Uncle Bobs Tips

10 Ways to Buy the Wrong Curtains

10 Ways to Buy the Wrong Curtains

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Window treatments are more important then furniture.

A beautifully dressed window can make a room full of drab furniture still a pleasure to be in. However, even spectacular furnishings can't mitigate the unpleasantness of a window dressed for a horror show.

Only a spectacular view can outshine a badly framed window, while a well done window doesn't need a beautiful view to put any room in a good light.

1. Don't Settle For Disappointing Curtains.

Dressing those windows is the single most important redo for a room, and the easiest way to do it is with curtains.

Curtains are miracle workers. They can blend away the window as the focal point leaving a cozy, closed grotto-like feeling or turn a simple small room with low ceilings into an elegant and regal hideaway. They can make privacy where there is none, or provide a magnificent frame for an outdoor landscape to grace the interior of a living room.

The price range of curtains runs from free to costly custom couture. The beauty of curtains is that price does not reflect in the success or failure of the finished product. Those antique hand embroidered tablecloths of handkerchief linen salvaged from Grandmother's attic and threaded on a gold leaf pole are prettier and more meaningful then anything couture could dream of. Keep those ideas draping and re-draping to turn those windows from ordinary to spectacular.

2. Inspiration Doesn't Fit the Personality of the Room.

Curtains should be chosen with regard to the decor, theme or historical value of a room. Those silken gold Turkish tasseled draperies are gorgeous on the showroom floor, but opulent golden tassels do not fit on the narrow bay windows of a clapboard colonial.

Refine your taste to fit the setting. For instance, real New England colonials have low doorways and numerous small narrow windows which look best with a traditional decor, with or without swags and tiebacks.

Exotic flashes, like ethnic prints from Africa or the Far East don't add anything to the classical moldings and old fashioned picture rails usually found in such houses.

So when you let your imagination leap, make sure you land back in time and place. Leave those mad thoughts to The Arabian Nights and the Turkish curtains in the store. If on the other hand you just can't find any theme at all, leaf through a design book or ask a professional designer for their input.

3. Improper Measuring

With curtains and drapes, an inch here and an inch there can be crucial even with those billowing anything ends wherever it ends type of style. All the more so if a shade or a liner is used together with the curtains.

For best results, measure the height and width of the window frames in three places taking care to note the position of each. Then measure the exact height from where the curtains are to hang and where they are to fall in three separate places. Measure the depth of the windows in three places, i.e. left, center, right, being careful to include any window curving, most often found in bay windows. Then measure the width of the windows themselves in three places, i.e. top, middle bottom. These measures provide the most accurate proportions for the designer, even if the designer is you.

4. Not All Views Should Be Viewed.

Sometimes you just have to hide the view. Like when that huge picture window in the living room of that beautiful and cheap Manhattan apartment has a magnificent view of that noisy, filthy industrial grey trash compactor which belongs to the hospital next door. In this case, the curtains have to conceal the outside and close up the room as much as possible.

Curtains are fantastic noise and light controllers.

Try an open weave textured heavy fabric positioned over the whole window and all or most of the wall to obscure the non-view. Or if it's that bad, even completely opaque materials which blend into the walls and let light in from a partial exposure at the top.

It gets the light and misses the eyesore.

This also works the other way around, when the window opens on a public place, or where discretion is needed.

5. Windows Shouldn't Close the Room.

Windows open a room, literally, by bringing in light and air. The closing function of curtains and other window treatments, is to control unusual irritations of too much light, wind, or sound. The main function of the framing is decor and often part of that effect is to "open" the window even more.

Unless the need for closing up is obvious, avoid it, as it makes the room tinier and lonelier. A small room in particular, needs window treatments which create the illusion of more space.

Light colors on light walls, sheers, light fabrics, tiebacks, drape extension across whole wall, ceiling to floor treatments, and tall stately single tipped swags that draw the eye upward, all contribute to this open feeling. Also, if curtains are not used, a thin Beechwood blind larger than the window can serve the same purpose of "opening" the window to a larger space than it is.

6. Using Unlined Drapery

Lined curtains are a wonderful heat and sound insulator when compared with their unlined cousins.

Besides protecting the drapes from sunlight, dampness, and mildew buildup caused by condensation on the windows, they have an important decorating advantage of providing a cohesive, consistent appearance on the outside of the home.

Even curtains intended for only a few years should make use of a lining. Walk around the neighborhood and see the difference from the outside. The modest expense is justified by tremendous advantages.

7. Forgetting the Hardware

It's such a busy job choosing the fabrics from this swatch and that swatch and from among the endless array of styles that it's easy to forget how those curtains are going to hang!

Like fitting the drapes to the historical value and decor of a room, the hardware has to fit the room and the drapes. When buying the rods, mounting fixtures, and various accessories, look for those which support the weight and personality of the fabric and create the effects you want in harmony with the drapes.

For example, those delicate handmade antique curtains don't look right hung on a metal rod which resembles a rusty car part. Choose a wooden one in a light color, or even better, paint it gold or silver, sprayed, sponged or leafed on with a slight distressed finish or with a translucent water based color washed over the metallics. Don't forget to do the rings as well.

8. Clashing Fabrics and Colors

Curtains are meant to use for several years, so avoid using colors which become tiresome to look at after a short while such as black and many greens, deep purples and orange or any strong bi-colored combination.

Try to incorporate at least three colors even in a simple design statement and arrange them tastefully.

Likewise, some fabric types simply don't work together. Avoid pairing heavy textured fabrics with light, diaphanous ones such as corduroy and silk, or nubby chenille with voile. They make look great in theory for a short time but will soon wear on the eye of the beholder.

9. Forgetting the Obstructions

Sometimes while calculating precision measurements for draperies it's easy to overlook the many window obstructions we grow to live with.

Heating ducts, protruding handles and locks, cabinets, shade boxes, nearby furniture all influence the way measurements are taken. Make a note of all obstructions and either work through them yourself or make sure that the designer does before fabric cutting time.

10. Draping Yourself Into a Maintenance Nightmare.

You've swagged, stuffed, tufted, tassled, tied back, pouffed and breathed a sigh of relief for the hours of effort rewarded finally with the perfect look. The next day you watch with horror as the new bathtub upstairs which was set improperly leaked brown icky water all over the new drapes. It's a good thing you discovered it now; not to worry, pop them off to the cleaners.

You look at the masterpiece, but you don't know where to begin unstuffing, untying, untasseling, untufting, and unpoufing. Even unhooking can be more time-consuming than it has to be.

However fussy the curtain, make sure that it is hung in a way that it can be taken down in just a few easy steps.

Remember, elegance is only more so when it is made practical by elegant design.

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