A primer on window treatments

Don’t know what to do about drapes? Find out about the latest trends, the biggest problems and the designer secrets on window coverings

rajuretic@sbcglobal.netOctober 9, 2013 



    If you will be opening and closing your drapes often, consider purchasing custom rods. They are cut to size and therefore do not have the “bump” where two rods come together – a spot that drapery rings can catch on. Also, choose a header with pleats that can be used with rings, or a grommet-top panel. Rod pocket drapes are tough to slide across a rod.


    Draperies, shades and blinds usually require only a light vacuuming to remove dust. Save dry cleaning for a last resort, as drapes can become misshapen or even shrink. If you do dry clean, let the dry cleaner know what type of fabric the drapes are sewn from so that they can use the gentlest method appropriate for that fabric.


    Not all window coverings offered by designers are high-end. Most designers carry products in a range of prices. Some, like DeVicente, charge an hourly rate if you need help finding a good off-the-shelf option. Also, a designer can help you avoid mistakes that may be costly down the line.

This monthly feature focuses on local interior designers and their ideas for choosing color schemes, furniture, art and an overall design style or scheme.

Today we focus on Christy DeVicente, who earned her degree in interior design from Cal Poly and has worked locally as a designer since 1993. In 1999, she opened Curtain Call, specializing in custom window coverings as well as full-service interior design. Her business recently located to Pacific Coast Kitchen, Bath & Design Center in San Luis Obispo where she collaborates on projects with Jan Kepler, kitchen, bath and cabinetry designer. DeVicente may be contacted at 234-6863, or by email at curtaincall@charter.net.

Are you a drapery person or a shade person? Do you love blinds for their no-frills functionality, or find them cold and institutional? We all have our window covering biases, yet choosing the right treatment can still be daunting.

Designer Christy DeVicente chose to specialize in window coverings because they were “the one finishing-off area of the home that most people did not know how to do, clients and designers alike,” she said.

Here, she addresses the biggest window-covering pitfalls, reviews the latest trends, and weighs the pros and cons of custom versus premade.

Window trends

Natural woven shades are still the top trend — but with a new twist. According to DeVicente, there are “so many new weaves and more refined textures.” Newer weaves are more contemporary and less tropical in feel, fitting nicely into today’s clean, contemporary interiors.

Woven shades are warm and textural. They are typically made of natural materials like jute, raffia, grass, sticks or bamboo. There are various degrees of opacity for a range of lightblocking and privacy options. They are also surprisingly versatile; even when opened, they continue to be a design element, creating a sort of “folded valance” atop the window.

Another trend is the return of the classic roller shade. “I have had more calls for roller shades in the past year than in all my 14 years in business,” said DeVicente.

Many of her clients opt for roller shades because they are a simple and streamlined treatment. Because they roll up tight, leaving a thin cylinder of around 2-1/2 to 3 inches in diameter, they can mount inside a window frame without detracting from views. Pair a roller shade with a narrow four to six inch valance, and you have a sleek yet functional and stylish window treatment.

The basic design of roller shades is not much different from those your grandmother may have used, but the materials and mechanisms have come a long way. The biggest style update has been the introduction of woven materials “No longer do you have to settle on the old plastic-like roller shade materials, or the vinyl laminated shades,” said DeVicente.

Solar Shades are a type of roller shade made from heavy screen material that filters out sunlight while maintaining views. They come in varying degrees of filtration, blocking out 86 percent to 97 percent of the sun’s rays. This isn’t just easy on the eyes — it protects furniture and décor from ultraviolet rays, and can help cool the home. It may be a good option for a too-sunny window where privacy is not a big concern

Motorization is not new, but is becoming more affordable. The latest innovation is motorized shutters with all mechanisms hidden within the frame. One company that DeVicente works with offers solar powered motorized shutters with batteries that constantly recharge using a small solar panel located on the bottom rail.

“This is great for windows that are up high or for a whole house full of shutters where it would be challenging and expensive to replace batteries every two years,” she said.

Motorized shutters use a radio frequency remote, allowing you to open, close or change the angle of the louvers. You can operate one or multiple shutters from up to 120 feet away.

Inside or outside mount?

The top conundrum De-Vicente sees is whether to mount a window treatment inside or outside the window frame. Most people automatically default to an inside mount, but end up losing up to 12 inches of view at the top of the window, making the window appear smaller and darker.

DeVicente almost always uses outside mounts. Not only does this preserve views, it can help fill what she calls the “awkward empty space” above the window.

“The goal is to lose the top edge of the window frame with the bottom of the stack of the shade,” she said. “This tricks the eye into thinking the window is much larger than it is and gives a sense of volume to the room.”

You can then add a decorative rod with side panels to finish framing the window. “The side panels, taken to the floor, give a strong vertical line and make the eye travel up and down, again giving the appearance of a taller ceiling and larger windows,” she said.

Custom vs. premade

DeVicente believes there is a time and a place for both custom and premade window coverings, but that doesn’t mean the two are interchangeable.

“Custom window coverings are not inexpensive, but the quality difference you see in the custom draperies and higher end shade companies is significant compared to off-the-rack draperies and cheaper quality shades obtained on line,” she said.

With handmade custom draperies, the difference is evident in the quality of the seams and evenness of hems. Custom drapes can also be made to specific dimensions. The fullness of the drape and the style of the header can be customized. Premium lining is used to protect the fabric from the sun and give a uniform look to the outside of the house. Often, innerlining, a felt-like lining between the face fabric and the back lining, is used to give body to finer fabrics and add a padded fullness to a drape.

Ready-made drapery panels are a budget-saving option. They come in a standard width of usually 48 to 50 inches and a standard length of 84 or 96 inches. These days, premade drapes offer more choices. Some even come with a lining — important if your window gets direct sun that will cause fabrics to fade or deteriorate over time.

Ready-made panels work fine as fixed side panels for decorative purposes. However, if you have a large window, the panels will likely not be wide enough to close for privacy. A budget solution offered by DeVicente is to buy multiple panels and have a seamstress sew them together.

Still, premade may be better than no window coverings at all. “Our walls and windows and most floors are such hard surfaces,” said DeVicente. “Fabric adds a softening touch as well as a finished look.”

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