Above: In a New York City townhouse designed by Danielle Colding, the muted silk Jim Thompson shade offsets the drama of chinoiserie print curtains by Dedar.
A mere scrim of fabric can transform an entire room—bringing a pleasing glow to the interior and creating a bridge to the natural world outside. Writer Laura Ingalls Wilder knew this well, having lived in deprivation and dirt dugouts. She knew a serious decor upgrade when she saw one: “The house was beautiful when Ma finished,” she wrote in her 1937 novel, On the Banks of Plum Creek. “The pure-white curtains were looped back on each side of the clear glass windows. Between those pink-edged, snowy curtains the sunshine streamed in.” Today, the metaphors may vary among designers—“the red lipstick,” “the jewelry,” “the cherry on the sundae”—but the takeaway remains the same: Window treatments always complete the look of a room.
“At a minimum, they should always be functional and beautiful,” says ELLE DECOR A-List Titan Sheila Bridges. Beyond that, window treatments provide “another unique opportunity to express your own sense of personal style.” Generally, the fabric should play off the dominant colors and textures as well as the overall vibe of the room.
Designer Billy Cotton turned a vintage French fabric into curtains and paired them with reed shades from Pearl River Market for an artistic couple’s New York City apartment.
Stephen Kent Johnson
Lately, trends have taken a turn toward stripes, florals, and Jaipur-inspired patterns, as well as muted shades (think pale pink). And the tailoring is streamlined, says Lee Cavanaugh of ELLE DECOR A-List Titan firm Cullman & Kravis. “We’ve simplified all our window treatments in the past decade to be straight panels and flat Roman shades,” she says.
This doesn’t necessarily mean unadorned, however. Davina Ogilvie, the founder of Wovn Home, a custom window treatment company, notes that “we’ve seen more interest in adding trim like ribbon or pom-poms or rickrack—all these fun little elements that even five years ago would have seemed kind of grandma.” That said, some styles are correctly not budging from the wayback machine: “Balloon shades, swags, and jabots draped with cording and tassels,” Cavanaugh says. “I could go on, and most of the young people in our office have no idea what I’m talking about.”