To hear most designers say it, window treatments are the jewelry of the home, the finishing touch without which no good room is complete. But, as with every rule—design and elsewhere—there are exceptions. If you're questioning whether your windows need curtains, we've gathered some experts to make the case. Here, some of our favorite designers give their two cents on when its okay to go bare.
When the view is too good to hide
"I've always considered them an important aspect of the overall design of a room," says Robin Baron. "That is, until one day a wonderful client of mine in Manhattan stopped me in my tracks when she told me me she did not want any window treatments in her main rooms. She wanted her expansive views unencumbered and to always feel connected to the city." In the spirit of compromise with the client, Baron succumbed: "It turns out, this decision was right for my client. Her home looks perfect."
Kendall Wilkinson had a similar change of heart on a project in Lake Tahoe. "To say the views are expansive and impressive is an understatement," says the designer. "Trees, flora, fauna, and water views go on for miles. Usually, we always layer our spaces with elegant yet simple and clean curtains. One day while visiting with the client for a site meeting, standing in the kitchen looking into the dining room, with the sun beaming in, we all unanimously decided to forgo window treatments in all the living spaces. "The view is the art and the visual interest in this lake house, we all felt that to limit those vistas and the natural light would be unfortunate."
Caroline Rafferty sums it up in one sentence: "Bare windows are OK if there's an ocean view!"
If the bones are great on their own
It's not just about what's through the windows, but what's around them, too: "A dream situation for bare windows is when prying eyes of neighbors are far away, the view is extraordinary, and the window shape or trim is of an interesting style," says Emilie Munroe. "Especially with dark casings, windows can become like art frames in a room."
Designer Michelle Gerson agrees: "When you have something beautiful to look at outside and your windows are beautiful, there's no reason to make them look fussy," she says.
In fact, KK Harris opines, "if you have windows that are beautifully handcrafted and unique, they don’t need dressing."
When there's little natural light
As Munroe points out, "for a designer, it's fun to add fabric and texture, but window treatments are, at their core, a functional item." If you're working in a space that gets very low natural light, nixing the curtains might be your best bet. "If curtains aren’t serving a purpose like filtering light or providing privacy I think it’s nice to keep windows uncovered—so long as they are well made and a good scale," says Jenny Brown.
In modern spaces
"I am one of those designers who loves a bare window," confesses Laurie Blumenfeld-Russo (who designed the curtain-less bedroom at the top of this story). "Particularly in modern loft spaces and even brownstones or houses with double height windows. It creates a clean, modern open feeling. If privacy is an issue I would recommend panel track blinds or solar roller shades. They provide UV protection, but you don’t loose your view."
On oddly-shaped windows
If you're working with a porthole-style window or a wonky, offset one, you may be better off leaving it bare and letting its shape make the statement. Plus, says designer Kristen Nix, "draperies can feel odd on uniquely-shaped windows."
If you can use a break from pattern
For designer Sara Hillery, a bare window can serve as a rest for the eye in an otherwise busy room. "It all depends on the amount of color and pattern in a room," she explains. "If there's a lot of it, by skipping window treatments you can make everything still feel fresh and not overdone."
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