Soft Window Treatments

In your grandmother’s day soft window treatments usually meant pinch- pleat draperies and sheers. Those days are gone!

Basically a “soft window treatment” is any window covering made with fabric. Pinch-pleat draperies and sheers are still around, but they have been joined by numerous, innovative styles.

An abundance of fabrics, hardware and trims await your creativity. The same abundance can also make your head spin and leave you feeling over-whelmed.

Where do you start?

Chances are, you already have!

Usually by the time you are ready to tackle soft window treatments, you have finished carpeting, painting and arranging furniture.

The hard part is done!

You have already established

  • the room’s mood (casual or formal)
  • the color scheme and
  • your decorating style (country, contemporary, traditional, etc.)
  • Now, decide if your window treatments need to serve a practical purpose, as well as being decorative. Soft window treatments can be both!

With that done, consider:

  • size
  • placement of windows in the room
  • number of windows and
  • any architectural details around the windows

Decorator Lingo:
Drapery: A tailored window treatment that is usually pleated, lined and floor length. It is hung on a traversing rod by hooks. It opens and closes using a cord mechanism.

A decorator will know you have done your homework if you use the words “drape ” and “drapery” properly. “Drape” is a verb. It is how the fabric falls. “Drapery” is a noun. It is the actual window covering.

Curtain: Fabric window treatment hung on rod through a rod pocket casing, rings ties or tabs. Usually stationary, but if opened and closed, it is done by hand.

Valance: Fabric treatment usually hung at the top of a drapery or curtain to conceal non-decorative hardware.

Top Treatment: A decorative treatment hung at the top of a window. Often refers to a window treatment that is not hung over another treatment. However, the term is often used interchangeably with “valance”.

Traditional/Formal Window Treatments
Traditional, more formal window coverings are typically more than one layer. Sheers are under the draperies, and the draperies have a valance or cornice board over them.

Luxurious fabrics, such as silks, brocades, velvets, damasks and tapestries enhance the formality.

Pinch-Pleated Drapery: This is an industry staple. The heading of the drapery or curtain has 3 distinct folds tacked together at the bottom and repeated at fixed intervals across the entire panel.

Goblet Pleats: This as an elegant heading. The sewn folds of fabric are cinched at the base of the pleat forming a shape similar to a champagne flute. A goblet-pleat treatment is stationary because opening and closing it would crush the goblet.

Goblet pleats enhance the luxury of any fabric.

goblet pleat illustration, soft window treatment, draperies
Swags and Cascades: Swags remain a classic in traditional decorating. One advantage of this treatment is it can frame the window without obstructing the view.

goblet pleat illustration, soft window treatment, draperies

Although they appear to be a continuous length of fabric, they are actually carefully constructed.

A classic swag is cut on the bias to allow for softer folds. Both ends are arranged into pleats and mounted on a board or rod falling into soft semi- circles.

The cascade is a tapered piece of fabric that is vertically folded and hung over the side of the swag.

Swag & Cascade illustration,  soft window treatments, draperies

Formal Kingston, soft window treatments

Take care when selecting your fabric for swags. You want a fabric that is soft and will drape without creasing in the center of the swag. Think also of the fabric’s print. When cut on the bias, linear prints will run diagonally across the swag.

Swag & Cascade illustration, soft window treatments, draperies Formal Kingston, soft window treatments

Informal Window Treatments

“Soft window treatments” is a great phrase to describe less formal window coverings.

Casual treatments are less fussy and less structured. The fabrics used tend to be easier to care for and lighter in weight.

In recent years swags and cascades have been adapted for more informal settings. “Pole swags”, “poor boy swags”, and “scarf swags” are all terms used to describe more casual swag treatments.

Don’t be fooled into thinking they have simply been thrown over a rod. It takes a lot of folding, time and patience (sometimes Velcro, staples and a glue gun!) to achieve the casual “just thrown over the pole” look.

Tab-Top Curtains were once thought suitable only for a “country” look. That is no longer the case. The right fabric and trim now allows this carefree treatment to adapt to almost any style.

Valances, in many styles, remain a favorite. They are simple in design, but very practical. A wood blind or shade, when raised, can easily disappear under a valance. It doesn’t obstruct the view, but it does add a finishing touch.

Murphy valance

Country Curtains has a wonderful selection of casual window treatments. Their on-line and printed catalog can be a real source of inspiration for casual styles. Browse their selection of soft window treatments here.

Whatever your style, remember your soft window treatments should enhance your room’s d├ęcor, not over whelm it. They can soften hard lines and add color, texture and pattern to a room. Consider all the elements of your space before making a final decision for your window treatments.