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Dressing Those Difficult Palladian Windows
By Merlisa Lawrence Corbett
Special To The Washington Examiner

Magnificent and alluring, Palladian windows may be architecturally stunning but they also are among the most difficult type of windows to decorate.

"The main difficulty with designing for Palladian windows is deciding whether to include the arch within the window treatment design or to leave it," said Paolo McDonald of Creative Elegance Interiors. "It's an architectural detail, usually extremely beautiful. You don't want to do anything to take away from that beauty.

"So either your treatment has to complement the window and make it stand out or you have to treat the windows below the arch and let it stand on its own," McDonald said.

Named for 16th century Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, true Palladian windows are divided into three parts, a center arched window flanked by two smaller rectangular windows. These days, any large arched window is commonly called a Palladian window.

Whether traditional Palladian or simply arched, these windows present a challenge. "I either work with the shape or totally avoid it" McDonald said.

One of McDonald's clients was struggling with light control, particularly in late afternoon. The window was in a room where they watched television and the sun coming in was blinding. They needed light control without totally blocking the architecture.

"My solution was a beautiful combination of sheer fabrics that would take the edge off of the sunlight while not totally blocking the windows and the view," she said. "I hung them from simple medallions that were installed around the arch of the palladium windows."

The effect was to accentuate the archway and allow the family to see through the fabric, while at the same time taking the edge off the sunshine.

"When designing treatments for Palladian windows, there are three considerations: budget, form and function," said Michael H. Sicheri, owner of Abstract D?cor, which specializes in custom window treatments. "Those three things have to equal 100 percent."

Sicheri said if form is the focus and money is no object, you can do anything, including installing motorized blinds, shades or shutters available from Hunter Douglas. However, if function, such as blocking sunlight, is the primary concern and the budget is tight, "you can do some really beautiful draperies."

Linda H. Bassert, owner of Masterworks Window Fashions & Design, said architects and builders include more Palladian windows because that feature helps sell the house. However, they do this with little regard to how difficult it is to dress these windows in terms of cost and design.

Bassert suggested acknowledging the rhythm of the arch in the room.

"The window is going to win, in terms of setting a lyrical rhythm in the room, so don't fight it with rigid lines and boxy designs," she said. "Consider the height of the room if you are considering leaving the arch bare and just dressing the windows beneath it. With a strong horizontal line below the arched window, there is a risk that you will effectively lower the ceiling in the room."

She said there are many ways to "float fabric above an arch," including curved boards made from bendable plywood to "Firmaflex," a synthetic construction material used to make cornices.

The Palladian arch is a star in any room," Bassert said. "Make sure it shines the light on you."



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