When working with clients, the mere mention of the word sheers can evoke unhappy images of grandma's dusty old lace sheers. Even worse, some of us immediately think of that cheap shiny polyester/voile fabric that can create an eye tiring optical illusion in its folds. To me it looks like the fabric equivalent of oil running down glass! But sheers offer a number of design solutions and should not be discarded from consideration based on their past misuses and abuses.
Sheers give privacy without stealing light. Sheer panels help to soften windows without too much visual weight. Sheers can also simplify large windows by lessening the contrast of lines from multiple divisions and panes.
Sheers are often a good choice if budget is a concern. First time condo owners faced with walls of ceiling to floor windows can use sheers to get much needed coverage without blowing the bank.
Since sheers are typically half the cost of thicker drapery fabrics and their linings, they are a more economical choice for anyone. Use them alone or paired with dummy side panels to cut the budget.
Here are a few rules on how to use sheers in more contemporary decor schemes. Follow these guidelines when choosing sheers and you will get a classic look that won't make anyone cringe in 20 years!
1. Choose your sheer wisely.
Avoid a "synthetic look" while benefiting from the practicality of a synthetic fabric.
Since light hits a sheer directly all day, it is best to go with a synthetic fabric like polyester that is resistant to the sun but that is manufactured to have the more natural slubby appearance of linen.
2. Go for off white or cream colored sheers.
For 99.9% of my clients with contemporary, transitional and traditional decors off white and cream colored sheers work best with the natural light coming in the window. Stay away from stark whites that will look too cool and at times appear blue or grey. On the flip side be careful not to go too yellow with your cream or too brown since a sheer can start to look old or dirty.
3. Remember that colored sheers will cast the color throughout the room.
An extension of #3. Colored sheers can be wonderful but you want to be sure that you won't tire of the look over time. Go for the gusto if you have a more adventurous sense of style but make sure that the color choice and the light it casts works in harmony with the other elements in the room.
4. Always take your sheers to the floor.
If using side panels take those to the floor as well. Only VERY casual applications like cottages or kids rooms should use short drapes to the sill.
5. Do the same header on your drapes and sheers.
If you are combining sheers and drapes, the header style on both should be the same. Matching them will give you a seamless intentional look that focuses the eye on the whole drape and not just the top.
6. Consider your hardware carefully.
Sheers can work alone on a rod and rings. When using a sheer with panels, use a track system like i beam for the sheers and hang the drapery panels on a rod (or another track) IN FRONT of the sheer. Do not try to put sheers and panels on the same track or rod. They will never meet or overlap properly. Avoid double rod systems if possible, the numerous rings and poles make the top of the window look busy and top heavy.
7. Avoid tunnel top sheers.
Tunnel top sheers are usually the ones you can buy ready-made at any home store and frankly they can look sloppy and inexpensive. Tunnel top sheers are also not meant to be functioning, they can't be easily moved along the rod. If budget is very limited and you must use ready-made tunnel top, skip the pocket and use the fabric on rings with clips. Or even better, pick up some header pins from a drapery store and pierce the fabric on the back of the pocket to hook it into a ring with a loop.
8. For a modern look, use sheers alone on an invisible track.
Sheers when used alone can get you that clean modern look and can look fabulous on floor to ceiling windows. In these cases, look for a ceiling mount track system which will fit closer to the ceiling and look cleaner and more modern then the traditional i- beam track.
9. Go for a leaded hem.
When available a leaded hem is a great alternative to the typical folded hem and looks elegant and clean. A leaded hem is a heavy chain sewn into the bottom hem of sheer to hold the panel down and is done in manufacturing of the fabric.