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Valerie’s View: Shedding Light on Window Treatments in Interior Design

February 19, 2024
Window Treatments

Many people view window treatment selection as an afterthought, a decision that takes a back seat to other aspects of interior design. But  curtains, drapes, blinds, and shades do so much more  than provide light control and privacy. Not only do they play a dual role of letting natural light in while keeping harsh rays out,  but window treatments enhance a room’s overall aesthetic more than almost any other component in the interior design process. 

With a seemingly endless array of options available, it can seem overwhelming to choose which coverings best suit your taste, needs, and budget.  In this article, we'll shed some light on the importance of selecting the right window treatments for beauty, privacy, functionality, and comfort. 

There are various types of window treatments, each offering different styles, functionalities, and aesthetic appeals.

Window Treatments

Here are some common types:

Curtains and Drapes

Curtains and drapes, fabric panels that hang vertically from a rod or track, come in a wide variety of styles, lengths, textures, colors, and patterns. Typically lighter in weight than drapes, curtains may be sheer or semi-sheer, allowing light to filter through.

Drapes are typically made with heavier fabric and are often lined, providing better light control, privacy, and insulation.

Sheers can be full curtains or panels that are made of lightweight, translucent fabric that allows diffused light to enter the room while providing some privacy. Sheer curtains are often used in combination with heavier drapes for added style and versatility.



Blinds are made from either horizontal or vertical slats that can be raised, lowered, and rotated  to adjust the amount of light entering a room. Available in various materials including vinyl, aluminum,  bamboo, wood, and faux wood, the most common types of blinds include Venetian, made with horizontal slats; vertical, commonly used on sliding doors and larger window panels; and mini, consisting of  narrow horizontal slats, most commonly used on smaller windows. 

Blinds can be used on their own or in conjunction with curtains or drapes to add another layer of ilight control, and increased privacy. 



Window shades are a popular style of window treatment that consist of a solid piece of material that pulls up and down with a cord or lifting mechanism. Shades are great for secluding your space, while also adding a pop of style. Available in several different styles, materials, and a nearly endless range of colors and patterns, there’s a shade to suit every interior design theme from casual to elegant and rustic to modern.  

Along with the functions of blocking out light and providing privacy, window shades are a great way to add color, texture, and pattern to a room without taking up any valuable floor space. To add additional swag,  you can top your shades with a valance.  

When selecting a window shade for your home, it's important to consider how often you will be adjusting the light. If you're planning to install shades on windows that you adjust often (especially in a room like a nursery or bedroom), roller options or Roman shades can be beneficial to open and close the shades easily. 

Decorative ballon or tie-up shades, on the other hand, can have a stylish impact but should not be used in rooms in which you plan to adjust the natural light often as they are difficult to maneuver.

Rolling Shades

Four Common Types of Window Shades  

Roller Shades 

Roller shades are the simplest type of shade, fitting inside the window casement and operating with a pulley-type system that rolls the shade up and down with a cord. 

Typically durable and made to last for many years, simple white shades can be purchased very inexpensively at any big box home improvement center, while decorative roller shades are generally more expensive and often have a cordless lifting mechanism. Roller shades can be made from a wide range of stylish materials, including bamboo, burlap, and fabric, and can be further accessorized by adding tassels and trim.

Tie-up Shades

Tie-Up Shades

The tie-up shade, AKA the stagecoach style, consists of fabric hanging flat from a rod or mounting board. Instead of using a roller or cords, these shades can be lifted by hand to the desired height and tied with the attached ribbons or ties. This gives the window treatment a graceful drape along the bottom.

While tie-up shades have the most unique appearance, they also require the user to roll or unroll them while tying ribbons to adjust the shade. This can be inconvenient, so it's common for tie-up shades to be used as a decorative touch over roller shades or blinds. 

Roman Shades

Roman Shades  

A hybrid between balloon shades and roller shades, Roman shades hang down flat when they are closed, and pull up into deep, horizontal pleats when lifted with a cord. To achieve the crisp pleats, Roman shades are commonly made of durable fabric.  A great choice for bedroom window treatments, their effect is elegant and effective and their heavy weight is great for blocking out harsh sunlight. 

Balloon Shades

Balloon Shades 

Balloon shades have cords running through rings on the back of the shade. When pulled open, the shade’s fabric gathers into cascades of billowy poufs, giving the window treatment a romantic, formal, and somewhat old-fashioned appearance. You’ll find balloon shades made from the sheerest of fabrics all the way up to lined, heavy materials that block out all light. Typically, however, balloon shades are made from sheer or silky fabrics that drape gracefully and easily.

Depending on the fabric, balloon shades work well with Cottage and Shabby Chic, Tuscan, French, Hollywood, or traditional looks. Since balloon shades tend to be formal, their prices can be higher than other common window shades.



Often made from wood, vinyl, or composite materials, shutters are classic, timeless, and upscale window treatments that add a light, airy, coastal effect to any room. Made from solid panels or louvers that are attached to the window frame, shutters can be opened or closed to control the amount of natural light and airflow that enters a room. Available in several styles, plantation shutters (wider louvers) are one of most popular choices, with traditional shutters (narrower louvers) and solid panel shutters also excellent options.


Valances, Swags, Scarves,  and Cornices

One way to add some extra flair, color, and texture is with a valance, swag, scarf, or cornice overlying drapes, curtains, shutters,  or blinds.

Simple Valances

A valance is a piece of fabric that hangs across the top of a window to hide the curtain’s rod or other hardware and add softness, color, and pattern. Normally just a slip of fabric attached to the rod with clip rings or a rod pocket, a simple valance is the most basic and casual treatment. Simple valances can be used alone or layered over other window treatments. The soft gathers and folds are perfect with any casual decorating style.

Pleated Valances

More formal than a simple valance, a box-pleated valance hangs straight down over the window, generally attached to the window with an L-shaped rod. A box-pleated valance is a classic design that is perfect for traditional bedroom styles, Tuscan decor, or British Colonial style. For the most formal appearance, choose a valance that matches your bedding.  


Swags or Scarves

Swags are pieces of fabric loosely slung and draped over a rod or wound over a tieback at each corner of a window frame to add  style and romance to a room. There are many different ways to hang swags, but one of the most common is a simple swag which  drapes in the middle like a valance.  Swags are great for cottage core or French Provincial-style bedrooms because they add sheer, romantic softness to the window treatment. Because a swag does not  provide privacy on its own, they are normally layered over   other window treatments such as curtains, blinds, shutters, or shades.

Swags are also a wonderful alternative to drapes for a canopy bed. Simply wind the sheer, light fabric over the bed’s posts, and let it drape gracefully around the corners of the frame for a romantic hideaway feel.



Cornices are box-like structures made of wood or fabric that are mounted above the window to add architectural interest. Typically crafted from plywood, then covered with paint, wallpaper, or fabric and mounted to the wall above the window, a  cornice can be paired with soft window treatments like fabric shades, drapes, or curtains or used alone.

White Window Treatments

Ten Steps for Selecting the Right Window Treatments 

1. Consider Functionality

Determining the primary purpose of the window treatment is the first step in the design process. Are you looking to incorporate window treatments for privacy purposes, light control, insulation, or purely for decorative purposes? The answer to this will help you choose the right treatments for your space.

Shades are window coverings generally  made of a single piece of material or a that can be raised or lowered to control light and privacy, come in a wide variety of styles, including roller, Roman, cellular (AKA honeycomb shades,) and pleated. Shades can be made from a wide range of materials including paper, fabric, and bamboo.

French Provincial Window Treatments

2. Select the Treatment

TypeThere are a wide variety of window treatment types from which to choose.From, curtains, blinds, and shades to drapes, shutters, and valances each type offers different levels of light control, privacy, and decorative style.

Remember that t’s important to select ones that not only align with your design goals, but suit your functional needs.   


3. Select Fabric and Material

If you're opting for curtains or drapes, it’s critical that you choose the fabric wisely. While sheer fabrics allow more light to shine through and create an airy feel,  heavier fabrics provide better insulation and block unwanted light. 

Consider the weight, texture, pattern, and color of the fabric that best complements the overall design scheme of the room while also serving a purpose. 


4. Consider Scale and Proportion

The size and scale of the window treatment should match the scale of both the window and the room. While oversized treatments can overwhelm a small space, treatments that are too small or delicate can look out of place in a larger room.

Layered Window Treatments

5. Incorporate Layering

To add depth and visual interest to a space, consider layering different types of window treatments. Pair curtains with blinds or shades with drapes for example to allow for more flexibility, light control, and privacy.  

Curtain Rods

6. Select Hardware

Curtain rods, finials, and tiebacks can significantly impact the overall look and function of a window treatment so it’s important to select hardware that complements both the style of the window covering and the overall room design. 

There are a wide variety of hardware options from maximalist metal and classic wood to minimalist bamboo and contemporary acrylic. Because more and more styles are being designed everyday, this is a detail that should be given the utmost attention.

When choosing hardware, it's important to remember that the choice you make will have a major presence in your room for years to come, so this is not the place to skimp.

installation Curtains and Shutters

7. Installation

While it might be tempting to attempt hanging your own window treatments to save money,  proper installation is key to achieving the window treatment’s desired look and functionality. Window treatment pros are also knowledge about using window treatments to change the look and appearance of a room that most novice installers are not. 

Hanging curtains or blinds slightly above the window frame, for example, can create the illusion of height and make the room appear larger.

Window Accessories

8. Accessorize

Adding decorative elements such as trim, tassels, or valances can help to enhance the visual appeal of the window treatments and help tie them into the overall design scheme of the space.


9. Function and Maintenance

Though window treatments may look beautiful, it’s equally important that they are also easy to operate, clean,  and maintain. When selecting treatments for your windows, consider factors such as ease of use, cleaning, durability, and child safety.


10. Personalize

Experiment with different colors, patterns, and styles to create a look that is functional, esthetically pleasing, and appeals to your own personal taste. Remember, you will be living with these window treatments for years to come, so be sure that your selection is not something too loud, outlandish, or trendy. Instead, stick to styles, patterns,  and colors that will stand the test of time.