Column: The wrath of winter


“The right window treatment can help turn a room from drab to divine” … yeah, yeah, yeah. You have heard that from me over and over. It’s right up there with those trite words of decorating wisdom, “You can save energy with the proper window treatments.”

I have to confess that the aesthetics of window treatments is at the top of my priority list. Alas, a room’s appearance does not pay the utility bill … especially in the middle of an incredibly cold winter!

If your windows have endured the subzero nights without the benefit of a covering, the energy lost will probably be visible when the next gas bill arrives, regardless of how energy-efficient your windows are.

Any type of window covering over a window in the dead of winter is better than nothing. Even a quilt tacked in place to keep out the cold is better than exposed glass when the thermostat dips.

The ideal warmth protector is a drapery that is lined and interlined and has a pelmet of sorts at the top. A pelmet is simply a decorative cornice installed at the top of a window treatment that blocks the flow of cooled air from returning to the room.

Without that pelmet, a window treatment placed on the outside of the frame – even energy-efficient, thermal-lined curtain panels – can create a “chimney” effect. This is when hot air rushes under the bottom and flows out the top. While in transit, the air is cooled by the window and re-enters the room as cold air. Although this is better than a bare window, it is not the most energy-efficient option for window treatments. To really warm up a room, the drapery needs a pelmet at the top to halt the air circulation.

Today’s style really does not call for top treatments over drapery. This is the case in my own home, where I have lined and interlined drapery covering almost every glass surface.

To eliminate as much cold as possible during our polar blast, I closed the drapery at night and carefully positioned rolled-up towels across the top to block the return airflow. It worked like magic! Coupled with a gas fireplace, our furnace turned on only a few times during the coldest hours.

When the sun was at its brightest, I opened the drapery to allow the sun’s warmth, as well as its light, to enter the room. You can tell it’s time to let in the rays just by feeling the window’s temperature.

Keep in mind that people have used drapery in one form or another since the start of time to protect spaces from the elements. Hides were probably the first items hung from doorways to prevent the cold from invading.

We have evolved from those original animal skins that adorned crude openings and become far more “vegan” in our textile choices. Regardless, when the sun’s warmth fades, the glass’s cooling effect takes over and a room loses a fair amount of heat.

Who can argue that beautiful window treatments warm a room emotionally, just by their mere presence?