Today, let’s throw it open for ideas and suggestions for window treatments for a wall of windows. Home designs incorporating walls of windows were common in midcentury America, especially in midcentury modern ranch houses. However: How to cover the windows from the spooky black hole of night… from fabric-fading ultaviolet rays… or for simple privacy from the outdoors?
Sarah is grappling with this exact question and has sent photos from 1961 raised ranch in Vancouver, which appears to have been designed for and still features original window treatments — pinch pleat draperies over pinch pleat sheers, both set on traverse rods. And in most parts of the house, the traverse rods seem to be hidden behind wood valances built into the very architecture of the house. Let’s look at Sarah’s house — which I think is pretty typical — and then let’s talk about options.
We are the proud new owners of a 1961 raised ranch in Vancouver Canada. We have a stunning tongue and groove cedar and white beam clad cathedral ceiling in our livingroom, but I am stumped on what to do about window coverings for the room’s big triangular wall of windows.
Currently we have the previous owners double track of white sheers and “wall coloured” pinch pleat drapes that cut the wall in half (at the standard wall height to match the other windows in the room), which I am not so keen on. Surfing the web has only turned up images of similar rooms with no curtains on this type of window (which is beautiful to look at but according to my DH is not an option for privacy issues- our faces the street!).
As this is such a typical MCM feature, I am hoping that you and/or your lovely readers may have some advise on what to do. Thanks for taking a look at our little dilemma, to give you a little idea of what we are dealing with I’ve attached a few pics
This photo shows how it was when we toured the house before purchase 6 months ago, all of the window coverings are still there for now except that terrrible little ruffly job at the top of the “triangle”- that went on day 1 of owning the house!
This is the front of our “smurf house” (changing the exterior colour is a project for this year), and you can see the wall-o-windows and the sunny deck it leads to. We are in the middle of a 1961 development in North Vancouver called Westlynn Terrace.
The other three pictures hopefully give you an idea how our living/dining is post move in (still lots to do and lots to buy to better suit our new place).
As you can see, even when the curtains are drawn back, because the triangular window runs right to the corner, the curtains block a pretty big section of the wall. The adjcsent wall has another big window that runs into the corner that runs almost floor to ceiling, so we lose a lot of the light, and the curtains end up distracting from the amazing design of the living room.
Because we are a corner lot, and the two walls filled with windows are facing roads, leaving them bare is not really an option for my dear hubby.
Any suggestions on how to be true and respectful to the house, but still keep us from exposing ourselves to passersby would be a great help.
GORGEOUS house, Sarah! Yum to that ceiling, especially. Okay, here goes with a long answer — because there are numerous ways to address this issue, with various pros and cons IMHO.
- But first of all: The Retro Decorating Gods have blessed you with architecture to hide most of the window treatments. Go with this flow, of course.
Option #1: Pinch Pleats over Sheers:
- Pinch pleats over sheers: This is the “classic” midcentury window treatment. It is generally my all-time favorite, because it is so flexible.
- Pros: You can open up everything for full light. You can close the sheers for filtered light. You can close the draperies over the sheers for full coverage. The fabric adds softness, and there are thousands of fabric choices for both pinch pleats and sheers. There is pretty much nothing easier than opening and closing with a traverse rod. It’s hard to “break” curtains.
- Cons: The stackback (the width of the curtains when you must keep them open) takes up wall space. Custom-made pinch pleats — and even “off the rack” — are ridiculously expensive.
Option #2: Sheers only:
- Use only sheers. Turn on all the lights. Close the sheers only. Go outside and peer in. Can you really see the people inside? If not: Perhaps you can go with only sheers.
- Pros: you could change these out to match your wall color… get sheers in that color but also with some texture, and they will read soft and neutral but still give you the coverage and privacy you need.
- Cons: You would not have 100% blackout. You would still have stackback — but I’m guessing it would be less of a visual issue than opaque fabric curtains, and remember, I’m suggesting you get sheers that blend pretty seamlessly, in terms of colors, with your walls. Once you did this, no changing the wall color. You would not have 100% blackout. Cheaper than making new fabric curtains, although, still is gonna cost you.
Option #2a: Sheer style fabric — lined:
- This is what I did in my office, shown above.
- Pros: Kinda best of both worlds, light and sheer looking from inside the house, but no one can see inside.
- You still get stackback, but if you choose the fabric to match your wall color it will sort of blend in.
Option #3: Vertical blinds:
- I think that vertical blinds were invented for exactly this situation. While they have kind of a bad reputation today (plenty of *hideous* bombs thrown at them), they certainly would accomplish the functional objective you are seeking.
- Pros: They are on a rail that’s easy to manipulate… and they store “flat” so you have minimal stackback. I went at looked at the variety of vertical blinds available at Smith & Noble, which has a good website for this kind of research. I was surprised at the diversity of vertical blind options. The image shown above, for example, shows vertical blinds made out of fabric.
- Cons: Gonna cost you: I did a quick pricing experiment and got to $33 for a 72″ x 60″ window. And you have a lot of windows, dear. Also, I think that vertical blinds got a bad rap in part because they were so easy to tangle and break. So you are going to have to be more careful with them.
- Link: Smith & Noble vertical blinds — three styles.
Option #4: Sheer Elegance styles:
- I think that Hunter Douglas gets the credit for first introducing what Smith & Noble calls their “Sheer Elegance” style, shown above.
- Pros: Open and close like pinchpleats. These are so lightweight that I believe there is minimal stackback. You can control the amount of light coming in with a wand, and there is a blackout option.
- Cons: I think these are very expensive.
- Link: Smith and Noble Sheer Elegance blinds.
Option 4: Vertical Cellulars:
- Shown above: You can get vertical cellulars, too.
- Pros: Minimal stackback:
- Cons: Lordy, one bump and these would be over. Expensive, too, I’m betting. Too much cellular for my blood.
- Link: Smith & Noble vertical cellulars.
What I would not do:
- I would not do anything that needs to be raised and lowered horizontally. That is not a good solution for wide, floor-to-ceiling windows. People, traverse rods, rock.
What would Pammy do:
- Fabric drapery choices are so personal — like wallpaper — that I can understand why you want the drapes that are there, out. I would probably feel the same. Even so: Yours look pretty darn neutral. Draperies cost a Fortune. Are you sure you can’t learn to love them???
- If it were me, and I could not live with the drapes that came with the home, I would probably try Option #2 — Sheers only or #2a, sheer linen-look lined, like my office draperies. If the existing sheers do work, in terms of providing enough privacy at night, and if they are aesthetically pleasing, I would try and keep them. I am cheap. But, I also know that, if the exiting sheers did not cut it, I would likely be very picky about getting a design that were “just right” for creating the look I wanted. So, I’d start searching for fabrics. While I did this, I would also be scoping for price. A few years ago, when I had some curtains made for my house — including my office drapes — a fabric outlet that also had a sewing shop was able to make them for me at an exceptionally reasonable price. They closed up a few years ago.
1384 words so far. Sorry.