The Art of the Window: Drapery Solutions for Difficult Types and Shapes

Stymied by how to hang draperies on a nonstandard window? Check out these tips for dressing 10 tricky window styles

By Jess McBride  /  Courtesy of

For those who love window decorating, a naked pane of glass is a blank canvas beckoning to be adorned by a most discerning eye. Humans have long dressed their windows for privacy, light control and pure decoration, but never have there been more options for screening and creative expression than there are today — even for those hardest-to-dress windows like arches, bays and recessed windows. Here are pretty and practical drapery solutions for 10 tricky window configurations.

Window Walls

The challenge: While a wall of windows is the envy of anyone who dreams of waking up to a view of a lush green landscape, how does one mount a window treatment without detracting from the view?

The solution: Without space to mount the window treatments so crucial to blocking the flood of morning light, this clever designer opted for a barely perceptible ceiling track that allows for maximum functionality while blending into the room’s streamlined aesthetic. With such a large expanse of glass to hang drapes across, a motorized system can enhance functionality by allowing the homeowner to easily draw the curtains closed with the touch of a button.

Bay Windows

The challenge: With three sides, bay windows can’t be covered by a single curtain rod, and three separate rods can look haphazard.

The solution: Dressing a bay is all about the hardware. A curved or angled rod is your key to a workable design. Angled rods are merely regular linear rods joined together at the corners with inexpensive hinges. You’ll want to have a professional measure for these, as custom-cut hardware is made to order and often not returnable. Rods like these can be mounted on the wall above the window if there’s room, or on the ceiling with brackets that suspend the rod in the air when elaborate framing covers all available wall space.

Tall Windows

The challenge: How tall is too tall when it comes to window treatments?

The solution: Many tall windows have a bulkhead wall that separates the upper bank of windows from the lower, providing an opportunity to give the room a completely different feel. Mounting drapes at this level serves to scale the windows down to a more human proportion; here it imbues this dining room with a cozier, more intimate vibe.

Slanted Windows

The challenge: How do you mount a window treatment on an angle?

The solution: Slanted windows flanking a grand fireplace evoke the warmth and comfort of a ski chalet with views of snowcapped mountains. But if you want to block the sun glaring off that snow, drapes hung by medallions are a great option. Medallions are purely stationary treatments, but sometimes that is exactly what is needed: When custom window shades can be fitted to any window, whether arched or slanted like this one, traditional rod-hung drapes are neither necessary nor feasible, as gravity would make them sag into an unsightly pile, and the height of the window would make them difficult to open and close.

Shuttered Windows

The challenge: Shutters are a functional and classy window treatment, but they don’t leave much room for mounting a drapery rod. Not only that, but consider how shutters function: They open out, meaning they’re likely to wrinkle and possibly damage any decorative panels that lie over them. 

The solution: Here we see a pair of swing-arm rods employed as a brilliant answer to the dilemma of layering drapes over shutters that you intend to open and close. Swing a pair of self-lined drapes out to the wall, and voilà! Plenty of space to then crack open those shutters and let the light pour in. Parents of young children might consider choosing a fabric with a soil- and stain-repellent finish to provide a layer of protection against grubby little fingers, as swinging window treatments provide a most alluring hiding spot during games of hide-and-seek.

Recessed Windows

The challenge: If you’re lucky enough to have a special window nook in your home, your cozy light-filled oasis already has appeal and might require little more than a downy cushion. But if you want to add a window treatment, where do you mount it?

The solution: Mount the draperies just inside the nook to lure passersby into this unexpectedly private sanctuary. This will create a sensuous moment and frame the space as a reading, napping or tea-sipping haven.

Curved Windows

The challenge: At first blush, a curved window (also known as a bow window) might seem to be an overwhelming design obstacle. Do curtain rods even bend?

The solution: Fortunately, many types of rods can be curved to suit virtually any window. The assistance of a pro is suggested to precisely measure, fabricate and install a nonstandard treatment. If professional measurement is important to an angled rod, as mentioned earlier, this goes double for curved designs that are forged and bent exactly to the specifications of your window.

Designer’s tip: When ordering a curved rod, select coordinating bypass brackets and special C-shaped rings that will allow your panels to be drawn cleanly across the entire expanse. If you’re using multiple panels at evenly spaced intervals, like the ones pictured here, regular brackets will do just fine.

Arched Windows

The challenge: How do you add a window treatment that doesn’t hide the arch?

The solution: Sometimes the best way to dress an arched window is to ignore it. While a custom-made sunburst shutter or fanned honeycomb shade would have done the trick here, these homeowners opted to showcase the architecture of the curved window by leaving it bare and running a little cafe curtain across the lower, more traditionally shaped panes below. Not only is this a more economical option than having a professional installer create a precise template of your arch, but it is certainly much simpler to install and provides a lighter accent to an already crisp, pleasing window.

Arched French Doors

The challenge: Unlike with an arched window, a curtain rod mounted underneath the arch of French doors would make opening those doors impossible. What to do?

The solution: Curved rods aren’t just for bay windows. Adding one to an arched French window will allow you to accentuate the architecture of the window without impeding your ability to use the door. As seen here, curtain tiebacks can also be added to keep the drapes from getting in the way of opening and closing the doors.

Deep Framed Windows

The challenge: The difficulty of dressing a window like this comes from extensive millwork that deserves to speak for itself instead of being covered up or drilled into.

The solution: With a frame deep enough to accommodate the appropriate mounting hardware, a simple tension rod (think shower curtain) or a side-mounted rod whose brackets can be affixed to the inside frame will solve your problem and keep more green in your wallet, too.