100 Things #4: Window treatments

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If your home is a legal dwelling, it has windows, and unless you like to rise with the sun and have no neighbors within ten miles, you want some kind of window treatments. Here is what I have learned about them…

Miniblinds are common in newer builds and very flexible in terms of function. They can be adjusted to let various amounts of light and air flow through them. Many new windows even have the miniblinds enclosed inside the glass so they don’t get dusty or damaged. This eliminates one of the drawbacks of miniblinds: they get dusty and damaged easily. If you have them, you dust them by lowering them completely then shutting them completely in one orientation, gently dusting them, then shutting them completely in the opposite orientation and dusting. Wind, cats, and small children are all hazards to the well-being of your miniblinds.

More substantial wooden blinds are popular in higher-end houses right now. They present the same advantages of miniblinds while being sturdier and more attractive. There are also vertical blinds, popular in my childhood, which are both delicate and hard to dust. All blinds can provide 100% privacy, but none of them really provide 100% light exclusion.

If you want to exclude light as thoroughly as possible (in a bedroom for example) you will want blackout curtains. You can buy these ready-made, have them made custom for you, or make them yourself by sewing a length of blackout backing onto the decorator fabric of your choice. If you want them to do their job well you will want them to hang as close to the window as possible, preferably touching the sill. There are special curtain hanging systems available that allow this.

Drapes provide 100% privacy and, if blackout backed and hung close to the sill, excellent light exclusion. They can be made of any fabric so they can be very attractive and match your textile decor. Swags and other headers for drapes used to be more popular than they are now; the current fashion in drapes seems to be just the vertical elements hung from a rod with hooks or rings.

The picture included with this article is of drapes in my living room. These are not functional drapes; they just hang on place from cafe curtain rods. This style is popular in the southern United States and provides no function, just good looks.

If the windows in your house are bad–if you can feel the cold as you approach them in winter, for example, or if they frost over on the inside, or if you can feel drafts around them, you will save a lot in heating bills by either attaching temporary plastic covering to the insides of them during the cold months or investing in some heavy drapes (or both). Blinds won’t help you with this problem.

If you are only concerned with privacy and not light exclusion, there are many sheer and lace curtains available. People who live in close-packed city houses often keep such curtains permanently pulled.

Unfortunately drapes need to be cleaned occasionally. Because you cannot afford any shrinkage in drapes and because they are so often made of fabric that is not machine washable, dry cleaning is usually your best option. I would do this job every year or two, freshening them up with Febreze in between. If you do take on the laundering yourself, make every effort to avoid shrinkage. It is coming time to clean the drapes in my own house (it has been two years since I put them up after we moved in). They are all cotton decorator fabric with blackout backing. I plan to wash them on cold/delicate and iron them dry.

Shutters are sometimes permanently affixed to the outside of a house for good looks. If you live in an area that is prone to hurricanes, you may have real, functional shutters on your house. These protect the window glass from flying debris.

And that, dear readers, is the short and sweet of window treatments.

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