Colors, styles, materials, ready-made, custom — with window-covering ideas everywhere from catalogs to store displays to friends’ living rooms, the choices are endless. For the homeowner with a flair for design, ready-to-hang retail choices offer a quick, economical solution. For others, a good designer can offer options and guide decisions.

Colors, styles, materials, ready-made, custom — with window-covering ideas everywhere from catalogs to store displays to friends’ living rooms, the choices are endless. For the homeowner with a flair for design, ready-to-hang retail choices offer a quick, economical solution. For others, a good designer can offer options and guide decisions.

Interior designer Jane Primrose of Carlinville, Ill., has helped customers meet their decorating goals for 30 years. She has seen fashions come, go and come back. These days, Primrose says, people are looking for something that’s high-style, energy-efficient or both.

The best way to give customers the most for their money is to stylishly add insulation between the window and the room, to “create air pockets,” as Primrose says. Rather than using one heavy thermal drape, for example, she suggests layering a pleated shade, light sheer and draw drapery.

“Honeycomb shades are really ideal for creating air pockets,” she says, and they are in style.

Whether helping clients design a ready-made treatment or guiding those who want custom panels, draperies, valances, swags or other window coverings, Primrose’s first objective is to identify the customer’s goal for the windows.

“You should be getting expertise, someone who will help you get the treatment that is best for what you want to do,” Primrose says, “Not what I want, but what you want.”

This may mean creating privacy, screening an unattractive view, finishing a room’s decor or some other objective. Whatever the plan, however, Primrose wants clients to know that there are differences in tailoring, lining, construction and selection between ready-made and custom coverings.

“There is no comparison with ready-made, especially when you’re buying something that is going to hang for 20 years. They are double-hemmed and very nicely lined; all the workmanship should be beautiful, the stitches hold, and there is a much larger selection of fabrics.”

Even custom blinds provide a longer-lasting installation than those available off the shelf, Primrose says. “The custom mechanism works better and lasts longer.”

Primrose has designed window coverings for each of the four homes Atwater, Ill., residents Pat and Ed Traylor have built since 1976, including one under construction. The dining room and kitchen windows will incorporate red, yellow and black-patterned fabrics to coordinate with the chocolate-glazed pecan kitchen cabinets.

Although Traylor would pick neutrals on her own, she says she appreciates the guidance Primrose gives.

“I tell her the look I want, where I want to go, and she helps me get there,” Traylor says.

Husband-and-wife team Renae and Robert Ernst are co-owners of Renae’s Window Fashions and Upholstery in Girard, Ill. Like Primrose, they help area customers update their window decor with everything from shades and draperies to shutters. Working through the fads and fashions, trends and traditions, they help customers of every budget redo or renew their windows.

According to Renae Ernst, more dated curtains include those that are gathered or tab-topped on rods rather than board mounted; balloon valances stuffed with tissue paper; some of the older, pinch-pleated traversing draperies; and draperies that are cut long enough to “puddle” on the floor.

A more contemporary, but still formal, floor-length drapery “dusts” or “breaks,” just barely touching the floor, she says.

Some of the more outdated colors include country blues, mauves, roses and hunter green of the 1980s and early ’90s, Ernst says. These have been replaced by bright, clear colors, such as bright sapphire, fuschia and yellow. Although, she adds, dusty blue is starting to come back. Earthy greens, apple green, browns, tans and taupes also are popular.

In patterns, big, floral bouquets have been replaced by a “viney, all-over pattern,” she says. One of the most traditional patterns is stripes that, she says, have never gone out of style.

There are three striking fashion statements in draperies right now, according to Ernst. One is the variety of pinch pleat styles, such as French pleats, goblet pleats and other styles that vary where the pleats are fastened and create varying degrees of fullness.

Another is the variety of available decorative rods and finials which, when used with stationary side panels, create easy opportunities to personalize a look.

The third popular trend, she says, is the use of woven fabrics with pronounced textures, such as chenilles, linens and embroidered silks. Using textures rather than colorful prints in the curtains, Ernst says, allows homeowners to use colors and prints in artwork and throw pillows, “which can all be changed more easily than window treatments.”

Another window covering option is interior shutters, which provide both function and beauty, she says. “They are a complete window dressing on their own.”

However, the narrow louvers of decades ago have been replaced with wide, 4-inch plantation-look louvers, making the installation appear “almost like a piece of furniture itself,” Ernst says. White is the most common color, she adds, but for a man’s office or any rich, wood-clad room, stained shutters are popular.

In deciding what type of window covering to use, consider your needs, Renae says. Do you need light control, privacy, or are you just wanting to decorate the window? For a customer on a limited budget, Ernst may suggest vertical blinds, roller shades or honeycomb shades, which also are useful in addressing drafty windows. An economical approach for updating current draperies is to use new trim, braid, tassels or beads, which are, she says, popular. “It really makes a treatment look custom.”

When controlling dust is important, such as when someone in the home has asthma, Ernst encourages customers to purchase vertical blinds instead of draperies. The new honeycomb blinds, she says, “are anti-static treated, not to collect as much dust. Just vacuum them with low suction.” If the customer does want draperies, however, Renae recommends those that can be gathered on a rod, taken down as often as necessary and put in the dryer “to knock the dust off.

“Fabrics today are treated with a protective finish,” she adds, “and vacuuming is recommended, although they can also be dry-cleaned.”

For screening, a sheer under a drape or shade creates a soft light effect during the day when the drape is open, but prevents a view from the outside in; at night, close the drapery or pull the shade for privacy. As versatile as they are attractive, sheers are made in voile, less sheer batiste and more opaque crinkled and patterned styles, in a variety of colors, Ernst says.

Finally, window decor trends come back around every few years. So, before tossing out old draperies, consider tucking them away instead. Primrose recalls her early designing days. “When I started into the business, basically the only colors we sold were gold, avocado and rust — on the carpet, on the draperies and on the furniture. I got so tired of it, I said, ‘If I live long enough for these colors to come back, I’ve been at it too long.’

“Well, they’re back, and I like them. But now the gold is bronze, and the avocado is more khaki. Colors are like ideas — you add to it, take something away from it, and you like it.”

DiAnne Crown is a freelance writer who can be reached through the State Journal-Register features desk at (217) 788-1512.

Protecting your investment

When it comes to window treatments, a job well done is a good investment. One way to achieve this on a budget is to choose a classic design, such as a basic draw sheer under a draw drapery in a neutral off-white, beige or cream, Jane Primrose says. “That will go with anything forever.”

Renae Ernst encourages customers to select a good lining. Lining protects your investment, she says, makes the drapes hang better, protects them from the sun and creates a more neutral look from the outside.

Another approach is to do one or a few rooms at a time rather than an entire house. However, Primrose cautions her customers to do room “groupings” together — such as living-dining great rooms or kitchen-dining room combinations — to guarantee that the fabric for all of the windows in that area will be available and match.

Choosing a drapery length

According to Renae Ernst, if the room is small and furniture will be pushed up against windows, there is no need to use a floor-length drapery. You may want to use a top treatment and a shade or blind in order to keep as much light as possible, she says. This also creates a more casual look.

However, when possible, Ernst says that extending floor-length draperies out on the walls (wider than the window) and up a bit above the window “makes the window appear larger than it is; a ceiling-to-floor treatment makes the ceiling look higher.”