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Window Treatments for Challenging Window

There are many different shapes and sizes of windows, and some present more of a challenge than others when it comes to treating them. With any window, you first need to know what you are trying to accomplish - adding softness and pattern to a room, framing a view, providing privacy or light control or all of the above! Transom windows, arched windows, Palladian windows, dormers and cathedral ceilings and unusual rooflines all add to the conundrum. With difficult children, you can always send them to ‘time out’ and hope they eventually outgrow their challenging nature - with difficult windows, not so much.

It seems like everything built in the 1980’s and 90’s included arch topped windows - these are a more recent take on the historic Palladian window popularized in English architecture in the 17th and 18th century and named after 16th century Italian architect, Andrea Palladio who used the motif liberally. A true Palladian window is comprised of a center arched window flanked by two shorter, narrower windows with squared tops. Okay, that might have been more information that you wanted to know, but not all windows with an arched top qualify as Palladian windows. And while arch topped windows, whatever name you call them, are very pretty, they are a bit of a puzzle when it comes to figuring out how to hang window treatments for them. Palladian windows are the grandaddy of difficult windows.

Draperies for Palladian windows

In the beautiful blue bedroom below, the immensely talented Victoria Hagan has a great solution for an arched door flanked by sidelights creating the feel of a Palladian shaped window. The trio of rods roughly follows the window heights to highlight the architectural element while maintaining an understated elegance

via AD design by Victoria Hagan, architecture by Ferguson Shamamian, photo by Scott Frances

And this window treatment in an island home by architect Patrick Ahearn uses the same configuration on a real Palladian window to great effect, thought they had a bit more ceiling height to work with here and spaced the rods a little differently.

Patrick Ahearn, architect

Another Palladian window in a different home by the same architect, treated differently this time with one long rod. This is another option, but it seems a bit less graceful.. Since this is a bedroom, they probably needed functioning draperies, otherwise I would leave this stunning window in all it’s naked glory!

Beautiful traditional Palladian window in a Martha’s Vineyard home by Patrick Ahearn, architect

Draperies for arch-topped windows This elegant Palm Beach living room features a trio of arch-topped French doors separated by pilasters. The brilliant Gary McBournie bathed the home in soft colors and classic design creating a soothing retreat. The drapery fabric is a linen from Henry Calvin.

A gorgeous classic living room, by Thomas Pheasant, in Virginia’s hunt country, features lovely architecture including a pair of graceful arched doors. These are, again, topped with skinny straight rods and flanked with simple, elegant panels. I’m seeing a pattern here…skinny straight rods above the arch, simple straight panels hung from rings…

design by Thomas Pheasant via AD, photo by Durston Saylor

The arched window below was a design dilemma we encountered in a project. The ceiling angles prohibited using a straight rod above the highest point of the arch as was done in the previous two examples. The solution we arrived at, was to create the illusion of a Palladian triple window by hanging the rod below the arched transom window and extending it beyond the window on both sides. Generally, I would never advocate for hanging draperies below a transom, but in this case it was the solution that worked best and gave us the clean classic look we were after. The drapery rod was a custom made skinny metal rod with rings and simple ball finials in a French silver finish, and the panels were faced in a white linen embroidered in a taupe leaf pattern.

These windows have a gentle arch but the millwork runs straight to the ceiling. The homeowner originally thought she wanted something more elaborate for these window, but these are only 2 of the 5 windows that run the length of this sunroom space, so a simple, classic design was called for. Here we used straight custom iron rods again, this time in black, along with unlined embroidered linen to allow light to filter through, keeping the whole room elegant and understated to let the architecture and the views shine!

And finally, another option for an arched window is a Roman shade where the top follows the curve of the window (or the curve of the window alcove in the charming room below by Megan Winters). The shades shown below are Soft Roman shades, with inverted pleats at the strings. This gives more fullness and allows the bottom edge to fall in gentle swoops while still maintaining a tailored structure.

design by Megan Winters

Draperies for transom windows When a window or door is topped with a transom window and you are using draperies, always hang the rod above the transom window unless there is some overriding reason you cannot. Here, hanging the rod above the transom emphasizes the height and the dramatic focal point of the room. These panels are an embroidered linen in a tone on tone organic pattern and are hung on custom antique gold finish French curved rods. NOTE: It is really important to use enough fabric when creating tall panels - these are double width panels even though they are not meant to ever close, as anything narrower would look too skimpy with that height.

There you have it - some classic solutions to windows that are ‘problem children’. Window treatments can be complicated, especially with non-standard window shapes and configurations.

Blog Credit: JRL Interiors

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