor to ceiling windows offer a number of appropriate treatments, all depending on the aesthetic of the homeowner; they can either be fitted with curtains that echo the grand size of the windows themselves (floor to ceiling drapes), with motorized roller shades, or with partial “cafe-”style curtains. For a contemporary coastal aesthetic in a warmer climate, consider flanking each side with custom sheer drapery that lets light into the room whether the curtains are open or closed; for an area in which the seasons bring more significant changes in temperature consider thermal curtains to keep the room warm throughout the winter. Thermal curtains are especially helpful if floor to ceiling walls, like those pictured above on the left, are accompanied by (or set into) sliding or folding glass doors.
Floor to ceiling windows with multiple panes can also be partially dressed, placing shades or curtains over only the lower portions of the window rather than the entire piece. Consider motorized roller shades (like those pictured above on the right) for easy coverage of the upper panes while achieving a modern aesthetic. For more traditional curtains, like a “cafe-”style curtain that covers lower panes, consider a subtle, thin rod that fits just within the frame so it is barely visible; the Classic Minimalism ¾” Drapery Rod from DrapeStyle offers a fine, clean line that will accent any window without distracting from the view it provides.
Clerestory windows can be difficult to dress because of their general inaccessibility; as such, choosing a style that can be accessed from the ground floor (either by a long pull or through a remote) is most commonly recommended. For the easiest treatment, have clerestory windows fitted with roller shades like those pictured above on the left. Because clerestory windows are further from immediate view, shades with a larger print may be chosen without overpowering other design elements and fabric choices (textures, patterns, etc.), though they may also be left untreated.
For a modern twist, consider a large-scale black and white foliage print or a retro polka dot print in muted hues, both of which are forecasted interiors trends for 2020. Interior decorators and designers recommend strong, monochromatic patterns in drapery to add an air of sophistication without removing the joy or personality from a room; one might also consider shades of yellow (ochre, mustard, etc.) or other natural colors, each of which corresponds to the organic materials and Bohemian flair trends expected of this and next year. Muted natural colors can act either as a feature or as a neutral, depending on how they are applied to a room; mustard and yellow ochre pair especially well with the grays and whites common in contemporary design.
As bay windows are typically composed of multiple paned units, the decorator must decide whether to dress each pane individually or to focus on the window as a single entity. Layering two styles of window dressing can be an excellent choice for bay windows because they allow residents the option of limiting or flooding light by varying degrees. One might consider installing curtains on either side of the entire window and adding Roman shades over each portion of the window. The Roman shades should be placed inside the bay while the curtains are placed above and outside the bay; however, Roman shades may be placed either inside the molding, or outside, depending on the desired aesthetic.
One might consider placing the window treatment within the window’s molding in order to emphasize each individual element of a bay window; this technique of placing Roman or roller shades (or even curtains) breaks up the bay window and highlights its architecture by dressing each segment separately. As bay windows are often wider than they are tall, one might consider mounting the curtains higher up on the wall than the Roman shades, creating depth and dimension while creating the optical illusion of a vaulted ceiling. Choosing contrasting patterns for each treatment will enhance this effect and add texture to the space; consider pairing rattan Roman shades with patterned silk or embroidered curtains to capture a few of this year’s hottest interior textile trends. The treatment pictured above on the left (designed by Beam and Bloom) demonstrates how well the Grandmillennial style can be achieved through the addition of tassels in drapery, especially when paired with ‘70’s-inspired rattan shades.
Bifold and Casement Windows
Though casement windows can be versatile because they open outwards rather than up or to the side, they can also be quite difficult to dress. To address this issue, one may consider either placing Roman shades a few inches above the casing to avoid the window becoming trapped in the treatment when opened, or using drapes that open a few inches beyond the window (on the right and left sides) so the view is unobstructed when the window is open.
As long as the drapes pass the window on either side, the hinge should open fully without obstruction, regardless of whether a casement window is single or multi-paned; consider the same effect for French and accordion doors and bifold windows. Perfect rod placement for a small window is six inches on either side, eight inches for a double window and as much as twelve inches when dressing a large or oversized window.
Arched and other geometric windows offer practically unparalleled architectural interest within a home; unfortunately, they are beautiful and engaging right up until they need to be covered. Finding the window treatment that suits a particular geometric window shape can be difficult, especially as they differ in size, angles, and number of panes, and way of opening. For wide, round windows, decorators may consider loose, luxuriously woven curtain panels on each side, with the rods mounted to the ceiling rather than to the wall; this makes the ceiling appear vaulted and opens the space while still respecting the unusual shape of the window.
For modern geometric shapes such as the unfussy arched windows shown above on the left and the beam-accented angular windows shown above on the right, traditional valances should be avoided in order to prevent a dated feel. For arched windows with a rectangular window along the bottom portion, consider Roman, roller, or tie up shades in neutral colors, leaving the curved portion untouched.