We’ve been experiencing, more than ever, the impact our windows can have on our indoor surroundings.

While living, working and learning in our homes, we’ve discovered firsthand that how much, or little, natural light our living spaces get can dictate how the room is used. Much of that lighting depends on the windows and coverings we choose, and this has many homebound homeowners considering their options. 

Looking to make a change to your windows, draperies or shades? We asked a few Seattle installation and design pros for their advice on where to start, what materials to consider and how to create light that’s just right for your home. 

Seattle interior designer Stephanie Sykes recommends that homeowners select window treatment fabrics and styles that express their personalities and reflect how they live. (Getty Images)
Seattle interior designer Stephanie Sykes recommends that homeowners select window treatment fabrics and styles that express their personalities and reflect how they live. (Getty Images)

Window materials

Replacing and upgrading windows is considered by industry experts to be among the best investments homeowners can make.

Replacement windows can improve a home’s overall energy efficiency, and help to limit the noise levels from outside. They also offer homeowners the chance to update the look of their home.

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Adding a window or skylight is an option if you’re looking to increase the natural light inside your home.

Windows come in a range of materials. Randy Lucas, co-owner of Signature Window & Door Replacement, based in Kent, says most of his customers choose one of four options.

Vinyl. Among the most affordable materials, vinyl gets high marks for its weather resistance, energy efficiency and noise reduction.

Wood. Real wood is the ideal choice for preserving architectural integrity in historic homes, such as those found in older Seattle neighborhoods.

Wood clad. Lucas says this option offers the classic look of genuine wood, but with the weather resistance and durability of a more heavy-duty material.

Fiberglass. The strongest, most durable window available, fiberglass has a longer life expectancy than other materials. 

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Replacing windows is one way to create a new look for a home’s exterior. It also improves the home’s energy efficiency and reduces noise from outside. (Getty Images)
Replacing windows is one way to create a new look for a home’s exterior. It also improves the home’s energy efficiency and reduces noise from outside. (Getty Images)

Sarah Nelson, Signature’s marketing director, warns against rushing into a window-replacement project. One of the biggest mistakes consumers can make is not properly vetting the contractor they hire to replace their windows, she says.

“Thanks to the internet, it doesn’t take long to check out a contractor,” she says. “Before having someone provide you with a bid, check their contractor’s license with [the Washington Department of Labor & Industries] and take a look at their online reviews.” 

Window treatments

When it comes to window treatments, consumer interest in draperies, roller shades, Roman shades and wooden blinds remains steady, says Adam Skalman, vice president of sales for the Shade Store, a national chain with four locations in the Seattle area. 

He and other design pros are seeing an increasing demand for window treatments that use eco-friendly materials.

“Clean, natural and textured materials are extremely popular right now,” Skalman says. “As we spend more time in our homes, customers are interested in natural, sustainable and healthy materials like linen, hemp and wool.”

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Adam Skalman, of the Shade Store, says draperies are a “luxurious and dramatic” choice that work well in rooms with large windows. (Courtesy of the Shade Store)
Adam Skalman, of the Shade Store, says draperies are a “luxurious and dramatic” choice that work well in rooms with large windows. (Courtesy of the Shade Store)

Skalman says draperies are a “luxurious and dramatic” choice that work well for large windows and in rooms “where insulation and blackout are needed — or just an impactful design statement.”

Roman shades give windows a tailored, classic look. Available in fabric or woven materials, Skalman says Roman shades are “great for rooms where you need light control and privacy, but want a softer touch.”

Looking for something minimal, modern and sleek? Roller or solar shades are a chic and simple solution when you want to showcase your views.

Wood blinds are a classic choice that offer a full range of coverage — from room darkening to completely open — depending on your preference for the room. “[They are] great for offices and other multipurpose rooms,” Skalman says.

And when it comes to hanging your window treatments, there’s no reason to settle for basic curtain rods. With a wide array of hardware available in a range of materials and finishes, DIY decorators can make a bold statement and add personality to the whole room.

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Light vs. dark

Skalman says the choice of a window covering can be the difference between a light-filled living space or a dark-as-night room.

To make a room lighter: “Using bright colors in a dark room can create the feeling of more light in the space, but choosing a window treatment that is sheer and has a minimal stack will bring in maximum light,” he says.

Roller shades are a sleek choice for a minimally furnished space. They are also easy to raise when you want to enjoy the view. (Courtesy of the Shade Store)
Roller shades are a sleek choice for a minimally furnished space. They are also easy to raise when you want to enjoy the view. (Courtesy of the Shade Store)

To make a room darker, try a blackout roller or Roman shade. “Floor-to-ceiling drapery will give the best blackout — think a Las Vegas hotel room,” Skalman says.

Stephanie Sykes, a Seattle-based interior designer, says she finds inspiration in helping clients express their personalities.

“I work with customers to select window-treatment fabrics and styles that reflect who they are and how they live,” she says, whether it’s helping to choose a bold color to make an impact in a room, selecting easy-care fabrics or identifying materials that protect interiors.

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Sykes says the most popular drapery colors among her customers are white, beige and gray, while the top roller shade colors are white, gray and black. 

“Rich wools and textures in gray and blue have always been a go-to for Seattle,” Skalman says.

Mistakes to avoid

If you’re planning to replace your windows this year, Nelson says to avoid these common mistakes.

Automatically going with the cheapest bid. “The old adage ‘You get what you pay for’ is never truer than when it comes to inexpensive window replacement,” she says. “You may be saving money right now, but you’ll regret it when you have to replace those same windows in 10 years.”

Choosing the installation company with the shortest lead time. “Lead times are generally shorter in the winter than the summer. In the weird pandemic world we live in, that’s not currently true,” Nelson says. “If a company can schedule you for a pretty quick turnaround, this is a huge red flag. Reputable window-replacement companies are all experiencing record lead times for installation right now.”

Waiting until summer to replace. “It seems to make sense to start considering window replacement in the summer, [but] if you buy new windows in June, it could be September before they’re installed. If you buy windows in February, you should have them in before the summer heat arrives,” she says.

Having a friend or acquaintance install your windows. “Window replacement takes skill. And problems with a window installation usually start inside the window,” Nelson says. “That means by the time you realize it’s a problem, it’s a bad problem. Is your second cousin’s uncle’s friend going to back up his work?” 

Letting a window salesperson pressure you into signing a contract before you are ready. “A salesperson with integrity will give you the time you need to make a decision without high-pressure sales tactics,” she says. “If you have the thought, ‘This person will never leave until I sign their stupid contract,’ kick them out then and there.”