When it comes to window treatments, less is more

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With spring weather upon us, we’ll soon be opening windows and letting the sun shine in. As breezes set curtains fluttering, it’s the perfect time to consider window decor.

“Dressing windows is one of the most impactful ways to give any space a designer edge,” says Brian Patrick Flynn, an interior designer and founder of decordemon.com.

The freshest looks now, according to Flynn and interior designers Betsy Burnham and Mallory Mathison, are all about simplicity, softness and fuss-free design.

• SIMPLE HARDWARE: “The skinnier the rod, the fresher the room will look,” says Burnham, founder of Burnham Design in Los Angeles. “Just a skinny rod with tiny rings is all you need. It’s very graceful. … When I see 2-inch and 3-inch wooden rods and clunky rings now, it looks so dated.”

Atlanta-based Mathison agrees: “People are moving away from window treatments with cornices and valances.”

• SHEERS AND NATURALS: Mathison increasingly prefers to use sheer curtains on their own, rather than pairing them with thicker draperies. Adding a thin, organic cotton lining to a sheer curtain panel adds a bit of privacy, but keeps “that sort of flowy, gauzy look.”

• ONLY THE FABRIC YOU NEED: A few years ago, Burnham says, many designers favored piling on fabric to create dramatic windows. Today, there’s a

spare approach.

“We’re not swagging. There’s no puddling of fabric on the floor anymore,” she says. Now, it’s best for fabric to “just kiss the floor.”

The same rule goes for Roman shades: “A simple, pleated style, not too much fabric” has become more popular than billowing shades.

• CUSTOM LOOK FOR LESS: It’s increasingly easy to get the look of made-to-order window treatments without the cost. All three designers suggest buying pre-packaged curtain panels, then having them custom lined and hemmed.

“I stick with linen and cotton,” says Flynn, “then drop them off to a seamstress to be lined so they hang nicely.” Or buy several yards of fabric and have a seamstress make simple panels, rather than having curtains done by a custom window treatment retailer.

If you prefer shades to curtains, Mathison says to apply the same strategy: Buy a plain white cotton Roman shade, she says, then attach a flat ribbon trim across the bottom border or even a cotton pompom fringe for a child’s room. The look is simple and clean, and the expense minimal, but you’ve added a dash of color and texture.

• SUBTLE PATTERNS: Patterns aren’t out of style, but these designers suggest deploying them strategically.

“There are a lot of sheers now that have a subtle pattern in them, a tone-on-tone stripe or wavy design that adds a little bit of interest,” Mathison says.

Burnham sometimes favors that approach, bringing in pattern through texture rather than color: “It’s nice to find a rougher linen, just not a plain flat cotton,” she says.

Subtler patterns work especially well in a bedroom, Burnham says, “where it’s nice to have something calmer. In your dining room you can indulge your alter ego, and go a little crazier.”  

• DON’T FORGET STRATEGY: For all their decorating value, window treatments of course have practical purposes. Draperies and shades can mask old windows, buying you time before you need to replace them.

They can also block excess light, keep warmth from escaping through drafty windows and block sound from outdoors.