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Let There Be Light

One of the trickiest problems to solve when decorating a room involves color selection and lighting, most often the natural light from windows. Using the wrong window treatment can change the way furniture or accessories look in unfiltered light. Finding the right window treatment isn't difficult, though, if a few basic steps are followed.
  1. First consider your light filtering or light blocking requirements.
  2. Then choose colors that work with your existing color scheme.
  3. Lastly, select window covering products that complement the style of your room.

Light Filtering vs. Light Blocking

When deciding on window treatments, the first question is whether the room requires light filtering or light blocking shades or curtains. While both can be achieved through layering window treatments, carefully consider what the most important function of the window treatment should be.

  • In bedrooms, the greatest concerns are usually light blocking and privacy. Shades and curtains designed to block light are opaque and often constructed from dense materials to produce different levels of control. Blackout shades are very popular options for light-sensitive sleepers or for individuals who may sleep during the day.

  • In living rooms, offices, and dining areas, one of the most common preferences is to have window treatments that are light filtering. Sheer or thin materials result in less brightness while providing some privacy.
Some window treatments are designed to both filter and block light, like wood or faux wood blinds. These louvered shades can be adjusted to different positions or raised entirely to let in unfiltered light. Bali and Levolor both offer a vast array of options that achieve different effects. This includes solar shades, which are designed to filter the UV light that can be harmful to the eyes and damage furniture, while still remaining semi-translucent. Solar shades do not provide privacy, however.

The Impact of Light on Color

Knowledge of color theory and color temperatures is very helpful when choosing window treatments. The wrong type of shades or curtains can have a disastrous effect on a room, and unfiltered direct sunlight can even damage furnishings, artwork, and books.

  • Cool colors register as blue. Cool colors like blues and greens evoke water, oceans, rain and even ice. When light filters through window treatments of these colors, the effect may result in a cooler room. This can create a serene environment if the furnishings and d├ęcor are also cool colors. However, an entirely different effect will be created if the room is decorated with warm colors. Blue light filtering over red décor will create purple tones, which may make a room feel dark and murky. Blue over oranges and yellows produces green shades and will change the way the colors are perceived, according to Illuminating Engineering Society of North America.

  • Warm colors like reds, oranges, and yellows can add depth and color to a room, mimic sunlight, and produce an energizing and uplifting atmosphere. As with cool colors, be sure the furnishings and window treatments are in the same color family. Red light will have the same effect on cooler décor that blue light has on warm color palettes.

  • 1. To use color filtering best, stick within color families.
  • 2. Darker shades and treatments that block light will make rooms feel smaller.
  • 3. For a sunny effect in a warm-colored room, choose cream shades or curtains. In cool-toned rooms, opt for bright white or dove gray.

  • Antique furniture, paintings, and books can be damaged by constant, direct sunlight. To prevent damage, place bookshelves and paintings on walls that aren't exposed to direct light and choose light filtering shades or sheer curtains. If items that may be damaged cannot be kept out of direct light, consider UV filtering shades to counteract the most harmful rays.

Complement Your Style

Window treatments can be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The simplest way to achieve this is to pair light-filtering or light-blocking shades or blinds with curtains or drapes suited to the style of the room.

Trendy natural materials such as bamboo and reed are best paired with relaxing muted earth tones and work well with modern or vintage furnishings, according to HGTV. Brightly colored fabric shades often lend a tropical feel, which is especially good with large, lush houseplants in bohemian-style living rooms. Fabric shades often don't have many filtering options, since their only positions are up or down. To achieve a natural look with more options for light blocking and privacy, try faux wood blinds.

Traditional and formal living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms are accented best with layers of window treatments. Use sheer shades under heavier damask drapes. Real Simple suggests silk tassel tiebacks to add texture and richness, which can also be removed to let heavier curtains close, blocking more light for bedrooms.

Modern furnishings benefit from clean linear treatments, like roller shades or mini blinds. Technology has vastly improved the selection of window treatments, so it's now possible to block light and achieve privacy while still enjoying the fantastic views offered by large windows.

Color is, in essence, light. When decorating, it's impossible to leave lighting—whether natural or artificial—out of the equation, as the amount or source of light directly impacts the appearance of color. Choose your palettes carefully, paying close attention to the relationship between your windows and your furnishings.