Curtain Call: Turning window treatments into works of art

A great room in a project by Alice Busch shows how the right window treatments provide the touch that completes a space.

From the exterior looking in, windows are the eyes that view our domestic soul — they allow an outsider to observe our light, movements, and personal objects that suggest who we are.

But from the inside looking out, a window is not only a functional necessity, but a statement of our personal tastes, as well.

Like the chosen artifacts we hang on our walls and set on our shelves and tables, a window is a vehicle that can literally transport us, like art itself.  Why not, then, treat it as such?

“In home design, drapery is hugely important,” states Alice Busch, a widely recognized leader in interior design and founder of the venerable Great Falls Distinctive Interiors, Inc.

“Window treatments are what I call the fourth level of design,” says Alice, who runs her upscale design company with her son, Lucas.  “The first level are the floor treatments, your rugs, your flooring.  The second level, your furniture; the third level your personal affects, art, paneling.”

Alice asserts that vertical design is as important as horizontal; drawing one’s eyes to the top of the room, enhances a space.  “There are essentially four key elements for proper drapery selection,” she enthuses.  “One, color: don’t shy away from color depth.  Two, positioning: drapes should sit at the bottom of the crown molding, with some exceptions.  Three, fabric quality: weight of the lining and interlining are crucial.  And four, proper measurement.” In fact, Alice, an expert in drapery treatments that are known for their quality and unique finishing touches, employs her own formula for measurement.

“Drapes can literally make or break a room.  Skimping on fabric quality and / or the interlining will always be regretted.”

The lines of an elegant room are softened by the right draperies.

As one who has worked on million dollar embassy projects, upscale residential work in DC, Maryland and Virginia suburbs, as well as lavish smaller projects, Alice offers these tips on fabrics:

  1. Opt for pure cottons; these are Alice’s favorite fabrics to work with.
  2. Always choose natural fabrics over synthetics.
  3. Silks are good to work with, too.  The heavier, the better.
  4. Texture (sheen, weave) is visually just as important as color.
  5. Establishing “fabric memory” (gravity-induced “hang” of the cloth) is a must.

Alice’s Designer Tip:  Draperies should not be touched for a full month after hanging.  “No dusting, no vacuuming around them, no opening or closing.  It will be difficult for some people,” she laughs, “but allowing the fabric to establish a memory is crucial.  If done correctly, they will hang right forever.”

What about hardware?  “Oh, with hardware, you definitely get what you pay for.  Don’t skimp.”  Alice opines that for simple rooms, iron rods are nice but can look like a piece of wire if they are too thin.  “The weight of the hardware will depend on room dimensions.  The relationship of ceiling height to floor will determine the diameter of the rod.”  She notes that customized finished wood hardware would be more appropriate for formal interiors.

Alice’s Designer Tip: There are numerous styles to choose from and most are within the same price range.  Her favorite style is a “waterfall” over the rod.  “I like the unstructured look.  ‘Waterfall’ makes the whole panel visually fill out.”

Whether sleek and clean or rich and elegant, there is a perfect window treatment for every room and every budget.

“Think of it this way,” says Alice, “I liken drapes in your room to luxurious fabrics on your skin; the right quality can make you feel so good.”

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