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It's curtains for you!

At some point, probably back when I was in college enjoying $2 pitches at happy hour, curtains became window treatments


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If your idea of curtains a sheet nailed to window molding, or maybe you've graduated to Martha's curtains at K-Mart but can't shake the feeling you can do better, don't worry. You're about to get the professional help you need.

"Nothing finishes a room like having something on the window, even if it's just a simple blind," says Robin Muto, owner of and designer at Positive Environments, a full-service interior design studio located on Anderson Avenue. Window treatments can highlight great architecture, hide bad architecture, and provide visual interest of their own. Whether you live in a palatial manor, a cozy apartment, or somewhere in between, you can make a big impact on the look and feel of your space with window treatments.

A dizzying array of options exists outside of the humble pinch-pleated curtains of our misspent youth. They run the gamut from elegant festoon and jabot draperies to endless choices for shades and the revival of interior shutters. In determining what style is right for you, consider your décor, how much privacy you need, and how much control you want to exert over the sun.

One trend Muto sees in well-dressed windows this season is solar shades moving from the office into the home. Typically found in white, gray or black, solar shades are finely woven to provide some privacy while allowing people indoors to be aware of the outdoors. All that, and they add textural interest, too. "They're inexpensive, and they work great in contemporary decors," Muto observes, adding that certain brands like Hunter Douglas are coming out with a wider range of color choices.

Mark Leenhouts, co-owner of Fabrics and Findings for the Home, located on Anderson Avenue, observes, "In urban markets, there's a trend toward heavy texture rather than pattern. Popular choices include burlap, velvet and ultra suede in earth tones, steel colors, or black and white."

In terms of style, the crisp, clean window treatment trend is over. "More elaborate window treatments are coming back. Frills and trim are huge. The frothier the better," says Leenhouts. Layered window treatments are also on the ascent, such as panel curtains topped with a valance with a Roman shade underneath for privacy.

When it comes to color, "the combination of spa blue --- a very light, crisp ice blue --- and chocolate brown is hitting like a rampage," notes Leenhouts, who expects deep eggplant purple to gain popularity next year.

Now that you know what's hot, it's time to shop. Look for high-quality fabric. "It's like thread count for sheets," explains Leenhouts, continuing "better quality fabric is like having 400- to 600-count sheets; knock-off material --- commonly found in ready-made curtains --- is like 50-count polyester." Muto adds, "the best window treatments are like well-made suits or dresses. If the fabric is too stiff, they won't drape correctly."

Muto and Leenhouts also emphasize the importance of linings. If it's not lined, a window treatment will rot or fade. Linings also keep the look consistent. Without a lining, varying degree of sunlight hitting the back of the fabric will change the look of the window treatment throughout the day. As an added bonus, some linings provide insulation, helping to reduce heat loss in the winter.

In terms of overall quality, nothing beats custom fabricated window treatments. You choose the style, fabric, lining and trim you want, carefully assembled with attention to detail. Calico Corners and Teschner's, located respectively at 3349 and 3350 Monroe Avenue in Pittsford, are among the local businesses that fabricate custom window treatments.

Usually, custom quickly adds up to big bucks, but it doesn't have to be that way. Fabrics and Findings offers a "custom in a rush" option, in which you can choose from selected styles using in-stock fabric, and pay a maximum of $30 in labor, rather than the $300 to $500 labor charge commonly found in the custom market.

For semi-custom window treatments --- a mid-point between custom and ready-made in terms of quality and price --- Muto recommends the Smith+Noble catalogue, found online at www.smithandnoble.com.

Country Curtains, 900 Panorama Trail South in Penfield, offers quality ready-made window treatments in a broader range of styles than the name suggests.

Of course, DIY is an even more economical option. "Anyone who's relatively handy can make a simple Roman shade," says Muto. This flat style doesn't use a lot of fabric, but does require a lining and hand-sewn hooks, eyes, and rings for the cord. The ability to make precise measurements is a must, too.

For something a little more basic, you can make simple panel curtains without sewing a stitch. Leenhouts recommends selecting a light-weight cotton fabric, which is easier to work with than heavier fabrics. Decide what length you'd like the curtains to be. Leenhouts suggests allowing them to puddle on the floor for added impact. Allow a few additional inches so you can finish the top and bottom edges of the curtain by folding them over and sealing the seam using iron-on fusable webbing, like the Stitch Witchery brand. Clip rings onto the top of the panel and hang it from a rod. For an updated urban look, Leenhouts suggests popping grommets into your curtains and stringing wire through them for hanging.

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