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Window treatments have been in place over windows for hundreds of years. The purpose of window treatments has been both utilitarian and decorative. Initially, people covered their windows to control the amount of light and air emitted through the openings and to provide privacy. Gradually, these coverings evolved to become a part of room decor. Window treatments include curtains, draperies, shades, blinds, and shutters. Styles and trends in window treatments have changed significantly over the years.

Initially, windows were completely utilitarian, in place to allow ventilation and light in to interior rooms. During the day, people would use the light provided by the sun. At night, they would cover the windows with shutters to keep out the elements. Eventually, people installed glass over windows to provide more protection from the elements. People covered their windows with plain fabric for privacy, usually just nailing the fabric in place over the window.

As time elapsed, window treatments evolved. Symmetry was an important element in window coverings. To avoid spoiling the symmetry around windows, people divided the curtains in half at the center point of the windows, and they pulled the fabric to each side. At about this same time, people invented window shades that could go up and down with the use of cords or pulleys. These fabric shades were attached above the windows. Later, designs included either valances or cornices installed at the tops of windows to cover the area where the shades attached to the windows.

Curtain rods were the next important invention. Curtain rods enabled people to utilize window coverings more easily, pulling them to one or both sides to allow light and air in, and closing them for privacy and warmth. People still used valances and cornices to cover the curtain rods. This invention also enabled people to begin layering various elements such as sheers and draperies. Eventually, elaborate finials on the ends of the curtain rods began appearing as new ways to add decor and design to windows.

Today, design trends vary between elaborate window treatments and more simple styles. Fabric choices range from opulent damasks and velvets to simple muslin. Draping may involve copious amounts of fabric to create extravagant designs, or the treatments may be sparse and simple in nature. Top treatments of valances and cornices can also be simple or extremely ornamental. Gathers, pleats, scallops, and points are just a few of the design options for top treatments. Hardware has also become an integral part of window design. Drapery rods, finials, rings, and tiebacks are available in a number of styles such as metal, wood, and acrylic.

Blinds, shades, and interior shutters are other options for window coverings. Traditionally, shades have been made out of fabric. These treatments go up and down using various mechanisms. During WWII, "blackout" shades were used to completely block light. Newer innovations have transformed shades so they are both attractive and utilitarian to cover windows. Blinds may be either vertical or horizontal style. Depending on their style, blinds can move up or down or across a window. Blinds also have slats that open and close. New technological advances in blinds have made it possible to operate blinds with remote controls. Blinds may be made from vinyl, aluminum, wood, or fabric. Lastly, interior shutters have become popular, as sort of a "stiffer" form of blinds; they are a long-lasting option with a country look.

Article written by Lexi Westingate
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