Curtains come in a variety of colors, fabrics, and lengths. Choosing a curtain requires narrowing down from some broad choices to the perfect design for your room.
Design considerations are not the only factors involved in this difficult choice. Will you use a custom curtain or something off the rack? How will you clean them?
It can be challenging to choose the right curtains and drapery to fit the rest of your room’s design. There are certain characteristics of a room that can lead you to the best-looking curtain for your space.
Once your decision is made, you will need to know how to hang your curtains. It may seem like an intimidating task, but it does not have to be.
This guide is intended as a primer and will provide you with everything you need to know about curtains. Start with some curtain basics, learn about design cues, and finally, read about how to hang your perfect curtains.
A Quick Course in Curtain Basics
There are two essential design considerations when it comes to choosing curtains: the color and fabric. The decisions you make in these two realms are vital to the final look of your window treatment.
Choosing the color of your curtains is quite possibly the most difficult decision. It is made more challenging when the room design has not been finalized.
Interior design principles suggest that choosing a focal point is essential to good design decisions. Is your window the center of attention in the room you are decorating? If so, the curtains can be as bold as you can tolerate. If another feature is the star, a curtain that makes less of a statement is more appropriate.
The rule of thumb says that if a room is neutral, the curtains should create the drama. If the room is already full of patterns and whimsy, choose a neutral or safe curtain.
It is important to remember that colors can fade. Curtains hold back the powerful rays of the sun all day and fall victim to color change over time. This is less of a concern for those who frequently redecorate. If you intend to have the curtains in place for a long time, consider a lighter or neutral color.
Fabric choices may seem to be about form, but they also play a role in function. Different fabrics fall and hang in their own way. Some fabrics are cold and heat resistant while others are not.
It is important to not let function be the end-all, be all when deciding on a fabric. Most materials can be lined to provide insulation, better light control, or durability. Lining sensitive fabrics like silk is vital to their longevity.
The most common mistake people make when deciding on curtain length is only considering the space between the window and the floor. Do not forget that most windows have plenty of dead space between the window and the ceiling.
Hanging curtains close to the ceiling can make a room feel taller than it is. This is great if you are hoping to open up a room but may not be ideal for a cozier setting.
You must consider the final look you are going for when measuring for curtains. Do you want a nice pooling on the floor? If so, add a few inches to your measurements. Modern design suggests curtains rest just above the floor – giving the appearance that they are flush with the ground.
Height is not the only measurement you will need. Width is important, as well. You do not want the curtains to be exactly as wide as the window frame. This will not allow for an appropriate amount of gathering when the curtains are opened. With that said, do not add too much extra fabric, as the window will be blocked even when the curtains are pulled back.
This may be the last thing people think about when choosing curtains. Many curtains are machine washable. This adds an element of convenience and is more economical than having to dry clean and pay extra costs for the unique requirements.
Do not try to machine wash curtains that are dry clean only. You will ruin them.
Having curtains made to your specifications is ideal. You can choose more than just color, fabric, length and width. Custom curtains allow you to choose design elements like the header, trim, and hanging style.
Custom curtains are far more expensive than those you can buy off the shelf. Budget constraints lead many designers to choose something from a selection of premade curtains. The good news is there are tons of options for those having to choose from stock window treatment options.
Get Help If You Need It
Most retailers that offer custom curtains will come to your home for a consultation. The visit includes advice on the appropriate color, fabric, and length. This is a great option for those who still feel a little timid about their choices.
If you decide to go it alone, check out the next section that offers advice for every type of room throughout the house.
Ideas for the Perfect Curtains for Any Room
A cozy bedroom – The key here is to make sure the sun cannot wake you up before you are ready. There are plenty of options that look great and fully block the sun. If you live in a colder climate or noisy area, consider a heavy curtain that can provide insulation.
Panels and valances make a great combination to keep the bedroom as cozy as it should be while still looking fashionable.
A bright, open kitchen – The kitchen is one of the central gathering places in the home. Keeping kitchens as open as possible should always be the goal. Many kitchens feature smaller windows that benefit from café curtains (a smaller curtain). These window treatments allow plenty of bright light while offering privacy.
When choosing curtains for your kitchen, beware of anything that is too billowy. You do not want your curtains flowing into the dirty dishwater or over a cooking flame.
A light, inviting living area – The living room is probably the second most popular room in the house, just behind the kitchen. Light, breezy space makes for a great place for people to gather.
Keep things light by choosing linens or other sheer window treatments. These can be paired with heavier curtains or wooden treatments to keep things airy. If you prefer more privacy, there are options available in cotton that still provide the feeling of light fabric.
Formal rooms – Many homes feature a formal dining area used for events and family gatherings. Dress these rooms up with luxurious fabrics like silk, satin, or velvet. Select tiebacks that match the rest of the décor in the room.
A simple bathroom – The most important factor in the bathroom is practicality. Look for fabrics that do well in damp spaces like linen. Great styles are available in these fabrics, so the bathroom does not have to be left behind in your design plan.
Outdoor living areas – It may not have been on your radar to select curtains for your patio or porch. Choosing a fabric that reflects UV rays and can help deter flying insects will change how you enjoy your outdoor living space. There are plenty of materials available designed for outdoor use.
How to Hang Your Curtains
Hanging your curtains may feel more difficult than choosing which ones look best. It does not have to be so hard! Here is a quick three-step process for a flawless curtain installation.
1. Measure Twice
Everyone remembers the woodshop teacher saying, “Measure twice, cut once.” Well, they were right! You should measure your windows before heading out to make any purchases. Measure twice to make sure your numbers match up.
Do not forget to add a foot to the width of your window measurement. This will ensure you have enough overhang to avoid your curtain looking square. It will also provide the ideal rod length.
For curtain length, decide how high you want to hang your curtains. If you want to create the illusion of a higher ceiling, you will need to measure from a point a couple of inches below the ceiling to the floor. Are you hoping your drapes will pool on the floor? Add a couple of inches to your measurement.
2. Get the Drill
This is the fun part. Place your brackets where you want your curtain rod to rest. Use a pencil and color in the holes on the brackets. This will show you where to drill. Once you make the marks, check that they are level.
Ideally, your rod brackets will be about six inches from the edge of the window frame. This allows your curtains to be fully opened when you want to. Drill the holes for the brackets and install the brackets using the hardware included with the rod.
3. Hang the Curtains
It may seem excessive but take the time to press your curtains if you got them out of a package. This creates a far more professional look. There are many types of rods and brackets, but the basic steps are to remove any end caps (finials), put the curtain on the rod, and replace the finials.
Once you have done these steps, step back and admire your work! Your new curtains are sure to be a hit. If you struggle with tasks like hanging a curtain rod, there are plenty of people to hire who can help. You could also consult with a local window treatment business for advice and assistance.