Trisha Roy founded her own window treatment company after being frustrated at ordering her own. The former tech veteran, who used to work at PayPal and eBay, started Barn & Willow to help customers through the entire ordering process online. Roy joined staff writer Jura Koncius for The Washington Post's Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.
Q: I'm trying to figure out whether to use Roman shades or roller shades for my living room. What are the pros and cons of each?
A: The main difference between a roller vs. a Roman shade would be the material with which it's made and the kind of look it lends to the space. Both can be an inside or an outside mount. Roman shades are generally made with fabrics such as linen, cotton or polyester, and they tend to have a nice, soft look to them. You can 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 want a simple privacy filter. Overall, because it's made with regular linens and 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 (flat, cascade, etc.). It can look classic yet contemporary.
Roller shades are made with specific types of vinyl or polyester that are usually blackout-coated or partially coated. The material is much stiffer, and because of 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: What's the difference between shades and blinds? How do I know what is best for my house?
A: Blinds are usually made with plastic and/or vinyl materials and have either horizontal or vertical slats. Shades are usually made with fabric and are not plastic or vinyl. Functionality-wise, both are the same and both can be mounted inside or outside the window frame. You would have to decide which one better suits your house's aesthetics. Blinds do come in a variety of less expensive options as well.
Q: What curtains are appropriate for a black and white bathroom?
A: Regular cotton drapes or shades are usually what I prefer for bathrooms. Would the curtains be used as a shower curtain? In that case, make sure it has a waterproof backing or a separate liner. For the window, I would recommend going with cotton or polyester. Linens tend to attract moisture and in the long run may make the fabric sag a bit.
Q: What's the proper way to have drapes "puddle"? Should they be on the floor or come just above the floor?
A: It depends on the look you prefer. Some people prefer it to be ½ 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. If you have pets at home, it's generally recommended to go with ½ inch above the floor just for ease of maintenance.
Q: 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: Drapes are usually timeless and would fit well with any style of room. For a very modern look, Euro pleats or grommet-style drapes look great. For a contemporary style, it would be pinch-pleated drapes. Roller shades are generally popular in TV rooms, family rooms and study areas. They lend a clean look to the space. Whites are always popular; you can never go wrong with white, especially if your wall color is taupe or gray. For a more modern vibe, go with light or dark gray. Jewel tones are very popular these days, so try dark blues, emerald greens, etc., although they might not be the most timeless.
Q: I live in a rowhouse condo, so all my windows are along one wall. In my open living/dining room, I have two large rectangular windows (about 32 by 65 inches) 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?
A: That's a nice choice. Just make sure the panels aren't too wide or too full because you don't want too much fabric sitting on one wall of the room.
Q: 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. It's 14 feet wide.
A: Bow windows are definitely difficult to work with. We introduced a hardware collection 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. You can also try looking for a custom option on Etsy.
Q: Finding the right window treatments for an entire home can be overwhelming. Any recommendations on how to approach this?
A: I would recommend going with one room at a time, just like how you might be approaching decorating every room of your house. Usually, the master bedroom or the living room gets the highest priority when it comes to window coverings.
Q: Can I get really high-end material for Roman shades?
A: You can get custom Roman shades in high-end linens, organic cottons, velvets, etc. All types of high-end fabrics can be used to make Roman shades. Because of their soft and loose weave, sheer linens usually do not provide the structure a shade needs, so I recommend choosing a tighter weave.
Q: How do you achieve a beautifully decorated home but still maintain practicality? We have young kids who seem to love playing with drapes. What types of window treatments do you recommend that look good but still hold up?
A: 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 aesthetic you would like, then choose shades over drapes. Kids can often barely reach up to the window frames, so it works great. Make sure the shades have a child safety lock that tightly secures the pull cord to the window frame rather than letting it hang loose on the side.
If you prefer drapes since that might fit your aesthetic and the space better, then I would recommend getting tie-backs to keep the drapes stacked and gathered.
Drapes are generally easier to clean than shades, and you can absolutely spot-clean the fabric of your drapes and shades.
Q: How do you hang drapes? I know they should be "high and wide," but what does that mean? Why are the drapes I am able to purchase always too long or too short for an eight-foot ceiling?
A: Off-the-shelf drapes come in standard lengths of 84, 96, 108 and 120 inches. For an eight-foot ceiling, which is 96 inches floor to ceiling, when you install the curtain rod and rings, the drapery is lowered by about 1 1/2 inches. A solution there would be to buy 96-inch drapes and alter them so the finished length is about 94 1/2 inches.
Q: 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 it faces right onto a street, so I need privacy.
A: I would suggest Roman or roller shades and an inside mount if possible. Opt 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.
Q: 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 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.
A: I prefer shades over drapes with kids at home. Remote-controlled shades are great from a safety perspective.
Q: While I don't mind investing in functional window treatments that I'll love, it's so difficult because you can't easily try out or experiment before committing. Do you have thoughts on how to decide what is the right treatment or how to get help with it to know that your investment will not turn into regret?
A: If possible, you want to try it out. On our site, we offer sample panels. You can rent a 25-by-50-inch mini drapery panel for $15, and we refund your money once you return the panel using the prepaid shipping label. 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 to see how much light comes through, get a color match, etc. The panels also come lined. Unfortunately, something like this is operationally difficult for shades because of the hardware. Most companies offer free fabric samples for a better understanding of the fabric and colors.
Q: What are the most modern curtain rods to use these days?
A: The black matte finish or the carbon look is highly popular these days. Simple end caps look clean and modern.
Q: What are the window-treatment options for a sliding-glass door that opens onto a deck?
A: I would suggest draperies, but make sure you extend the rod at least 12 inches on either side of the doors so the drapes can sit on the wall and not on the glass doors when kept stacked on the side. Shades or blinds could also fit well, but it depends on the structure of your sliding-glass doors and your overall decor style. For a clean modern look, you could go with roller shades mounted on the wall above the glass doors.
Q: Should you have custom curtains dry-cleaned?
A: Yes, to avoid any kind of fabric shrinkage or damage to the liners and pleats. For regular maintenance, you could spot-clean the drapes or lightly brush off the dust.
Q: How important are fabric and GSM (grams per sq. meter) specs? If lighter fabrics have lighter GSM, does that means it's cheaper?
A: GSM has to do with the weight of the fabric. It does not have anything to do with whether it's cheap or expensive. A very high end, 100 percent sheer linen made with the finest linen would be between 70 and 95 GSM. A textured linen could be 350 GSM. Both can be equally high-end and high-quality.