1. Starting with the TYPE OF WINDOW TREATMENT is a great place to begin:
PANELS: Available in a wide array of fabrics and styles, panels are most often classified as either curtains or drapes. Although both serve a similar purpose, curtains are typically made of lightweight fabrics and are often casually styled. Drapes tend to be formal, lined and often constructed with heavier fabrics. Panels are available in several standard top styles including rod pocket (also referred to as pole top), tab top, tie top, back tab and grommet top. Rod pocket and back tab panels gather at the top and conceal the rod. Tab, tie and grommet top panels allow the rod to remain exposed and are often used in combination with decorative rods. Panels are typically available in 63", 84", 95" and 108" lengths, though other lengths exist.
SHEERS: These are panels commonly made of a translucent and lightweight plain-weave fabric called voile (the French word for veil). Voile is generally made of cotton or polyester. Sheers are available in a variety of textures, colors and styles, including lace. They can be used alone or in combination with other window treatments, and typically measure 63", 84", 95" and 108" long.
VALANCES: A valance is a short panel or piece of fabric that only covers the top portion of a window. A valance can be used alone as a singular treatment for visual interest when privacy is not an issue. Used in combination with other blinds, shades, panels or drapes, they provide a finishing touch to a formal or casual window dressing. A versatile and easy window treatment is a scarf valance, which is mostly available in standard 6 yard measurements. All other valances, which include Blouson, Ascot, Festoon, Patriot, Tailored, Scalloped and more, are available in a wide range of widths, lengths and top finishes, so it is recommended that you refer to each individual valance to determine its dimensions and style.
BLINDS: Blinds are slatted window treatments that can be rotated to various positions in order to block or reduce sunlight penetration through windows. Blinds allow for privacy while still offering some view and light, and are typically constructed with wood, aluminum or vinyl.
SHADES: Shades are solid window treatments that typically stack or roll up to the top of the window when drawn. Raising a shade allows light into the room and lowering allows for privacy. Shades are available in several different styles:
Cellular shades are constructed with two layers of fabric that are pleated accordion-style in honeycomb shapes. They offer light filtering and insulation properties.
Roman shades feature loosely folded, horizontal pleats made of fabric that hang flat when lowered and fold like an accordion when raised. Roman shades with foam backing offer room darkening and insulation properties. Pole top Roman shades require a decorative drapery rod to install.
Woven shades are made from bamboo and other natural or natural-looking materials. They are typically available in lengths of either 64" or 72" and range in a variety of widths to accommodate windows between 18" and 72".
KITCHEN TIERS: These are used on small windows typically found in the kitchen. They are generally sold in pairs and have standard lengths of 24" and 36".
DOOR PANELS: Typically either sheer or lace, these panels have small rod pockets at the top and bottom, and cover the long, narrow windows on and around a door, as well as French doors. Spring tension or sash rods are used to hang them.
2. The FABRIC and LINING of your panels are the next things to consider when choosing window treatments. The most common fabrics include:
COTTON: This 100% natural fiber is harvested from the cotton plant, and is a durable material and one of the most versatile and popular fabric used for curtains and drapes.
LINEN: This beautiful textile is made from fibers of the flax plant. Its fine weave and drape allow for rich arrangements and pleats. Linen fabric allows some amount of light filtration with a bit more privacy than a sheer.
SILK: This luxurious natural fiber made from the pupae of the silk worm. Silk is known for its radiant sheen and retains rich vibrant colors, adding a subtle touch of opulence to any room. Silk panels are typically lined to prevent fading.
POLYESTER: Polyester is a man-made fabric that is wrinkle resistant and functions well in direct sunlight. Because of these properties, polyester is often blended with cotton or rayon to enhance its durability. The versatile properties of polyester allow you to achieve affordable versions of rich looks created by silk, linen or suede.
A LINING is a fabric layer placed on the back of panels to protect the fabric from coming in contact with dirt, sunlight and dust. A liner also adds weight to a panel allowing it to drape smoothly. Lining types that additionally minimize light penetration and energy consumption are:
BLACKOUT LINING: A three-layer fabric consisting of two layers of cotton and one layer of opaque material. This lining helps completely block out light. Can be used alone or in conjunction with any decorative drapery panel.
INTERLINING: A third layer of fabric placed between the fabric and the lining. Generally made of cotton, it insulates as well as provides room darkening and noise reduction properties.
FOAM BACKING: A coating applied to the back of a panel that provides thermal qualities. Also provides room darkening and noise reduction.
3. HARDWARE is the last piece of the puzzle that pulls the entire look of your window treatments together. From basic to ornate, these hardware choices make any window look great:
RODS: Also called poles, these serve as the main support for your window treatment and are the largest piece of window hardware to install. They are the central piece around which other hardware components are selected, and are typically made from metal, wood, or a form of plastic.
Non-decorative rods consist of white curtain rods, Dauphine, magnetic, sash, tension and cafe rods. They are meant to be concealed in rod pocket panels and telescope in a variety of lengths to suit window widths. Decorative rods are highly visible and available in an array of decorative designs, as well as in telescoping or fixed lengths. Decorative rods are either sold individually or as a set with finials.
DOUBLE or COMBINATION RODS: These are used when layering a valance on top of sheers or panels, and are typically available individually or as a set with finials.
Keep PROJECTION in mind when selecting certain types of rods, which refers to the amount of space between the window treatment and the wall or window. A larger projection will allow a rod to be layered over another treatment or fit around large moldings.
FINIALS: Considered the finishing touch at the ends of decorative curtain rods, finials come in many decorative styles and finishes. They complete the overall look of the window treatment, can often be changed to suit the desired decor, and are definitely meant to be seen.
RINGS: Rings can add to a panel's look and/or make pulling the panel across the rod easier. Perfect for converting the look of rod-pocket draperies to hang on, and show off, a decorative rod. Rings are slipped onto a rod and clipped to the panel.
HOLDBACKS / SPINDLES: These are decorative hardware accents that are secured to a wall and provide a holder for keeping drapes and curtains in an open position.
SCONCES / SWAG HOLDERS: Both are used to hang scarf valances, offering a decorative solution and allowing the scarf to be hung in a variety of ways. Sconces may also be used as rod holders.