Choice Window Treatments: Curtain Call for Comfort

Reducing exposure to unwanted glare, heat and the eyes of the world

window curtains with woman modelIt's so easy to fall in love with indoor-outdoor living when the world is viewed through expansive windows of uninterrupted glass. When they're clean, these sparkling surfaces go a long way to enhance the outside landscape, allowing those inside a mid-century modern home to become one with the great outdoors.

But these transparent walls can also be a challenge when living with them day to day. Bright sun shines in during the summer months, letting in heat and potentially fading the furnishings and art that's in its path. During the winter, windows are one of the main sources of heat loss and may account for up to 30 percent of a home's total heat loss in a season.

Loss of winter heating is especially a big deal for Eichler owners, particularly for those who still have original single-pane windows and sliders. A single-glazed window has an R-value, or measure of heat resistance, of less than one (as opposed to much improved 3.5 for a typical dual-pane window). Window coverings can help make these homes more energy efficient and offer some much needed protection from the bright sun and privacy.

windows view from outside at night

The 1950s brought a new era to window décor. Fussy ruffles and lace were replaced with a new Danish-modern style and printed fabrics in bold floral and Scandinavian motifs. The extensive use of plate glass influenced homeowners to skip installing undersheers, which simply added bulk to the windows.

ikea shades

Today, many owners of mid-century modern homes prefer to leave the windows completely uncovered, with the exception of bedrooms and bathrooms, where privacy is oftentimes a high priority.

Melissa Galt, an Atlanta-based interior designer born and raised on the West Coast—she's also the great granddaughter of Frank Lloyd Wright—points out that homeowners need to deliberate the purpose of window treatments before deciding on a style. Privacy, light control, framing a view, adding softness and color, acoustical benefits, and insulation are all issues, she says, that should be accounted for.

"The key is simple, tailored, and functional," Galt says. "In many mid-century modern properties, the less adornment the better. It is the geometry of the architecture that creates the drama and the impact. To cover it up with needless treatments defeats the architect's intent."

Determining viable window treatments is a careful balance of form and function. The simple act of blocking or filtering light from a window changes the ambiance of a room. A hard treatment, which can be a blind, shutter, or shade, is usually more practical in nature and bumps up against the window to create privacy or block out light, heat, or cold. A soft treatment is functional, too, but it also adds a decorative flair that can make or break a room's style.

We have hunted high and low to find some of the best options available for mid-century modern homeowners who want practicality and beauty without messing up the view.

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Screens

Sliding screen panels are an attractive window covering that can add sophistication to any MCM home. For those who like an Asian flair to their interiors, custom Japanese shoji screens are available from a variety of online retailers. Shoji screens were originally used in Japanese homes to separate the living space from the porch, while allowing light through. In modern homes, the shoji screen doors are typically installed on the interior side of sliding glass doors.

Portland Shoji Screens offers custom screens constructed of Basswood and traditional rice paper for between $29 and $39 per square foot.

Window curtain panels are similar in function to the shoji screens, but with a Western edge. The panels are mounted to a track that blends into existing window frames, and the curtains come in a variety of styles and thicknesses.

Prices run from low to high; Ikea's Kvartal curtain panels start at $9 each, but specialty window treatment workrooms can also custom-make screens in any fabric and color one desires.

The company Domestications also sells window panel tracks that are backed with a thermal lining to keep warm air inside. These sets, which start at $79.99, can be mounted to open in any direction, and one can add panels to sets to get a specific desired length.

Shades

Window shades are a practical solution for homeowners who want a clear view to the world during the day and need to close up the home from prying eyes at night. Flat Roman shades, pleated shades, and woven shades are all sound choices.