Window Wiz

from Decorating
From country-French to traditional swags, Katrin Cargill knows window treatments. Check out these creative approaches to home décor.

An interior designer and author of no less than 15 books about decorating, Katrin Cargill has brought her relaxed, inventive curtain style to a lot of windows in her career, solving design problems and lifting hearts as she goes. “People tend to get much too serious about curtains,” she says. “If the solution is too complicated, it’s probably wrong.” Cargill focuses on three aspects of a room when she uses her curtain-making skills: mood, color, and style.

Mood

The mood she has created with these curtains is one of the casual charm, and for that, she most often turns to cotton “for its informality, practicality, and drape,” she says. “It drapes even better when lined.” Floral prints, of course, are as dear to the English as flowers themselves; moreover, they get along happily with today’s mix of furniture styles. It’s classically Cargill to give a simple floral pattern a more formal treatment than you might suppose and, conversely, to treat a more formal fabric with casual dash. For the large window of a city bedroom, a soft valance cresting floor-length curtains gives a dressy look to a rose-sprigged cotton. Above a tub she layered sheer organza over vintage linen “like a petticoat” for a sense of airy femininity.



Color

Strong colors happen to be Cargill’s favorites, especially red, which draws her the way red flowers draw hummingbirds. “In London’s gray weather, crisp colors cheer me up,” she says. Although she loves designing curtains (“I am mad for textiles,” she says), she doesn’t always assume that curtains are needed, even for a living room.

“Shades or blinds can be a simpler alternative and still have punch,” she says. “Because they use far less fabric, they’re economical too.” Bay windows, for example, can be the devil to dress. Her solution for the one in her living room was thin cotton blinds bordered with red tape. “Our houses and windows are better insulated today, so we don’t need the draft protection once provided by heavy drapes,” she notes.

How can colors at the window engage the room? Cargill finds all sorts of ways. Often, she feels, a dark wall is best served by light-color curtains. Or she might opt for a continuity of hue. One could also draw attention to the window with a fabric and color pop. A signature Cargill trick, however, is trim. “A border of grosgrain or velvet ribbon gives a finished dressmaker look and can pull colors together with a bit of snap.”



Style


“We’re all into somewhat pared-down decorating today,” Cargill says, “less busyness, less clutter, less dust.” That’s one reason she won’t puddle curtains on the floor. “It’s wasteful, and in my house, they’d just collect dog hairs!” What about deciding on long versus short panels for a room? Ordinarily, floor-length curtains are more formal, more likely to be used in the living room, Cargill says. “But it really depends on the window, the feeling you want. The little rules aren’t always true.” For example, long curtains don’t necessarily add height to a low room. “Its what you do at the top that matters,” she says, “such as raising the rod above the window frame or adding elements to the heading that draw the eye up, like a pelmet or valance.”

If the very word “pelmet” brings to mind rigidity or an acre of artful folds, it needn’t. In Cargill’s hands the effect can be as soft as a summer bonnet. Similarly, a self valance can look as easy as a fold. Of course, the ideas are not all that easy to sew; Cargill suggests taking pictures of ideas you like to an exacting seamstress and discussing all the details, right down to how wide a trim or border should be and how deep a valance should drop. “Proportions matter,” Cargill says.



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