Curtains, drapery panels, Roman shades, cornices, valances — these are all types of custom window treatments that make a world of difference in the way your home looks and feels. Case in point? A couple weeks ago, we unveiled the Crystal Creek Project, where custom draperies add elegance, color, and texture to our clients’ soothing living room and dramatic dining room.
Custom window treatments in the Crystal Creek Project
That’s not even mentioning all the functional uses of window treatments: privacy, light control, UV protection for furniture and flooring, insulation for better energy efficiency, motorization… the list goes on.
With all of these benefits going for them, you would think custom window treatments would be a no-brainer, right? We sure think so. But in reality, most people don’t know much about them, and it’s a topic that often comes up with clients during our design process.
Today, let’s pull back the curtain on:
- Ready-made vs. custom treatments: the pros and cons
- The different style options for custom treatments
- How we create one-of-a-kind window treatments for your home
There is a LOT of great info in here, so be sure to bookmark this one for later!
We dressed the Capital Craftsman’s windows in not one, but TWO custom treatments, layering beautifully patterned drapery over natural woven shades. Beauty, meet function.
Ready-made vs. Custom Window Treatments: What’s the Difference?
To talk about “custom” window treatments, we also have to look at the other option available to you: ready-made window treatments.
Ready-made window treatments are exactly what they sound like — prefabricated options available through retailers. These typically come in a standard width, a limited number of fabrics and lengths, and require manual installation that most homeowners find challenging in the best of times.
My biggest pet peeve with these (in addition to them not fitting most windows) is that ready-made draperies are usually around 48-50” in width. This offers less fullness than you really need, and they end up looking like a flat sheet when you close them. Not ideal. I think you see where this is going…
Custom window treatments are far superior in design, quality, and construction. They are designed and made to order, and you won’t find them coming off of assembly lines or seeing width restrictions. These are works of art sewn in a custom workroom — and the sky’s the limit!
Custom treatments give us design freedom with respect to the fabric, style, detailing, length, width, and more. Most workrooms, including ours, also include professional installation, so you’re guaranteed to have those stylish treatments mounted properly from Day One.
This corner of the Wickford Highlands Project boasts custom drapes and a custom Roman shade. This lush blue fabric sets the color scheme for the room, while the trim detail — repeated on both window treatments! — adds a classic yet lively pattern for some personality. This would never have been possible with ready-made treatments.
Pros of Custom Window Treatments at a Glance:
- Fullness when drapery is open or closed
- Perfect length and width for any window shape
- Nearly limitless options for fabrics, which gives us control over the design
- A great way to impact the design with color, pattern, and unique details
- Add a professionally designed feel to your home
- Offer greater functionality: blackout, motorization, etc.
- Professional installation means a perfect fit and greater longevity
Cons of Custom Window Treatments at a Glance:
- Higher investment (see here for two examples of budgets with custom window treatments)
- Takes longer to procure (about 8-12 weeks)… as does anything made by hand!
My advice? If you ask me, these “cons” aren’t serious concerns, mainly because the higher upfront investment leads to longer term durability, functionality, and happiness with your home — which is ROI in my book. Plus, we have to wait for construction or procuring other items anyway, so those 8-12 weeks are already built into the project itself.
This is another great example of custom window treatments’ versatility. Even though these windows are different sizes, they feel cohesive and connected with custom Roman shades in the same pop-of-pink fabric. Which brings us to…
Types of Custom Window Treatments
The Roman Shade
Roman shades are fabric window coverings that can be raised and lowered by a cord, cordless, or motorized. There are many types of Roman shades, but the kinds that we typically use are flat, relaxed, or pleated Romans, so that when they are raised, the fabric folds horizontally to create a clean stacked look. (We’re all about keeping the design crisp.)
Custom flat Roman Shades add color and character to this girl’s bedroom in the Jersey Palm. Roman shades are also a great way to try out a bold pattern that you might not be as comfortable using in a larger application, like as a wallpaper. Here, it’s in a small yet impactful dose.
We chose a relaxed Roman shade for the Ocean Meadow project. It echoes the easy, coastal vibes of their waterfront views, while the white, navy, and yellow stripes bring the color palette full circle.
Draperies are long, floor-length fabric curtains that are typically meant to open and close across a window. Some other draperies you might see are called “stationary panels” and are purely decorative. They are mounted on either side of a window to add to the room’s design and create the illusion of fullness and height, without the draperies opening or closing.
Full-length custom drapery adds to the color palette in a big way, amps up the elegance, and creates some wow in the Mendon Project’s spacious living area. You’ll also notice the fullness balances the open nature of the room and high ceiling height.
Pro Tip: Your drapery rod should be mounted at least 6” above the top window casing and 10”-24” to the side of the window casing to allow room for the stack back (where the drape rests when open). The wider the panel, the more room you’ll need for a stack back. The bottom of the draperies should hit about 1” off the floor. Over time, the fabric may stretch a bit, so plan ahead — window treatments that are too long look messy, and too short make the room look stubby and cut off. Not unlike a pair of pants that aren’t quite right…
We intentionally designed these Capital Craftsman window treatments to barely kiss the floor! It creates an opulent feel that our clients love! Sometimes, rules are made to be broken. 😉
Valances & Cornices
Valances, seen on the right-hand window in the Mendon Project (two photos up), are short stationary window treatments that hang at the top of the window and are typically board mounted. These are decorative in nature and serve to visually raise the height of the room, conceal another type of window treatment that might be rolled up (such as roller shades or woven shades), and add to the design.
Cornices are like the crown of a window. The cornice frame is made of wood and then upholstered in fabric. A cornice can be used by itself, or in conjunction with blinds and other window treatments to cover the hardware, just like valances. Cornices can also make a window appear larger and doesn’t block the windows if there’s a great view!
Cornices can be customized to fit into a tough space, like this small nook in the guest bedroom of the Barrington Bay project.
Solar shades are tightly woven vinyl shades that are sheer enough for you to be able to see out the window, but still block light, heat, and glare. Since they don’t add a lot of aesthetic appeal, this type of treatment is the perfect candidate for windows that you want to keep minimal or for concealing behind a cornice or valance. We have motorized solar shades in the beautiful arched mill building windows of our design studio to beat the afternoon heat and glare.
How We Design Wow Treatments for Custom Homes
Now that you’ve seen the what, let’s talk about the how…
Step 1: Design Plan
As usual, any aspect of our design process starts with understanding your needs, such as privacy, decoration, light filtration needs, highlighting the incredible waterfront view, or a combination of all the above.
Next, we look at the window itself, and we start to envision what would look best in that window by looking at the elements around it. Perhaps there’s a radiator below it, or built-ins, or other obstructions that flank the window. If there’s a small window that seems off-scale, we might specify a longer shade to make the window appear larger. You get the idea — we sketch out a plan personalized to you and your home.
Step 2: Measurements
Once we determine what we want to do, we will take our first professional measurements on site. It’s important to determine the depth of the window casing for inside- or outside-mounted treatments. (Note: Always lean towards inside-mounted if you’re installing a Roman shade.)
If we’re designing a cornice, we will draw elevations of exact measurements and angles, like the one below. Precision is key! This is where our ideas become cemented in hard numbers that we convey to our workroom.
Just wait for it… you’ll see the final, realized design in Step 4.
Step 3: Design Development
We select the fabric and trim detail during the Design Development Phase, based on the approved schematic design concepts. This selection process also depends on your budget (which will determine the price per square footage of the fabric) and knowing how much yardage we will need based on the window measurements.
Once it’s ordered, the fabric is shipped to our drapery workroom here in Rhode Island to be sewn. Depending on the type of window treatment, production could take 8-12 weeks.
For a cornice, there will also be an on-site “dry fit” of the wooden frame to ensure the measurements are accurate before they fully go into production. This prevents errors and delays. A good team always measures twice and cuts once!
Our workroom professional tests the frame in the space to ensure the fit is exact.
Step 4: Professional Installation
Our window treatment installer comes on install day, or a few days before, to perfectly mount each window treatment. This is the moment when those technical drawings and fabric samples come to life…
Wow, right?! With cornices and solar shades (in white), this Greenwich Crossing Sunroom is vibrant, functional all year long, and undeniably one-of-a-kind.
Final Thoughts on Custom Window Treatments
Whew, that was a lot of information, wasn’t it? I hope you found these tips informative and inspiring… and I hope you can now join us in saying that custom window treatments are a no-brainer!
I will wrap this up here, but if you’re considering a design project that will transform the way your home looks, functions, and feels — and the way you feel every day — we would love to help. Reach out to us here and let’s chat about your big, beautiful goals.