Friday, June 20, 2014

Window Dressing

I have some friends with homes in London, and something I've noticed is that every time I visit someone's apartment there, every single one has fantastic window treatments, whether the owner was born British or not. Even the American friend who cares little about fashion or design has beautiful, multi-layered curtains. When I mentioned my observation, she looked at them and shrugged, replying "Yeah, I guess it's just a thing we do here."

New York apartments, on the other hand, often have terrible window treatments. The most basic covering that does its work to keep out prying eyes in the evenings seems to be sufficient for many, and even those curtains on the nicer side still tend to be very basic compared to the luxurious windows of London.

It is understandable -- covering the windows is often an afterthought once furniture has been purchased, and really nice window dressings are prohibitively expensive. New York also has more than its fair share of renters, and who wants to spend a pretty penny on something that may not fit the next space?

But beautiful window coverings are absolutely something we should borrow from the English: While furniture and art are often contemplated not only for their individual beauty but also for their placement in the room, blinds, shades and curtains are just as noticeable in a space. Whether open or closed, they take up a considerable amount of wall real estate, making them an important part of the interior design. Furthermore, both furniture and art can take years to collect, but curtains can be purchased and hung in as little as one day, making them a quick way to transform a space.

If expensive curtains are not in the budget, there's no reason to compromise with a sagging rope holding up a fabric shield to the sunlight, or worse, a blanket stuffed into the top of the window. Here are three very inexpensive options that will not rival London, but also will not break the bank without looking bad...

images from Home Depot

Cheapest option: Paper or fabric temporary shades ($5 or $17 each)
By far, these are the best super-cheap solution. These shades are meant to be temporary, but I've know several people who have used them for years while either deciding on a permanent solution or while renting. They actually look remarkably good in person, and are my suggestion for best really cheap window option. They can be cut with regular scissors to the exact length needed, and they stick into the frame of the window easily, taking just minutes to put up. The paper version can be adjusted with the included clips, and the fabric version has cords just like real shades. The best part is that if they start to sag and look terrible, they are cheap enough to be easily replaced. If the window frame is wood or black, the darker option blends in best.

image on left from here

Next cheapest solution: Tension rod and fabric ($5, plus fabric)
Tension rods themselves are not terribly attractive, but they can be the best option for certain windows, and they certainly are inexpensive. If one already has fabric or curtains to use, tension rods can be a decent choice.

image on left from here

Common cheap alternative: Brackets, rod and fabric ($20, plus fabric)
I think these may be the most common window treatment in NYC. Not terribly pretty, but not ugly, these allow the fabric to be the star, and work for nearly any window. Hang them higher and wider than the window, place the bracelets out as far as possible (further than in the picture), and when it comes to the fabric, double the width needed for best results. If the window covers most of the wall, allow the rod to go the length of the wall and the fabric to cover the whole wall when closed. Also, this style looks best when the fabric is allowed to go all the way to the floor. Going wider and longer creates the illusion of a bigger window.

image from here

Very cheap fabric choice: Flat bedsheets (varies)
Don't laugh: I've seen this solution work and it's much better than it sounds. If one has pretty sheets she likes, these work quite well for tall windows, as long as the sheets are all the same -- imitating matching curtains is the idea here. The advantage to using sheets is that they already have a hem that can be used as a pocket for a rod, so they can be hung without any sewing or hemming (of course, these can also be used). Stripes work best, but florals and other designs can work too and are usually better than plain colors.

No matter the solution chosen, when using fabric always go for more fabric rather than less. Whether real curtains or these solutions, widows always look more impressive when the fabric gathers and hangs, as opposed to being pulled taught. These solutions may not be as perfect as the windows in London, but would certainly be an upgrade to many of the windows seen around New York.

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