Fun, Frugal Perk-Ups for Bathroom Windows

Get expert advice on brightening up your bathroom with colorful, economical window treatments.

A bathroom should equal privacy in the same way a kitchen should equal conversation. It's a simple equation whose foundation comes in part from the way a bathroom window is dressed. After all, the window is the portal to the outside world. By treating it with a beautiful valance, plantation wood blinds or a colorful Roman shade, you can enrich and soften the room, even as you keep the busy world at bay.

If you're looking for something that stands out, don't worry. Window treatments are as diverse as the sizes of windows they cover. And a unique designer look can be achieved for as little as $100.

Designer Looks for Under $100

In the bathroom, designers often pair mini-blinds with valances. The blind offers the utmost in privacy while the valance brings warmth to the room. You can buy a stylish ready-made valance for well under $100 and use the remainder of the money for an elegant rod and a store-bought mini-blind. Shop www.countrycurtains.com for such items as a tailored valance with ball fringe or a striped, buttoned valance.

Designer Audra Kennedy of Audra Kennedy Designs in Huntsville, Ala., says one way to create a designer look is to find valances that are lined. Another quick and easy way to get a designer look is to put up ready-made Roman shades, which can also be purchased for under $100 at many bath stores and web sites.

Kathy Iven, owner of Fabric Farms Interiors in Hilliard, Ohio, suggests buying an extra matching shower curtain and making a simple valance out of it.

A product called Stitch Witchery, available at most craft stores, takes the sewing out of the project with an iron-on hem. If iron-on projects are your cup of tea, you might also consider using roller shades in your bathroom to give it a cozy, old-fashioned look. You can find roller shade kits for around $25; simply choose a great fabric and iron it onto the shade.

If you want something even simpler than a shade or valance, papering your windows is also an inexpensive option. One website, www.wallpaperforwindows.com sells adhesive papers that mimic the look of stained or etched glass.

Another product, called Gallery Glass (learn more at www.plaidonline.com) lets you make a window pattern that mimics stained glass with self-adhesive simulated leading and paint. It looks similar to a real stained glass window at a fraction of the price, says Kathy Wilson, editor of thebudgetdecorator.com.

If you're on a tight budget, but want something with a cottage feel, Wilson suggests putting hinges on beautiful picture frames (or building your own frames) and using a staple gun to attach lace or a synthetic fabric to them. Voila, you've got shutters.

Choose Your Fabric

Once again, you can pair mini-blinds with valances, but with $250, you can choose your fabric and have the valance custom-made. Costs vary depending on the fabric, says Kathy Iven, leaving you enough money for a custom-made blind or shade.

A custom-made café curtain is another option. It not only provides privacy but lets in lots of light through the upper half of the window. Cafe curtains, says Iven, can cost around $250 for the labor and fabric.

One-of-a-kind Windows

If you've got $500 to spend, then many designers suggest you invest in a custom-made window treatment. "I'm more for custom window treatments," says Audra Kennedy. "I want it to be one of kind."

Kennedy doesn't recommend hanging long curtains or draperies because they can get wet and moldy. She does, however, appreciate a window treatment that uses a variety of textures, from fabric to wood. One of the bathrooms she designed had a jungle theme. For the window treatment, Kennedy used brackets shaped like monkeys to hold up a valance on a bamboo pole. Beneath that was a plantation wood blind. "They were sophisticated looking monkeys. It was one of a kind," she says.

Kathy Iven, owner of Fabric Farms Interiors, says a custom-made Roman shade will cost around $400 for the fabric and labor. For another $100, you can put a custom-made valance on top to hide the cord mechanism.

Finally, consider custom-made, built-in shutters. "They're easy to maintain, they give full coverage and you can let light in by opening the louvers," says Audra Kennedy. Ventilation, sunlight and artificial lighting can all be adjusted to create a certain mood. Shutters also go well with many bathroom styles from traditional to casual.

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