I've been puzzling for a bit how best to approach a blog about blinds and curtains, as it's not one of those one size fits all kind of topics. Not that much about interior design is one size fits all, but when it comes to window treatments, it doesn’t get much more bespoke than this. Literally every component needs to be custom made to some degree, and there are so many nuances that differ from window to window.
I'm not sure if this is just par for the course as a designer, but I very seldom leave the decision making up to a supplier from start to finish. Even with big name suppliers or those with good design sentiment. I brief them on what I would like to achieve and what I want to avoid, and we work together to make it happen. It's a partnership between my vision and knowledge of the home/project, and their skill and know-how. Unfortunately no matter how perfect a supplier, they will all need some direction from you to a certain degree.
It's not an issue of trust. If you head to a butchers and tell them you're shopping for the ingredients for a pie, they would not be wrong to assume that you’re making a savoury pie, and proceed to sell you their finest slab of beef.
That's their job, and that's probably what most people would want from them.
But what if the pie you had in mind was for dessert, and what you really needed to buy was a cup of lard for the flaky crust? You can buy the lard from a butcher too, but you've got to ask specifically for it.
Quality of the product aside, the unnecessary purchase of a brisket is one thing, having window treatments installed that aren't quite what you had in mind, only because you didn't ask the right questions, is another matter entirely.
It's not a matter of needing to know all the technical bits and bobs about every supplier you ever work with, trust me it’s a novel idea but it never happens. You just need to have a specific idea of what you want and don't want. Not often easy if you don't have a designer on board and each meeting with a supplier is virgin territory.
It should go without saying at this point, but The Basic Principle isn't about DIY, so if you're expecting a post full of technical jargon and a how to tutorial, this blog isn’t it. Rather the next couple of entries over the coming weeks will be a simple osmosis of information between me and you.
Things I always keep in mind, and things I take into account, when it comes to window treatments.
BLINDS AND CURTAINS: pt1 roman blinds.
1) REVEAL YOURSELF
Whilst windows come in all shapes and sizes, when it comes to fitting a roman blind you will always have to choose between fitting the blind on the inside of the reveal or on the outside of the reveal.
What is a reveal? Basically, it’s perpendicular bit of wall surrounding the window. The window surround that forms the sill.
Window reveals themselves also come in many different shapes and sizes, but like I say, it all boils down to either inside or outside the reveal.
If in doubt, fit a roman blind outside the reveal.
Why? One of the most frequent gripes about blinds is that they block the light at the top of a window. Well if you install a blind the same way you try to disguise a rather large forehead, with a fringe covering the top of it, of course you'll block the light. Instead, by sitting the roman blind as high up as possible, outside the reveal, overlapping just the top bit of the window, it will not only rule out the light debate, but give the impression the window is actually bigger than it is.
If your eye can't see where the window stops, it will assume it extends up behind the blind itself. Perfect for new builds or rooms with pokey windows.
How much higher above the window? Well that's a conversion between you and Hillary. The point is, a roman blind shouldn't really block out much light when open, if they're installed outside the reveal.
By installing a roman outside of the reveal, you also create the perfect void behind it to fit a privacy roller blind. We'll get to those in due course, but you can't beat a roman blind / privacy roller combo.
To answer how far the blind should overlap the left and the right of the reveal, I would probably say about 5cm, but again, each window might require something slightly different from the next. However, the bigger the overlap, the less light that will creep in when the blind is fully down. Another major selling point to fitting outside the reveal - near complete blackout.
So when should you fit inside the reveal?
1. When there is literally no space for the blind to be fitted on the outside.
2. If having the blind on the outside would cover interesting architectural detail such as an arch or a window pediment.
3. If you have a super deep reveal and the window sill actually becomes a practical element in the room. Like a seat.
4. Where not having complete black out isn't an issue. So like a kitchen or a bathroom.
5. You've chosen a sheer fabric for the blind.
6. Where the blind is really just a cosmetic gesture to soften the window.
2) WIND YOUR NECK IN
By the very nature of their mechanics, roman blinds do come with a little thing called a side-winder. That's basically the bath chain that hangs to the one side, which you use to open and close the blind.
Some people hate these enough to discount installing blinds altogether, but these can be designed around and become pretty inconspicuous.
A side-winder can be installed on any side of the blind. You just have to state which. Unless super awkward to access, ask that the side-winder is fitted on the side of the blind closest to the corners of the room. That way you don't have random chains dangling in the middle of nowhere. Furthermore, by the very nature of perspective, a chain hanging on the furthest side of the blind is more likely to be concealed by the blind itself, and hardly becomes a factor to worry about.
If you have a series of multiple blinds, like in a bay window, think about the placement of the side-winder and how they will fall within the architecture of the window frames.
Child safety is something that needs to be taken into account with sidewinders, but if they are installed relatively high and short there shouldn't be any need for the side-winder to be fastened to the wall. A scenario that you definitely want to avoid. A short side-winder might mean you have to pull down a few times more to open and close the blind, but trust me, child safety fasteners are ugly AF and they just make the chain even more noticeable.
If you want to make the side-winder as camouflaged as possible, I find that an antique brass or bronze sidewinder blend into the shadows more than chrome or stainless steel. So don't worry about trying to match this to your other metal finishes. The darker the better.
3) AB FAB(RIC)
So this is where things might get a little technical, so I'll try and keep is simple.
You want to try and avoid a vertical join or seam in the fabric you use for your roman blind. Why? Because a vertical join or seam makes it look like you’ve run out of fabric and your blind is made from off cuts.
More often than not, you'll be faced with this dilemma if you’ve chosen a fabric with a pattern, or a print that can't be rotated.
Fabric comes in set widths, so if your window is wider than the fabric, the blind itself will need to be made from more than one width of fabric. As result you'll end up with a seam running vertically down the blind. Very often the case with fabric supplied by online click and install retailers.
Apart from the over complicated option of having multiple smaller blinds on one window, there are a couple of other ways to avoid this.
The easiest of which is to avoid a large print and go for a plain fabric. A plain fabric, such a linen or a felt, can then be rotated in any direction so there is no need for any vertical joins. Same with a non-directional print. A polka dot is a polka dot no matter which way it's turned.
I find that a large print on a blind is a little naff anyways, so it’s not like this advice is suddenly ruling out options for you. Even without the issue of vertical joins, I find the best fabric for blind are either a solid colour, or have dense non-directional print.
4) THE BRAIDY BUNCH
If you are worried that a solid fabric might be a little boring for you, and you'd like to inject some additional colour and pattern, incorporating a braid detail is the most considerate way of doing this.
Personal preference here, but I'd far rather suggest a solid fabric for the blind and then add a vibrant braid, than chose a shouty fabric that draws too much attention to itself.
The pattern on the braid can be any number of things. Suppliers like Samuel & Sons are a treasure trove. The point is, that you use the snippet of braid to add in the pattern or colour contrasts, tying with the other prints or colours in the room. The fabric chosen for the blind itself just needs to be the base on which that happens.
How and where to place a braid? I typically run them slightly inset on the left and the right, but having a braid forming a u-shape, along the bottom can also be quite cute.
One little tip. When the blind is all the way down, the braid detail should mirror what is happening with the window behind it. I always try and rationalise the placement of the braid with the window itself. Typically placing the braid at the same place where the window frame and the glass meet.
That way when the blind is up, the braid matches the architectural lines of the window.
5) DOES THIS PELMET MAKE ME LOOK FAT?
There are no rules about when you should and shouldn't have a pelmet.
Some people like them because they finish off the top of a blind nicely, as well as being used to amp up some of the architectural detailing lost behind the blind. Whilst others, like me, prefer the simplicity of the blind as is.
A couple of things I will say however. If you are going to install a pelmet, pay attention to the proportions. A top heavy pelmet will make the windows look like scowling eyes with heavy eyebrows. Similarly, thin little insignificant pelmets look like brows from a Christina Aguilera music video circa 2002. Drawn on and hardly worth it.
Ask for some sort of visual reference (drawing or photograph) before you agree to any sort of a pelmet. Neither of the looks mentioned above are particularly attractive tbh.
Sticking with eyebrows...because why not...unless you're a massive fan of a monobrow, two blinds should never share one pelmet. God gave each eye one eyebrow, you do the same with your windows and pelmets.
I've already done a blog on shutters, so check that out if you need a hand in that department. Next time it's onto curtains...a mountain of a blog in its own right, but just to wrap this one up...
They say that in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king. This blog might not give you 20-20 vision, but when it comes to blinds, it will definitely help you spot the wood for the trees.