Mixing Window Coverings — Designer Advice

Today it’s time for some advice on window treatments. I visited with Doreen Leong, longtime designer and proprieter of Leong Interiors, a San Francisco Bay Area soft home furnishings and window coverings design and fabrication studio. We talked about a challenge many people have, successfully mixing hard and soft Window coverings.


Window coverings fall into two categories.

Hard window coverings are anything not made of fabric:

  • Natural grassweave shades
  • Solar shades
  • Wood blinds
  • Shutters
  • Honeycomb shades

Soft window coverings are made of fabric:

  • Draperies
  • Curtains
  • Roman shades
  • Valances

Doreen says that most rooms, with the exception of bathrooms and maybe kitchens, can benefit from combining both types of coverings.


Having both hard and soft window coverings in your windows allows more variation in light control. For example, if a window has draperies as the top layer and a sheer grassweave shade underneath, there are 3 ways to control the light and privacy:

  1. With the draperies closed, you have complete privacy.
  2. With the draperies open and the grassweave shade down, the light is diffused and you can still see your view.
  3. With both draperies and the grassweave shade open, there is nothing obstructing the light or view.”


“Having both treatments creates a more interesting layered effect on the windows. This is a very “Designer” look.”

About some of the challenges Doreen says, “It’s best to keep things simple. It’s so easy to over design window coverings without considering the other furninshings in the room – furniture, flooring, lighting, etc. Everything should work harmoniously. I prefer not to make bold statements with the window coverings otherwise, you may get tired of the design.

Make those bold statements with the accessories – throw pillows, floor cushions, ottomans, lampshades, art, and objets d’art. These are the items that are not so permanent and can easily be changed and rotated.

“The biggest challenge is to work within your budget. With many layers of window coverings, it gets very costly. You may want to do it in stages, maybe the hard treatments first, then add the soft treatments.”


I asked Doreen what mistakes she typically sees homeowners making when combining window coverings.

She replied, “Over designed windows. Bold fabrics with heavy or colorful hard treatments; they fight each other. If you have to go bold and colorful, do it with the soft treatments and keep the hard treatments subtle and neutral.”

And about successfully blending colors, textures and patterns, Doreeen says, “My favorite hard window coverings to mix with the soft are grassweave shades and solar shades. I like the clean look of solar shades and the UV protection they provide. I also like the sheer, natural, organic and textural look of grassweave shades.

I prefer natural fabrics such as linens, cottons and silks – prints and solids. These natural fabrics look especially nice with grassweave shades. Again, keep the hard treatments either neutral or ivory in color.”


Here are the steps Doreen advises her clients to take in order to best mix hard and soft window coverings:

“Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you need a lot of sun protection?
  • Do you need privacy or is it not an issue?
  • What’s your budget?

“Consider the size of the window and the surrounding area. If it’s very large with plenty of space around the windows, consider draperies or curtains with the hard treatment. If it’s small and there are obstructions (furniture) around the windows, consider a fabric roman shade mounted on the outside of the window to make it look larger with a hard treatment mounted inside the window.

“Consider the room to help determine the type of window coverings, for example:

  • In the office or study, consider wood blinds or solar shades with roman shades – more casual looking.
  • In the bedroom, maybe draperies with grassweave shades – more formal and cozy.
  • In a more formal living room – silk draperies with beautiful drapery hardware and grassweave shades.
  • In the children’s rooms or playrooms – roman shades (less fabric to get dirty than draperies) with solar shades (easy to clean).”


Some final advice—not surprising coming from soft home furnishings designer Doreen—but she sincerely believes in the value a design professional like herself can provide: “I highly recommend hiring a designer and/or window coverings professional to design, measure, fabricate and install window coverings. I recommend having window coverings custom made so they look and fit properly. It’s a big investment so it’s worth it to have it done correctly.

The photographs in this post are of window treatments Doreen’s company fabricated. Pictures 1 & 3 were designed by Kim Betzina of Kim Betzina Interiors. Picture 2 was designed by Insite Design, Picture 3 was designed by Doreen, and picture 5 was designed by Suzanne Ingalsbe of Suzanne Ingalsbe Interiors. You can see more of Doreen’s work and contact her through Leong Interiors’ Web site, www.leonginteriors.com.

Have you had success mixing hard and soft window coverings? Tell us about your greatest window treatment success or failure.

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