The Washington Post

Q&A: Trisha Roy of Barn & Willow on Window Treatments

Jan 16, 2020

Trisha Roy founded her own window treatment company after being frustrated at ordering her own. The former tech veteran, who used to work at PayPal and eBay, started Barn & Willow to help customers through the entire ordering process online. Roller blinds, Belgian linen draperies, Roman shades - she has designs of many shapes and sizes. Roy can address your window treatment dilemmas.

. Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, Marie Kondo, the Property Brothers or Amy Astley, editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest, answer your decorating, design and decluttering questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and organizing. For more than 20 years, our Thursday Q&A has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share your own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small.

The trend to lighter, less heavy window treatments has created a whole new generation of blinds, shades and curtains. Trisha Roy founded Barn & Willow after her own frustration in trying to order curtains. Her company specializes in European fabrics sewn and shipped to your home in ten days.  Let's chat.

Good Morning everyone! I’m so thrilled to be here and chatting with you all about your window covering dilemmas and questions. 

As Jura so graciously introduced, I’m the Founder and CEO of Barn & Willow, a digitally native custom window coverings brand that’s changing the way people shop for custom shades, drapes and drapery hardware. 


We know how difficult it is to shop for window coverings, especially if it’s a custom size and style, let alone the insane price tags associated with custom and we truly believe that it should not be that way.

I am trying to figure out whether to use roman shades or roller shades for my living room? any thoughts?

Hi, Great question. We get that all the time from our customers too. Both roman and roller shades are starting to become hugely popular again. The main difference between a roller vs. a roman shade would be the material with which it’s made and hence the kind of look it lends to the space.Btw, both can be inside or an outside mount style of shades. 

Roman shades are generally made with fabrics like linens, cotton, polyesters and tends to have a nice and soft look to it. You can most definitely line a roman shade with a blackout liner fabric if you’re looking for room darkening functionality or stick to privacy liners if you just want a simple privacy filter. But overall because it is made with regular linens, cottons it tends to have a softer look and feel. It’s a timeless look, depending on the style of fabric, the color and the shade style (it comes in styles like a Flat style, cascade style etc) it can look classic yet contemporary. 

Roller shades are made with specific types of vinyl or polyester material that are usually Blackout coated (treated) and/or partially coated which makes it semi blackout. The material is much stiffer and due to this roller shades lend a cleaner, tighter look to the window and the space. 

Roller shades are generally more efficient with filtering out light. 


If you’re looking for something more modern, simple and minimalist for your living room I would say go with roller shades.  

So should the draperies barely hit the floor - puddle - or should they come just to the edge of the floor.


That totally depends on the look you prefer. Some people prefer it to be just about ½ an inch above the floor or just touch the floor and this is usually great for a more contemporary look. It also is easier for regular maintenance of the drapery especially with lighter colors. Puddling drapes is a more classic style and adds more drama to the room. So it totally depends on what style you prefer. If you have pets at home, it’s generally recommended to go with ½ an inch above the floor just for ease of maintenance. 

Finding the right window treatments for an entire home can be overwhelming. Any recommendations on how to approach this?

I totally agree. It can be super daunting. I would recommend go with one room at a time, just like how you might be approaching decorating every room of your house. We see, usually it would be the master bedroom or the living room that gets the highest priority when it comes to window coverings. So I would suggest start one room at a time. 


Something our team of design specialists like is to ask for pictures of the room and the windows from customers so they can then send them some design recommendations and even draw out some photoshopped renderings to show how a shade vs. drape would look. So you can consider something like that.

What kind of curtains are appropriate for a black and white bathroom?

Regular cotton drapes or shades are usually what I prefer for Bathrooms. Would the curtains be used as a shower curtain or for one of the windows in the bathroom? If for the shower, then make sure it has a waterproof backing or a separate liner. For the window, I would recommend going with cotton or polyester style curtains. Linens tend to attract moisture and while that’s not an issue in the short term (and btw it looks great) in the longer run it may make the fabric sag a bit.

Can I get really high end material for the roman shades?

Oh Yes absolutely. You can get custom roman shades in high end linens, organic cottons, velvets. All types of high end fabrics can be used to make roman shades. Usually sheer linens, because of it's soft and loose weave do not provide the structure a shade needs so I recommend choosing a fabric which has a tighter weave. 

Everyone wants a beautifully decorated home including window treatments. How do you achieve that look but still maintain practicality? We have young kids who seem to love playing with drapes. What type of window treatments do you recommend that look good but still hold up?

That’s a great question and something I hear often from many of our customers who have toddlers and younger kids. Yes you’re right kids just love to play with drapes, I have a toddler and she loves playing hide and seek with our bedroom drapes :) 

Generally, roller or roman shades lend a more clean and minimalist look to the space and if you think that’s the kind of decor aesthetics you would like then choose shades over drapes. Depending on how high your window frames are, a lot of times kids can barely reach up to that height so it works great. 

Make sure the shades have a child safety lock which tightly secures the pull cord to the window frame rather than letting it hang loose on the side. This is absolutely necessary if you go with shades and have kids at home.  


If you prefer drapes since that might fit your aesthetics and the space better, then I would recommend getting tie backs to keep the drapes well stacked and gathered. From an ease of clean perspective drapes are generally easier to clean than shades and you can absolutely spot clean your drapes and shades fabric. 

I am looking for blinds/window treatments for my daughter's bedroom. There are 4 small horizontal windows over a low closet on one side of the room. They are not a standard size and are all in a row. Two are together, there is a small gap and then two more. Nothing can hang too long there because it will block the closets below. I am thinking about roman shades up above the closets but the size is so unusual and when I priced out custom ones, I was shocked at the price. Do you have suggestions? Also, should I get 4 blinds (one for each window) or 2 so that each covers a pair of windows? The windows are all very close together but there is a little bit of a gap in the middle (about 6 inches), separating two pairs. The windows all have molding all the way around them too. There are 3 other windows in the room that are more standard in size and I don't know whether I should get the same blinds there or if there would be something that could coordinate but not match.

Thanks for sharing about your design challenge and the specifics of the room - very helpful. Some of the odd shaped windows or oddly placed windows can surely be challenging to find a solution. You've mentioned each of the windows are horizontal so I'm guessing it could be wide windows? Depending on how wide each window is, it might be okay to get 2 blinds or shades to cover a pair each. The reason I am leaning towards 1 shade for a pair of window is to avoid a boxed look and feel for that wall. Having 4 individual smaller shades may make the wall and the room look bit compartmental and boxed and you may not want those windows to be the focal point of the room. So, I think you would achieve a simpler look with 1 shade for a pair of window. 

I would suggest having the same shade or blind for the other 2 windows of the room too to maintain some consistency, unless you're going with drapes which should be absolutely fine. 

Could you please provide information on hanging drapes? I know they should be "high and wide", but what does that specifically mean. Should they hang 1/2" above the floor? Why are the drapes I am able to purchase always too long or too short for an 8 foot ceiling? This seems to be a standard height in homes, but I don't see how I can hang those premade drapes without them either dragging on the floor or being way too short? Then it seems I have to purchase custom, which is too expensive for me. Thanks.

That's a great question. Off the shelf drapes come in standard size of 84" length, 96" L, 108"L and 120"L. For an 8 foot high ceiling which is 96" high floor to ceiling, what happens is that when you install the curtain rod and rings, the rod and ring diameter lowers the drapery by about 1.5". So let's say if you buy a 96" L drapery, even if you have installed the rod at ceiling line it will lower the drapery by that 1.5" and will give the puddled look. So a solution there would be to buy 96" L but alter that so the finished length is about 94.5"L. Hope this helps. 

So excited to have a chat with a window treatment expert! I have a bow window in my 1948 house - which means the actual wall and window are curved, making a traditional straight rod impossible. There are also no obvious areas to add internal shades for individual sections, as might be possible with modern bay windows. Oh, and it's 14' wide! Any recommendations for a company that can make a custom rod? I'm fine working with a company virtually if they can produce a good product!

Oh bow windows are definitely difficult to work with :) We actually introduced a hardware collection this last fall and while we do not offer specific bay window or bow window custom rod options on our storefront yet, our manufacturer does make bow/bay window style rods and everything is custom made. Feel free to drop us a note at and one of our design team members can help you. 

Have you tried looking for a custom option with Etsy? 

What are some trends you're seeing in terms of colors or types of window treatments? What are some classic looks that won't look dated after a few years?

Great question. Drapes are usually timeless and it would fit well with any style of rooms. For a very modern look, the Euro pleats or Grommet style of drapes look great. For a contemporary style it would be the pinch pleated drapes. 

Roller shades are generally popular in TV rooms, family room, study area and lends a nice clean look. 

In terms of colors, Whites are always popular, you can never go wrong with white especially if your wall color is taupe or shades of gray. For a more modern vibe go with grays - light or dark. I don't think grays would go out of fashion in a long time. Also, jewel tones are very popular these days so dark blues, emerald greens etc are very popular although it might not be the most timeless. 

Hi, we are in need of window treatments for multiple rooms in our home and have two very young children. Curtains won't work with the placement of our furniture, but I don't want blinds with cords (paranoid about safety with the kids). Some of the rooms in our house had cordless blinds when we moved in, but the mechanisms in them snapped within a few months and now they're all wonky so I don't really want to repeat that again. Any recommendations? Thank you!

Between drapes and shades I tend to prefer shades over drapes with kids at home. Did you have the manual roller shades that have pull up or down options or the remote controlled cordless shades. The remote controlled ones are actually great from a safety perspective. I would suggest looking into that option if possible. 

What's your opinion on Motorized window furnishings?

Yes motorized shades and drapes are great. We're actually working on a launch of our own styles of motorized shades and drapes here at Barn & Willow. I think it's easy to operate and convenient and it's getting more popular these days. Retro-fitting is also important and something we're looking into for launching. 

Good morning! I live in a rowhouse condo, so all my windows are along one wall. In my open living/kitchen/dining room, I have two large rectangular windows (approx 32" by 65") that are 30 inches apart. I'm thinking of using a single curtain rod to hang several sheer panels, flanked by drapes on either end - my thinking is that this will look less cluttered than two separate rods and drapes. Do you think this will look odd? Thanks!

Yes that's a nice choice and you're right, if you want a consistent look for that wall yet not over clutter, install 1 long rod to hang multiple drapery panels.  Just make sure not to make the panels too wide or too full because you don't want too much fabric all sitting on one wall of the room. So just balance it out a bit :) 

I find window treatment for my home so challenging. They can be very expensive. While I don't mind investing in something functional that I will love, it is so difficult since you can't easily try out or experiment before committing. Do you have thoughts on how to decide what is the right treatment or get help with it to know your investment will not turn into regret?

Thats a great question and I agree before investing your money (yes window treatments are an investment :)), you would want to try it out if possible. For this exact reason one of the programs we offer on our site is Try At Home Sample panels. You can rent a mini drapery panel which is 25"W x 50"L for $15 and we refund you the money once you return the panels using the prepaid shipping label we send. I don't know if other brands offer this, but I think this is a great way to hold the sample panels next to your window see how much light comes through, get a color match etc. The panels come lined as well. Unfortunately something like this is operationally difficult for shades because of the hardware. 

Most companies would offer free fabric samples though for a better understanding of the fabric and colors. Have you tried that? 

What are the most modern curtain rods to use these days?

Usually the black matte finish or the carbon look is highly popular these days. Simple end caps look clean and modern. 

I always see advice to place the rod above the window frame, but how high? Does it depend on ceiling height? My ceiling is only 8 feet high. Halfway between the top of the frame and the ceiling? Some distance below the ceiling or above the frame? I am lost!

If your ceiling is 8 foot hight, I would suggest taking your rod to the ceiling line or as close as possible. It gives a visual height to the room. If that's not what you prefer, then go with at least 8-10" above the window frame. 

What are the window treatment options for a sliding glass door that opens onto a deck?

Great question. I would suggest draperies, just make sure you're extending the rod at least 12" or so on either side of the doors on the wall so the drapes can sit on the wall and not on the glass doors when kept stacked on the side. Shades or blinds could fit well too but it depends on the structure of your sliding glass doors and the overall decor style. For a modern clean look you could go with roller shades mounted on the wall above the glass doors or the wooden frame. Probably have 2 individual shades for each part of the door. But totally depends on the structure of the door and the space. Drapes are usually the more common option people go with for sliding doors. 

Should you have custom curtains dry cleaned?

Yes, always better to get it dry cleaned to avoid any kind of fabric shrinkages or damage to the liners and pleats. For a regular maintenance you could spot clean the drapes or lightly brush off the dust too.  

How important is fabric and gsm specs? Lighter fabrics have lighter GSM, does that mean it's cheaper?

Wow, I'm impressed with this question. Very informed and not everyone knows about GSM :) Thanks for asking. So GSM is the weight in grams per meter sq. of the fabric. It does not have to do anything with cheap vs. expensive. A very high end 100% sheer linen, probably made with the finest linens would be in the 70-95 GSM. A textured linen on the other hand could be 350 GSM. Both can be equally high end and high quality. It's more to do with a looser weave vs. a tighter weave and the weight it lends to the fabric due to that, if I have to put it in a non-technical sense. Hope that helps. 

What is the difference between shades and blinds? How do I know what is best for my house?

Blinds are usually made with plastic and/or vinyl materials and have either horizontal or vertical slats. It comes in some eco friendly options as well. Shades are usually made with fabrics and not plastic or vinyl. Functionality wise both are same and both can be mounted inside the window frame or outside as an outside mount. You would have to decide which one suits your house aesthetics more. Blinds do come in a variety of less expensive options as well. 

What's the best treatment for a kitchen window? Mine is right next to the stove (so it gets heat, grease, and occasionally smoke) and faces right onto a pedestrian street (so I need privacy at least some times of day). Help!

I would suggest roman or roller shades and in an inside mount style if possible. I would suggest optimize for less fabric around the stove to avoid any accidents and damage. There are some shade materials that are flame retardant so that could be a good option too. 

Thanks so much to Trisha for joining us! We had SO many questions about window treatments. It's clearly a hot topic. 

Please join us next week, when Melissa Ozawa, features and garden editor at Martha Stewart Living, will be here to chat about greening your home in 2020. You can ask your questions here.



Thanks for inviting me to this Q&A session, it was super fun and great questions, all. When I bought my home in 2014 I was appalled with how boring and difficult it was to buy quality window coverings. And I am sure a lot of you are still having a hard time deciding what kind of curtains or shades to buy for your house. We started the company to remove those unnecessary decision fatigue and friction from your shopping experience. 

I hope I was able to answer some of your questions today, please do feel free to send us your questions at we’d love to connect with you. Also, feel free to post your window/space photos and send us a question on Instagram, one of our design specialists would love to assist you quickly.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily Twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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