How To Decorate A Bay Window

A bay window adds a sense of grandeur to any room. According to Associated Windows, the unique style of bay windows has its origins in English Renaissance-era mansions, and its name comes from the old French word "baee," meaning "opening." It has become a staple of property design across the globe and a highly desired aspect of any home. Be it in a bathroom, a front room, or an office, bay windows not only open up your home to natural light and provide additional value to your home, but they can also act as a mini-room in themselves, opening up a world of possibility (via Impressive Interior Design).

But it's all too easy, in the whirlwind of modern life, to be fortunate enough to have a bay window in your property and simply not get around to doing anything with it. Maybe you haven't the time to think about how to decorate the nook, or perhaps the space just feels a little, well, awkward. And this is where we think people are missing a trick. When styled right, bay windows can become a focal point in a room, a highly functional space, and the thing that all your guests can't stop talking about. And here at House Digest, we're going to show you how it's done. Let's take a trip to the bay (window).

Create a bespoke window seat

A well-styled window seat in a bay window area is a thing of true beauty. And if you have a bay window in your home, constructing a window seat area can open up your space to brand-new possibilities, from using it as a brand-new reading nook to giving you a fresh spot to get those afternoon zzz's in. While we're huge fans of a sweeping window seat in a grand bay window, the best part is, window seats can be made in the smallest of spaces. Interior designer Elizabeth Cooper shows how it's done in House Beautiful, with a snug window nook styled in calming blues, with in-built shelving for easy access to your favorite books.

You can also use curtains to create a sense of privacy for a bay window seat, portioning it off from the rest of your space, as Fiona Lynch Studio demonstrated on House Beautiful. And while you might think that creating a window seat is a job for a carpenter, with a bit of time, patience, and technical know-how, you can even do it yourself, as The Spruce shows.

Create focus with color blocking

A bay window in any space already draws focus and attention, so it feels strange not to take that to its logical conclusion and to highlight it further. And to do that in a simple yet dynamic way, color blocking is your best friend. While color blocking is typically done on walls, there are some canny ways that you can use it to make a bay window stand out. For example, you can add a pop of color in the ceiling section of the window to draw the eye to the height of the space, as Real Homes suggests.

Painting your window frames can also be an exciting way to outline a bay window space, and you can match your tones with the lower portion of the seat to create coordination and levels of color. Add definition to the floor with patterned or colored tiles to really make it stand out. It's a clever way to create a new zone while adding a little life to your space.

Blinds will jazz up your bay window space

One of the joys of having a bay window is the amount of natural light it lets into a room. But now and again, you're going to want to keep that light out, and when you do that, you'll want things to look good. Using blinds for your bay window area is not only an effective way to keep light out but can add instant visual appeal to the area, particularly when opting for patterned Roman blinds, as shown via Ideal Home.

And remember, if you're opting for blinds, don't think that you have to stop there. You can pair blinds with curtains to create a layering effect, giving additional coverage and privacy. Just make sure that when you fit blinds to your bay window area, they come over the window's frame ever so slightly, as the last thing you want is to have a blind that doesn't properly block out the light.

Use it as a space for your sofa

Sofas are simultaneously one of the most important objects in your living space, and one of the hardest to place correctly. Do you place it in the middle of the room and reveal its back to everyone? Do you put it against the wall and risk it feeling crammed into the edge of the room? Which direction does it face in? So many questions!

When you have a bay window in a living room, though, a lot of these questions are answered for you. Placing your sofa in your bay window area is a natural solution, creating an ideal space for reading or working, as Swyft says. It's worth bearing in mind that if you're looking to place your sofa in your bay windows, dimensions are everything. Make sure that your sofa can fit comfortably into the space, and that the headboard of the seat isn't too high so that you're not blocking out too much light. If your sofa is too wide to fit flush against the wall, it can still look stylish hovering a few feet in front of it. Just try styling the space behind it with greenery or large lamps, to keep the visual appeal of the space rich.

Make yourself a breakfast nook

Picture the scene: You've just risen on a Saturday morning. The sky is blue, the birds are chirping, and you have the whole weekend stretched ahead of you. You walk into the kitchen, make yourself the breakfast of champions, and slide into your breakfast nook, watching the world go by as you sip your coffee.

Sounds pretty good, right? This idyllic vision can become your reality by creating a breakfast nook in a bay window. Dedicating your bay window to a breakfast nook is a simple move that requires little more than a table and some seating. It's best to keep breakfast nooks simple and clean in design, as Roselind Wilson Design shows. Pairing banquette seating in a bay window with an elegant round table and additional chairing for guests, with coordinated neutral coloring, creates a simple, timeless space. Alternatively, add some patterned throw pillows, flowers, and statement lighting to make it the area you simply have to be in.

Window film can create privacy in a bathroom

A bay window in a bathroom can present you with a few question marks. And while it's tempting to see a space like this in a bathroom as a problem, we prefer to see it as a possibility. However, the first thing you might have to tackle is how you keep things private. And unless your bay window backs out over empty space, it's a fair concern.

That's why we'd recommend styling your bay windows with window film, as Homes & Gardens shows. Using a frosted window film on your windows allows the natural light into the space while preserving your modesty. And you don't have to cover them up completely, either. Sectioning the window film to the lower parts of your windows while keeping the higher portions clear can offer privacy and still provide you a view of the outside world. Once you've got that covered, the space is your oyster. Place your freestanding tub in the bay window area for a dedicated bathing space, or create a window seat in roomier bathrooms as a place to unwind.

Add string lighting to make the bay window extra special

There's just something about string lighting, isn't there? Gone are the days when string lighting was just used for Christmas trees and children's bedrooms. More and more people are waking up to the elegance that string lighting can offer. And for your bay windows, string lighting is an immediate, easy, and inviting way to highlight the space. 

"Fairy lights are a soft and effective way to add subtle lighting to your window. They can be used in a number of ways, draped around your window frame or placed on your window sill which won't interfere with any window dressings," Richard Petrie, Thomas Sanderson's head of digital and e-commerce, told Real Homes. For a bay window specifically, working with the dimensions of the space and highlighting the edges of the window can create an appealing visual depth. Whichever way you employ string lighting in your space, "they will add a sparkle to your home and make it more inviting," Petrie says. We can get on board with that!

Use curtains to bring out the space

The depth of a bay window can sometimes create issues when it comes to decorating them, particularly if you're using curtains throughout your home on standard windows. There's no need to fear, though. Employing curtains for a bay window is not only simple, but also an effective way to make the space feel elegant and fresh.

The key thing to do is to avoid the temptation to hang the curtain across the bay rather than following the natural curve of the window, according to interior designers Judith Strong of Judith Strong Design, and Matthew Connellan of Revival by Design. "It wastes so much space," Strong tells Houzz, with Connellan adding that "there are so many options that allow curtains to run in a bay, so we'd say, do it only as a last resort." Instead, acquire a curved curtain track that fits the dimensions of your bay window. Also, opt for a pair of curtains, Strong advises, instead of a curtain for each section of the window. And don't be afraid to get lively, as curtains are an excellent opportunity to practice bold color blocking, says ZebraBlinds.

Use hanging lights and decorations to create a dramatic effect

Okay, maybe we've been watching too much "Downton Abbey," but a grand bay window just screams drama and splendor. So if you're feeling us on this one, why not kick that feeling up a notch with some classy lighting for the nook? With a few deft touches, a chandelier hanging in a bay window can make the space feel like the grandest space in the house, drawing the eye to the height of a room. It is particularly effective when placed over seating areas. This can be seen in the bay-window-slash-porch space in Architectural Digest, with a striking green beaded chandelier over an antique English dining table.

For smaller bay windows in a more contemporary style, hanging lighting can still invoke a striking effect, with low-hanging pendant lighting helping to illuminate a breakfast nook. Or, for something completely different, check out architect Lee Mindel's New York apartment in Architectural Digest, with a modern Timo Sarpaneva mobile hanging above the bathtub placed in the bathroom bay window. Whatever the era you're going for, don't be afraid to hang.

Wooden shutters give a classic feel

Bay windows are often found in older homes, and it feels a shame to lose their sense of history with a remodel. That's why we're huge fans of preserving the wooden shutters in bay windows and highlighting them as a key design feature. It helps a house maintain its original design intention. "Original shutters are prized features of period homes and should be preserved and celebrated wherever possible," Period Living's editor Melanie Griffiths told Homes & Gardens. And not only do they look great, but they also serve the valuable function of keeping light out and maintaining privacy when you want it.

If you don't have period shutters that came with your home, you can install them to evoke a classic feel. Fitting your own shutters can be a surprisingly easy job, even if you're not the savviest DIY expert, The Shutter Store says. There's a style for everyone, from classic block shutters to French shutters that give your bay window a little extra class.

Co-ordinate patterns with furniture and blinds

In our opinion, a bay window should be an opportunity for a design moment. And there's no classier way to invite exuberance and visual dynamism than with the canny use of patterns. When using patterns, coordination is key: One pattern on its own in a space can look a little lonely, but too many mismatched patterns can be headache-inducing. That's why matching your blinds with any furniture you might have in the space is a clean and cheerful way to create a feast for the eyes. An example of this is shown on Ideal Home, where exciting floral blinds are matched with throw pillows in the same style. A sitting space and a work of art, all in one.

Remember, though, you don't have to go all-out. Opting for subtle patterns in a bay window blind is a great way to add some gentle life into the area, Make My Blinds suggests. Calmer patterns can also generally be easier to find style matches for, whether for throw pillows or for lampshades that you can place in the space.

An opportunity to create extra storage

Ask anyone what they need more of in their home, and within about five seconds, you can be pretty darn sure they'll utter the word "storage." This can be a particular issue in older houses, which may have delightful period features like bay windows but may lack the storage that modern living requires.

That's why, if you've got your eye on a window seat for your bay window, we recommend taking the opportunity to incorporate some valuable built-in storage. This can be particularly valuable in bay window seats in bathrooms, where cabinet or drawer space can be elegantly tucked behind wooden paneling that matches your space's neutral tones. You can see an example of this in the window seat designed by Taylor Anne Interiors via The Spruce. You can even use storage units to create a window seat in a bay window, with an ingenious design incorporating two IKEA drawer units with shelving on top to create a perch (via Hydrangea Treehouse). Function, comfort, and intelligent DIY solutions all rolled into one? We're sold.

Go plush with velvet

Let's be real, there's something special about a window seat in a bay window. But rather than undersell your space, sometimes it pays to go maximalist with your interior design choices. Enter velvet, the underused material that can make your home feel like a million dollars without breaking the bank. It creates a luxurious, moody feel in the window seat arrangement. And for the really brave folks out there, pairing velvet seating with accompanying wall paneling can leave you with a truly opulent, almost cave-like effect, as seen in a Fox-Nahem Associates-designed home, where purple velvet reigns supreme, via Architectural Digest.

Using velvet curtains in your bay window is also a stunning way to bring class into a home, particularly when offset by darker wooden floors, Made suggests. If you're styling velvet-on-velvet, we salute you, but remember –- try to either go with contrasting colors for added drama or color-match to gain a sense of cohesion. And remember that a bay window can benefit from velvet items that aren't just sofas or chairs. For example, incorporate a velvet lampshade to spice things up.

Paint your window frames to create dynamic contrast

Okay, so you've got yourself a fancy bay window. And it feels ... bland. But unfortunately, you don't have the budget to get the window seat of your dreams or place a brand-new sofa in the space. So what do you do?

Well, for a cheap and lively change, take a paintbrush to your window frames. Revamping your window frames with a new tone will immediately pull one's focus to the bay window, highlighting its depth and delivering visual interest in a room. Painted window frames are also a brilliant way to incorporate bolder colors into the aesthetic of a space, which might be overwhelming as the primary shade but complement the design choices you've made, says Apartment Therapy. If you're looking to add a little light into a space, yellow or brighter green will illuminate the bay window, which has the habit of becoming shadowy and dark. Or, if your bay window gets abundant natural light, try opting for darker frames, which will work incredibly well if your room primarily contains lighter neutrals.