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Window treatments can add elegance to a room. It can also be just the thing the window didn’t need. How to know what to do?

In a house where people live, form needs to follow function. Windows connect you to the world. A window treatment can also shut the world out. Therefore, begin by answering these two questions:

Do you need privacy? Do you need to control light?

Your answers will dictate your direction. Window treatments for privacy and light control will include mini-blinds, vertical blinds, Roman shades, balloon shades (though they do not look good when they are down), curtains and draperies. Window treatments that add a softening element to a room but do not offer complete privacy or light control are valences, café curtains (curtains halfway on windows), cornices and swags.

Now what’s next? Pretty much any design can be dressed up or dressed down depending on the fabric that’s selected. The final design will depend on the fabric you want to use, your need for the window and the weight from your furnishings and colors that are in the room already. For whatever design you choose, it’s generally a good idea to raise the height of the treatment as high above the window as possible. This will create the illusion of extending the length of the window and will allow more light in when opened.

Now answer these questions. How do you want to feel when you are in the room? How do you want others to feel? What’s the atmosphere you are trying to create? The answers will enable you to shakedown the design. Gathered valences of all styles are usually more feminine, fancy, softer, happy, comfortable. Pleated valences give the feel of formality, comfort, ease, masculinity. Roman shades are an ideal alternative to soften a window and offer privacy. Draperies are always appropriate for privacy and softening. Balloon shades are fussy. Blinds are functional and lend something to the design if sleek and modern are the goals. Cornices are heavy and formal. Swags are soft and frame a window nicely when casually constructed.

While any window treatment can be made out of a solid fabric, certain patterns work better with some designs than others.

Mini-prints—Use for anything

Florals—Don’t use for Roman shades. Florals work best anywhere they have fullness, but go nowhere when the fabric lies flat.

Stripes—Never use for swags. They can create odd optical illusions.

Geometrics—Be careful with swags and Roman shades

Now, how to determine if a window needs nothing. If you don’t have a need for privacy. If light control isn’t an issue. If the window is beautiful in design. If it would detract from the room to add another fabric—feel confident to put nothing on the window. Some windows need nothing. It's usually a fairly obvious decision, but get advice if you are in doubt.

These are some basics for making decorating decisions for your windows. Use your sense, try to visualize, ask the advice of friends and be prepared to make a mistake once in a while. Doing as much homework as possible with the right information will help in creating something that’s a pleasure to look at each day and serves your purpose.