As a young adult, there are many things that people prepare you for when getting ready to step out into the world: how to manage your finances; how to negotiate a fair price on a car; what to look for when buying a new house.
Then there are other things that you have no idea how to tackle. You wonder if you are doing it right and if your parents would be proud of you. You just don’t want to make a mistake that will haunt you for the rest of your life. No, I’m not talking about sex; I’m talking window treatments.
So you’ll understand my initial panic some time ago when I stepped into my new house and realized that I had 27 windows and no idea what to do with them.
What were those things Mom used to have on the windows? Curtains? Blinds? Shades? Visors? Were there reasons that she used certain ones or was it arbitrary?
Clearly there was research to be done.
And so it was. Many hours of screwing (again, window treatments) and several dollars later my house was finally in order. Because money was a concern as it is for most people, my aim was to mix look, functionality, and practicality the best I could. The following is what I learned.
Blinds vs. Curtains, Which is the Better Option?
Next to painting the wall, dressing up your windows causes the single biggest change in a room’s appearance. For many years curtains were the go-to method, but the creation of blinds offered better functionality at a much cheaper price. Combined with shades, this gave people more options and versatility than ever when deciding how to tackle a window.
So how are we supposed to do this? In reality, there is no real “wrong way” to go as long as you actually cover you windows and your colors don’t clash too horribly. However, there are still some general rules to consider to ensure that you don’t waste money and time, and to make certain you get functionality out of your choices.
The Room Makes a Difference
There are certain traditional conventions on what types of treatments go in which rooms, and many of these are based in part on functionality. Although these days you can pretty much choose any combination you would like and still be ok, these ideas are definitely worth considering.
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Many times this will be the showplace of your house and the majority of your guests will see it. Reserve your most elaborate and costly adornments for this room. Most people go with longer curtains, with sheer curtains or even blinds behind them. Coupled with a valence or semi-elaborate rod, this allows for light control, privacy, and style.
If you have shorter ceilings or are just dead set on blinds, I would choose higher end non-vinyl ones. Be sure to consider floor and wall colors before purchasing. Curtains alone range from about $15 to hundreds of dollars a panel.
Also consider your pets if you have any, because as soon as you hang either of them, your cats will have instantly found a new arch enemy to replace your ferns.
Traditionally people enjoy having a lot of natural light in the kitchen, so airy or sheer curtains work well here. Blinds seem a little too bland in the kitchen and for most homes there is less of a need for privacy in this room. Also, few people use full length curtains in the kitchen. Try using tier curtains or just a valence. These are fairly inexpensive and plentiful.
A useful tip for those who have open kitchens and dining rooms: Matching window treatments in both of these rooms will help bring them together visually.
Of all of the rooms in the house, this is the one in which you have the most options. Stylish blinds work just as well as curtains or even drapes (longer, heavier curtains with a lining.) The key here is to consider your furniture, color scheme, and what is on the other side of those windows.
Don’t cover a great outside view. If you are going for a more showy/less functional dining room, then pleated drapes are a good choice. If you plan on actually dining in your dining room on a regular basis, curtains and blinds will probably work better for you.
When we’re talking bedrooms, light and privacy are our main concerns. While blackout curtains are definitely an option, a nice set of blinds might prove to be the best choice for your money. They can be shut at night to give maximum privacy and sun blockage in the morning yet easily be opened to let light in the room. And they won’t cost you an arm and a spleen (legs are overrated.)
Unless you are trying to set a certain mood for the room, there’s really no need for an elaborate set up here unless you absolutely want one. I chose bamboo blinds because of its dark calming color, but even vinyl will work here.
Bathrooms and the rest of the house
I have to admit, a fancy bathroom window treatment adds a tone of warmth to an otherwise purely functional room. However, when putting together treatments for the entire house this is pretty far down on the priority list. Again, what is our ultimate goal here? That’s right, privacy.
If you are one of those who has one of those highfalutin first floor half bath/powder rooms, then by all means, do it up. But regular bathrooms don’t require as much attention as many of the other rooms in the house.
For the rest of the windows, you can pretty much evaluate them on a case by case basis, taking into consideration size, direction faced, and overall design. Be sure to at least put up cheaper blinds in windows where people can see directly into the house.
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As you can probably imagine, the more elaborate the dressing, the more involved the installation will be. From my experience, most curtains can be put up with a reasonable amount of effort. Most sets require you to mount some sort of post for the rod to connect to. For heavier panels you may have the added step of using wall anchors to make sure your wall can support the weight.
Installing blinds on the other hand can become fairly tricky with certain types, so you may want to consider the installation service that is available from certain blind retailers. Cheaper blinds are pretty straightforward although inside mounts are sometimes troublesome.
Keep this in mind and read the summary of installation on the packaging. It won’t matter that you found the most perfect and affordable curtains/blinds on the planet if you can’t get them up. (I did it again didn’t I?)
How to install blinds.
Start with the Basics then Grow
If you are like I was and have to take care of several windows at once, you may want to start by setting a budget. On the surface, curtains and such don’t seem like they would put too bad of a dent in your wallet. However, consider that you’ll have to buy at least two (sometimes four) panels per window, plus the rod, plus any valance (which requires its own rod) you may want to add. The costs can add up quickly.
Estimate how much it will cost just to cover your windows at a bare minimum. Working from this figure, start adding to a specific room until it’s how you want it, then move on to the next. Once you’ve hit your money cap, try to resist the urge to keep going until you’ve got the funds to comfortably do so.
For those just moving into a place, this will probably be a process, and that’s ok. There are many hidden expenses to moving and you want to be ready to handle them as they arise.
Remember Your Tools
If you are one of those that keeps a basic set of tools around the house, then you should have pretty much everything you need for installation. For everyone else, at a bare minimum you should have:
- A Phillips-head screw driver
- A flat-head screw driver
- Some masking tape (for templates)
- A drill
- A couple of drill bits (a 3/32” bit will be invaluable)
- A tape measure
- A small step ladder
- A pencil
This should give you what you need to start getting things done. Once you are able to successfully install a couple of treatments, things will become faster and easier.
There are literally hundreds of combinations of colors, fabrics, and styles to choose from when installing window treatments. Try to find a combination of looks good but is affordable. If you plan on staying in your house for a while, chances are in the future you will probably end up upgrading much of what you do initially anyway.
Also, remember that although blinds tend to be cheaper, they are much harder to dust than curtains. If you are going to be the one doing the cleaning, this is something you might want to consider beforehand.
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