Window treatments to feature, not hide, window moulding

karinlMay 8, 2012

Our house is a modest Victorian circa 1905 which we have quasi-restored/renovated. I love the original window and door mouldings, which we have painstakingly stripped of their 8 coats of paint. While we've obviously had something covering the windows for the 18 years we've lived here, I'm finally trying to make "nice" draperies.

My problem is that most of the "nice" drapery options seem to cover the mouldings, especially when the curtains are open - which would be when I'm awake and interested in being able to see them :-)

I would love to use decorative rods with cool finials, or layered treatments with swags and tassels and what have you, but if you confine yourself to working within the window frame, most of those things don't work, or if they do, the draperies still cover most of the window when they are open! The house is small enough that the one obvious answer - extending the rods out far enough that the whole drapery stack is outside the mouldings - is out of the question. We want to co-exist with the draperies, not be supplanted by them!

I'm working out a variety of solutions, and it has been "work" because we have quirky needs based on window design and privacy as well. But I'm curious: how have other people solved the challenge of covering the windows in a period-sensitive way without covering the mouldings?

Karin L

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I'm not sure how period appropriate it is but I've used Roman shades in the more formal rooms and blinds in some of the others. I also plan to use shutters in one.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 11:24PM
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Shades or wooden Venetian blinds would be period appropriate. You could also look into window shutters, either the accordion kind or the type that slides up and down. You could add a lambrequin to the top to dress things up a bit.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 8:37AM
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I did wood blinds and fabric valances.


    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 9:56AM
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When it comes to showing off beautifully restored windows, I'm a big believer in tailored, inside mount valances, with or without blinds or shades. After all the time & work that's gone into them, there's no way I'd cover them up; the windows & trim are the stars - not the draperies!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 2:21PM
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I hit 'submit' too soon.

Because valances require so little fabric, you can splurge on the expensive stuff, especially if you're making them yourself.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 2:31PM
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Don't cover your moldings or overcrowd your house with draperies that are too large for it.

Victorian draperies belong inside mounted to show off the intricate moldings. You can make lace draperies which are very Victorian.

For light control you can use Victorian shutters or wood blinds.

Here is a link that might be useful: Victorian Drapery Ideas

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 10:16PM
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Thank you for those responses. I like both roman shades and valances but am reluctant to sacrifice the daylight they require because the lower half of the window is covered pretty much always with a "cafe" curtain (otherwise the neighbours look straight in). I've had mostly a top and bottom rod-pocket curtain, each half the height of the window, and am just flat-out tired of the look. So I am experimenting with different lengths on the two rods, as well as using pinch pleats, decorative trims, or something to quench the thirst for something ornately Victorian.

But I am glad to hear that I'm not the only one "staying within the lines." Maybe in Victorian times they didn't care because the mouldings were no big deal, since everyone had them.

I have used different types of rods inset into the frame, and for the cafe portion have in a couple of cases put a fancy rod with finials (I love finials!!) across the centre of the window, extending across the moulding, to hang the "cafe" part from. It seems to be particularly the mitre on the moulding that I like to have visible.

Those are some cool links, and have helped me to articulate one thing I've been thinking about, which would be something like a shoji screen but using fabric instead of rice paper - maybe sliding panels instead of those cafe curtains. Not purely period, but maybe credible if I use the right fabrics. Our windows aren't original anyway (just the mouldings), so I don't mind messing with the frame a bit.

If anything turns out nice enough, I'll post a picture :-)

Karin L

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 8:59PM
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My floor-to-ceiling front windows originally had half-height interior shutters for privacy. I'm always on the lookout (ebay) for appropriate sized antique ones to replace them.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 11:16AM
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These curtains (linked below) have enough pattern in them that you will get some privacy, and are perfect for historic homes. You could pair them with a cafe curtain (which I hate in rooms other than kitchens and bathrooms) or with a period appropriate roller shade. In the daytime, people can't see through the pattern, and at night, seeing through would be difficult, or pull the roller shade, as you're not relying on outside light that late in the evening. Keep the curtains inside the window opening and enjoy that lovely trim.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cooper Lace

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 11:45AM
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Have the draperies sized to fit withing the window frames.

Spring rods work for lighter items, screw mount into the lower track on the upper portion for heavier items.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 3:19PM
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Wow, Cooper Lace takes lace to a whole new level. On the two windows I'm currently struggling with, lace is not enough for daytime coverage on the lower half of the window, that needs to be fully opaque, but maybe for other windows...

I am looking to do something special - have had enough of cotton rod pocket curtains - but it is tough. I was actually just wondering yesterday if I should give up on curtains and resort to roller blinds - I don't even know if I know where to get them.

Brickeeye, the hard part is not the hardware, but the technical issues of the fabric. The problem is that when you stay within the window frames, you have no depth to work with (at least we don't), which makes it difficult to be creative with pleating, but above all makes it difficult to arrange for the drapes to open. There is nowhere for the folds to go, so you can't make big folds and your stack ends up still covering most of the window when the curtains are open.

I am at the stage of dialing back my expectations and questioning my assumptions and my self-imposed constraints to make sure I am not overlooking an obvious solution (which I have a lowering feeling is rod pocket curtains (sigh)). Shutters, unfortunately, simply don't appeal to me.

Karin L

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 1:48PM
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People saying that the Victorians hung draperies inside the window molding are wrong--the point to drapery at the time, besides showing that you could afford lots of fabric for pleats and swags, was to control drafts; valances or cornices served this purpose at the top, while the heavier fabrics dealt with the sides. The only curtains hung within the frame were 'glass curtains' or sheers as we know them today. This comes from several period drapery books, not modern posts.

To help with light control, roller shades were often used when there wasn't space for shutters or wooden blinds. These could be plain fabric, or painted with nice scenes if the outside view wasn't attractive (like a city view). Window molding was not normally meant to be seen, but if it was, then the curtain rods were mounted outside the window molding onto the walls. This has the effect of making your windows seem larger, and admitting more light; unless the room is very small, it should be possible to achieve a happy medium between revealing the trim and not dominating the room.

Have you considered the possibility of lace sheers, roller shades and rope portieres? My own windows have, starting closest to the glass: shades, sheers and then the main drapery.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 6:28PM
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I surprised that no one has mentioned cranes yet. A crane is a swing arm that's mounted so that you can swing the drape over the window, or swing it outward to let the light in.

Here is a link that might be useful: A not-wonderful illustration

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 6:06PM
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Columbusguy, thank you for being so specific and for setting the record straight about the rationale for all that fancy heavy fabric! Alas, I do have very small rooms, and clearing the moulding is a no-go on my present projects.

VJrnts, good point. I actually have a set of antique cranes, and they look kind of like crane wings too, but I had no idea what they were called. They are tricky to mount and to apply - having your drapes open is like having a cupboard door left open! But it is an objective for me to figure out somewhere in the house to use them! I have seen modern ones available, from Umbra I think, as well.

Karin L

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 1:42AM
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