You’ve heard the expression “Against the odds,” meaning that achieving success will be a hard proposition because the “odds are stacked against you.” These expressions originated in the gambling industry—most likely horse race betting when odds were placed on the animals’ chances to win. If a bet was placed on a horse not favored to win, the odds were the gambler would lose. To “beat the odds” meant winning in spite of the unlikelihood of success. If you wager in favor of an animal that has the odds stacked against it, and that animal wins the race, then you win more money.
This expression has merit in business where a person takes a chance
on achieving a goal when all indicators are less than favorable.
In fact, it is the goal-setting, can-do mentality that has spurred
countless people to work harder and smarter in order to figure out
how to make something work. In the end, many a seemingly insurmountable
challenge has been rewarded with sweet success, and sometimes more
success—and more monetary reward—than the competitors.
In the window treatments industry, odd-shaped windows—anything
not a rectangle—are sometimes seen as odds stacked against
the decorator’s chance of success. Just a few decades ago
the only solutions to a new generation of angled- or arched-topped
windows were pleated draperies constructed with a custom-fit header
or shaped mini-blinds or verticals, all of which either opened in
a cumbersome and unattractive way, or stayed in a permanent position:
draped fabric stayed put, shutters were in a closed or partially
closed position, pleated shades or blinds were not fully operable.
Since then we’ve seen some amazing progress. Innovative (smart
and hard-working) product designers and engineers have developed
treatments that really are answers for those odd-shaped windows.
Just as a business owner who finds the solution to problems is rewarded
monetarily, so today’s newest product solutions reward owners
of challenging windows. Everybody wins!
How do we define odd windows today? These are windows that pose
difficulty in either providing screening from excessive brightness
or in providing privacy while still allowing light or a view. The
difficulty is because of their size, shape, proportions, or where
they are located in the home. For example, the placement may be
too high for controls; or the top of the window, large or small,
is angled and not easily treated with conventional treatments; or
the window itself is curved. As glass technology continues to improve,
we now see windows with arched and angled tops that are single sheets
of glass with no division between the bottom rectangles and the
As in Victorian architecture, round “porthole” windows
are very much back in fashion. Our reasoning is different than 100
years ago when they really did float to Europe in ocean liners.
Today, we may take a vacation cruise and be influenced by the nautical
design of ships, but we also are heavily influenced by Pac-Asian
design, much of which is based on the good fortune represented by
For these kinds of unusual windows, interior design professionals
need to think “outside the box”—quite literally!—or
at least outside the rectangle to formulate solutions. Another factor
is that homes with these dramatic window shapes usually are owned
by discriminating owners who expect high quality and functionality.
They simply expect the best.
Now you can give it to them.
When odd windows are placed high overhead or as part of an expanse
of doors or windows, the architecture opens the interior space to
light and view. Often the owner desires to keep these two advantageous
qualities. The down side is the heat and glare that can accompany
too much sunlight, even on a partly cloudy day. One instant and
permanent solution is found in window film. Vista window film screens
more than 99 percent of the glare and ultraviolet light from the
sun, reduces heat and evens the temperature, and strengthens the
glass in case of impact, holding shards in place if it shatters.
It also clarifies the view, a big advantage for customers who want
to enjoy the outdoors from inside.
Another key advantage is that in today’s upscale homes and
customizable contract settings ultraviolet (UV) light and heat do
permanent damage—fading colors and weakening fibers, splitting
wood and damaging artwork. Window film is a way to prevent these
devastating effects and to help furnishings hold their beauty and
their value. Homeowners appreciate that.
Solar shades have become a popular window treatment, and when specified
in a bottom-up configuration can be made to fit angle-top windows.
The accompanying photograph features two such windows flanking a
large fireplace. Both windows are out of reach and are part of a
large combined focal point: doors, windows and a river rock fireplace
wall. These shades not only cut the heat and glare, controlling
light effectively, but they do not demand attention. They quietly
do their job.
Today the most common solution for problem windows such as these
includes two major directions:
• Lightweight shades – cellular for insulation and privacy,
and sunscreen for temperature control and view preservation
• Motorization—for convenience and the ability to control
this new generation of operable shades.
Windows treated in this manner also typically feature bottom-up
operation, which is the preferred treatment when it is the top of
the window that creates the problem, as is so often the case.
Arched windows likewise have benefited from the development of operable
cellular shades. Although for many years cut-to-measure and flexible
rods have been available for shirred fabric treatments, these were
and are non-operable and often looked a little funny from the outside,
particularly when weight causes the fabric to sag and bunch a little
at the bottom. Today, a cleaner look from both the outside and the
inside is being preferred by a majority of clients.
An important point here is that these are operable treatments. Pleated
shades in a bottom-up configuration can cover most odd shaped windows
and still open and close. Shades that offer both top-down and bottom-up
operation are excellent options for odd-shaped windows. For arches,
cellular shades can be made to operate like a fan—opening
from one side to the other like fanning out playing cards in the
hand. Cellular shades also have the advantage of folding flat to
provide an unencumbered view.
Lafayette Interior Fashions offers a product made especially for
arch-top windows that have no framing between the lower rectangular
window and the upper arch top. These windows present a particular
problem for decorators when the window is so wide a drapery rod
cannot span the entire width without a center support bracket. This
product attaches at each end of the window and is strong enough
to support a drapery rod or even be used for the top frame of a
Speaking of shutters, they have become a treatment of choice for
homeowners who want a substantial quality look to match the architectural
trim and furnishing style of their homes and have the advantage
of complete operational control. In special-shaped windows such
as arch-top, eyebrow and windows similar to the circular window
featured here, custom shutters are fabulous solutions. They are
heavy, solid, practical, easy to operate and easy to clean. When
opened and when closed, there is a greater sense of privacy, which
leads to peace of mind—qualities greatly desired by today’s
BE A WINNER
With solutions like these you cannot only beat the odds, you can
be the winner. Remember the famous sales adage, “You can get
anything in this world you want if you just help enough people get
what they want.” Solutions that work will leave you holding
the winning ticket!
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of
design at Brigham Young University. She has authored several books
including Window Treatments, Understanding Fabrics and Interiors:
An Introduction, 3rd Ed. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies
& Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education