Custom Window Treatment Q&A with The Washington Post

This morning, Trisha synced up with home and design reporter Jura Koncius for a live Q&A to answer all your custom window treatment questions. From roller shades to drapery, Trisha has you covered. Here's a recap of the questions and answers submitted to the Q&A.


Woman and gray custom roman shades

Q: Roller shades vs Roman shades

I am trying to figure out whether to use roman shades or roller shades for my living room? any thoughts?

A: Trisha Roy
Hi, Great question. We get that all the time from our customers too. Both roman and roller shades are starting to become hugely popular again. The main difference between a roller vs. a roman shade would be the material with which it’s made and hence the kind of look it lends to the space. Btw, both can be inside or an outside mount style of shades.

Roman shades are generally made with fabrics like linens, cotton, polyesters and tend to have a nice and soft look to it. You can most definitely line a roman shade with a blackout liner fabric if you’re looking for room darkening functionality or stick to privacy liners if you just want a simple privacy filter. But overall because it is made with regular linens, cottons it tends to have a softer look and feel. It’s a timeless look, depending on the style of fabric, the color and the shade style (it comes in styles like a Flat style, cascade style etc) it can look classic yet contemporary.

Roller shades are made with specific types of vinyl or polyester material that are usually Blackout coated (treated) and/or partially coated which makes it semi blackout. The material is much stiffer and due to this roller shades lend a cleaner, tighter look to the window and the space.

Roller shades are generally more efficient with filtering out light.

If you’re looking for something more modern, simple and minimalist for your living room I would say go with roller shades.

Q: Puddling draperies
So should the draperies barely hit the floor - puddle - or should they come just to the edge of the floor?

A: Trisha Roy
That totally depends on the look you prefer. Some people prefer it to be just about ½ an inch above the floor or just touch the floor and this is usually great for a more contemporary look. It also is easier for regular maintenance of the drapery, especially with lighter colors. Puddling drapes is a more classic style and adds more drama to the room. So it totally depends on what style you prefer. If you have pets at home, it’s generally recommended to go with ½ an inch above the floor just for ease of maintenance.


More Tips: How to Train Your Drapery Pleats to Lay Properly

Q: Tackling Window Treatments for an Entire Home
Finding the right window treatments for an entire home can be overwhelming. Any recommendations on how to approach this?

A: Trisha Roy
I totally agree. It can be super daunting. I would recommend going with one room at a time, just like how you might be approaching decorating every room of your house. You see, usually, it would be the master bedroom or the living room that gets the highest priority when it comes to window coverings. So I would suggest starting one room at a time.

Something our team of design specialists likes is to ask for pictures of the room and the windows from customers so they can then send them some design recommendations and even draw out some photoshopped renderings to show how a shade vs. drape would look. So you can consider something like that.

Q: Bathroom curtains
What kind of curtains are appropriate for a black and white bathroom?

A: Trisha Roy
Regular cotton drapes or shades are usually what I prefer for bathrooms. Would the curtains be used as a shower curtain or for one of the windows in the bathroom? If for the shower, then make sure it has a waterproof backing or a separate liner. For the window, I would recommend going with cotton or polyester style curtains. Linens tend to attract moisture and while that’s not an issue in the short term (and btw it looks great) in the long run it may make the fabric sag a bit.

Q: Roman Shades
Can I get really high-end material for the roman shades?

A: Trisha Roy
Oh Yes absolutely. You can get custom roman shades in high end linens, organic cottons, velvets. All types of high end fabrics can be used to make roman shades. Usually sheer linens, because of it's soft and loose weave do not provide the structure a shade needs so I recommend choosing a fabric which has a tighter weave.

Q: Practical window treatments
Everyone wants a beautifully decorated home including window treatments. How do you achieve that look but still maintain practicality? We have young kids who seem to love playing with drapes. What type of window treatments do you recommend that look good but still hold up?

A: Trisha Roy
That’s a great question and something I hear often from many of our customers who have toddlers and younger kids. Yes you’re right kids just love to play with drapes, I have a toddler and she loves playing hide and seek with our bedroom drapes :)

Generally, roller or roman shades lend a more clean and minimalist look to the space and if you think that’s the kind of decor aesthetics you would like then choose shades over drapes. Depending on how high your window frames are, a lot of times kids can barely reach up to that height so it works great.

Make sure the shades have a child safety lock which tightly secures the pull cord to the window frame rather than letting it hang loose on the side. This is absolutely necessary if you go with shades and have kids at home.

If you prefer drapes since that might fit your aesthetics and the space better, then I would recommend getting tie backs to keep the drapes well stacked and gathered. From an ease of clean perspective, drapes are generally easier to clean than shades and you can absolutely spot clean your drapes and shades fabric.

Q: Roman Shades
I am looking for blinds/window treatments for my daughter's bedroom. There are 4 small horizontal windows over a low closet on one side of the room. They are not a standard size and are all in a row. Two are together, there is a small gap and then two more. Nothing can hang too long there because it will block the closets below. I am thinking about roman shades up above the closets but the size is so unusual and when I priced out custom ones, I was shocked at the price. Do you have suggestions? Also, should I get 4 blinds (one for each window) or 2 so that each covers a pair of windows? The windows are all very close together but there is a little bit of a gap in the middle (about 6 inches), separating two pairs. The windows all have molding all the way around them too. There are 3 other windows in the room that are more standard in size and I don't know whether I should get the same blinds there or if there would be something that could coordinate but not match.

A: Trisha Roy
Thanks for sharing your design challenge and the specifics of the room - very helpful. Some of the odd-shaped windows or oddly placed windows can surely be challenging to find a solution. You've mentioned each of the windows are horizontal so I'm guessing they could be wide windows? Depending on how wide each window is, it might be okay to get 2 blinds or shades to cover a pair each. The reason I am leaning towards 1 shade for a pair of window is to avoid a boxed look and feel for that wall. Having 4 individual smaller shades may make the wall and the room look bit compartmental and boxed and you may not want those windows to be the focal point of the room. So, I think you would achieve a simpler look with 1 shade for a pair of window.

I would suggest having the same shade or blind for the other 2 windows of the room too to maintain some consistency, unless you're going with drapes which should be absolutely fine.

Q: Hanging window treatments
Could you please provide information on hanging drapes? I know they should be "high and wide", but what does that specifically mean. Should they hang 1/2" above the floor? Why are the drapes I am able to purchase always too long or too short for an 8 foot ceiling? This seems to be a standard height in homes, but I don't see how I can hang those premade drapes without them either dragging on the floor or being way too short? Then it seems I have to purchase custom, which is too expensive for me. Thanks.

A: Trisha Roy
That's a great question. Off the shelf drapes come in standard size of 84" length, 96" L, 108"L and 120"L. For an 8 foot high ceiling which is 96" high floor to ceiling, what happens is that when you install the curtain rod and rings, the rod and ring diameter lowers the drapery by about 1.5". So let's say if you buy a 96" L drapery, even if you have installed the rod at ceiling line it will lower the drapery by that 1.5" and will give the puddled look. So a solution there would be to buy 96" L but alter that so the finished length is about 94.5"L. Hope this helps.


More Tips: Drapery 101


Q: Bow window treatments
So excited to have a chat with a window treatment expert! I have a bow window in my 1948 house - which means the actual wall and window are curved, making a traditional straight rod impossible. There are also no obvious areas to add internal shades for individual sections, as might be possible with modern bay windows. Oh, and it's 14' wide! Any recommendations for a company that can make a custom rod? I'm fine working with a company virtually if they can produce a good product!

A: Trisha Roy
Oh, bow windows are definitely difficult to work with :) We actually introduced a hardware collection this last fall and while we do not offer specific bay window or bow window custom rod options on our storefront yet, our manufacturer does make bow/bay window style rods and everything is custom made. Feel free to drop us a note at and one of our design team members can help you.

Have you tried looking for a custom option with Etsy?

Q: Trend vs classic
What are some trends you're seeing in terms of colors or types of window treatments? What are some classic looks that won't look dated after a few years?

A: Trisha Roy
Great question. Drapes are usually timeless and it would fit well with any style of rooms. For a very modern look, the Euro pleats or Grommet style of drapes look great. For a contemporary style it would be the pinch pleated drapes.

Roller shades are generally popular in TV rooms, family room, study area and lends a nice clean look.

In terms of colors, Whites are always popular, you can never go wrong with white especially if your wall color is taupe or shades of gray. For a more modern vibe go with grays - light or dark. I don't think grays would go out of fashion in a long time. Also, jewel tones are very popular these days so dark blues, emerald greens etc are very popular although it might not be the most timeless.

Q: Safe and durable treatments
Hi, we are in need of window treatments for multiple rooms in our home and have two very young children. Curtains won't work with the placement of our furniture, but I don't want blinds with cords (paranoid about safety with the kids). Some of the rooms in our house had cordless blinds when we moved in, but the mechanisms in them snapped within a few months and now they're all wonky so I don't really want to repeat that again. Any recommendations? Thank you!

A: Trisha Roy
Between drapes and shades, I tend to prefer shades over drapes with kids at home. Did you have the manual roller shades that have pull up or down options or the remote-controlled cordless shades? The remote-controlled ones are actually great from a safety perspective. I would suggest looking into that option if possible.

Q: Window furnishings
What's your opinion on Motorized window furnishings?

A: Trisha Roy
Yes, motorized shades and drapes are great. We're actually working on a launch of our own styles of motorized shades and drapes here at Barn & Willow. I think it's easy to operate and convenient and it's getting more popular these days. Retro-fitting is also important and something we're looking into for launching.

Q: One curtain rod for two windows?
Good morning! I live in a rowhouse condo, so all my windows are along one wall. In my open living/kitchen/dining room, I have two large rectangular windows (approx 32" by 65") that are 30 inches apart. I'm thinking of using a single curtain rod to hang several sheer panels, flanked by drapes on either end - my thinking is that this will look less cluttered than two separate rods and drapes. Do you think this will look odd? Thanks!

A: Trisha Roy
Yes that's a nice choice and you're right, if you want a consistent look for that wall yet not over clutter, install 1 long rod to hang multiple drapery panels. Just make sure not to make the panels too wide or too full because you don't want too much fabric all sitting on one wall of the room. So just balance it out a bit :)


More Tips: Two Big Mistakes You Might Be Making With Your Drapery

Q: Confidence with window treatments
I find window treatment for my home so challenging. They can be very expensive. While I don't mind investing in something functional that I will love, it is so difficult since you can't easily try out or experiment before committing. Do you have thoughts on how to decide what is the right treatment or get help with it to know your investment will not turn into regret?

A: Trisha Roy
Thats a great question and I agree before investing your money (yes window treatments are an investment :)), you would want to try it out if possible. For this exact reason one of the programs we offer on our site is Try At Home Sample panels. You can rent a mini drapery panel which is 25"W x 50"L for $15 and we refund you the money once you return the panels using the prepaid shipping label we send. I don't know if other brands offer this, but I think this is a great way to hold the sample panels next to your window see how much light comes through, get a color match etc. The panels come lined as well. Unfortunately something like this is operationally difficult for shades because of the hardware.

Most companies would offer free fabric samples though for a better understanding of the fabric and colors. Have you tried that?

Q: Curtain rods
What are the most modern curtain rods to use these days?

A: Trisha Roy
Usually the black matte finish or the carbon look is highly popular these days. Simple end caps look clean and modern.

Q: Where to hang drapes
I always see advice to place the rod above the window frame, but how high? Does it depend on ceiling height? My ceiling is only 8 feet high. Halfway between the top of the frame and the ceiling? Some distance below the ceiling or above the frame? I am lost!

A: Trisha Roy
If your ceiling is 8 foot hight, I would suggest taking your rod to the ceiling line or as close as possible. It gives a visual height to the room. If that's not what you prefer, then go with at least 8-10" above the window frame.

Q: Sliding glass door
What are the window treatment options for a sliding glass door that opens onto a deck?

A: Trisha Roy
Great question. I would suggest draperies, just make sure you're extending the rod at least 12" or so on either side of the doors on the wall so the drapes can sit on the wall and not on the glass doors when kept stacked on the side. Shades or blinds could fit well too but it depends on the structure of your sliding glass doors and the overall decor style. For a modern clean look, you could go with roller shades mounted on the wall above the glass doors or the wooden frame. Probably have 2 individual shades for each part of the door. But totally depends on the structure of the door and the space. Drapes are usually the more common options people go with for sliding doors.

Q: Washing draperies
Should you have custom curtains dry cleaned?

A: Trisha Roy
Yes, always better to get it dry cleaned to avoid any kind of fabric shrinkages or damage to the liners and pleats. For regular maintenance, you could spot clean the drapes or lightly brush off the dust too.


More Tips: How to Clean Your Window Treatments Based on Fabric Type

Q: Fabric
How important is fabric and gsm specs? Lighter fabrics have lighter GSM, does that mean it's cheaper?

A: Trisha Roy
Wow, I'm impressed with this question. Very informed and not everyone knows about GSM :) Thanks for asking. So GSM is the weight in grams per meter sq. of the fabric. It does not have to do anything with cheap vs. expensive. A very high end 100% sheer linen, probably made with the finest linens would be in the 70-95 GSM. A textured linen, on the other hand, could be 350 GSM. Both can be equally high end and high quality. It's more to do with a looser weave vs. a tighter weave and the weight it lends to the fabric due to that, if I have to put it in a non-technical sense. Hope that helps.


More Tips: Meet Barn & Willow's Fabrics: The Eco Edit


Q: Shades or blinds
What is the difference between shades and blinds? How do I know what is best for my house?

A: Trisha Roy
Blinds are usually made with plastic and/or vinyl materials and have either horizontal or vertical slats. It comes in some eco friendly options as well. Shades are usually made with fabrics and not plastic or vinyl. Functionality-wise both are same and both can be mounted inside the window frame or outside as an outside mount. You would have to decide which one suits your house aesthetics more. Blinds do come in a variety of less expensive options as well. 


Q: Kitchen window
What's the best treatment for a kitchen window? Mine is right next to the stove (so it gets heat, grease, and occasionally smoke) and faces right onto a pedestrian street (so I need privacy at least some times of day). Help!

A: Trisha Roy
I would suggest roman or roller shades and in an inside mount style if possible. I would suggest optimizing for less fabric around the stove to avoid any accidents and damage. There are some shade materials that are flame retardant so that could be a good option too.