Choosing Treatments for a Bow or Bay Window

Selecting the correct fabric treatments for a bow or bay window, whether as a stand-alone treatment or to layer over a shade, blind or shutter, can be an exciting and creative endeavor.

If you should desire a light and privacy layer beneath your drapery treatment, then please start here with Blinds for a Bow or Bay Window.

As with most design choices, the first step is to evaluate what you have and how you want it to look when you’re finished.

Unlike with blinds or shades, where the first choice is whether to dress the windows as a “single window”
or to dress the individual panes; you must assess whether the drapery is intended to provide function in the guise of light and privacy control; or be the decorative element that will add the form, unity and style to a room.

If you’ve chosen to have your blinds do the light and privacy control job, then dressing your windows with a beautiful textile can be the cherry of the sundae top of your space.

If you’re going strictly for a textile dressing of your windows, then your choices will be limited to those that also provide a function such a room darkening, temperature control and pribay-or-bow-windows-draperyvacy provision.

When beginning to decide what type of drapery to choose, keep in mind whether they are to serve form or function.

  • If purely form, what options have you chosen for function? Base the style of your drapery choice around that existing layer.
  • Think of two to three colors in either a few shades (darker) or tints (lighter) than your function choice.
  • Then consider the material your function choice is made from. (ie. If you’ve chosen a heavily textured blind or shade, opt for a flat, solid or lightly textured drape. NOTE: If choosing a drape for form alone, even if the drapes are not intended to close but just frame the view, keep in mind they should at least appear they could close.

The Textile

As if a Bow or a Bay Window weren’t architecturally defining enough, the right window treatments can manipulate the mood of a room and elevate a space into something completely different. A few considerations that can make the job of choosing the right look include:

  • Fullness – For a traditional style drape, the width of the drape should be 2 to 2 ½ times the width of the window
  • Length – For classic side panels, they really should go to the end of the floor; However, many modern style lengths are dictated by the space, furnishings and other elements (ie. child safety, etc.)
  • Style – While design is an “art” as much as a science, and choice is a personal one, keep the overall cohesiveness of your spaces in mind, as well as your existing furnishings. For example, if your sofa is a patterned one, consider a solid fabric for the drapery.
  • Playing with “The Stack” – The “stack” is the drapery that gathers on the side of the widow when it’s opened. You can alter the look and feel of the window and the room by either gathering them tightly or letting them billow out; or, whether you tie them back or employ another method of ensuring they don’t just hang straight.
  • Hardware – Since drapes enhance the way we see the height of a space, unless for design reasons it wouldn’t look natural to do so, hang them as close to the ceiling as possible.
  • Placement – Drapery can be mounted either inside or outside the window frame, depending on the style of drapes.

In summary, dressing a Bow or Bay Window isn’t that much different than dressing a regular window with the exception of size and shape. Custom drapery treatments can be necessary if the window is a custom size or design to that particular space.

In addition to the long, billowy, hanging types of drape, valances and cornices can be used in both fabric or other material, such as wood or vinyl. These are used to cap off an attractive Bow or Bay without hiding its architectural beauty behind yards of fabric.

Various Types of Treatments

When making your selection, keep in mind the style of home you live in as well as the style of the room.

Think from the premise that both Bow Windows and Bay Windows were designed to be “show” windows. Whether they show off the view outside or your interior décor, they will generally tend to be the focal point of the space.

  • Panels & Valance – Probably the most common type of drapery treatment consists of two side panels joined on top by a valance of the same fabric type. Wooden, Vinyl or a Filled-Fabric cornice is also used to add height and visual interest to simple side panels
  • Tent-Flap Panels – These are mounted inside the window frame to help keep out sun and wind; they are then pulled back and secured at one end corner, much like the opening of a tent
  • Rod Panels – The classic combination offers more twists and surprises then ever before. The addition of stylish, decorative types of rods; and, panels that are fastened either by tab-top, rings, grommet, pocket or gathered mount, offers an endless array of design choices
  • Swags – Fabric decoratively gathered at the corner(s) and held in place by hardware, knotting or a hook, is an elegant choice for semi- formal treatments
  • Cascading Panels – Whether tied back, tossed over a hardware choice or bustled, either casual or formal fabric can be used for this enduring look
  • Swing-Arm Panels – These are similar to Rod Panels except the Rod swings open and closed like a shutter
  • Dual Fabric Panels – Rods mounted at different heights with complementary panels offer yet another layer of style, and choice
  • Inside Mount – Using a tension rod, hang panels inside the window and knot or tie in the center for visual interest
  • Stacking Panels – Attractive on either side of a very wide bank of windows, stack different types of panels on each end of the rod, respectively, to layer

Experiment with different styles. Sketch your window shape or snap a picture with your smart phone, then visualize popular styles that you find on the internet or at home-décor stores.


Thankfully, hanging bow-window-room-view-treatmentdrapery isn’t as difficult as it is time-consuming and requiring of patience. Most pre-made panels come with all you will need to install them; and, even specialty hardware kits will offer installation instructions.

An important point to remember is that the cost of installation will likely be included in a final price for bow or bay window coverings if the treatments are a custom design and a representative has come to your home to measure your windows.

If you have purchased custom draperies and are going to do the installation yourself, be sure to ask the seller whether there is an unremoved installation charge on the final bill.

There are also many how-to videos on the internet for any type of window treatment you choose to install.

Care and Maintenance

Many of the products you’ll find today are treated to repel mold and mildew. Regular maintenance and cleaning of your fabric treatments, however, will ensure they stay as beautiful as they day you installed them. Some of the recommended methods for caring for either blinds or shades are listed below.

  1. Dusting – A light dusting every other day is sometimes all that is required to keep your installation looking day-done new
  2. Vacuuming – If a more thorough cleaning is required, you can vacuum with a brush attachment using gentle vertical strokes. NOTE: It is not advised to vacuum sheer fabrics as the lowest setting is enough to damage and tear them.
  3. Compressed Air – A can of compressed air that is used to clean electronics can also work wonders on hard to reach spots in the hardware or corners of window treatment! A hair dryer on the lowest setting can also achieve this effect but isn’t recommended for Rayon or Acetate.
  4. Spot-Cleaning – Lukewarm water, a sponge or cloth that won’t fray and a mild detergent may be used to blot light stains and spots away. Never rub as that may damage textures or patterns; and, be aware that spot cleaning may result in one area of your treatment being visibly cleaner than the rest!
  5. Steam or Ultra-Sonic Cleaning – This is done by a professional in your home and can be the best choice for large-scale or unified treatments.

Some types of fabrics are made to be easily removed for machine washing or soaking in a warm bathtub of a mild detergent and water.

Please always refer to the care label on the fabric panels or the section in the documentation provided by your manufacturer or retail dealer.