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Design

Fix It Friday: We Solved Some SUPER Common But Tricky Curtain Quandaries For 4 Readers

Last month, I did a cheat sheet window coverings post, and there were so many comments requesting for me to go deeper and more specific, so we decided to open it up to the masses as a Fix It Friday topic. And you all delivered! We got some really great submissions, some that were super challenging, and many that seemed to be common pain points. I tried to pull out what felt the most universal (or the best of the bunch of a certain type of problem I kept seeing in the email submissions), and offer up how I would go about it.

There are a few things I would like to convey about curtains, first, though: the options can feel endless because they are. In the world of custom draperies, individual solutions are cooked up for every window/room that best suits the design + window type + window need. There are amazing companies dedicated to whole home drapery plans (like our friends at Decorview!). But because I wanted this post to be a bit more approachable, the majority of the window coverings I suggested are ready-made (or customizable in terms of dimensions needed).

Also, keep in mind that there are many ways to slice this cake, meaning, I may offer up an idea and I could have done it three other ways (and anyone reading might also have another way to tackle the window). So much of this is preference, though there are strategies that work better than others depending on what you’re after. Not to mention the direction that your window faces. This can greatly impact the amount of light you get in a room, so let’s go over that quickly to establish the general rules:

  • East-facing windows: Bright, direct sunlight in the mornings
  • West-facing windows: Bright, direct sunlight in the afternoons/evenings
  • North-facing windows: Almost no direct sunlight, lower light conditions (but keeps rooms cooler in the summer)
  • South-facing windows: Sunlight all day (and can be very hot in the summer)

Now that we have that established, I’m going to reshare a graphic from my original curtains post (see that here) as I think it might be helpful to everyone reading:

As is common with these Fix It Friday posts, we received dozens and dozens of submissions and trust me when I tell you I wish I could have shared all of them. But if there is interest, I could see myself doing at least two more posts on the subject, covering more specific situations like windows in a corner and transoms, as well as a whole post on windows with obstructions (A/C units, pipes, tricky ceiling slants, etc.).

Before diving into reader homes, let’s explore some EHD rooms with solid window coverings to whet our palates.

design by caitlin higgins | styling by emily edith bowser | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: the reveal we’ve all been waiting for! caitlin’s mostly thrifted, postmodern regency deco living room

Caitlin’s living room is a great example of two things: layered drapery since she used both panels and shades, as well as treating two side-by-side windows as one. Typically, when windows exist inside the same paneling surround and casing, it’s best to just go ahead and treat them as one, which could look like one long drapery rod with curtain panels, or one large pull-down shade or Roman. If windows exist housed in their own individual casing, you can still treat them as a single unit (keep reading for an example of this from a reader!), or put up multiple window coverings depending on how far away they are from each other, and how busy of a look the room can handle.

design by emily henderson with julie rose | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: mountain house: the kids’ room reveal!!

I wanted to show you another example of side-by-side windows, except this time, they are different sizes and shapes. I’ve seen this type of thing in friends’ homes and it paralyzes them. They think they have to cover both windows individually, and then don’t know how to accomplish that. But honestly, if they are close enough to each other (say, less than 12 inches or so), just treat them as one with either a shade hung at the height appropriate for the highest window if they aren’t level at the top, or with drapery panels (though a shade is my preference).

design by ginny macdonald and melanie burstin | photo by tessa neustadt | from: the design milk family room reveal + get the look

Speaking of multiple windows, I think it’s fairly common to think that all the windows in a given room need to have the same treatment, but they do not have to. A good rule of thumb is if the shape and size of the window changes, you can change up the window covering. Take the living room above, for example. The large span of windows behind the couch would have been too large for shades, so draperies were the best option there. But because there are also panels on the perpendicular wall (you can see a sliver of them to the left of the photo), having them on the TV wall would have been incredibly overwhelming. SO MUCH FABRIC. The smaller, narrower windows flanking the media center worked best with Roman shades. (You can pick the same color as your drapes or do something different with a pattern, too!).

design by emily henderson | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a quick update on the changes I made to my living room

Just another quick example of a mix of drapery panels and Roman shades in Em’s old LA living room. Make sure if you’re installing Roman shades above a window that opens in a casement style that when fully nested, they clear the top of the window so you have no issues operating the window. The same goes for panels covering French doors. You’ll want to install the rod wide enough that all the panels can collect fully to the right and left of the doors and there is no fabric in front when you need to open them.

design by emily henderson | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: reveal: our boy/girl, 2-twin bed shared kids room… with a heavy dose of mama drama

Another reason you’d want to install a Roman shade fully above a window is to prevent any light from being blocked. If you have a full-sun situation, this is less of a consideration, but for anyone concerned with blocking even a small percentage of precious sunlight, this is how you would want to hang your shades.

design and styling by velinda hellen and emily edith bowser | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: in defense of the comfy sectional—a friend’s almost-finished family room

Welcome to my new favorite drapery type: the ripple fold. These are hung on a track system installed either on the ceiling or on the wall. There is no center support on the drapery rod which means you can move your panels fully left and right without having a mid-way stopping point. They look so clean and trim, and work best in contemporary-style rooms, especially if you have a very large span of windows or doors to cover (or even a full left-to-right, floor-to-ceiling wall).

design and styling by emily henderson and brady tolbert | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: portland reveal: a light & bright home office

And lastly, another example of something someone without professional experience might overthink: windows of different sizes hung at different heights in the same (small) room. My advice would be to go with a simple shade style either inside or outside mounted (depending on the sill depth) like the office in the Portland project.

Now that I’ve covered some of the inspiration posts that are directly related to the needs of our readers today, let’s look at specific trouble spots and how I would solve the design conundrum.

When Three Become One

From the reader: “I have struggled with what to do for the window treatments in this room. It definitely needs something to ‘finish’ the room but I haven’t been able to figure out what that should be. Would LOVE some help!”

Let’s start with something pretty straightforward here. The reader submitted their dining room because they are looking for some polish to the space but don’t know how to approach this trio of windows. They have a few options: blinds, shades, curtains. Since they asked for a “finish” to the room, blinds would just be functional to provide privacy. And while I’m not saying don’t add blinds, it honestly doesn’t look like the window is deep enough for them. They could install blinds at the top of the windows to go in front of the casing, and the same goes for shades. BUT…

My opinion is they go with panels for a more decorative look. Plus, three fabric shades feel like it would be a lot for the eye, especially because there are 10 chairs, a heavy chandelier, and a shelving unit packed full of bar goodies.

I think they should go with an oil-rubbed bronze or black metal drapery rod to match the other metals in the room, and hang it high and wide atop all three windows (a few inches below the crown molding should suffice). For a situation like this, make sure you will have enough panels that when you close them, there is a good amount of movement in the fabric and they aren’t just flush straight across. A good rule of thumb is to calculate the width of your window, then multiply it by 2 or 2.5 to get the drapery width needed to look full rather than skimpy. I don’t know these measurements here, but my guess is that 4-6 panels should do the trick (so when the curtains are open, they end up with either 2 or 3 panels on each side of the window grouping). IMHO, 6 panels here would feel the richest, especially if they opt for a thinner, lighter fabric such as linen.

As for what panels, enough is going on in this room that a mostly solid option might be best. This room gets nice soft light, which would be beautiful through some white or cream linen sheers. I also think a grayish-blue linen panel would work well with the art and rug if they wanted to add in some more color here, and for a little pattern and warmth, I love the beige grid pinstripe panels.

Left: Sheer European Flax Linen Curtain | Middle: TwoPages Doublewide Pinch Pleat Faux Linen Drapes | Right: Double Pinstripe Grid Window Curtain Panel

Divide & Conquer That Sun

From the reader: “The wall with two windows faces north, and there is a covered porch, and then our street. The single window faces west. This arrangement has the following result: the room is quite dark, except during dinner time in the late spring and early winter when everyone at the table gets simultaneously roasted and blinded by the setting sun. Ahhh! As a result, we’ve left a necessary but boring wooden blind on the west window, but removed them from the north side. The house is from the early 20th century and we are not afraid of color or pattern. I have considered Roman blinds for the west-facing window, but don’t want to lose light on the north ones, but gosh they should all be the same, right?”

“…should all be the same, right?” Nope! Free yourself, dear readers, of this misconception. If your windows on different walls have different functions, you absolutely can opt for mixed window coverings. In this house, since the two windows on the north wall likely do not let in much light, I think the best move is to do a long drapery rod with curtain panels for some added pattern and drama. To make sure not an ounce of light is lost, they should hang the rod wide enough so the panels can fully rest on the outside of the window. I think one panel to the left and right and two in the middle of the windows would work great. If they’re looking for privacy during the day, they can also add in some light-filtering interior-mounted Roman shades.

Speaking of Roman shades, let’s add one to the window on the left; you know, the one that roasts and blinds the diners in here every evening. Because the reader loves color and pattern, I think this window covering should be contrasting to whatever panels they choose (i.e., not the same fabric).

As for whether to mount it inside or outside, that all depends. If they are adding Romans to the north windows and mounting those on the inside, then this window should also be inside mounted. If they are just going to do draperies and skipping the shades, I’d mount the Roman here on the outside of the window so the height of it matches the curtains.

I picked three groupings of possibilities below. I am obsessed with those RHODE curtains from West Elm and think they’d be beautiful in this room with those emerald-green walls. I think they’d play nicely with a light-colored woven Roman shade. A second option would be a fun addition to the butterfly-wrapped dining chair seats with a playful botanical that would complement the wall without feeling overly heavy (though in this case, I might consider swapping rugs for something that would coordinate better). I’m equally obsessed with Everhem’s new Heather Taylor Home collection and think a sweet gingham Roman shade is a great contrast to the floral curtains. And finally, something a bit more elegant and upscale: going with a color block approach here with deep green velvet drapes for the north-facing windows which would add more texture and lusciousness to the room. A drapey Roman in a crisp white matches the vibe.

Top Left: Premier Modern Natural Wood Shades | Top Middle: Everhem x Heather Taylor Home Custom Roman Shade in Cream | Top Right: Relax Roman Shade | Bottom Left: RHODE Batik Scallop Edge Curtain (Set of 2) | Bottom Middle: Priyanka Curtain | Bottom Right: Dark Green Organic Cotton Velvet Curtain Panel

Go All the Way In (& Across)

From the reader: “We’ve got a curtain situation in our living room. I don’t know if the new window front in our home is right for it (one picture window, the other sliding door). And there’s the problem of the ceiling, I wouldn’t even know how to mount the rod (on the window frame? two rods on either side of the transecting?). We have always been sheer curtain people, and I love the extra privacy, warmth and delicious homey feeling of light curtains catching the light and flapping in the open-window-breeze. Can you maybe help?”

YES!!! I was hoping for an opportunity to suggest a full wall of glorious ripple fold drapes and THIS IS IT. But first things first, I’m full-body jealous of this gorgeous living room and that gorgeous view. Are you kidding?!? The style of this home is ripe for something modern and light yet dramatic. I know the reader mentioned not knowing where to hang things, considering the ceiling wouldn’t allow for anything ceiling-mounted. My suggestion is to move the two globe lights on the left and right of the sliding door/window combo, move the oil painting from the left side to somewhere else in the room (maybe to the right of the fireplace if room allows), and just go all in with gorgeous sheers. Hang them on a track system *just* below the ceiling beams on the wall, and go all the way across…don’t just cover the window. The space to the left of the picture window would be a perfect spot to collect all the drapes when it’s open.

This is likely the job for a custom option, which can be quite pricey. With track systems, you want to make sure you’re buying something quality if you can, so it’s secure and smooth. And with a wall this large, you want to make sure all the curtains are hemmed to exactly the same length, or else it will look sloppy. A custom manufacturer would be able to pull this off beautifully, though expect to pay a few thousand for it.

If that’s not an option, I found a more affordable version (in the center below). It gets the job done visually and still allows for some customization in terms of size so the reader can get the measurements just right.

Left: Custom Ripple Fold Sheer Drapery | Middle: Customized Ripple Fold Linen-Like Sheer Curtains | Right: Wave Fold Custom Drapes

They’re Cousins, Not Twins

From the reader: “We’ve had the mini blinds nearly 20 years and they show some wear, but also let all the morning light in (too early!). I keep waffling between Roman shades and curtains. Windows are not the same size—left is just under 50” across, right is about 1/3 smaller. Hoping to get something with a relatively clean, simple style with room darkening before the summer.”

I have to wonder why builders do this kind of thing. Honestly, WHY?!? The only thing I can think of is there is something behind the wall next to the windows (pipes, electrical, etc.) that had to go there and couldn’t fit a larger window, but in that case, just go with two smaller windows. UGH. Anyway…

Before suggesting window coverings, I do want to offer up one possible solution: move the bed. I’m not sure of the dimensions of the space or the limitations of the wall to the right with the dresser, but if the bed and nightstands fit, it could be nice to just shift everything. The dresser would fit great between the two windows.

HOWEVER, we still would need to solve some of this reader’s plight, especially getting this room darker in the mornings for them. This is the job for an interior-mounted blackout shade. And because there will always be a little light that escapes out the sides of a shade, added curtains can help mitigate that.

In terms of squaring up the size difference here, this can simply be accomplished by faking the eye. A good ol’ trompe l’oiel, if you will. Basically, the reader should add two curtain rods, one above each window, hung at the same width necessarily to cover the widest window (and for how high, just split the difference between the top of the window and the ceiling). This way, she can pull the drapes enough on each window to make them look the same size (if she wants).

I picked three different types of clean, modern shades since the reader mentioned wanting something simple: a blackout pull-down shades with a linen-like texture, a blackout cellular shade (which also helps with insulation of sound and heat/cold), and a blackout Roman with a flat front. Any of these would work with any of the panels I picked: one is a pretty celadon for some added color, one is a whispy white cotton, and the other is a neutral plaid for pattern and additional light-filtering since they are room darkening.

Top Left: Designer Elements Blackout Roller Shades | Top Middle: Premier Blackout Cellulars | Top Right: Custom Flat Blackout Roman | Bottom Left: Celadon European Flax Linen Blackout Curtain | Bottom Middle: Cotton Slub Curtain | Bottom Right: Preston Plaid Room Darkening Curtain Panel

Aaaaand there we have it! As I mentioned in the beginning, my advice isn’t the only way to go about covering these readers’ windows, but it’s a start with mostly ready-made solutions. If you’re interested in seeing more of these—like how to deal with window obstructions (A/C units, weird ceiling slopes, etc.), renter solutions, transom windows and more—let us know and we can keep it coming!

Your friend in window coverings,

Arlyn

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Alyce
18 days ago

OMG, yes, please do more!!! More curtains, yes, but keep the other topics coming! I’m currently stumped on picking lighting for my 1925 bungalow with only 1 overhead light. I know the basic idea behind task vs ambient lights, etc, but picking out harmonious but eclectic combos is hard! And the rooms are small and there aren’t a lot of surfaces for placing lamps but a tall lamp in the corner by itself feels awkward. And then I wonder, should I just have some sconces hardwired? But then I have questions about placement, and now I’m here, begging for help….

Cayla
18 days ago
Reply to  Alyce
Alyce
18 days ago
Reply to  Cayla

I totally remembered this article and planned to hunt it down in the EHD archives but hadn’t gotten around to it. I’m excited to dig into it, and figure out how it all fits together. Thanks so much for hunting these posts down for me Cayla – you’re the best!

Cayla
18 days ago
Reply to  Alyce

And here’s a post about the process used to choose the mountain house lighting: https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/messy-process-chose-lights-mountain-house

Cayla
18 days ago
Reply to  Alyce
SarahT
18 days ago

Arle, you are a gem! Please do the two posts you mentioned as they’d be so helpful.

Jen
15 days ago

Arlyn if you are doing annoying units blocking drapes please count me in! Our home has heat pumps which is great for AC (New England home built in the days when AC was totally unnecessary) but since they are on window walls, prevent curtain placement and are just plain ugly! Would love advice.

Elly
18 days ago

What about coverings if you need pitch-black rooms, even during the day (for little ones)? Our blackout roller shades mounted inside the window aren’t cutting it because of light bleed around the edges. We have outside-the-frame-mounted blackout curtains on top, but the only surefire way to eliminate light bleed I’ve found is to tape something directly to the window.

I’d use the suction cup shades, but our windows go too high to be able to remove those on a regular basis. Something somewhat aesthetically pleasing would be nice too, if possible.

Lane
18 days ago
Reply to  Elly

I found curtains with a blackout lining to work well. I did wooden blinds in bedrooms and nice curtains with a blackout layer. There are some roller shades that work really well, but they must have some channel to block out all the light.

Jennifer
18 days ago
Reply to  Elly

Elly, I bought blackout fabric from Joann’s and literally taped it to the window under our roller shades. I think it was like $30 tops, but it worked perfectly for years! My daughter is almost 5 and we’re about to take it down and I’m very excited to dive into the world of pretty window treatments again 🙂

Elly
18 days ago
Reply to  Jennifer

Thanks! So did you basically not have a window for 5 years in that room? I was afraid that would be the solution 🙁

Alexandra
18 days ago
Reply to  Elly

Hello, mom of two (now older) children here, who had a similar issue when they were little. In order to get them used to other circumstances (traveling, daycare, etc.), I decided to not go totally black-out for naptime, as outside of your own home, you will rarely find the ideal dark situation. Well, I basically gave up trying to figure this out, and while it may have taken longer to get them to sleep, I believe it made them more adaptable to non-perfect nap arrangements, which I think was an advantage in the long run (but you may have tried this already and it did not work for you, best of luck, trying to get little kids to sleep during the day can be a chore …)

Vany
18 days ago

Selected readers, come back and share room info with us (sources, stories, paint colors, etc…). So fun to see a glimpse into everyone’s homes.

Stephanie
18 days ago
Reply to  Vany

Seriously, please do!! That would be amazing! All of these homes are absolutely lovely!

Philippa
17 days ago
Reply to  Vany

Hi there, my living room ist the third one down (GO ALL THE WAY IN (& ACROSS)). We’re in Switzerland, it’s our forever-ever home and the living room is my favorite place in the house.
– Paint: our local company’s match for Whimborne White by Farrow&Ball
– Sources: the couch is the Ikea Landskrona with custom legs, the two chairs opposite are the Webbing Lounge Chair (HKliving), the recliner in the left-hand corner is an older Stressless model in the color “Henna”. The side table in the front is by a small Swiss company (seetalswiss), the organic one in the background and the couch table are vintage / second-hand. Table lamp is the Flowerpot VP9 in a (I think discontinued?) blush color, the rice paper lights are cheap lanterns that I made hanging lights out of.
– The oil painting of the old guy is just a framed art print of the original, which my brother inherited (not valuable, but our grand-grand-…-uncle).
I’m so grateful for your advice, Arlyn, thank you so, so much! Would be very interested to hear about the others’ stories, too. 

patty
18 days ago

Great post and perfect timing for me. Thanks.

Alexandra
18 days ago

Great topic, I searched for a long time for my East-facing living room in a 70s California rancher. It’s a big window, so I decided to go with side panels and light-filtering honey-comb shades that can be pulled up or down, and I am really loving it, as it gives a lot of flexibility, especially as the window is facing the street, so it’s possible to pull them half up and still have light above. I am struggling with big sliding doors in the kitchen that do not have space around them to slide curtains back, so this article gives some ideas.

Jennifer
18 days ago

Love these posts and YES PLEASE do more with those specific situations you mentioned. It seems like many of us have “builder specials” that don’t take into account how to actually hang window treatments. I have a couple corner windows that are driving me nuts.

Susan
18 days ago
Reply to  Jennifer

Yes, please do corner windows! our new house has them in the bedrooms and I really need a way to make the room dark. I agree that builders don’t think of this!

Roberta Davis
18 days ago

Thanks, Arlyn! I’m sure we have all run into puzzling window situations!

Gretchen
18 days ago

I look forward to these fun Friday posts!! And I love the idea of following up later to see what people decided to do.

Kelly
18 days ago

Arlyn, Thanks so much for this very well timed post!

Kari
18 days ago

Yes, please do more! Both curtains (I have a troublesome bow window that spans a living/dining combo room) and other topics. I really love the Fix It Friday series.

Christina
18 days ago

Thank you! You left out the ugly stacked windows in the living room area of a great room that I put in my home that is only 8 years old! #facepalm. You know, the skinny long rectangular window above the enormous picture window with two side windows that open/close that are only as tall as the huge inoperable window. And then the slope of the ceiling cuts down at an angle that prevents curtains unless just going for the soft/faux/clearly that doesn’t reach across that enormous wall of windows look. How I botched that design! And it is a great room with small windows flanking the fireplace and normal windows with a 10 foot ceiling in the dinning area. It is very modern with expensive tonal inset shades b/c full eastern exposure. But that wall needs softening up… Ugh!

KGS
18 days ago

I’d love to hear about how to cover transom windows. (I don’t even have any, but I can’t imagine what I’d do it I did, so it would be really interesting to know!) Also dealing with obstructions– I always thought shades were the only option but maybe there are other solutions?

Shar
18 days ago

Yes, do more, do more! I love to look at real life situations and have your solutions. I’ve got a question on the cousins, not twins windows. Would a single panel drape look good on each window since there isn’t room by the bed post for another panel? The drape could be open to frame the sides or closed most of the way to shut out light?

Pamela T
18 days ago

These are great examples with solutions. Would love to see more of what you proposed, i.e., the a/c unit and other conundrums, maybe bay window options, too? I’m wondering if wave or ripple installments could work in a “bay” window situation? The rods with connectors kind of intimidate me, so wondering about other alternatives. Love Fix it Friday!

Valerie
18 days ago

Wonderful post. I would love to know more about south facing windows – durable materials and options. What size iwindow is the maximum size for Roman shades?

KL
18 days ago

Yes, please do more posts for weird window situations! I have transom windows in my undecorated basement family room/TV room, which I need to cover if I’m going to actually use it as a TV room someday. It’s so hard to find design advice for fully-below-ground, transom-window-only basement rooms.

Jeanne
18 days ago

I’m trying to help a friend cover a very high up, half circle window. I wish there were more solutions besides custom shutters and a fan-shaped accordian shade. All suggestions welcome!

Britta
18 days ago
Reply to  Jeanne

I’m in the same boat and need ideas! I have 3 large, south facing half circle windows to cover. They all have large, rectangular windows underneath. One is upstairs in my toddler’s room too! I’m thinking long curtains that cover both the half circle and rectangle but would love suggestions too!

Mary Evers
17 days ago
Reply to  Britta

My previous home had half- circle windows above the normal size rectangle windows. I put a rod several inches below the ceiling (above the half circle) and hung panels on each side. When the panels were closed they covered all the windows.

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Beth
18 days ago

Love this as a series! There is so much to consider.

JN
18 days ago

Would love to see one for long but short windows high up on the wall in 1950/60s homes!

Kellyjo
18 days ago

Please include curtain rods you recommend! I’m having such a hard time finding something that doesn’t have a weird bump for the adjustable ones that are also nice looking a quality. Thinking maybe I’ll just cut down piping at this point! What do you all do?

Jess A
18 days ago

Corner windows! I have the worst room – the bed has to go in front of the window wall, and the window is in the right corner. Then, to make it worse, the bed overlaps the window AND there is a radiator in the way. Please help! (Trying to attach a photo but not sure it’s going to work)

Becca
16 days ago

Thank you!! Obstruction suggestion: we have three narrow windows, that definitely follow the rule of treating them as one, but we have electric baseboard heats directly underneath. We currently have long drapes which looks aesthically great, but in the winter, we can’t close them because they block the heat from the heater. Since baseboard heaters are typically on exterior walls, I’m willing to bet other readers might have this obstacle as well, especially in cold climates!

Julia
15 days ago

I’d be interested in how to handle window treatments in a sun room, where there are walls of windows and the point is obviously to have the room be sunny, but sometimes you want privacy?

Kat
15 days ago

I love this series! How/where do we submit our design challenges for Friday Fix-It? I have a looong narrow living room I need help with!