California designer Shiree Hanson Segerstrom's weekly tips for decorating, gardening, and stylish living

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Window Treatments 101: Seven Things to Think About when Designing and Ordering Curtains

above via FIFI CHEEK blogspot
If covering your windows is something you’re contemplating in the near future, there are several things to consider before making the giant leap. Here is a primer to help you make decisions that are right for your individual needs and circumstances.
above via A GIRL AND HER PEARLS tumblr
There are seven basic things to think about in planning new window treatments: exposure to heat and cold, the views from your windows, your architectural style, window size and type, cost, upkeep, and obstacles. Because window treatments are a large investment, there are a few questions you will need to ask yourself before making decisions.  
Do you want to plan in stages? If so, consider doing the formal living room, dining room, entry, and master bedroom first, with family room, kitchen, guest rooms and baths as second priorities. Are your windows attractive and are the views pleasing? Then you probably don’t want them covered up with wooden blinds or shutters. Are the clearances tight? In other words is there minimal room for treatments and hardware? If yes, an interior mounted treatment might be in order. Are there French doors or glass sliding doors? Generally speaking, the best treatments for those two situations are draperies.
There are many variables with window treatments. Often times there are more than one style of window in a room requiring continuity within different functions. I often suggest box pleated valances or drapery panels for such contingencies because they allow for varying heights of windows. Layering treatments isn’t always the most cost efficient choice but for small windows like those found in most bedrooms a valance over drapery panels visually increases the window size, softens noise, and creates a restful and attractive appearance.
above via ELLE DECOR
In design projects for my own clients I generally lean toward custom draperies on high quality rods with rings and finials over sheers; custom box pleated board mounted valances; roman shades; wood shutters; wooden blinds; and woven shades.
Here in Northern California, many home buyers are attracted to the views.  In these cases a “less is more” approach is used, mounting the treatments as far off the glass as possible. This approach is a tricky though because the farther you move the drapery panel off the glass, the wider the panel “stack” becomes. So while you expose as much glass as possible, you still end up with more of a “stack”.
For homes with unattractive windows and views, wooden shutters are a lovely solution. They are always a good investment for resale value. They are versatile, tailored and relatively easy to maintain. 
For rooms that are naturally dark I have found sheers on custom iron rods and rings to be beautiful and functional. The custom iron keeps them from screaming “budget”. Iron rods are a lifetime investment and should reflect the architectural style of the home.
Economical choices: draperies on traverse rods; board mounted valances; some brands of woven shades.
Moderately priced choices: draperies on decorative traverse rods over sheers; valances over stationary drapery panels; roman shades; wooden blinds; valances over wooden blinds.
Luxury choices: triple layered treatments such as valances over draperies over sheers; wood Plantation shutters.
To help lower window treatment prices on shutters and blinds wait for annual sales or choose small, lesser known manufacturers. To lower costs on fabric treatments like draperies, shades, and valances aim for fabrics in the $50 to 70 per yard range. Trims such as custom welts, ties, banding, and fringe add to the overall cost. You can save a little by purchasing ready made welts, though the look isn't quite as "custom".

Most designers won’t work with fabric you have purchased elsewhere, preferring instead to provide you with the fabric themselves. There are many reasons for this:

There is huge liability when using the client's own fabric not to mention extra foot work.

When we order fabrics from our own sources they automatically ship them directly to our workrooms.

Frequently fabric has flaws. Because we have long standing relationships with our fabric sources, we have recourse and are provided immediate replacement at no additional cost.

Often times there isn’t enough fabric to complete a job when client's order their own fabric and this creates all sorts of problems. Say for instance you have 75 yards of fabric and you discover you need 85 yards. If the fabric is no longer available you won't be able to complete the job. Experienced designer's foresee these things "before" ordering.

Ultimately, it is necessary for designers as business people to have the built in profit from purchasing their fabrics at wholesale and selling them at retail in order to cover the myriad contingencies inherent in window treatment designing. 
Window treatments are time consuming and technically challenging. For that reason the mark-up we receive from purchasing fabric at wholesale and selling at retail is important to cover our time. However there are fabric store chains in most major cities that will sell you the fabric and fabricate the product saving you considerable money. The draw backs are that workmanship isn’t always great and the styles tend to date very quickly. If you know what you want and wish to be the designer yourself, hiring an experienced seamstress is a great option. They are usually willing to work with your own material too. Choose seamstresses that have at least 15 years of experience otherwise you won’t be happy with the end result.
When choosing shutters, blinds, or shades pay attention to the colors. On large surfaces white can be so stark it makes everything else in the room appear dingy. To play it safe with fabric treatments, choose a nicely textured, neutral colored fabric like warm white or light taupe. Or, be brave and choose a subtle print that will coordinate well with existing furnishings.
Most of my clients want their fabric treatments by Thanksgiving or Christmas. This is the busiest time of the year for designers. Lead times are generally six weeks, but for busy times like the holidays, allow eight.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Building a Design Scheme around Vintage, Retro and Antique Furnishings

I’ve had a run of projects recently with clients possessing the most wonderful antique and vintage pieces. At times like this the question, “can you work with these?” is music to my ears. “Why… yes I can”.
I literally have to contain my excitement. Few things please me more professionally than to have design perimeters especially when those perimeters happen to include a circa 1950 glass top cocktail table with a gilt “sheath of wheat” base, an Edwardian rotating bookcase, or a Curtis Jere’ raindrop mirror.
The fun in this type of project lies in finding the proper furnishings to go with them. The perfect sofa, chairs and coordinating fabrics pull the eras together into a visually pleasing, style appropriate design scheme. I love the look and feel of this type of project. It’s much harder to achieve than buying all your furniture at one place in time but the benefits are numerous. By blending eras, your design schemes will evolve much better and stay in style longer. You won’t be replacing everything at once, in fact you probably won’t be replacing much at all except changing out the fabrics every twenty years. It looks better. The appearance is less cookie cutter. The whole environment is more original.
In a large vacation home near Yosemite National Park, I was asked to work around existing armchairs, various antique game tables and hutches, an antique dining room table and chairs, sideboard and a few other pieces. I did 3D renderings of two optional kitchen plans with a central island, breakfast bar, double wall ovens and a beverage bar. We chose a new sectional sofa, cocktail table and end table to coordinate with and update the antiques. The architecture has vaulted ceilings and an expansive open floor plan giving it the feel of a “lodge” without the wood paneling.
Because there are spectacular views and a wraparound deck, I added three sets of French doors into the plan and window seats in both bay windows.
The family plans to move to there full time in a few years from their current home near Los Angeles. To accommodate the lifestyle they have planned for retirement I added numerous built-in cabinets and bookcases. All fabrics are worked around pets and college age children but will easily shift roles when the nest is empty. Practicality, aesthetics and longevity were all addressed in the plans.
In another such project, now in the beginning phases, a delightful California Peninsula transplant has some wonderful pieces we’ll be working around. Once again, I had to contain my excitement. One of the pieces was mentioned earlier in this post but there are others such as a lacquered screen, a Bombay chest, numerous pieces of beautiful artwork, and some great lamps.

Attractive table lamps are hard to find. Even good quality ones are unattractive these days. I much prefer lamps from thirty to forty years ago such those in this client’s home.

I’ll present a variety of fabrics and window treatment ideas for the new home, working around the existing pieces. I’ll place the furniture and accessories, and hang the extensive artwork collection. It will be fabulous in the end: a light filled space with a lifetime of collections and mementos and new, coordinating fabrics that pull it all together.


Mahogany is a beautiful, formal wood.  In a recently completed project I had the opportunity to work around some really beautiful pieces such as a heavy, retro-modern, box style cocktail table and matching end table with inset glass tops; a three tiered cantilevered accent table; and a pair of massive brass table lamps.

To offset the color of the mahogany and the era of furnishings we chose a beautiful blue and muted apricot color scheme. The seating had to be very high quality to stand up to such beautiful tables, lamps, and accessories. The new sofa, new arm chair, and newly slipcovered existing loveseat fit the bill to a tee.
When blending new fabrics and upholstered or slip covered seating with old tables, hutches and wooden chairs think first about the coloration of the wood. Light, ashen wood tones look stunning with black, red, cobalt and taupe fabrics. The yellow tones inherent in pine work well with Kelly green and dark, bluish red. Cherry wood stains work well within many color schemes.
Placement of your antiques and vintage pieces is also important. Unless space is confined, I always place the most desirable furnishings to be seen first as you enter the room. I do this in the living room and entry areas especially. Wherever there is something particularly beautiful, I emphasize or call attention to it in some way.
Don’t be quick to discard your old wood pieces, antique, retro or vintage. Try using them as the catalyst for your next design scheme.




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