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Design: Decorating with drapes

Drapes don't have to be made from thick,

Drapes don't have to be made from thick, opaque fabrics. Sheers and the newer sliding panels are appealing options as well. Credit: Fotolia

Beyond simply framing a window, drapes offer a wealth of decorating options to add softness, screening and privacy. Drapes can be used in unique ways that bring more panache to a home and cozy up large, open spaces.


The large open spaces in many contemporary homes are enjoyable to be in and give a feeling of spaciousness, but they can lack warmth and coziness. Ask most diners at elegant restaurants where they'd like to sit, and they'll almost always pick a booth because of its intimate feeling. If you're tired of living in a cavernous space, drapes can come to the rescue.

You can use drapes to separate a dining area and give it secluded, comfy appeal. What's not to love about thick, rich drapes on a rod with pullbacks to create a sense of mystery and intimacy? Sometimes, the sheer openness of the room needs to be tamed. Again, drapes are a cozy solution.

Drapes can be used to hide a view that's too intrusive, such as when a front door opens to expose the whole house. Hung from the ceiling, double-sided drapes can create a decorative wall, perfect for lofts or open concept homes that need help delineating individual living areas.

Of course, drapes don't have to be made from thick, opaque fabrics. Sheers and the newer sliding panels are other options for defining a space or creating privacy, yet they retain a feeling of openness, and won't block light like traditional drapes.


If a room is filled with hard surfaces -- from walls to mirrors -- drapes add a softening effect when used decoratively. Hanging drapes from a bedroom ceiling adds instant drama and an aura of romance. Such drapes can also be an inexpensive stand-in for a four-poster bed. Or, if you have a four-poster bed, drapes will soften the impact of the bed's hard surfaces and create a private escape.

Drapes don't have to be relegated to the living areas; they can be used almost anywhere in the house, including the bathroom. A luxurious fall of fabric can be the perfect way to add privacy to a toilet that's out in the room or create a sumptuous bathing nook around a tub or shower. For a high-end look, hang drapes in the bathroom from the ceiling.


Another nice spot for drapes is anywhere there's a room opening or recessed area. This is especially true around bay windows, window seats and niches. Drapes can also be added to disguise something unsightly or create something from nothing, such as balancing a wall with only one window. Adding a faux window by hanging drapes where the panes should be creates a balanced look in the room.

A wall of drapes behind the bed provides sound dampening and lends an elegant look if windows are unattractive. Look for locations around your house that need softening, and you'll find a perfect spot to hang a drape.

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