Winter Windowland

Window Coverings...So Little Time, So Many Choices

By: Kelly Soderlund

Whether you're moving into a new home or giving an older home a face-lift, important decisions have to be made on selecting new window coverings. However, there's catch-22 when selecting window coverings: most window covering sales people are not interior designers, and most designers have limited knowledge of window coverings. With the help of Sherrie Swass of Swass Interior Design, we've compiled a list of ideas to be aware of before you take the big step:

Do the windows expose a beautiful back yard… or do you view a 3'x12' dog run? If you look out onto a beautiful back yard, you want your window coverings to enhance your view by making your eyes look out beyond the window. Therefore whatever the window covering is, it needs to be functional yet also muted in such a way that it does not attract attention. If your back yard is a dog run you might select something colorful so your eyes stay within the confines of the given room.

Is there plenty of wall space on all sides of the windows to stack back the window coverings so your windows will be totally exposed when the coverings are fully opened? This can definitely alter your decision-making.

How much room is available above the window to mount a head rail if it is considered an OB installation (outside window installation)? How much room do you have to install an IB installation (inside window installation)? Both installations have issues. A knowledgeable window-covering specialist will discuss pros and cons concerning your particular needs. This isn't a "one right way" design situation.

Do you know the difference between hard and soft window coverings? If not, make sure you set aside some time to research.

Do you understand the stacking concept? Stacking applies to and concerns both horizontal and vertical window coverings. Stacking is also pertinent for hard and soft window coverings. Window covering professionals can give you the information on all products. There are charts and formulas for all products with concern to stacking. This is also an extreme issue with newer homes that seem to have wallto- wall windows.

The selection of window coverings can, unfortunately, be extremely confusing. There is a practical side to the products, such as sun control and privacy, and an aesthetic side, which is the designer side. "There is a fine line between what looks the best versus what is practical. Since I am a professional designer with over 25 years of window covering experience I struggle with these issues on a daily basis. Bottom line: you will live in the home. You need to know the pros and cons of all products and how they affect your everyday living," says Swass.

Unless you start planning your home furnishing selection months in advance, most people do not give their window covering selection too much thought. "My recommendation to most homeowners is to plan ahead on all phases of selection. Ask for professional advice," recommends Swass. Most design professionals offer a paid by hour consultation. Swass Interior Design offers a two-hour consultation that creates a design plan that can be used for years, without an obligation to purchase product.

If you do not have time to do your homework prior to selection, Swass suggests installing temporary paper shades in your windows until you have the time to make good buying decisions. "I know this is not an attractive thought but I continuously walk into homes that have made poor window covering decisions. Sometimes the poor decision can be saved by adding to the existing window covering treatment and other times it is just too late." One example of a poor decision, according to Swass, is the ever-popular shutter. While shutters look great from the outside, from a designer's point of view installed shutters are very flat and cold looking on the interior in most circumstances. Get to know the difference and where to place them. Once shutters are installed it becomes very difficult to add any soft treatment to create ambiance in the room if you open your shutters on a regular basis.

There is also a real emphasis on garden living these days. Most people find it relaxing and necessary to totally expose the windows so that the natural environment comes into the home and becomes part of the interior. Frank Lloyd Wright discovered this years ago. We no longer have to drive excess miles to enjoy what some of us share in our front or back yards.

Perhaps the most important factor to remember is the size and placement of your windows. This is especially true in the back of the home where most of the actual entertaining takes place. Many homes have several sized windows in the same room. "I try to make the windows look the same size. If there is a sliding glass door and a short window side by side, I will make both window coverings extend to the floor. Again, this is an interior design solution to a poorly designed area. Your window coverings usually create a background for your entire room setting," says Swass.

When looking for ideas, often people will look at magazines or the Internet. "Remember," cautions Swass, "they are selling window coverings, not necessarily good design. It is not their job to determine what is best for you as an overall look and how it connects to your home." It is not good design to install a vertical product and a horizontal product side by side, yet one sees it all the time by window covering manufacturers because it is a practical and an easy concept to sell.

In most new home plans, a combination of hard and soft window coverings suits most situations very well. Swass personally promotes a window covering product that very few people know about: woven wooden draperies, which stacks back to small spaces, is available in several wood styles and stains to choose from, looks finished by itself and best of all, are very affordable.

There is a lot of thought process that goes into choosing the right window coverings for your home (probably more than you imagined!). Most people do not replace window coverings on a regular basis, so it's essential to make a sound buying decision. In the end, the result just depends on how much energy you choose to spend on your home furnishing decisions and how connected you are to your space. Remember, balanced interiors do not cost more-- they just feel better.

On transforming your interior space, or about the house featured on these pages, contact: SHERRIE SWASS INTERIOR DESIGN Carmichael, (916) 489–1499 or visit

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