Window Dressing Advice From An Architect

Window Dressing Advice From An Architect

In Domicile Blinds Tips by Connie Powell

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George Clarke knows an amazing space when he sees one. The architect and TV presenter are well-versed in the challenges of styling all periods of properties from Victorian and mid-century to contemporary new builds, he has turned his attention to all things window treatments.

Here, George shares his answers on how to choose blinds that optimise natural light, why window treatments should be chosen at the beginning of a renovation project, and how they can have a positive impact, not just on the look of our homes, but our feelings of wellbeing, too.

‘Feeling safe, comfortable, warm and secure in our homes is fundamental to our feeling of wellbeing, whatever the age, style or size of our property,’ says George. ‘House design is key to this, and windows are a major contributor as they play an important role in protecting us from excessive heat, cold and noise and provide access to natural light and views of the outdoors. Your choice of window dressing is all about the three Ps, privacy, practicality and personal style.’

What is your advice for choosing blinds or shutters that optimise natural light?

GC: The design you choose will decide the amount of light that’s cast into the space but it’s also important to address any practicalities such as retaining privacy, reducing draughts and noise, and protecting against strong sunlight. If privacy is important, shutters are a great choice, especially a tier-on-tier style where the top operates separately to the bottom, so the bottom half can be closed at street height to stop unwelcome gazes but open above to let in lots of lovely light. Roller and pleated blinds are also a popular option, as they offer privacy when and where you need it, but are really neat and discreet when they’re pulled up – so you make the most of light and a view when you’re not overlooked. Electric roller blinds are a fantastic choice for wide or hard to reach windows, there’s also something very James Bond about them which appeals to me!

What’s the best choice for a kitchen?

GC: Windows in the kitchen area need to be more practical to withstand heat and steam so I would most certainly recommend roller blinds with a moisture-resistant, easy to clean finish. Vertical blinds with waterproof and wipeable PVC louvres are another option along with faux wood Venetians, which look just like wood but won’t warp or bend. Large open plan kitchens are an increasingly popular feature in modern homes and more people are adding kitchen extensions to period properties. They often have multiple windows and doors so the practical areas call for practical solutions while dining spaces might call for softness and lend themselves to curtains.

Any tips for choosing blinds based on the period of your property? I have a modern new build, I like shutters, but I don’t feel that it matches the style of property

GC: Although they’re often associated with period properties, shutters look the part in all types of homes and I love them! The tier on tier style gives the absolute maximum flexibility, especially in a bay window. You have so many options in terms of privacy. You can have the top half open and the bottom half closed with just the louvres tilted open. If you want even more options, you can look at layering curtains over the top for extra cosiness.

And if you’re feeling really brave you could get them colour matched to your interiors too, but you need to be pretty sure you are sticking with your colour scheme for a while to do that. They’re perfect for bay windows and because there are many different types of bay windows – from angled bay to multifaceted bay and bow windows – and the shape of each is unique, it’s important that your window covering will fit perfectly. This is where made-to-measure window dressings really shine, as they’re crafted to fit every nook and cranny perfectly. Tracked shutters are often used in modern apartments as they’re an ideal solution for large windows and bi-fold doors – again an increasingly popular style in contemporary homes.

At what point in a home renovation do you advise considering window treatments? Is it a finishing touch? Or is it more of an integral part of the design process?

GC: I see window treatments as not just the icing on the cake but one of the ingredients going in the cake when you’re considering the design of a room. It’s important to think about the space as a whole and how you’re going to create a cohesive vision. Window coverings play a big role in a room’s unity so should be on the consideration list at the beginning of a project. Think about how you’ll use the space and remember that we use rooms in different ways throughout the day. A lovely bright room may be lovely to relax in but if you want to work in there, strong sunlight could become a problem. A space with a lot of glass can get too hot in summer, how are you going to keep it cool when the temperature rises? Introducing the right window treatment such as pleated blinds with specialist thermal designs to reduce heat loss or reflective fabrics to keep rooms cooler can make all the difference to being able to use the space effectively, or not.

One of the biggest design mistakes I see is when people have bi-folds fitted and don’t think about the window treatment until it’s too late. It’s often an afterthought when they realise the sun is too strong or they don’t like the goldfish bowl effect and then when it comes to fitting something haven’t allowed enough space for the bi-folds to fold or the curtains to be pulled back. So it’s vital to make sure it’s factored in from the get-go. My advice would be to not take the bi-folds full width, leave a bit of wall at either side so you can pull your curtains right back to sit in that nook and they will look so much better. Another option is to go for vertical blinds.

Any rules or tips for mixing blinds (for the look) with curtains (for the height)?

GC: There’s no hard and fast rule on matching the window dressings in your entire home. Some prefer to let their creativity loose, with distinctly different looks in every room, while some prefer the uniformity of matching window dressings from the outside to add kerb appeal.

In my own home, I’ve combined electric roller blinds with curtains in the living room which gives me fantastic flexibility. I tend to have the blinds down during the day if it’s really sunny and then draw the curtains in the evening for that cocoon feeling. I love the options layering window treatments can give you. Curtains soften and make a space cosier and they have done wonders for the acoustics in my office in particular. Here I have windows that go all the way up to the ceiling so there’s no room for a pole. So the track is attached to the ceiling above and I have wave curtains which give a contemporary sleek look which is really popular at the moment. In my son’s bedroom, we’ve doubled up on blinds. It’s not a big space and the windows are full width so it was difficult to get curtains in here without blocking out too much of the light. So we opted for a sheer translucent roller blind at the back to maximise light and give daytime privacy. Then a blackout Roman blind over the top gives softness and texture.

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