Though an undressed window may be architecturally pristine it can make a room uninviting, noisy, too hot or too cold, too light or too dark.
Historically, window treatments were used to minimize drafts and heat transfer, obscure light, absorb sound and create ambience. Though double-glazing has lessened the need for their insulating properties, most windows are improved with a little dressing.
"Unless your home is atop a mountain or on a private island, there are those times when you want things to appear a little less explicit to the outside world." - Alexandra Angle
With few exceptions, contemporary architecture incorporates large expanses of glass. This can create tricky problems. Have you noticed that when night descends what was once an expansive view turns into a black void of a window or a view of abrupt garden lighting that makes it feel as if there is a scary monster lingering in the woods? Who hasn’t been on a call with someone whose echoey voice makes it sound like she is in a warehouse as opposed to her impeccable penthouse? On a lazy Sunday morning is there anything better than relaxing in a room filled with soft, filtered light? And, unless your home is atop a mountain or on a private island, there are those times when you want things to appear a little less explicit to the outside world.
Solar shades are the current go-to for window coverings. These shades come in the form of a roll installed on the window or recessed into the ceiling and can almost disappear into the architecture. As they are available in different levels of translucency (from very light obscurity up to full black-out) they are a practical answer to the question of dressing windows. But for those want to go beyond pure functionally there are a number of other options.
Flat Roman shades are panels of fabric that when closed lay flat against the window and when up make a neat stack. These shades can be made in many fabrics as well as natural materials like bamboo but, because of the ribbing required to make the stack, they are not ideal for very sheer fabric.
Then there's the simple roller shade which, like a solar shade, can be set into the ceiling or on the window or wall. Shades are available from sheer to opaque and are very simple when they're rolled up. When they're down they can liven up a room, if done in the right fabric.
Panel Drapes on a track soften a room without being oppressive. The tracks are on or
in the ceiling and sheer drapes can be layered with another drape, roman or roller shade for black out. Though they typically go to the floor, a more jaunty look has them end at the bottom of the windows.
Fabric shutters are lesser-known. These are flat panels of fabric stretched between rods and on hinges. Shutters are an option only when there is enough space between the windows and are most elegant when made with a simple fabric as they are viewed when both open and closed.
I learned by window lesson a few years ago. As it happens, I do have a home atop a hill on a remote island and the walls are almost entirely glass. When it was first built I left the windows bare in order to enjoy the 360 degree views. But soon I noticed that at dinner parties the black walls and echoed conversations marred the atmosphere. The following mornings I longed for extended slumber but was woken by morning sun. On the third time unexpected visitors approached my glass oasis while I was in between states of dress, their bewildered faces made me realize that sometimes it is best to opt for some cover.
Written by Alexandra Angle.