How to dress a Bay Window?
A bay window is a beautiful architectural detail found in many Victorian homes as well as newer builds. It projects out from the wall of the house, forming a…well…bay in the room. And, as architecturally interesting as they are, they can pose a design challenge when it comes to window coverings? Do I leave it blank? Cover the whole thing? Cover each window individually?
Actually, you have lots of options. Some people prefer a minimalist look and use woven or Roman shades on each window. Those who prefer something more structural may use shutters on either the full length of each window or the bottom half of each. Perhaps the most versatile way to dress your bay window is with drapery. You can use curtains to either highlight or minimize the window, as a focal point or as an accent.
How to dress a bay window with curtains
First decide how you’ll use the bay. Is there a window seat or bench? Would you like to place a cozy chair or a desk in the bay? Do you want to create a private little nook or celebrate the architecture of the window? Or do you crave privacy and want to hide an awful view or unsightly window casings? You’ll also want to determine whether to treat the bay window as one large window or as individual windows. As a rule of thumb in decorating (and in life), form should follow function.
One Big Window
If you plan to treat the bay window as one single unit, you can hang curtains either inside or outside the bay. If you have a built-in window seat, or you prefer drapery that aligns cleanly with the wall, or have an unattractive view, hang one traverse rod or decorative curtain rod, outside the bay, on the wall space above the windows for ceiling-to floor-curtain panels. This works best if there is plenty of wall space on either side of the window for the curtains to stack when open. A built-in window bench, with an upholstered cushion and some throw pillows can coordinate with your curtains to make a cozy little nook for reading, napping and daydreaming.
Or you may plan to use the bay for a small dining table, reading chair or desk. In that case, you can still treat the windows as one individual unit by hanging curtains inside the bay. You’ll need a custom rod that’s or angled to fit the shape of the bay. Using a traverse rod or a rod with decorative rings, you can hang curtain panels on each end of the bay. Keep in mind that, when open, the panels will cover part of the glass, letting in less light and obscuring the view.
If you don’t want to lose any view, but would still like to soften and frame the window, you can hang stationary panels. This frames the window without the visual heaviness of full panels. For even more light and view, pull the panels back with decorative tiebacks.
If privacy is of no concern or you want to open up the room to expansive views, just trim out the window with valances mounted outside the window moldings and installed snugly next to each other. You can get the same effect with any type of shade as well.
Some bay windows are constructed with very wide casings or even a lot wall space between the windows. In this case, consider treating each window individually. You can hang a pair of curtain panels on each window, using individual rods for each or one custom angled rod. One of the advantages of individual window coverings is that you have more control over the light and amount of privacy. Use tiebacks or medallion holdbacks to allow in more light and add a decorative enhancement.
Suppose you have a lovely built in window seat and still want to cover each window separately? Easy! Use curtains that fall only to the windowsills and coordinate fabric with the bench cushion and pillows.
An easy, inexpensive way to treat each individual window is to use cafe curtains on the bottom half of each window mounted with tension rods or decorative café rods. This has the advantage of letting in plenty of light while also providing some privacy.
There’s a reason the design trade uses the term “dressing a window” - window coverings function the same way clothes do in many ways. Certain styles and outfits emphasize assets or minimize flaws. Some colors and fabrics are more flattering than others. You know an outfit works when it’s comfortable, appropriate, reflects your personal style and looks great on you. Choosing the right curtain hardware finish is also very important. Keep those goals in mind to create a truly well-dressed bay window.
We're sure you have your own idea, or more questions. Let us know how you're feeling in the comments.