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Window Treatments 101: Tree House Edition

This post is in partnership with Bali Blinds.

This post could also be titled à la Friends like so: “The One with All the Swatches.” In this episode, we loaded up the car for another Tree House to-do-list-weekend, and alongside cans of paint, rollers, baseboards and tools – and a baby, two dogs and suitcases – we also toted a lot of fabric swatches. Soon enough, we’d be holding these swatches against our windows, deciding between Romans, rollers, or natural, as well as which style will go on which window. We’ve been working with Bali Blinds for years (you can see how we used their window treatments as an integral part of our smart home), and we’re thrilled to continue that tradition in our Tree House, too!

So today, we want to take you through what that process looked like, what factors we kept in mind and where we landed. Even though we’ve ordered so many window treatments throughout our home – rollers, Romans, custom curtains – it can still feel a little daunting with every new window (and door!) in our life. Case in point, our Tree House master bedroom, where we needed to find something that would work on both the window and the door and feel cohesive and allow us to sleep in – all while still looking great.

First things first | Ordering free samples and narrowing them down

We love a good Roman shade for their versatility; they have the ability to lean as formal or as casual as you’d like depending on the shade style and fabric chosen. But in this case, we couldn’t agree on whether or not we wanted Tree House’s window treatments to be a statement or blend in, filter light or block it altogether. So to start, we ordered a handful of free Bali swatches for their varying products, and after a whole lot of debate, we narrowed down the top contenders to what you see below.

From left to right: solar/roller shade in Manhattan (room darkening), solar/roller shade in Manhattan (light filtering), tailored Roman shade in Wilston Carbon, natural shade in Caracas Honey, natural shade in Trinidad Owl and tailored Roman shade in Colletti Blizzard.

Let’s walk through the samples, shade styles and how each one serves us differently:

Roller shades | Room darkening vs. light filtering

Since painting our first few windows and door black, our biggest challenge was deciding whether or not we wanted black shades … Or white shades? Or natural shades? Or? Hence, all the fabric options we debated above. Starting with the door, we knew we’d need an outside mount shade (since there isn’t any inside casing). Our initial thought was a pair of sleek solar or roller shades in a black fabric to match the paint job, and we started by comparing Manhattan in room darkening versus light filtering. By looks alone, we couldn’t tell a huge difference between the two …

… well, until we turned them over! The room darkening fabric had a white plastic-like backing that prevented any light whatsoever from passing through. The light filtering fabric had no backing, which in theory could allow a small percentage of light to find its way into our room. In the end, while we liked the thickness and feel of the fabrics, we decided to nix both in favor of something with a little extra oomph.

Tailored Roman shades | Choosing a fabric

That’s where the Wilston Carbon fabric came in. This fabric is available as a tailored Roman shade, and we both fell for the heathered appearance in the fabric. As a Roman shade, we’d also have the option to add an additional lining for better light control (more on that in a moment). The Wilston Carbon blends in nicely with the door, but rather than falling too flat, it provides just enough interest without being overpowering.

Natural shades | Adding pattern and texture

Moving onto the window, we first considered natural shades. We absolutely love the way they turned out in Meg and Joe’s bedroom as well as Lucy’s nursery, and we wondered if they’d look good in Tree House as well! Natural shades add so much coziness and texture, and somehow, I convinced Scott to consider the more daring(?) Trinidad Owl pattern, below on the left:

Trinidad Owl felt sort of ‘preppy cool,’ if that makes sense? With its plaid-like pattern and gray and taupe weave, it felt like it could be a fun – somewhat sophisticated, somewhat funky – addition to our bedroom. On the other hand, Caracas Honey would be less of a gamble while adding a big splash of warmth.

Either one would receive a liner (so they wouldn’t be as see-through as shown above), but our biggest reason for holding back on pursuing these options was that we couldn’t imagine Owl or Honey being used in every window throughout Tree House. While we don’t think that every window has to have the same window treatment, the floor plan of the home is fairly open, and we want to intentionally create a more cohesive look. This is our personal preference specifically for Tree House (because on the contrary, our Chicago home mixes and matches), but essentially, what the master bedroom receives, so will the guest room – and the living room and the loft. So while we saw the merits in both, we passed on natural shades and continued the search.

Tailored Roman shades (again!) | Pairing fabric with the proper liner

After trying to make Trinidad Owl work for far too long, we switched gears completely, and on a whim, I picked up the swatch in Colletti Blizzard. Click! Click, click, click. As soon as we held up this creamy white fabric to the window, we were hooked. The fabric is a linen blend, and it has the most beautiful drape; it’s available as a tailored Roman shade or as custom drapery, which was a bonus since we’re considering curtains for a few unique situations. We both liked that Colletti Blizzard was barely off-white. It felt Casual. Easy. We could imagine it on every window throughout Tree House without hesitation.

You might be wondering, isn’t it a little sheer for the bright morning sun? Yes. Yes, it is. This is where the importance of a liner comes in, and in both cases – the French doors and these windows – we wanted to be mindful of how the light will filter through these fabrics with a liner. Bali offers several liner options – standard, flannel, thermal and room darkening – which not only give you control over light filtering, but energy efficiency, too. Some of these liners come in multiple colors as well, so you can fully customize your shade both inside and out.

The winning combination

Ultimately, we decided on a standard white liner + Wilston Carbon for the French doors and a white thermal liner + Colletti Blizzard for the windows! Both will be made to a tailored Roman Shade. Here’s our thoughts behind each liner decision:

  • The Wilston Carbon fabric feels thick and sturdy, and we didn’t want to add any additional bulk with a thick liner. When held up to a window, little to no light passes through the swatch, so we feel confident using the thinnest standard liner.
  • The Colletti Blizzard is a standout for it’s beautiful texture and drape. Although a blackout liner would be the most ideal to block all sun, it would also add a stiffness to the fabric. The thermal liner is one step below blackout while still offering flexibility in the fabric. Light will still pass through, but it will be limited. Note: If you’re like us and want to feel each liner option, a customer service representative would be more than happy to mail you samples of each! You can also find samples in-store at your local Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Measuring for our order | Inside mount vs. outside mount

Finally, it was time to measure our doors and windows! Bali Blinds has videos that will guide you through the process, but there is a (big) difference between measuring for an inside mount versus an outside mount. Essentially, you want to measure the exact width and height that you want your finished window treatment for an outside mount. An outside mount will need a flat surface to be mounted to; in our case, the shade will be mounted to the flat surface of our door above the window. Commonly, you’ll see an outside mount on the trim above a window. We always measure our windows in three places – top, middle and bottom – to ensure that there is no variances in the width and length.

Our window, on the other hand, will receive an inside mount. We’re opting for one wide shade to cover the entire width of the window. To measure for an inside mount, we again measured the window in three places, top, middle and bottom, both in width and length. We recorded the shortest width and longest length, and this is the measurement we give to Bali. The factory will then take those measurements and provide us with the perfect size treatment.

Our Roman shades have been ordered, and we’re crossing off the calendar days until they arrive. Window treatments always feel like such a satisfying step to any space, don’t you think? We’re looking forward to sharing the finished product with you!

PS: Bali Blinds can be ordered online through many of your favorite retailers, but I always find it the most helpful to call and place our order directly with a customer service representative. Not only is the Bali team super friendly, but they’ve often times offered options that I may not have thought of beforehand! 

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  • Deb3.27.18 - 6:38 AM

    Love your selections! My only question is if the darker shades would sunfade without a liner.ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.27.18 - 8:50 AM

      The Wilston Carbon will be getting a liner, so we’re not worried there. We also have dark navy shades in our dining room with a liner, and those are holding up as good as the day we received them! But to answer your question, the black roller swatches are slightly stiff and sturdy, as if they have a protective coating on them. I wouldn’t think so (they’re outstanding quality!), but it’s definitely worth asking a Bali customer service representative!ReplyCancel

  • Phoua3.27.18 - 9:14 AM

    I love your picks and I can’t wait to see the whole house come together!ReplyCancel

  • Emily3.27.18 - 10:19 AM

    We are on our second round of window treatments on our new house and tackling the big office window at the moment. The window is broken up into four pains – so we are going to do one exterior mounted roller shade over the entire window (instead of 4 separate shades). I’m guessing you’re doing two side by side Romans on your door. Our customer service rep was advising us to do one large shade versus two side by side shades so there wouldn’t be that awkward smallish gap between two side by side shades. Thoughts?ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.27.18 - 10:28 AM

      This is really personal preference, but I will say that we did 3 separate shades on our large front windows in our Chicago home (instead of one large wide shade, you can see those here), and I really wish we had went with one! We chose 3 separate shades at the time, in case we wanted to have two shades closed and one window open, for example. But because I’m sort of a nutty type A girl, I can’t stand having the shades at different lengths, so we don’t really use them that way. We would have been better off with one wide shade!

      For our French doors, we didn’t really have a choice. The way the door swings in, each door needed it’s own shade, which is why we wanted something that would blend in a bit.

      Does this help? There is always so much to think about with window treatments!ReplyCancel

      • Emily4.4.18 - 12:55 AM

        Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. It helped for me to see your window in Chicago. I’ve never seen an exterior mounted roller shade, which is our only option since our window is four panes – two panes stacked on top of two panes. You are right; there are so many considerations when it comes to window treatments!! Our latest concern is how they look from the outside, especially the street-facing windows. Nobody wants to see your roller shade brackets from the outside!ReplyCancel

  • Sheila3.27.18 - 12:33 PM

    I always like to have windows open for fresh air at night so I’ve always struggled to find a window treatment that would allow a breeze to enter without banging in an annoying way. Was that a consideration for you at all? My favorite solution has been plantation shutters but they’re not right for every application.ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.27.18 - 1:04 PM

      Hi Sheila! We honestly haven’t come across that problem, so it wasn’t something we took directly into consideration… however, once the blinds are pulled all the way up, they would only come into the window a handful of inches, and the wind would have to be awfully strong to push a wide, heavy window shade! We do love plantation shutters, if only we had a home that was the right ‘fit’ for that style. :DReplyCancel

      • Sheila3.29.18 - 10:26 AM

        That makes sense if you’ll only be having windows open when the blinds are pulled all the way up. I was wanting a bit of privacy AND a little breeze!
        Can’t wait to see how these all look when they’re installed! Even if you don’t need privacy, those windows that let in such beautiful light during the day seem like big black holes at night so I’m sure this will make a wonderful difference.ReplyCancel

  • Sara3.27.18 - 1:01 PM

    I just LOVE what you picked – thanks for taking us along as you worked through the selection and measurement process!ReplyCancel

  • Mandy3.27.18 - 1:54 PM

    I want to know how you transport everyone and everything you need to the tree house. I have 2 children a dog and an SUV. And just a trip to the grocery sometimes feels like we won’t fit it all in!ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.27.18 - 2:10 PM

      It’s INSANE sometimes. We have a Subaru Forester, and the dogs sit in the WAY back with maybe a tool bag or new items that are still boxed. Lucy sits in her car seat (of course), and next to her is our laundry basket full of ALL the things, plus her bathtub with all HER things. In-between all the cracks and on the floor behind our seats are more tools and anything else we need, and recently, Scott bought a roof box to tote even more stuff. It’s madness, I tell you!ReplyCancel

  • AmandaKB3.27.18 - 2:27 PM

    Thanks so much for taking us through the process. Our house is in desperate need of blinds. (as well as a lot of other things. ha.) I’m glad I’ll be able to reference this post when we’re ready to order.ReplyCancel

  • erin3.27.18 - 3:10 PM

    Do the swatches give you any indication of how the different fabrics are cut for the actual blinds? It seems like both the fabrics you chose have some heathered pattern. I would have been panicked mixing materials like these for fear that one would come with horizontal heathering and the other with vertical.ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.27.18 - 4:49 PM

      We hear you! The fabric swatches are labeled on the back, so as long as you’re reading the label the right way, you’ll know which way the heathered patterns runs. The linen fabric for the windows has more of a cross hatch, so it should pair just fine with the shade for the doors.ReplyCancel

  • Katy3.27.18 - 3:10 PM

    I love the look of inside mount shades, but our windows are so shallow that it would be impossible to mount them that way. However, I can’t handle the amount of light that comes in the side of outside mount and the large gap between the shade and the window that does not help with privacy (the windows are in my bedroom and face the street). Any ideas on that?ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.27.18 - 4:47 PM

      Hi Katy, that’s such a great point! When I was placing our order with the Bali customer service rep, she suggested that for our doors, the fabric roll from behind, rather than the front. This would allow the fabric to lay as close to the window as possible, which would eliminate the gap that you’re talking about! I didn’t know this was an option until I called them. It’s so great to get a live person to talk through any concerns!ReplyCancel

  • susan3.27.18 - 5:24 PM

    love your choices! the heatherness of the wilston carbon goes so nicely with the colletti blizzard linen texture. will the lines in each hang in the same direction?

    do you think the wide black mullions on the window will show through the window shade? I think that ‘shadow’ would bug me enough to paint them white.

    maybe they don’t show or you’re not as nitpicky as me! ha!ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.27.18 - 5:38 PM

      Susan, I assure you that we are as nitpicky as you, haha! I THINK that all the folds of the roman shade will hide the top black mullion pretty well, and it MIGHT maybe be visible when we pull the shades at night. However, the thermal liner has some decent weight, so it probably won’t be too bad. Another thing to keep in mind is that the header of the shade might hide the top completely anyway! As for the pattern of the fabrics, the linen is more of a cross hatch, so we’re thinking it will still go well with the more horizontal pattern of the Carbon. Of course we’ll keep you all updated and share how everything looks once it’s in place!ReplyCancel

  • kelly g3.27.18 - 7:19 PM

    I was really excited about this post and about ready to pull the trigger on ordering. I need a single super simple, neutral-colored roman for my nursery. It’s only a 36″ wide window and there’s only 1 window in the room. I picked the same Colette Blizzard you went with and added the blackout shade. But my total came to $363 for a single shade. I’m sure this is a great product but that just seems so expensive for a single shade. I know I only need one for the room but I just can’t bring myself to pay that price. Do they ever run sales??ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.28.18 - 9:41 AM

      Hi Kelly! I reached out to my contact at Bali, and while Bali may not have sales directly, their retail partners usually do! Right now, Lowe’s is currently 25% off, so you should be able to order your shade through them for that awesome discount:

      If at ANY time you have issues with the ordering process, I encourage you to call up Bali customer service. They have helped me through countless questions! (Be sure to ask about honoring the Lowe’s sale if you go that route.) And because you’re considering a Tailored Roman Shade, my personal preference is to order with ‘no valance’ and ‘cordless.’ I find that it keeps the look clean and minimal.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!ReplyCancel

  • Ashley-At Home with Ashley3.28.18 - 10:16 AM

    I love having a lot of light, but yes it’s hard to sleep in in the mornings when you have that much (also a 3-year old son also stops us from sleeping in haha!). I’m glad you went with the cream, even though the Trinidad Owl was more adventurous and cool. I can’t wait to see the final results!ReplyCancel

  • Kelly3.29.18 - 2:08 PM

    Thank you SO much! I love your selections and beeped to hone depot today – Colette blizzard is beautiful, even more so in person. I ordered samples to hold up to our paint and all – can’t wait! When will yours be installed? Was it a long wait or nah?ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.29.18 - 2:17 PM

      Delivery takes about 3 weeks! We’ll be installing sometime in April. Can’t wait to share!ReplyCancel

  • Asya8.21.21 - 9:14 AM

    What kind would you recommend for bathroom windows? I love the solar shades, but that’s not enough privacy.ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.22.21 - 12:39 PM

      Roller shades are similar to solars, but they’re available in more opaque fabric choices.ReplyCancel

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