Design WiseShelagh Duncan

What Type of Window Covering Should I Choose?

Bedoom-copyBy Shelagh Duncan

Where Do I Start?

Window treatments have been a part of life for most of us. We consider it one of the finishing touches for any room. There are many window covering options available to us here just as there are back home, and a huge variety of different styles, fabrics, textures and colours to chose from. However, once we move to the jungle and have are lucky enough to have staggering views, or perhaps total privacy afforded by lush vegetation or  a lovely large lot,  then covering the windows can be a secondary consideration.

Having said that, the other thing to consider is function. Why do you need to cover this window? Is it for privacy, do your rooms get too hot, is the early morning sun too bright, or do you just want to soften the feel of the room? Perhaps it is in a bathroom, where the builder decided in his wisdom that a large window in middle of the shower area would be a really good idea! Whatever the reason there is usually a great solution – but you have to know how to find it.
Royal Palm Interiors

So the first step is to decide how much privacy and light control you need – those are the two main considerations when we think about window coverings. Then you can start thinking about  style, colour, texture etc. – all the fun stuff!

Traditionally the two main categories of window covering are Curtains & Drapes, and  Blinds & Shades. Nowadays we have many variations within these categories. Sliding Japanese-style panels, motorized operation, window film, and outdoor shading like awnings and patio-shades are all readily available.

Grommet-topsCurtains & Drapes

Both curtains and drapes consist of panels of fabric – it is how they are attached at the top that determines which category they fall into. If you have an area with an echo, the use of curtains or drapes will make a big difference to the acoustics.

Curtains are gathered on a rod or attached to it by tabs, grommets, ties or rings. When they are opened and closed, it is done by hand. Curtains can be as simple as a flat panel that has been tied back, pleated or gathered to resemble a drape, or other voluminous and layered creations. They can also be any length, from café style, which covers only the lower half of a window, to full-length curtains that reach to the floor.

Drapes are pleated panels that hang from hooks that attach to small slides on a rod. You open and close the panels by a cord that moves the slides along a track. Pinch-pleated styles are traditional and more formal looking, but numerous variations exist to  dress-down this treatment.


Shades are one of the most practical and hard-working window treatments of all. They can offer easy light control, instant privacy and a clean, tailored silhouette in a wide range of colors and fabrics. There are many options including simple roller shades, textured shades, sun filtering and black-out shades, wooden shades and soft fabric shades including Roman, balloon and cloud shades.

Blinds and Shutters

Blinds and shutters have adjustable louvers and vanes that tilt to filter the light-level to reveal the view, or shift to completely block the view. Horizontal blinds made of vinyl, metal or wood come in a wide array of finishes and colors. Vertical blinds also come in an array of textures and materials and create a different look.

Shutters are not as popular here, as on the Caribbean coast, but wood blinds offer the look of shutters,  at a lower cost.


All types of curtains and drapes need hardware. They can be as simple as a spring-loaded rod, ideal for a café curtain, to an elaborate top rod that may outshine the window treatment itself. Hardware that will be covered by a valance is generally plain and unobtrusive. Other hardware is more decorative, including styles that include elaborate finials. When choosing the decorative hardware think of it as jewellery for the room! Look for styles that work well with your windows and the rest of the room’s decor.

These panels run on tracks that are attached to the ceiling or a horizontal frame and stack together when not in use. They slide across the window for privacy or for shade where needed and create a clean, uncluttered option. They offer a very contemporary and minimalist feel, and the different fabric options will allow you to create totally different looks.

Bathroom-privacy-optionWindow Film

There are many uses for this product, although the two main ones would be decorative and privacy. There are also high security films available, which prevent glass from shattering on impact to gain entry, as well as UV filtering and heat rejection films. The decorative designs range from imitating stained, frosted and etched glass, to complete underwater coral reefs and expansive land and seascapes. They are suitable for use in bathrooms, and in any other location where you want to add that special something.

Awnings & Patio Shades

These are not really window coverings per se, but our terraces and patios have openings , ‘windows to our world’  so I’ll include them here anyway. Their use in this application is mainly functional – the need to create shade. Awnings are practical as they shade from above and still allow the view out to be enjoyed. Exterior sun or patio shades are similar to roller shades, and they offer a convenient and decorative option to extend our enjoyment of the outside in a more comfortable environment. They can filter up to 99% of the sun’s rays.  Newer options also add the benefit of bug protection for evenings and at night – you can enclose your space when you need to, and enjoy sun protection and bug elimination at anytime.

Living-Room-Draperies-copyMost of the above are going to be custom window coverings. To save money you can opt for ready-made curtain panels and rods sets and put them up yourself. Or go custom – there are different price points available in every style.

Don’t be shy about asking for advice from the professionals. Well chosen window coverings will give you enjoyment for years to come, and will add value to your home!

Some of you sharp-eyed readers may have noticed that bamboo and woven wood blinds are missing… that’s because we do not recommend using them in our climate.

Let me know if you are interested in a more detailed look about what works best for us here in the jungle and why. The types of fabrics we choose are often as critical as the style! Part Two can cover that as well as offering some decorating tips and ideas for stylish windows – and send us your window covering challenges and see if we can help you solve them!

Until next time…

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