Design inspiration for windows

Looking to update your space with the latest window treatments – but not sure which shutters, panels, blinds or curtains will work? Read Julia Kendell’s expert advice to find the right style, fabric or material

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The style of a room can be set by the way the windows are dressed, so it’s essential to get it right. If there’s too much fabric, it will look dark and overwhelming, while too little dressing will make it stark and uninviting. Blinds, shutters, panels and curtains today are smart and simple, but that doesn’t have to mean plain and boring.

So, how do you ensure that you strike the right balance? Before choosing your style, first determine which design will suit the type of window.

Bear in mind the function, too, and what role the dressing must achieve, such as providing privacy, or purely for design – then you can choose the fabric, texture and colour to dress your window.

Small windows

Unless a small window sits within a cottage with a low ceiling height, curtains should be to the floor to lengthen and add elegance to the space. Short curtains rarely hang properly and can make a small window appear out of proportion. In my experience, if there is a radiator under the windowsill, it is best to use a blind within the recess of the window and full-length dress curtains to the sides.

Small windows are often perfect for shutters and suit many different styles of room scheme, from New England to French country-style to modern minimalist.

Bay windows

The best solution for bay windows is to use blinds or shutters, with dress curtains to the front of the bay to soften the look. Wood-slatted blinds allow greatest flexibility for controlling light and privacy and are more aesthetically subtle than metal Venetian blinds.

Roman blinds come in an unlimited choice of fabrics, but consider how they stack at the top of the window, as you might lose valuable light if there isn’t enough wall space above.

You can install curtains with poles that can be bent to suit or made-to-measure around cleats.

Large windows

Blinds across big windows can be heavy and difficult to operate. It is often worth splitting the blinds into multiples (lining up with the frame behind) with one pelmet running across the top to link them all. This also offers flexibility for privacy and controlling light.

Curtains over a large window can create a dramatic look and they can be pulled right off the window if there is adequate wall space on either side. For a contemporary curtain, try the latest heading – the ‘wave’, which creates a stylish yet simple finish.

Skylight windows

There are basically two choices for skylight windows – blinds designed specifically to suit, or sheers that are fixed at the top and bottom and are immoveable. If a loft room is being used as a bedroom, a blackout blind is often needed. Look for blinds that have UV-reflecting and heat-retaining properties. If the skylight is difficult to access, or is at high level, consider using a solar-recharging, battery-operated remote blind (visit for good examples). These types of blind are simple to install and can be operated from anywhere in the room.

Full-length French doors and patio doors

Curtains are the best solution for a traditional setting. Avoid valances or pelmets and stick to plain headings, such as eyelet or box-pleat for an up-to-date look.

Choose chunky poles, 45mm or 55mm in diameter, to add a sense of structure and grandeur. Make sure the pole and curtains stretch beyond the sides of the window by approximately 15 per cent of the width of the window on each side to enable the curtains to be pulled right back. Introduce tie-backs only as statement pieces for your room. Organic materials such as rope and feathers and glamorous crystal are all big tie-back trends this season.

For a contemporary design, panel blinds are a perfect choice. They look fresh and sleek and are a great way to introduce colour blocking – this year’s biggest trend – to a room. They’re available either in solid fabrics or sheer fabrics to filter sunlight and provide privacy. If fitting them within a recess, set them far enough forward to avoid hitting door handles. Bi-folding shutters, such as the ones shown above, allow you to control the light and access in and out of folding sliding doors.

Circular and arch-topped windows

Circular, arch-topped and octagonal windows are being designed into homes by architects who want to break away from the norm. They can be tricky to dress, but there are several companies, such as Hillarys, Luxaflex, OpennShut and Blindshapers that will cater for these variances, making pleated blinds, slatted blinds and shutters to suit the most awkward shapes. Curtains can be made for an archtopped window but remain fixed around the top, drawing to the sides by means of a tie-back.