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Dressing Those Beautiful, But Difficult Windows

Tips on finding the right window treatments for bay windows, palladium and floor-to-ceilings windows with transoms.

Alluring and beautiful, a wall of windows adds stunning architectural detail to interior design. But dressing these large and often odd-shaped windows can be difficult and costly. Whether dealing with bay windows, window boxes, Palladian windows or walls of windows with transoms, the trick is to highlight, not hide, these features.

The cost of custom treatments may steer people toward avoiding such treatments at all or purchasing quick fixes like oversized drapes that cover window trim. Avoid this mistake and invest in custom treatments that will enhance those beautiful windows.

The most difficult to dress are Palladian or arch windows.

“The main difficulty with designing for Palladian windows is deciding whether to include the arch within the window treatment design or to leave it,” said Paolo McDonald, owner of Creative Elegance Interiors. “It’s an architectural detail, usually extremely beautiful. You don’t want to do anything to take away from that beauty. So, either your treatment has to compliment the window and make it stand out or you have to treat the windows below the arch and let it stand on its own.”

Named for 16th century Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, true Palladian windows are divided into three parts -- a center arched window flanked by two smaller rectangular windows. These days, any large arched window is commonly called a Palladian window.  

“I either work with the shape or totally avoid it,” McDonald said. “For example, one client was struggling with light control, particularly in late afternoon. It was the room they watch television in and sun would come in directly and could be quite blinding. They needed light control without totally blocking the architecture. My solution was a beautiful combination of sheer fabrics that would take the edge off of the sunlight while not totally blocking the windows and the view.”

When designing treatments for large windows there are three considerations, said Michael H. Sicheri, owner of Alexandia-based Abstract Décor, and someone who specializes in custom window treatments. “Budget, form and function: Those three things have to equal 100 percent.”

Sicheri said if form is the focus and money is no object, you can do anything, including installing motorized blinds, shades or shutters available from Hunter Douglas. However if function, such as blocking sunlight, is the primary concern and the budget is tight, “You can do some really beautiful draperies.”

Linda H. Bassert, owner of Masterworks Window Fashions & Design, said architects and builders include more windows because that helps to sell the house. However, they do this with little regard to how difficult it is to dress these windows in terms of cost and design.  

Bassert suggests owners consider the height of a room if you are considering leaving an arch or transom bare and just dressing the windows beneath it. “With a strong horizontal line below the arched window, there is a risk that you will effectively lower the ceiling in the room,” she said.

Large windows are the star in the room, she said.

“Make sure it shines the light on you,” Bassert said.

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