The Art of the Window: Contemporary Takes on Classic Treatments

As a decorator and window treatment designer, I work with clients whose aesthetic preferences are as varied as the fabric choices and treatment styles available to them. That said, today’s prevailing design zeitgeist involves a massive shift from decor that’s heavy and showy to personality-filled rooms with clean lines. Here are 10 ideas for dressing windows in a way that suits this contemporary vision for a variety of styles.
1. Funky Shutters

What’s new: The range of colors and finishes

OK, these shutters aren’t so much “contemporary” as they are just plain fun. But I suppose it’s also true enough to say that today’s hottest design trends favor artsy “collected” looks over “matchy matchy” traditionalism. Modern adherents to the current DIY sensibility may find this window treatment’s quirky expression of personality refreshing and right at home among colorful handmade decor and crisp white walls.

2. The New Verticals

What’s new: Innovations in materials and energy efficiency that lend practicality and a modern aesthetic

All vertical blinds aren’t dead, just the ugly old papery ones. Ambience sheers that offer a choice of room-darkening and light-filtering liners are making a big comeback as people rediscover their virtuous simplicity and versatility. As more homeowners look to lighten and simplify their interiors, today’s verticals will continue to gain traction as an elegant, updated solution.

3. Structured Sheers

What’s new: Non-frilly sheers that go beyond Shabby Chic

Sheers will always be popular, but not everybody wants the flowy coastal-cottage look. For those who covet gauzy fabric for its lightness but prefer a window dressing that’s more staid than sweet, shades will do the trick.

4. Smart Technology

What’s new: Ruling your kingdom via cell phone app

Perhaps nothing shouts “updated” like technology in the home. Motorized window treatments for both interior and exterior use are a must-have in today’s smart homes. And as time-saving automation becomes more common via fingerprint door locks, Nest thermostats and programmable light switches, a new wave of tech companies are researching ever more innovative ways to coordinate whole-house automation solutions across multiple platforms and providers. For now, all it takes is often just a cell phone with the right app (and a 20 to 25 percent bigger budget over traditional non-motorized treatments).

5. Nailhead Cornices

What’s new: Tacking nailheads to this classic top treatment

Cornices remain beloved because of how well they fit into virtually any decor scheme — they’re equally at home in a minimalist haven as in a more traditional space. Many Houzz users looking to update their windows appreciate the straight cornice’s simplicity and oft-invoked “clean lines.” Bringing the X factor, Calico Corners’ newly released nailhead cornice goes edgy for a trendy take on this old standby.

6. Relaxed Swags

What’s new: Legacy curtain fabricators offering a contemporary restyling of the swag

To some extent, it’s Thom Filicia’s mod geometric fabric that brings this lush ensemble into the present decade, but the casual draping of the swag itself hints at the transformation going on in the drapery design world as the industry’s elders respond to modern tastes for decor that’s simpler, lighter and more casual than that of previous decades.

7. Grommet-Style Panels

What’s new: They’re not just for shower curtains anymore

In the trend toward all things tailored and unfussy, panels hung by grommets enjoy wide appeal. With the right tools, they’re relatively easy for a DIYer to construct and even easier to hang. Since they aren’t typically as full as most other drapery styles, they take less fabric, which increases their affordability.

Designer tip: Flat panels are another kind of drapery that suits a preference for today’s popular “collected” bohemian style. They’re the least full of all window treatments and can be hung by inexpensive clip rings.
8. Kick-Pleat Valances

What’s new: A versatile alternative to a straight cornice board that serves as a streamlined showcase for an up-to-date fabric

My work often begins with a familiar gambit: “I’m redecorating my house and want to replace my old, dark, heavy curtains with something light and airy.” When the conversation shifts to top treatments, as it often does, I’m commonly asked which style is considered most contemporary. The kick-pleat valance always comes to mind, especially when the phrase “clean lines” is pitched. Although the fabric choice as much as the treatment style determines whether your valance will look updated or just “dated,” pairing a current pattern with a relatively flat, straight silhouette generally completes the mission.

9. Minimal Hardware

What’s new: Hiding drapery hardware within the architecture

In contemporary-styled dwellings, there’s an appealing trend toward minimalism in hardware selection and design. In fact, some homeowners are even asking their architects and designers to mount zip rods (or “hospital tracks”) on the ceiling or to recess hardware behind a beam, for example. The draperies then appear to integrate seamlessly with the home in a majestic show of simplicity.

10. Bare Windows

What’s new: Forgoing window treatments altogether and color-blocking your framing instead

Going without window coverings isn’t necessarily a new idea by any means, and your ability to do so depends almost entirely on the privacy of your lot (and your comfort level). Naturally, then, not everybody will be able to re-create the simple, unadulterated contrast of a white wall with bold persimmon trimming. Still, it’s worth noting that colorblocking the window framing in this way is a striking, modern option that can still make an impact alongside minimal top treatments, sheer shades or even panels stacked completely off the window.

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