Window coverings and treatments

Window coverings and treatments

Blinds or curtains? Or both? Or what about shutters? There are many ways to make windows look fabulous, and plenty of eco-friendly woods and fabrics to choose from

By Sophie Barritt
Shutters are a clean, unobtrusive window treatment

Bespoke curtains can be very expensive to make as they use a lot of fabric and require skill to make well, so increasingly people are opting for Roman blinds or wooden shutters. That said you can pick up great second-hand curtains, for example on Ebay or Freecycle. Pictured above: Wooden shutters are practical and make an unobtrusive design feature in this bedroom designed by Paul Warren. 

There are only so many ways to cover a window - curtains, shutters or blinds. But in those groups are myriad options.

Curtains can be fabulous and billowing, lined and interlined, with a beautiful fabric puddling luxuriantly on the floor. Or they can be smart, minimal and plain. And for very tall windows, they are the best option in terms of aesthetics. Practically too, a 12 foot long Roman blind isn't really viable as the weight could be good great when drawn up.

Wooden shutters can look superb and are a great way to control how much light enters a room and also to ensure privacy if you won't want people in the street looking into your sitting room.

Blinds are what most of us go for, as they can be very cost-effective, with just small amounts of fabric needed for a simple roller or a Roman blind; while Venetian blinds - horizontal strips of thin wood or metal - are also fairly inexpensive and again shield against light and provide privacy.

Curtains

You don't often hear people say 'oh do give me your curtain-maker's number', because interior design has over the past 20 years moved away from curtains to the more minimal and less costly world of the blind.

Ask any of the big fabric showrooms in Chelsea Harbour Design Centre, and they'll say fabric orders for residential projects aren't often in the double digits of metres. 'No, orders are often for three, four, five metres to make up some Roman blinds,' says Christian Lee of high end German textiles company Zimmer + Rohde.

Second hand curtains are a super eco option and they will be far less expensive than buying new. This lined pink velvet set of curtains cost just £20 on Ebay!
Curtains can be a way of bringing colour into a neutrally themed room. Choose linen or a wool/linen mix for your fabric, if you want to be eco!
Timberlux UK-made wooden blinds work well with curtains. www.timberlux.co.uk
Roman blinds and curtains work well together. Products made by Hillarys, www.hillarys.co.uk
 For a small window, choose a fabulous fabric for a Roman blind - such as the Paul Smith stripe chosen here
Consider sheers for a living room if you want to keep things light says Paul Warren
Roman blinds allow you to enjoy a fabric without having to buy acres of it. www.vanessaarbuthnott.co.uk
Modern heavy linen eyelet curtains look modern and minimal
Larkin linen from www.janechurchill.com is a pretty fabric for curtains
Tie-backs give a smart look to curtains.

Contemporary interior designer Paul Warren says while he, personally, prefers the more minimal, cleaner look of Roman blinds, he is noticing more clients asking for curtains. 'They'll say they love a fabric so much that they want to see more of it.. and a small Roman blind that is folded up for most of the day doesn't give them that visual kick as looking at lots of it in curtain form.

'And they feel curtains give a certain sumptuousness that you don't get with blinds. Which is true.

'What I do say is if you're going for curtains, find a curtain maker rather than buy those boring ready-made sets you get from department stores. Curtains need to feel generous, so the fabric should puddle on the floor - never stop curtains at the bottom of your windows, they need to hang from the top of the windows down to the floor.'

How eco-friendly are curtains?

They can help retain heat in rooms during the cold months and keep rooms cool in summer if you keep them drawn, so if you live in a house or flat with large windows, you'd be well-advised to invest in some reasonably heavy, lined curtains if you want to keep your energy bills down. 

As to the eco-friendliness of curtains, well it's down to the fabric you choose, so consider organic linen, linen, wool, organic cotton, hemp, while silk can be lovely - remember though that silk can rot and fade if it's in direct sunlight. (You might find it useful to see Deco's A to Z of natural fibres).

Linens aren't hard to find - Colefax & Fowler, Zimmer + Rohde, Jane Churchill, Romo, Zoffany, Sanderson are just a few well known brands that have linens; but for more quirky/idiosyncratic linen designs, the UK has plenty of talented textile designers producing their own ranges of fabrics and home furnishings.

Emily Bond is one, and quite a few of her designs feature animals, including dachsunds, chickens, horses, cows and sheep. Her linens are ideal for Roman blinds.  Organic cotton upholstery/curtain fabric isn't so readily available - Vanessa Arbuthnott is one of seemingly very few textile designers who won't use conventional cotton because of the environmental damage it causes.

Belgian and Irish linens are perfect for curtains, and linen is easy to find in soft and muted colours (check out de le Cuona and for painterly floral designs, bluebellgray). Different weights are available so chose the density suited to your room. A bedroom, for example, needs a heavy linen to block out the light. 

And don't worry about creasing because upholstery linen is a different kettle of fish to thin linen used for clothing. 'Properly lined, pressed by curtain makers, and left hanging on your window for a few weeks – you can have linen without the crumple factor,' says interior designer Diana Blanchard. 

 
Roman blind from Bloc, whose BlocOut blinds can reduce heat loss from windows by 43 per cent www.blocblinds.co.uk
Polka dot blind from www.blocblinds.co.uk. Prices for BlocOut blinds start at £120
Grants Blinds' shutters are made using sustainable wood. Shutters are fixed and when louvres are closed, they can reduce noise. www.grantsblinds.com
Timberlux wooden blinds with contrasting tapes. www.timberlux.co.uk
Duette honeycomb blinds are quite pricey but they do help keep the heat in and they look amazing up or down. duette.co.uk
Bespoke fabric blind from Bloc, which offers heat loss prevention blinds. www.blocblinds.co.uk

Blinds that curb heat loss

For blinds that not only look fun and contemporary, but can help reduce heat loss, Bloc Blinds, which manufactures products in Northern ireland,  is well worth looking at.

It has a BlocOut range of roller blinds that no only keeps all light out but it stops airflow from the window, so reducing heat loss by some 43 per centBloc also has several eco-friendlly fabrics, including one made from starch and recycled PET plastic bottles. 

Duette honeycomb blinds are also great for conserving heat - read more about them here. Available in plenty of colours, they're a very attractive window treatment.

For very stylish wooden blinds, Timberlux - which was launched earlier this year and manufactures in Lisburn - has an extensive collection of blinds made using sustainable basswood. Choose from natural wood tones or name your colour and finish - whether matte or highly polished. Prices from around £116 for a blind 61x61cm. 

Roman blinds are always an attractive window treatment, and if you love a particular fabric but can't afford enough of it for curtains, then buy a couple of metres for a Roman blind and you can enjoy looking at it when the sun goes down. You can fold the blind up as much or as little as you like, and if you have your fabric with a border in a strong contrasting colour, blinds can become a strong visual feature of a room.

And if money's no object, it makes sense to have Roman blinds and heavy curtains - the latter can be taken down for summer and re-installed for winter.

Shutters

Shutters make us think of the Continent - lovely old buildings in France or Italy - or perhaps the Caribbean, with its splendid large airy houses that have plantation shutters at the windows. So the associations are good, which could explain the enthusiasm in northern Europe for wooden shutters. 

Choose bright colours to make shutters have high impact. FSC-wood shutters from www.thecaliforniacompany.co.uk
For sitting rooms, leave the top part of windows uncovered if you want to maximise light. www.thecaliforniacompany.co.uk
The New England Shutter Company's products are made in the Dubai using FSC hardwoods
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They can prove costly for large windows, but they will last for years. They're fixed in the window so won't rattle around and when the louvres are closed they can reduce noise coming in from the outside. Obvioulsy a cheaper way of using louvres to control the amount of light coming in is to have Venetian blinds, but these don't, perhaps, look as smart or feel as substantial.

They're made to measure and can be made to fit in awkward spaces. They can be full heightcafe style (leaving gap at top of window), tier-on-tier, and hinged so they fold in. For bathrooms it makes sense to have a half-height shutter fitted, so you can see out of the top half of the window.

There are plenty of excellent manufacturers using FSC-certified hardwood, among them Grants Blinds, which manufactures 90 per cent of its shutters and blinds on the Isle Of Wight.

Shutterly Fabulous, South Beach Shutters, The California Company and The New England Shutter Company are manufacturers that also use FSC-certified hardwoods - and The New England Shutter Company, which has a showroom in London and its factory in Dubai, has achieved FSC Chain of Custody Certification.

 
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