4 details to help you pick window dressings

Window dressings have come a long way from simple curtains on a rod. Here's how to pick a set of dressings that looks great.

4 details to help you pick window dressings

1. Curtains, drapes, valences or cornices?

Decorators use a special vocabulary to talk about window treatments. These are the basic definitions:

  • Curtains are are unlined and flow downwards from curtain rods. They usually diffuse light and give privacy.
  • Draperies are like curtains, but usually made from heavier materials that hang in loose folds. They're used to dress up windows or offer privacy, darkness, and insulation.
  • Valances are short pieces of drapery that are used to conceal the top of curtains and fixtures. A valance can stand alone as a simple window dressing or add a finishing touch to curtains and draperies.
  • Cornices are rigid horizontal mouldings that sit above the window.

2. Choose a style

These are some popular styles of draperies that you can choose from:

  • Café curtain: Usually hung in pairs, café curtains hang by rings or a casing formed in the top of the panels. One pair covers the lower sash. The the other is about a third of the height of the upper sash.
  • Priscilla curtains: Ruffles are the characteristic feature of this curtain. Usually ruffles appear on top, hem and centre edges but can also be on outside edges. A ruffled tie-back completes this curtain style.
  • Tab curtains: These panels hang from decorative rods by fabric or ribbon loops, or two ties joined to form loops with bows or knots at the top. Muslin is a traditional fabric favourite for this window fashion.
  • Pinch-pleated draperies: Pleats formed at regular intervals across the tops of the panels form the fullness. The pleats can be of many styles. The draperies can hang from visible or concealed rods.
  • Knotted, tied, or pouffed valance: Fabric sewn like a long rectangular scarf — in one or two layers — is draped as desired over the window, then knotted, tied or pouffed at the corners before draping downward.
  • Swag and jabot: This treatment has three parts — a swag across the top of the window and a jabot (the ornamental folds) at each side. The contrasting lining emphasizes the angled jabot hemline.
  • Side panels with a valance: A valance, often similar to the top tier of a café curtain, remains fixed. Side panels can be lined or not, fixed at the sides or constructed to draw across the window for privacy.

3. Mix and match

  • A complete window treatment usually combines blinds, valences, curtains or draperies, plus a blind or a shade.
  • If you have standard-sized windows, you can buy all of the elements of a window treatment ready-made in simple, usually solid-colour fabrics.
  • If you want more pizzazz or to coordinate your draperies with some of your upholstery, you'll need custom-made services from a department or specialty store.

4. Make them yourself

  • If you have a sewing machine, you can easily make tab and café curtains or soft valances yourself, either with your own design or using one of the many patterns available.
  • Pleating tape is also available. This works with special hardware to make pleated drapes with a minimum of sewing.
  • Learn more about each type of window treatment. Choose what's best for the window in question before you settle on a purchase or pattern.

Window dressings are about more than looking good. They help you control the look and, in some cases, the heat in a room. So before you pick out your next set of window dressings, get to know what each is, and if you can make them yourself.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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