Window dressing Home: Today's spectacular windows require creative treatments. Options are plentiful.

September 14, 1997|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Sun Staff

In the dream, the new house is glorious with windows -- windows soaring toward the clouds on every exposure; tall, stately windows in the foyer; wide, expansive windows in the living room; tall, playful windows in the den; wide, enveloping windows in the master bedroom.

In reality, the new house is painfully open to exposing all your follies to the neighbors. The top windows are so high that the NBA's Gheorghe Mureson couldn't reach them on stilts. The edges, even with an arch at the top, are hard. And the sunlight has already turned your burgundy sofa pink.

It is time to get treatment -- window treatment, that is.

Today's spectacular windows present a challenge for homeowners who are paying big bucks for elegant fenestration and don't know how to dress it, and for the designers they hire to create solutions.

"People look at these windows and say, 'That's beautiful, but what am I going to do with it?' " said Elizabeth Kaplan, of Town Home Creative Designs of Landover. The company decorates exclusively for builders, so creative solutions to exotic windows are a specialty.

"The main thing is, whatever treatment you do, you want to be careful not to cover up the windows -- you want to expose them."

Sandy Miller, of Apex Drapery Co. in Pikesville, which provides window treatment for Ashley Homes and private clients, agreed.

Most people whose homes have tall or unusually shaped windows don't want to cover them, she said. The windows are beautiful -- and they are expensive -- and they make their own design statement. "But," she said, "they need to soften or frame the windows."

"There are three main reasons for window treatment," said Victoria Gudeman, of Designs and Decor Inc. of Hampden. "One is aesthetics, two is privacy and three is sun protection, or protection from the elements."

"One of the first things we need to know is the exposure," said Miller. "Is it sunny? It may need more coverage. Are the windows tinted? Do you need more privacy? How about insulation?"

After the decision is made to give the windows some kind of drapery, a world of choices opens up. The window itself can be covered or bare. Combinations of drapes, shades or sheers, or swigs, scarves, jabots and valances can dress the window up or down.

In one house where foyer and living room both have wide, two-story-high arched top windows, Apex used a simple drape of fabric, looped with ropes and tassels, around the top of the arch above the front door. The effect is somewhat formal because of the richness of the fabric -- gray on gray paisley-patterned sheers -- and the color scheme -- the tiebacks are deep purple. The same fabric and the same purple rope and tassels also drape the arch in the living room, but below it, hanging behind a shirred rod, are pinch-pleated traverse draperies in the same sheer fabric.

In another house, where a wall of French doors is topped with 12-paned transoms, Apex used narrow stationary drapes from ceiling to floor at the ends and between each set of doors. The fabric is a deep-colored print and the short, decorative, dark walnut-stained rods have fat ball finials. The tops of the drapes have a handkerchief fall, gathered into a tie of the same print material. Though the drapes don't close, they soften the look of the room, and the print continues the room's color scheme.

In the Amberley town house model at Ryland Homes' Hollifield Station in Howard County, Kaplan left the arched-top windows above the front door alone, but draped the four windows across the back of the living room with a single, simple swag, supported by leaf brackets. The fabric is self-lined Italian silk shantung in pale cream.

For other town houses in the development, she used cornices covered in one fabric and draped in another. Simple touches can also indicate a theme or illustrate the interests of the homeowner: In a "boat-dock" motif bedroom for a small boy, she used short oars as curtain rods, and in a study, she decorated the cornice with crossed golf clubs.

If the need is strictly aesthetic, Gudeman said, such as where windows are not overlooked by neighbors, "I try to soften the look of the windows as much as possible, with side panels, or with hardware. That's where I really get to show off the hardware. There are beautiful finials, there is wood carved to look like rope, and beautiful finishes, like tortoise shell and crackle finish."

If privacy and sun protection are paramount, she said, she might design floor-to-ceiling draperies that can be left open or closed to cover the window entirely.

Hardware manufacturers and fabric designers are responding to the exotic window trend with new products designed for odd shapes, or for privacy without heaviness.

Miller likes the new fatter rods that may be 3 or more inches thick, often fluted or faceted for interest, and capped with ornate matching finials. Also popular now are wrought-iron rods with scroll-y finials that look especially elegant when simply draped in filmy sheers.

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