George Clarke solves all your window dilemmas...your burning questions answered
Well, nearly all of them. I recently invited you all to send in your questions about window treatments for that nice chap off of the telly, architect and TV presenter George Clarke, and lots of you did. The Old House, New House presenter is working with Hillarys on their latest Ways With Windows campaign and I thought it would be a good opportunity to dust off the old dictaphone and ask George some of your burning questions. And because he’s a nice chap, he was only too happy to oblige and share his knowledge and thoughts.
I caught up with him at the launch event, which was held in the beautiful converted former Violin Factory where we got to see the many different window treatments Hillarys offer firsthand. I found this really useful from a practical perspective and there were some options I would never have considered, like the Motorised Roller Blinds which are very James Bond style, but would be so cool in a modern kitchen extension or conservatory. FYI George has these in his own house, which is a modernist 1960’s house with large, wide windows. Some of the campaign actually features George’s own home, as he has kitted out his recently built garden office with Hillary’s Wave Curtains.
But back to George and your questions. I had lots of similar questions and I also had some which were unfortunately a bit too niche and specific to ask on this occasion, but I would always say that if you’re struggling, get an expert round to give you their opinion. It may be that they can come up with a suitable solution that you haven’t thought of yet.
So without further ado, here are your most popular questions answered by Mr George Clarke himself.
Me: “Hi George, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. I know you’re a busy man so I’ll just get straight into it. One of the questions which kept coming up was about what to do it you have windows that go all the way up to the ceiling so there’s no room for a pole?”
George: “You would most likely have to go with a track. You only need a really slim space to get a track in there. Or you can attach the track to the ceiling above. I have the Wave curtains on a track in my home office and it’s super shallow. There’s a real trend towards using tracks anyway as you get that more seamless sleek look which is popular at the moment. Depending on the window you could also look at vertical blinds which push right back but they work better in more industrial spaces.”
My next question is something that has divided Instagram over the last few weeks…
Me: “I had a lot of people asking me about the best window treatment for a bay window. What do you think George?”
George: “I love shutters. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like shutters. The tier on tier style gives the absolute maximum flexibility, especially in a bay window. You have so many options in terms of privacy. For example you can have the top half open and the bottom half closed with just the louvres tilted open. They are a classic and particularly perfect for period homes. If you want even more options, you can look at layering curtains over the top for extra cosiness. And if you’re feeling really brave you could get them colour matched to your interiors too, but you need to be pretty sure you are sticking with your colour scheme for a while to do that. On a practical note, I would say two things…firstly integrate them as much as you can so they are as flat as possible to the window, and secondly, as an architect I am obsessed with alignments so take that into consideration when you’re measuring up for shutters. Make sure the bottom tier of shutters line up with the window sash.”
George clearly hasn’t been listening to Mad About The House blogger Kate Watson-Smyth and Sophie Robinson’s podcast The Great Outdoors, in which Kate named shutters as one of her design crimes….*queue sharp intake of breath. I am the proud owner of shutters and I love the flexibility they give us but like anything, they don’t work in every room. I also love a well-made curtain…as long as it doesn’t have eyelets. In fact come to think of it, that would be my design crime.
Anyway I digress, onwards with the Q&A…
Me: “Moving on to the bathroom, a few of my followers have windows in their shower or directly above a bath, and one is looking for an attractive alternative to the rusty metal blind she currently has in there, what do you recommend?”
George: “Faux timber blinds are the perfect option. They are water resistant and will never bend or bow and perfect for bathrooms, kitchens or anywhere with high moisture content. You could go for metal blinds too but they are likely to rust over time and soft fabrics in a bathroom will just get knackered after a while. The faux timber will last the distance. You can get your own bespoke look with a choice of tape and slat widths too. I would also say that shutters are good for privacy in bathrooms and look very smart, as long as they are not too close to the water.”
Me: “Now, one for all those sleep deprived mamas (and papas) out there, what is the best treatment for children’s rooms to keep that glorious, but nevertheless inconvenient early morning sunshine from waking them up at 5am???”
George: “Roman blinds with blackout lining are a resounding winner in kids rooms. In my son’s bedroom we’ve doubled up on blinds. It’s not a big space and the windows are full width so it was difficult to get curtains in here without blocking out too much of the light. So we opted for a sheer translucent roller blind at the back to maximise light and give daytime privacy. Then a blackout Roman blind over the top that gives softness and texture, but in a more space efficient way than curtains. My kids love having the roller blind down during the day so the light still comes through but they have some privacy, but at night it’s full on blackout. In the morning when I go in to wake them up, I pull the roman blind up and they still have the diffused light from the roller, then I’ll go in again and open everything up to get them moving and engaged with the world outside. In my experience, if you just have a blackout roller blind it’s not enough to block the shafts of light which is why the layering is key. Make sure the Roman blind sits over the width of the window to maximise the blackout effect.”
Me: “I love the idea of the roller blind letting light through while also maintaining privacy. Which bring me onto one of the most popular questions I had…how do you solve a problem like bi-folds? Everyone wants them, but how should we dress them?”
George: “The biggest mistake people make when they have bi-folds fitted is that they don’t think about the window treatment until it’s too late. I’ve seen it hundreds of times when people haven’t considered the blind system or curtains. It’s often an afterthought and then when it comes to fitting something you are restricted because people will end up with a curtain system that doesn’t go back far enough to allow space for the bi-folds to fold. So it’s vital to make sure it’s designed in from the get-go. My advice would be to not take the bi-folds full width, leave a nib of wall at either side so you can pull your curtains right back to sit in that nook and they will sit so much better. Otherwise your curtains will end up getting ruined. Another option is to go for vertical blinds. These are good as they can be folded.
Again, George is very much in favour of layering. He said: “I’ve got motorised blinds and curtains in my kitchen. It’s the best option for maximum flexibility. I tend to have the blinds down during the day if it’s really sunny and then draw the curtains in the evening for that cocoon feeling. I love the options layering window treatments can give you. If you’d asked me about that question four or five years ago I’d have said blinds all the way, I just wanted that minimal look. But I’ve learnt what a difference curtains can make. They soften and make a space cosier and they have done wonders for the acoustics in my office in particular.”
Me: “Just time for a couple of the more niche questions that came up. I’m interested to hear your views on this one, I know where I stand. Someone wanted to ask you about dressing windows in period houses, where the radiators are under the window frames?
George: “Oh no hesitation on this one. They’ve got to be full length, don’t have them flapping around, it looks awful. Either go full length and move your radiator if you don’t like it being covered up.”
Me: “Right answer George! Gold star. If in doubt, go long (Flappy half-height curtains are another design crime of mine. Ooh who knew i had so many strong opinions about curtains?)”
And last but not least is a question from @eco_pontcannaterrace on sustainability. How can you use blinds and curtains to save energy and stop heat loss?
George: “Well I would always say that using sustainable fabrics where possible is a good thing. But your window treatments should be the last thing that goes in to making your house sustainable. I would recommend triple glazing as a starting point. However if you are in a period house, which is listed and has restrictions, you might not be able to change the glazing system in which case, go for the thickest curtains you can possibly have.”
And that’s all folks! I tried to get through as many questions as possible so I hope that has been useful for you? I’m with George on the layering idea and am about to add curtains to soften the shutters in our living room so it must be a good idea. I’d love to hear your thoughts and if this has solved any dilemmas for you?
This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Hillarys but all the content was driven by me, and powered by your questions. The links are not affiliated.