Window to the World

My 140-year-old home is a bit off kilter. None of the windows, walls or floors is square, which means when you try to dress them in drapes, it’s impossible to get a neat, uniform look. So I opted to cover my windows in simple wooden shutters. While I adore the streamlined look, I miss the luxury and richness of fabulous fabric window treatments.

Luckily, I get to live vicariously through friends and customers who ask me to help them dress their windows. I enjoy every minute I spend working with gorgeous fabrics, trims and accents, helping people design the window coverings that will finish their spaces beautifully.

Here are a few of my favorite fabric window treatments, plus some “how to” tips from Kelly, the drapery goddess who makes all the custom drapes for Nell Hill’s:

Flat Panel and Pinch Pleat Drapes

Panels have to be my all-time favorite window treatment. I love how simple drapes frame a window, adding a whisper of softness without overwhelming the view.

The first step is to decide on the panel length that works best for your lifestyle and room. If you want to open and close your curtains daily, Kelly suggests finishing the drapes one-half inch above the floor. For a softer, fuller feel, let them break like a man’s trouser, finishing them an inch or two longer. For a truly luxurious look, let them puddle between five to 12 inches on the floor.

Regarding width, the current trend is to hang the panels on the outside edges of the window so all the window glass is exposed. To give them enough fullness, make the panels two-and-a-half times the width of the window. A lined, regular weight drapery treatment occupies one-third of the total rod, so if you want the panels to stack completely off the window, make the curtain rod a third longer than the width of the window.

Finally, refuse to skimp on your curtain lining. Using the right lining will make your drapes look professional and beautiful. Be sure to use only liner that is the same kind of fiber as the face fabric, whether it’s a natural fiber like silk or a synthetic fiber like polyester. Otherwise, the face fabric and liner will hang differently. Kelly often uses blackout fabric to prevent the sunlight from shining through the face fabric, detracting from its beauty and causing sun damage. To achieve the best finished look, also use interlining, like flannel, between your face fabric and back lining. You’ll be amazed by the extra body and beauty you get when you include this extra layer.

Roman Shades

Roman shades are a great pick for people who have gorgeous wood molding they want to show off. I love how these tailored shades give you a custom, sleek appearance, offer total privacy and sun protection, and insulate against drafts.


Get ready, because cornices are back, and right now people are reinventing this classic window treatment in dozens on interesting ways. For instance, LuAnn, who works with me at Nell Hill’s, just did the most gorgeous cornice and drapery treatment for her husband’s study that I’ve seen in years. She started the room by covering the walls in a Burberry-style plaid featuring camel, black, cream and red. Then she covered padded cornices with black wool fabric, piped them in red and put her husband’s monogram at the center of each cornice using red thread. She completed the treatment with long, lush drapes in a black and cream toile fabric featuring a hunting scene. The finished look was smart and stylish, with an unexpected hint of fun.

Café Curtains

For smaller windows, like those above your kitchen sink, my favorite treatment is the ever-popular, singularly romantic café curtain. Hang them about two-thirds the way up the window so plenty of sunlight can stream in, yet you have a bit of privacy.