Once upon a time, windows were an afterthought, simply perforations to let in light and air. Today, designers knowtheir importance, says Teja Lele Desai

These fenestrations are the lungs that help a room breathe. The window often has a bearing on the design of a room – be it placement of furniture or lighting. And the right window treatment - apart from adding to the aesthetics of a room - can provide privacy, security, protection from the elements and act as additional insulators.

The wide variety of window treatments on the market necessitates making the right choice. How does one choose?

Each room and space has different requirements, and the selection should begin with the end-user’s preferences, likes and dislikes. Keep in mind that different window treatments work better in different rooms. Make your choice based on factors such as the window’s exposure, outside view, energy efficiency, access, traffic, and handling by children and pets.

Light control

Heavy drapes and opaque blinds work well in private areas. Windows that face very strong sunlight may need double panes and window-tinting options to reduce UV rays and provide insulation. A combination of window dressings – opaque curtains and sheers – allows different quantities of light into a room at various times of the day.

Space alteration

Use window dressing smartly to alter the feel of a space. Long curtains give a room the illusion of being larger – hang them close to the ceiling and ensure they extend to the floor. Ornate materials and dark colours absorb light and make a room appear smaller, while lighter colours and fabrics create the illusion of a bigger space. Blinds, louvers and chiks also create the illusion of more space.

Energy savings

Layering window treatments can help insulate a space better and lead to energy efficiency. Special linings and treatments that help reduce UV damage are also available. Window toppers such as cornices, valances and swags in wood, metal and fabric can prevent heat/cold escaping from the top.

Maintenance

Installing window tints can keep curtains and draperies from fading. Lining glass with non-fabric blinds to create a layer under expensive drapes and curtains helps keep them in prime condition.

The right choice

Window treatments can basically be classified into two kinds: soft and hard. Soft window treatments include traditional varieties (curtains, draperies, sheers and valances) while hard ones are contemporary and made of wood, fibres, laminates, PVC or aluminium.

Blinds comprise slats positioned vertically or horizontally, and allow adjustment of the amount of light entering a room with a cord/blind stick. Originally available in plastic, they are now seen in many materials such as metal, wood and faux wood.

Shutters are window coverings secured to the interior of the window frame in front of the window. A shutter comprises slats fitted to a wooden box frame, which can be adjusted according to the amount of light needed.

Shades, unlike blinds, are wrapped around a roller fitted into the top of the window frame. Made out of solid plastic or fabric, the mechanisms within the roller allow adjustment of the length of the shade, depending on the amount of light required.

Motorised shades, once considered a luxury, are popular with many home owners. The sophisticated digital allow window treatments to measure latitude, longitude and the orientation of the home or building to the sun. They can also be integrated with other home automation controls.

Soft window treatments include curtains and drapes of various fabrics. Curtains and draperies may appear similar, but they have their differences - curtains are often measured to fit the height and length of the window for a trimmed appeal whereas drapes hang from the top of the window to the floor, providing a look of grandeur.

Valances and other decorative accents can be used alone or with blinds or curtains to enhance the visual appeal of windows. Choices in organic fabric, bamboo, grasses, jute and paper are also available. A range of accessories – be it finials, tassels, tiebacks, lace fringes, beaded ropes, rods or sheers – are also popular these days.

Whether you choose to go traditional or contemporary, remember that the window treatment can help tie together the look of a room.

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