The What, When and Why of Window Treatments

A lot of you asked about a post on window treatments.  There are a ton of options for every home- but I’ll share a bit about our most used types and why we use them!

First of all, we try to convince all our clients to use custom made drapery for the most part.  It’s an expensive proposition, but one that pays off in a big way as nothing makes a room look more polished and finished than custom tailored window treatments.  We work with an amazing workroom we love and trust but you can find one in your area through sources like Angie’s List and by asking friends who have had their homes done.


Erin Gates Bronxville_037

Dramatic but classic drapes with greek key trim- photo: Michael Partenio

Drapes add a nice amount of softness to a room and work wonderfully any space that has windows with no radiators underneath and space on the both sides of the trim for the hardware to properly extend and the drapes to fall mostly in front of the walls and trim and only a bit in front of the windows (to preserve the most sunlight coming into the room).  On a simple single window about 42″ wide we extend the rods about 8″ or so past the window trim.  And as a reminder, it looks best to install the rods close to the ceiling, about and inch or two below the crown moulding.

Custom rods are wonderful as they have no seams for extension and stay straight and strong and are available in a massive variety of materials.  However, there are many sources for nice store bought hardware too- we use Restoration Hardware and West Elm a lot.  Buy a size that needs the LEAST amount of extension- as rods bow at the seam when extended out far.  So for example, on my windows that need a 55″ rod, I bought the ones that are 44″-108″ so that I don’t have to extend them too far out.


my favorite style of pleat

When having drapes made, I love a European or Parisian pleat- it’s a slightly more modern, clean pleat than the fussier ones that fan out at the top.  We use these with rings and drapery hooks.  Grommet topped panels are great for modern spaces and kids rooms (and are easy to buy from retail vendors).  I avoid using rings with clips as they tend to look messy. Rod pocket drapes are a big NO NO, but back tab panels can look neat and tidy with no hardware needed beyond the rods.

In bedrooms we always line our drapes with blackout material.  All draperies and window treatments should be lined or backed in white fabric so when looking at the windows from the outside of the house everything matches.  We layer window treatments a lot- it looks so sumptuous and can be really functional.  For example, in living rooms we love the look of woven wood roman shades paired with drapery panels.  It provides a light filtering option for watching TV and night privacy without feeling blocked in by closed drapes.


Layered drapes with woven woods and a separate room with woven woods alone- photo Michael J. Lee

Most of our panels end up being white linen with a nice decorative trim on the leads (the ends that meet when you close the drapes).  As I said, custom drapes are expensive, but when done in a timeless classic color and style, can last a very long time and through several decor iterations.  Greek key trim is a great choice because of its classic good looks and ability to look great in modern and traditional decor (try MJ Trim for a store bought source!)  If using store bought drapes you can bring panels to a seamstress and ask them to sew on trim for semi-custom look. Patterned drapes give major drama and are the MOST fun to do- but be sure they are done in a pattern you will not tire of quickly.  Check Etsy for makers of drapery panels in designer fabrics if you aren’t working with a designer!



Detail of a fab inside mount roman shade we did for a little boy’s bedroom using two sizes and colors of grosgrain ribbon. Photo Michael J. Lee

The other most popular style we use in our work are fabric and woven wood roman shades.  Fabric roman shades are great for spaces like kids rooms (nothing for little hands to grab), kitchens, bathrooms and any other windows where there are radiators below or adjacent walls too close for drapery hardware to be installed.  There are so many versions of roman shades- we tend to use slightly relaxed styles the most as they look a bit more elegant.  In more masculine and modern, clean spaces we use flat bottom.  We either use cordless for safety or continuous loop chain for raising and lowering (string pulls are  unsafe for children). I prefer to outside mount (mounted to the wall above and outside the window trim) roman shades if used alone as it lets way more light into the room when they are raised.  The bottom of the shades should cover the top of the window trim and hang over the window only a few inches for maximum daylight.  Inside mount (mounted inside the window frame as shown above) are great to use when layering under drapes or when window construction doesn’t allow for outside mounting.

For roman shades we like to also use whites and solids with either banding or trim on the edges or all three sides.  It’s a fantastic way to add interest.  Patterned romans are great too- especially in children’s rooms!  And for bathrooms a nice patterned sheer is hard to beat, like this one in my bathroom in a favorite Martyn Lawrence Bullard fabric.


Shade in my master bath- sorry for the shit picture.

We use woven woods a lot in layering, as I said, but also alone for a simple, natural look that adds a nice dose of texture to a room. I like to outside mount these as well when used alone.  There are so many places you can order these online- The Shade Store, Smith & Noble and Select Blinds being three good examples I’ve bought from.  We always use the waterfall style of shade- I find the ones with valances at the top to be fussy looking.  And a side note- if you layer woven woods with drapes and don’t need a blackout option- you can get away with doing stationary drapery panels which will cut down on your fabrics needs by a lot!

You absolutely can and should mix fabric roman shades and drapes in certain rooms that call for it- as I did in my master bedroom.  I have a large roman shade in the window seat and drapes everywhere else- all in the same fabric to unify the look.


Large blackout roman shade in my master- photo Sarah Winchester


When a space calls for a treatment but not functionality, such as over a kitchen window, we love using faux roman valances.  These look like roman shades but do not function and therefore use less fabric than a real roman shade that goes up and down.  We also will use these kinds of valances to conceal windows that have roller shades in them.  I mount these the same as I would a fabric roman shade- outside and up high falling just over the top of the window trim.


image via House & Home

Any other specific questions??  I write more about window treatments in my book too!


  1. Wonderful post Erin! When you say that you extend the rods about 8″ past the window trim of a 42″ window, do you mean 8″ on each side or 4″ on each side? I’ll be coming back to this post many times for guidance.

  2. What type of window treatment do you recommend for a sliding door (with windows) to the backyard? I really hate the long, rotating strips that can be moved out of the way for using the door (not sure what they are called).

  3. I have two large kitchen Windows, the fabric I like is 54 in wide but the windows at their narrowest trim on the inside mount are 56. Is there anything I can do to increase the diameter of the fabric I.e trim. I will probably end up doing a solar shade underneath bc the room is west facing and gets intense sun but even with a foe Roman shade I ru n into the same problem. I know I should pick a new fabric but I can’t. ?

  4. Thank you for this post! It is incredibly helpful as I contemplate the window treatments for our master bedroom. I also love the two layered rugs in the third photo — do you know where they are from? Thanks!

  5. Thank you so much for this. I am working on a renovation of two 17th century apartments in the south of France and have many 14-foot windows to treat. This offers so much guidance!

  6. Thank you! Would you do a similar post about the basics of lighting? I’m moving into a house that needs a lot of lighting help, and I’ve realized I have no idea where to begin.

  7. Great post! Would you ever put roman blinds behind full length curtains? I am thinking about doing this on the windows (one a single window, one a double window) because the bed is up against the single window. It is too hard for people to be pulling the curtains closed when they want darkness…I thought dropping a roman blind would be easier. Do you think that would look ok?

  8. Lovely. Great article and explanation.
    “Layered drapes with woven woods and a separate room with woven woods alone- photo Michael J. Lee” these does look astonishing.

  9. Right now I’m trying to sort out what type of shades for each room although mostly all have bamboo with white linen curtains (except the living room has white wood blinds but we’re replacing very soon). anyway, my question is what about having one room with bamboo shades and one with fabric such as the bathroom or office? should all the windows have matching shades ? or just the ones facing the street? thanks!

  10. I loved this post on drapes–it was so helpful as my husband and I are decorating our condo in Chicago. Would you also be able to do a similar post on Area Rugs? Recommended sizes for bedrooms / dining areas? Would love your insight! We went to Potterybarn and they recommended a 5×8 under a 72in long table. I love PB and typically find them helpful, however, I don’t think the 5×8 makes sense as the chairs would be half on and half off. The only other size option is an 8×10 and that almost seems too big for a condo. Are rugs absolutely necessary in a dining room? Any insight would be great! :)

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