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Decorating a Room

Window Treatments and Doors

A barn door hung on a track slides open and closed to separate rooms.

Portals to the outside world, windows and doors get plenty of attention so you'll need to dress them in a fashion appropriate to your style. Frame a view or go for privacy, either way the options for window treatments and doors are many, which means there's something for every room.

Window treatments impact the overall appearance of a space, but they also serve a practical purpose. While looking pretty or tailored, chic or country, these dressings help keep us warm in winter, cool in summer. Lightweight honeycomb shades, for example, do both.


On a frigid winter night, wool or tapestry drapes pulled across French doors can also chase away the chills and imbue a family room with a pleasing cocoonlike mood. When the sun shines too brightly for napping or watching television, roll-up shades -- on those same doors -- stop the glare.

Combining elements is an easy way to get the look -- and efficiency -- you want. Simple, natural-colored matchstick blinds teamed with fabric panels is a flattering remedy, say, in a south-facing casual room.

And when you don't relish giving up the light but crave privacy? Sheers teamed with blinds or ready-made pleated shades and simple curtains, gathered at either side of the window, are a good call.

No longer white only, gossamer sheers are available in luscious hues like pale green and blue -- with or without embroidery. In an elegant bedroom, pleated synthetic shades with the seductive look of silk and shantung will allow you to capture the sun and guard your privacy, especially if you choose shades that pull up from the bottom.

Wood blinds (with or without wood cornices), roller shades, and natural Roman shades in rattan or bamboo are easy companions for any room, whether modern, eclectic, or traditional, and they are a good choice when you're faced with a combination of windows and French doors. For privacy, natural Roman shades can be fitted with a liner on back.

Many manufacturers offer fabric options for edge binding so you can coordinate the shade's binding with your upholstery for a custom look. These days, traditional wood blinds have updated optional twill tape patterns and 21st-century tape colors like persimmon, blueberry, and sable.

The large, horizontal slats of these blinds compliment the clean lines of a modern room.

Café curtains are classic in kitchen or bath. Have them in crisp white cotton, or enliven them with colors or patterns. Fabric manufacturers are reinventing old favorites like stripes and checks in Caribbean hues such as watermelon, coral, and canary to give a kitchen bay a bright morning attitude.

Swag window treatments are the selection of choice in a traditional-style room.

Balloon shades, flowing draperies, swags, and jabots are ideal for a formal aura. Opulence, though, doesn't dictate expensive fabric and an elaborate presentation.

A modest valance or panels of bur­lap (trimmed with a simple satin band to be more fashionable) hung on exposed black iron rods is in keeping with today's lean, but also sumptuous, decorating. Fashioned three times the width of the window, curtains made of simple, inexpensive material spell luxury!

Many newer homes feature large ex­panses of glass, magnifying issues of privacy and light control. For windows and patio doors like these, vertical blinds on a sliding track are a viable solution. Fashioned of materials such as linen, textured knits, or vinyl, these streamlined treatments are -- with the tug of a cord -- easily closed and opened. Some are also energy-efficient.

In current colors like wheat, flannel, heather, and willow, the blinds complement a range of styles. A traditional drapery treatment will also work on a French door or slider as long as the rod extends well beyond the frame. Lace panels mounted on each door are charming in a French-style cottage manner.

To highlight the shape of a window, a bank of windows, or a door, add just a top treatment such as a sculpted cornice or valance.

Use your window treatments to change the architecture. For example, extend treatments beyond a small window's frame to make the window look taller and wider. Drapes patterned with vertical stripes will appear to push the windows up and make the wall higher.

Windows with challenging shapes -- round or triangular -- look best, though, with a simple dressing such as shirred fabric or a custom-fitted shade. If you have a Palladian-inspired semicircular window above a window, one solution is to fix the rod at the bottom of the semicircle.

Curtain the window below, and leave the arch above bare. Casement windows that open in rather than out are another problem. So as not to interfere with the window's operation, install blinds, shades, or inset curtains on each window.

Decorative iron holdbacks further enhance a room's design plan.
Decorative iron holdbacks further enhance a room's design plan.

Shop for hardware that will complement your window dressing. Fabric stores, home design centers, and catalogs are chock-full of decorative rods, finials, and holdbacks. Choices include modern nickel-plated cable rods for stylish urban settings and traditional polished brass rods with pineapple finials inspired by Williamsburg. A small detail, like a pair of beaded tassel holdbacks, will elevate inexpensive drapes to star status. Imagine what they would do teamed with soft velvet panels in your newly decorated living room!

Once you have all the design elements of a room decided upon, it's time to place your furniture. On the next page, learn how to structure a room with furniture so that it's comfortable and you achieve the design goal you want.

To learn more about interior design and get tips and information on decorating your home, visit:

  • Interior Decorating: Get tips on how to decorate your home and read about organizing a project and selecting an interior design that fits your lifestyle.
  • Home Decorating Tips: Learn about home decorating styles and get tips on how to plan and complete decorating projects.
  • Decorating Styles: Are you traditional or eclectic? Learn about decorating styles for your home.
  • How to Design a Kitchen: Create a kitchen that works for you and get tips on how to choose and place appliances and create a decorating scheme.
  • Kids Rooms: Get tips on decorating your child’s room, with information on colors, smart strategies, and money-saving tips.