How to balance style and function to create a beautiful window
Hello! How are you? How have you been these past few weeks? We’ve had glorious sunshine and warmth in Yorkshire, perfect timing for the latest round of lockdown easing, followed by weather that would be better placed in February. There’s been a fair amount of sitting outside with friends, glass of wine in hand, blankets aplenty to hand when it’s just too chilly. It’s been great and I think people are feeling a little lighter – I hope?
Anyway, this month’s blog is based on a real-life conversation I had with a client the other week. We were talking about windows, specifically how to choose curtains and/or blinds. We chatted about when to go big with pattern and when to keep it simple with plain but bold colours and it occurred to me that there might be some nuggets I could share with you.
I’m also open to suggestions so if you’d like me to feature flooring for example, or maybe you’d like some inspiration for a particular room or maybe pattern clashing, colour blocking – drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do. But, for the moment, back to windows and we’ll get the awkward bit over first.
The B word
First up, budgets. I know, I know it’s the conversation no one wants to have, but it’s important that we do so that I can help you get the most out of yours – whatever its size. Part of this is helping you to understand where the budget goes when you’re designing a room. Knowing what the fixed costs are that you have little control over and the variable costs where you can flex. Both play their part in the decisions made during a project.
Windows: where does your budget go?
So, let’s talk windows and we’ll start with the fixed costs. I’m talking about things like poles, tracks, fittings and labour. All determined by the size, shape and location of the window and to be honest, there’s not a lot we can do to flex the budget here. But playing around with fabric choices and thinking creatively can make a big difference both style and budget wise.
A flexible alternative to blackout blinds
For example, don’t assume that you need blackout curtains for your baby’s nursery or your new cinema room. True blackout blinds can involve building work to create the channels at the side to stop any light creeping in (which is obviously a cost) and then you have to add in the cost of the blackout lining, and the labour for the blinds themselves.
A more efficient way can be to have blinds that block out the light, either by sitting outside the recess so that they hang over the side of the window, or by sitting the blind inside the recess and combining them with curtains, so that the curtains prevent light seeping in the sides of the blind. And no building work needed.
A combination of curtains and blinds gives you flexibility to adjust depending on how the light and warmth changes during the day. And how good a sleeper you or your baby is!
Function and style
At the risk of being a killjoy, choosing curtains and blinds is no different from designing any other aspect of a room. You do need to look at the practicalities first.
So, as tempting as it is to lose yourself in fabric samples and swatches, swooning over beautiful patterns, please try not to fall in love with a particular fabric until you know it will work for your window, and your budget.
If it helps, when I step into a room, this is what I’m thinking:
- Space (how to get the most out of it)
- Colour, fabric and finishes (the fun stuff).
So when I look at a window, I’m looking at what’s outside as well as inside: are there views to enhance or screen? Is there light or glare to be softened, warmth to be kept in? I’ll look at the size and shape of the window, where and how does it open and in which direction. Where is it in the room and how does it work with the rest of the fixtures, fittings and furniture.
Yep – lots to think about.
Plain v Pattern
The thing is, as much as I love pattern, sometimes keeping it simple is the best option. And choosing a plain curtain fabric that matches your wall colour is a stylish option when dressing a window.
It’s just so much easier to get a great quality plain fabric than it is to find a good quality patterned one, especially when you need a lot of fabric.
The other thing is that typically, we don’t change our blinds and curtains that often. They tend to be a long-term commitment so you might not want to go all in with a super bold pattern, in case you get bored of it or find that it’s just a bit overwhelming after a while.
You can still get your fix of big, bold patterned curtains but maybe in a smaller space. Like a cloakroom or bathroom where you don’t spend quite as much time and where a jolt of pattern can be a lovely surprise.
And where you don’t need so much of that expensive fabric or wallpaper.
Let the pattern breathe
The thing with eye-catching patterns and features is that you want them to be able to breathe. You want them to work together harmoniously, not fight each other for attention. I tend to follow the ‘no more than two in a room’ rule of thumb for this reason.
In a living room or bedroom especially, you want your eyes to be able to settle and rest after a hectic day. The last thing you want is to get a headache because your eyes are dancing around the room, unable to settle in one place because the wall, curtains and floors are all in competition with each other.
Use texture to soften hard surfaces
Then think about the other surfaces in the room. In the kitchen pictured above, we had a conversation early on about whether curtains were needed at all. Garden views and moving in during the summer meant that covering the windows wasn’t high on the priority list – who’d want to block out summer garden views?
But as summer gave way to autumn, it became time to think about closing out the dark nights and keeping the warmth in the kitchen. Plus, there are a lot of hard, plain surfaces in a kitchen (countertops, hard flooring, tiles) so patterned curtains and blinds brought pattern and texture to the room and kept the outdoorsy vibe alive too.
Where and when do you put pattern and texture in a room?
It’s probably easiest for me to show you with some real-life examples. Starting with the navy living room next to the kitchen I mentioned above.
Its two main features are the ochre sofa with the Manhattan painting behind it, and the feature wall with geometric wallpaper and the fireplace (just out of shot) but here’s a link to the wallpaper. It’s a navy geometric pattern and I love it!
Patterned curtains would have been too much with the sofa and wallpaper plus, with large bay windows, there was the cost implication to think about too.
(Sidenote: There’s often wastage with patterned wallpapers because you need to pattern match which adds to the cost.)
Instead of pattern then, we opted for a beautiful deep, plain navy to match the other walls in the room.
In this modern living room I matched the deep green curtain fabric to the wall colour, reflecting the stunning views of the countryside seen clearly from the triple aspect windows. The shades of green also tie in with the feature wallpaper on the long wall opposite the windows.
I couldn’t write a blog about window dressing and not include images from this fantastic modern open plan living space. I just love the Leo fabric by Pierre Frey we chose for the floor to ceiling French Doors and the side windows
I really hope this has helped give you a feel for just some of the thinking that goes on when I’m thinking about a room – specifically the windows.
I guess some of this thinking applies to any aspect of the room design. I’m always thinking about how I can make smart decisions that get the most out of your budget to get the finish you want. It’s all a balancing act, isn’t it? Which I guess it a general truth about life- that there is no one right answer, but it’s about finding the balance that’s right for you.
Have a good one folks. Here’s hoping the freezing weather we had for the bank holiday is behind us and that the sun comes out again soon.
With thanks to Heidi Marfitt Photographer, Mark Richard Harrison and Colin Poole for the great photography above.