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Design Agony: 3 Readers, 3 Awkward Window Problems, Solved

Breakfast Nook Bay Window
Photo by for EHD

Hello friends, it’s —former EHD team member—here with the first installment of Design Agony 2.0. If you are a longtime Em Hendo reader, you might remember the Design Agony posts that we used to do a few years ago (take a walk down blog memory lane here to see what I mean). Well, we’re back by popular demand. In Emily’s post from February announcing the blog’s upcoming relaunch (and a handful of other great news), we made a call out for reader submissions with design problems that needed expert solutions.

We had a bunch of great Qs come in, and, not surprisingly, most of the questions revolved around window treatment challenges. Off the back of this post in March, it was evident that people really struggle with how to tackle awkward window placement within their homes, and rightly so…can we just stop building weird homes with weird window locations?!? Architects out there…do you hear me?

Anyhow, let’s dive in. I picked through the emails to pluck out problems I thought might be the most universal. For each, I’ll give you insight as to what I’d do to solve the issue and hopefully help more than just the readers that submitted the questions.

Design Agony #1: Awkward Corner Windows

Emily_Henderson_Corner_Window_2

From reader Emily Redding: “Our house is laid out so that many of the windows are bunched into the corners. Small windows next to larger windows, and they’re so close to the corners that figuring out how to dress them properly has been tough. I can’t decide if we should do Roman shades, a mix of Roman shades and double panels, or a curtain rod that bends through the corners and covers all the windows, with panels for both.”

Youxi988 Corner Window

Option #1: Frame Both Windows With Long Panels

Emily (Reading, not Henderson) has this issue in pretty much all of the bedrooms in her house and for me, she has the right idea by adding shades and drapery. I’m personally not the biggest fan of having one drapery panel for a window, though, because (I think) drapery should frame out a window on both sides. That being said, there are cases where it does work better and is necessary for functional purposes. I remember Emily (Henderson) and I going back and forth deciding whether to do one or two panels in her old family room and guest bedroom. In this case, functionality won because of how close the doors were to the wall and it would be super annoying to have to keep going behind the drapery to open the door.

In the case of Emily Reading’s question, I would add two drapery panels to each window. That will not only give good light coverage when needed but also, it will feel super cozy. I would also raise the drapery rod so that it’s a couple of inches lower than the ceiling since there isn’t a lot of header space above the window. This will help the room feel taller, as well. Hot tip: Using clip-on rings helps the drapes gather more closely so there isn’t a big bunch of fabric on each side of the window (considering how tight that corner is).

Youxi988 Corner Window. Sketch 2

Option #2: Two Sets of Panels with Roman Shades

With this scenario, I would take advantage of the deep window recesses and add a Roman shade to each. This will not only block out the light really well, it will also help to soften the windows, detracting from the different sizes. You could do this with either a fabric Roman shade or woven shade.

Youxi988 Corner Window. Sketch

Option #3: Rethink Separate Drapery Rods

When doing off-the-shelf drapery and rods, one way to help it feel seamless is to use an elbow connector for the corner. These screw into rods and can be angled up to 90 degrees for cases like this. These are perfect for tight corners where there isn’t much room to affix rods to the wall, so your panels end up right at the edge of the window instead of a few inches out (like they should be). Elbow connectors can also be used for bay windows (which I’ll touch upon later). As far as where to put the panels, Emily could still use two-panel sets, collecting two of them in the corner. 

Youxi988 Corner Window. Sketch 3

The only instance where I would avoid doing drapery in the corner is if the window was a full wraparound, like this bedroom below from Amber Interiors. This would end up blocking the light and view. A wall or ceiling track will be your best bet for what to use in this fix.

Emily_Henderson_Amber_Interiors_Corner_Window

Here are a few different types of elbow connectors. You’ll have to match up the diameter of your curtain rod with these (some are thinner than others), but they are also rather standard. Also, these come in multiple finishes:

1.  | 2.  | 3.  | 4.

Design Agony #2: How to Add Drapes to Bay Windows

Photo by for EHD

From reader Nicole Rowland: “Your post today on window treatments inspired me to send you some pictures of my living room. I’ve been searching for and researching some affordable curtain options for a long time. Then in your blog post, you recommended hanging Roman shades with no mention of curtains. Are curtains always a ‘no’ when it comes to bay windows? I have attached a picture and link of the curtains and rods I purchased. I am planning to hang a bay window rod with four curtains—one on each side of the three windows. Do you think these will work or is it better to do a Roman shade in my situation? The living room also opens up into the dining area where there is another normal window, so I was going to hang a matching rod and the same curtains in a longer length to match. Would love to know if I’m doing the right thing!”

Now, Em wrote about bay windows in the last post addressing what to do with awkward windows but she only touched on adding shades as a solution and didn’t talk about how to work panels in. Nicole (who submitted this question) was curious about our thoughts to installing drapery. Growing up in the UK with Victorian-style houses, we have a lot of bay windows which I absolutely love! For Nicole’s window, I would suggest going with what she already had planned and use a readymade bay window rod and drapery panels. She has the space for them to gather well without reducing the light and it’ll be a nice, soft backdrop for her sitting area. But let’s talk through her other options in case they happen to work for another one of you readers.

Youxi988 Bay Windows1

Option #1: Use Bay Window-Specific Drapery Rods

We can’t take full credit for the bay window treatment in the dining room at the lead of this section, because they were installed before we started working on the project, but it’s a good example of how drapery can work. This rod was a custom piece to fit the space, which you can tell because it’s only attached in the center and the ends. This makes it so you only have to have two end drapes that close in the middle, but that’s not the only way. Did you know that there are readymade options specifically for bay windows? These are great because you’re not having to splurge too much, but the drawback is they have several wall attachments, meaning you have to have a drapes where the corner angles meet.

Youxi988 Bay Windows 21

Option #2: Try Separate Rods

If Nicole didn’t want to bother with a super niche solution, she could also just use three separate rods. The rod would have to be free of any large finials (or else they’d butt into each other), and will likely hit just at the edge of the window, but it’s doable.

Youxi988 Bay Windows 11

Option #3: Think Outside the Corners 

There’s always the option to simply not deal with the several corners of a bay window at all and just put draperies straight across the wall outside of the bay window. This only really works if you have little to no furniture in the window nook (or have a built-in bench). For Nicole (should she want to go this route), I’d recommend moving the chairs and table out from that area and onto the rug. That way the curtains could close she they need to. 

Youxi988 Bay Windows 32

Option #4: Skip the Panels Altogether

Lastly, for a cleaner look, another option is to use shutters. This is not uncommon in the UK and mainly done because we have radiators underneath our windows, so adding drapery might not be the best solution there. That’s also why you might see half-height drapery done so often over there…I know, we’re nuts!

Youxi988 Bay Windows 51

While you could definitely use the elbow connectors in the roundup above, there are also rod systems made specifically for the bay window, as I mentioned. Here are four of the most common styles (each comes in a handful of finishes):

1. | 2. | 3.  | 4. 

Design Agony #3: Vaulted Ceilings & High Windows

From reader Julia Ditto: “I have a truly beautiful living room, but I’ve always wondered what I should be doing with the windows. We live out in the country, so privacy isn’t really an issue, but just for the look of the room—and to block the sun when it hits just right—it seems like I should have some window dressings. I’m torn between warming up the room with window treatments and just leaving them bare. The house is a modern farmhouse style, but the living room can lean a little spare and ‘YMCA gym’ feeling if you know what I mean. We have electric roll down shades on the upper and some of the lower windows, because those get some definite sunshine. I’d love to see your take on how to dress these windows!”

Youxi988 Great Room Window1

This really is an incredible open space. While I love the expanse of the white wall, it does feel like it needs something to give it some depth so I say drapery all the way!

Option #1: Use the Full Span of the Wall With an Extra-Long Rod

I really only see one solution here (but will break it out into two optional fixes for variation). In the inspiration shot at the top of this section, while the room isn’t quite as tall as Julia’s (and granted, these are doors as opposed to windows), I love how intentional the drapes feel. They are spaced out wide enough so that they allow maximum light through and the height adds a nice drama but doesn’t feel like the wall is being cut in two.

Julia’s room is already rather vertical, so adding a set of drapes to each window will further enhance that in not a great way (not to mention what would happen with the placement of those sconces). What I would suggest is to do like our inspiration image and add one long rod that spans both windows. Our height is governed by the sconces here, so I would only go as high as five to six inches below those to give them some breathing room. BUT I would make full use of the wall span so you have a really good gather on both sides. Nothing worse than skinny curtains!

Youxi988 Great Room Window 3

Option #2: Add Shades to Option #1

Again, it might be nice to layer the panels by using a woven or Roman shade. This will add some warmth to the space, especially since the walls and the window frames are all white and the windows are a little far apart. As far as the uppers go, if the light wasn’t an issue, I’d be tempted to leave them be. But since that is a problem Julia brought up, I’d use the same woven shade material from the lower windows, which will help to draw the eye up and balance that super high wall. One good thing about woven shades over Romans is you don’t have to add a lining. So it will block out the direct sunlight but will still have the natural glow coming through and not block it out altogether.

Youxi988 Great Room Window 21

For both fix options, Julia is going to need some extra-long rods, so we rounded up nine of our favorites right now that vary in max width from 108” to 170”.

1. | 2.  | 3. | 4. | 5. | 6. | 7. | 8. | 9.

We are always looking for more reader questions, so if you have a design quandary that’s keeping you up at night, drop us an email at [email protected].

Ginny xXx

  1. Love this post, thank you!

  2. Great ideas!

  3. YES! Thank you for tackling my design agony (#1) and helping us to decide on how to dress these ridiculous corner windows! I’m so happy to see that your team tackled these awkward issues (psst but you write my last name in wrong.. It’s Redding, not Reading 😉)
    Thank you again EHD team!

    1. Hi Emily! We’re so sorry about that. It’s fixed now!

    2. Omg Emily I’m so sorry I thought I’d triple checked that! Whoops! Thanks for letting us know. 😁

  4. Yes…more of this kind of article, please!

  5. Great post. Love the design agony series.

    Question: all your Roman shade options are outside rather than inside mount. Is there a reason why you prefer one over the other?

    1. Hey Cindy!
      It can depend on the window and the lighting in a room. I’m much prefer full natural light so hanging above will give you the maximum amount. Romans tend to gather about 6-10” which if you have small windows will block a lot of light. I’m not opposed to inside mount at all, especially if you have pretty window frames. The first example shows inside mount since they have a deep windo recess and no framing. Hope that helps x

  6. What if you have baseboard heaters under most windows? Are you automatically having to do roman blinds/shades?

    1. THIS is what I see in the comments as the most popular design agony! Would love to hear some solutions.

    2. Agreed! Was about to ask this very question, as 98% of the windows in my house have electric baseboards beneath them 😩.

    3. This is the same problem we have in the UK with wall radiators … we end up tucking drapery behind them so that the heat still goes into the room. With the baseboard heaters I don’t love the idea of stopping drapery short but you also have to be conscious of fire hazards. So you’d have to make sure to leave a good few inches between the bottom of the drape and the heater. You’d have to make sure the brackets extend further out. Another thought, the drapery could just be more decorative and not necessarily function and then you could layer shades underneath for privacy purposes. x

  7. Great post! Thanks!! I can also recommend the $20 wooden PORTION rods from Ikea. They connect really well for a long spread and are easy to saw off for exact lengths. I have 3 in my living room for a 22′ spread. Some of the ikea drapes have pleater tape sewn in already, but you can buy it by the foot online or stores like Hobby Lobby or Joanns. The 4 prong hooks are cheap and really make off the rack drapery look really nice.

    1. YES!! Love Ikea solutions!

      Even their $6 rods (white, black, silver or spray paint your own…did this once and it worked like a charm) work beautifully for those long spreads. I almost always buy a finial or fancy knob from Anthropologie and poke them right into the ends if I want them a little more elevated. Adding nicer curtain rings brings this all together without having to break the bank on the least-seen part of the whole window treatment situation!

  8. I was so excited when I saw the top images of a BOW window, thinking you might have some retail-type options that wouldn’t cost $15,795, but alas the only options are for BAY windows 🙂 I have been trying to help a friend come up with a solution for her completely round bow window in San Francisco. Any suggestions?!

    1. Hi Brigid!
      I had the same issue with a bow window with a gentle curve. I spray painted a piece of 2.5 inch PVC (I had the nice people at Home Depot cut it to size for me) and then bought nice brackets and finials from Pottery Barn to match the color of my spray paint. I attached a piece of wood to the inside of the pipe and screwed in the finials. My curtains are very heavy and I have one support bracket in the center (it’s 4 windows over about 14 feet) and one bracket on each end and haven’t had any problems with sagging in 5 years. The PVC is just bendy enough for the bow, but sturdy enough to hold curtains. Make sure to get a wall backet you can thread the pipe/rod through instead of the kind you rest the rod on top of). Everyone is legitimately shocked when I tell them it’s spray painted PVC. Hope this helps! It took me ages to figure out how to dress the windows affordably!

      1. I did a similar design over a bay window with conduit pipe. It’s extreemly inexpensive, comes in various lengths and is easily spray painted. I sprayed everything black and lightly dusted it with bronze. I used drawer pulls for the finials. It worked out so well I did a similar design to the four windows in our bedroom. I love the results and I saved a ton of money.

        1. Thank you, thank you! Such a great suggestion!

      2. Fantastic idea! Thanks for the suggestion.

  9. Why don’t my comments ever post?

    1. I have that problem too. I press post the first time and it doesn’t work. So I press the back function. My text is still there. Then I wait ten seconds and my comments post. I don’t know why this is either.

      I’ll probably have to do that on this post too.

  10. Yes! I too have overly close corner windows in the living room and it was nice to see my hard-thought-out solution corroborated by Emily. I’m planning to do the elbow join solution. My only hesitation is that our best view is pretty much diagonally straight through the corner (where the 12′ window meets the 8′ window…) and I hope adding drapery will not disrupt the sight line too much.

    Nice to see a comment on Ikea rods as that is literally the only brand I could afford for this much window treatment! Here’s hoping they can deal with the long span and not sag/bend over time…

  11. How would Julia Ditto open/close the shades on the top windows of the tall wall? It seems that she was hoping to have a functional solution she could open and close depending on how the light was hitting the room, not just a decorative element. This would be a good application for some type of motorized/remote-controlled option if she truly wants to be able to “use” the shades.

    1. Hi Kellie! That’s a good point, but I do believe the suggestion from Ginny to have woven shades (instead of thick fabric Roman shades) was a smart one in this instance. She notes that the woven shades aren’t lined and do a good job of letting in light “glow” without anything being glaring (or too dark).

    2. She already has that… as she wrote;

      “We have electric roll down shades on the upper and some of the lower windows, because those get some definite sunshine”

      1. Thanks so much for the reminder, Agnes – I do remember reading that part now! They did a really great job of making them blend into the window trim/casing, because there’s no evidence of them on her photo.

  12. Having just finished ordering shades for my awkward corner windows with no depth, this is great information.

    Please, what clip on rings do you use? Yours always look so high class!

    1. Pottery barn do really affordable options in different colours. And so do Target!

  13. This was fabulous. Also, I loved all of the color in that last example.

  14. Thank you for this post – I have the same windows as Emily but with the added problem of a RADIATOR underneath the long window. If you ever want to supplement with this post, that would be one thing to address.

    1. I have both bay windows and huge curved bow windows (with 5 windows in each curve) that all have long radiators spanning the width of them across the floor (1890’s Chicago home) and it makes drapes extremely tricky.

  15. Great post!

  16. I love these posts– keep them coming!

  17. Hi! I just bought an older home with radiators under the windows and am wondering what is the best option for window treatments? Curtains seem the most affordable, but do they stop above the radiators? Cover them? Thanks!!

  18. I love this! Thanks for bring it back.

  19. I really love having a series with readers deign dilemma’s!! More please!!

  20. I’m a new subscriber, and I love this article! We have 1 bay window and 1 bow window in our small, mid-century ranch. We went with drapery option #2 for the bay window and option #3 for the bow window. I made the decision myself and I am definitely not as design savvy as everyone else, so it was nice to get a stamp of approval here!

  21. I’m wondering about Palladian windows or windows that have a separate fixed arched window directly above the functioning rectanglular window below it.

    The dining room in my house has a 10’ ceiling height with 2 windows that are side-by-side and they each have an arched window above it. There is ample room on each side of the windows. Do I include a panel between the windows as well? Do I put the rod above the arched windows or on the small drywall area between the arch and the “normal” rectangular windows?

    To add to the issue, the windows hang rather low…there is only 12” of drywall below the window to the floor. There is 4’ from the top of the arch to the ceiling. If I put up a panel that extends to the bottom of the window, it looks like my windows are wearing capris…not a good look. If I use panels that extend to the floor, the wall looks very bottom heavy.

    I hate the options I’ve seen for blinds that fit the arched windows. They all look so dated. I’m about to rip out the entire wall and put in one, giant picture window but that’s not extremely cost effective.

    I have also had a custom cornice box made to fit across both windows and completely cover the arched windows and that’s REALLY bottom heavy.

    HELP!

    1. They did a whole post about windows just like yours!

      http://youxi988.info/blog/dress-awkward-windows-shop-readymade-options

    2. Send in some photos and we can perhaps do a follow up on windows x

  22. I really APPRECIATE you posting this – love posts about design agonies and how to tackle them! THANK YOU!

  23. have any U.S. retailers/resources to share for shutters?

  24. Thank you for taking the time to answer my question! I feel so honored (and relieved that I made the right choice 😘)!

    I too would love to learn about the clip-on ring options. Can they be used with any curtain or are certain curtains made especially to be used with clips? Thanks again!!

    1. Hey Nicole! You can use them with most curtains. Typically the drapes will have a band on the back for them to clip on to. You could also just clip directly on top but that looks less polished. x

  25. What about awkward shaped windows? I live in a 150 year old house that has circular and square windows in some of the bedrooms that are small or oddly shaped. Thanks!

  26. Do you have a source for the cane backed dining chairs in the first photo of #2?

  27. This was a great post, but I would have loved to see palladian windows included… they are so tricky!

  28. This post is really helpful – I’m pinning it for future reference! Great graphics/illustrations. They make it so easy to see what advice you’re talking about. Love it!

  29. THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!! Seriously. It’s like y’all read my mind!

  30. This post is amazing!!! THIS is why I keep reading. Realistic solutions that we can all implement at home. Thank you, #teamemily!!!

  31. Love this series! Love the blog! What are your thoughts and opinions on wood blinds? I love the shutters, but are more expensive. I was contemplating ordering larger slats to imitate the look of a shutter. I’ve got two bay windows across from each other (dining room/living room combo) which have narrow windows on the angled sides, so adding drapes would block out those windows., which I don’t want to do. Would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you!

  32. LOOOOVE this post! And the concept of design agony. Do more of these!!

  33. How do you solve bay window where the center window in a patio door … and all have transom windows above to make floor to ceiling. Vertical blinds are awful…what else might work….
    I currently have nothing – but at times there is too much direct sun coming in

    1. Hey Morgan, maybe send in some photos and we could line that up for a follow up post! x

  34. Great post, thank you! If I were Julia, I’d stick with shades and not even do draperies. I dunno, it feels like it loses its height by adding it.

    Also Julia if your’e reading, will you share your coffee table – it’s so great.

  35. Ginny, this was a terrific post. I’m saving for future reference. Miss you.

    1. Thank you Suz! Miss you too !

  36. Julia’s living room is beautiful, but somewhat unique with the sconces between the upper and lower widows. If those sconces were not there, where would you recommend the rod be placed? I have a similar situation except that we have sliding doors on the bottom and because our condo is from the 1980’s and there were many questionable decisions made at that time the upper window is also a sliding glass door (why?!? are sliding doors cheaper than windows?!?). I am not sure where the rod should go in between the two sets of windows. A few inches above the bottom window, a few inches below the top window, smack dab in the middle, something else entirely???

  37. Do bathroom windows get their own post?

  38. Thanks, great article
    We give priority to residential constructions of homes, apartments, and villas in Calicut that are fit for every family. With every measure taken to build luxury villas that cater to the needs of all age groups, Anarc builds safe, secure, and family-friendly residences that reflect the personality of the family living in.

  39. Thanks for the Bay window advice! I have several small bays that need to be updated! I have another question to add…. The two windows flanking my fireplace are long and narrow (the tops of the windows are 9′ with 10′ ceilings. On the same wall, I have a sliding glass patio door (that needs to be updated to French doors – alas, one day). The patio door is a standard height but still on the 10′ ceiling wall. I’m worried that if I hang my drapes slightly above the windows (at the 9.5′-ish mark), it will look very odd to hang similar drapes at the same mark on the patio doors. There would be a LOT of wall above the doors, between the curtains. Thoughts? Thanks!

  40. What is the light in the dining room please?

  41. Big fan of Ginny and this post.

  42. What if you have baseboard heaters under most windows? Are you automatically having to do roman blinds/shades?

  43. I love this post. I have a challenge in two of our rooms, bedroom and living room both have different level windows next to each other. Can I send in photos? If so, how do I send them?
    Thank you!

  44. For Julia (Design Issue #3): that wall is gorgeous as it is! I wouldn’t clutter it up with drapery. I’ve come across lots of country houses in design mags that skip the drapes all together. You could put a tall potted fiddle leaf fig or ficus tree if you want something “there” to filter the light.

  45. Good post. I love the design and this really is an incredible open space for my choice

  46. I love this feature.

    Here is my Design Problem: I have about a thousand yards of floral chintz and French toile and Laura Ashley florals from the 1990s. I would really love to use it in my house, but I don’t want to end up living in a 1990s nightmare.

    Is there a way to use it that is modern and updated and kind of fun?

  47. Loved this – thank you!

  48. I’m in love with the look of the curtains in the first photo of the post credited to Tessa Neustadt. Any chance you could comment on the source for the fabric? Is that a ticking stripe in blue/grey? Thanks!

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