Your Ultimate Buyers Guide to Curtains and Window Treatments
Shopping for window treatments can be quite daunting. If you hire an interior decorator, you may end up going over budget. We’ve assembled this Buyer’s Guide to help you get started and to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.
Where Do I Start?
Framing windows with long curtains and drapes are a great way to add glamour and personality to a room. Drapes and curtains are an investment – get the most out of your money so you will not have to do it again in a couple of years.
You will need to decide such things as:
- Is privacy important
- Do you need room-darkening or just filtered light
- What room of the house are they for
- your theme
- What colors are you considering
- types of fabrics you like
- What is your budget
Things to Know Before You Buy Curtains
Here are some do’s and don’ts to consider when getting ready to buy curtains:
think long and hard about what color and pattern to use. Curtains take up a large amount of visual space and will have a huge impact on the look of your room.
skimp on size – Curtains need to have generous proportions. They should always be at least double the width of the window, even if they are going to be drawn most of the time. It is also vital that they be long enough.
For a rich and elegant look, they can puddle on the floor, and for a more streamlined and clean look they can skim the floor – but they should NEVER be any higher. When drapes are too short they look truncated. If you’re getting store-bought panels (as opposed to having them custom made) it’s better to buy them too long and then have them hemmed.
choose lined panels if you want to control the temperature in the room as well as the amount of light that filters through. A basic cotton lining protects the fabric a little while still allowing some light to filter through; a more insulating lining helps keep your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer; a blackout lining is ideal for bedrooms because it doesn’t allow any light to filter through.
forget the hardware. Curtain rods and finials should “match” the fabric. Heavier drapes such as velvets should be on a large and somewhat decorative rod while light silks and sheers can sit on lightweight and daintier rods. That said, they should also “match” the rest of the room. Make sure they connect to something in the room. For instance, if you have Lucite lamps or chairs, a Lucite drapery rod might be in order.
consider what fabric is best. Cotton is versatile and easy to clean; velvet is luxurious and private but can be a bit heavy for some rooms; sheers are light and graceful but don’t offer much in the way of privacy; wool is heavy but strong enough to hold embellishments like tassels and fringe.
forget about finials. It may seem like a small thing, but finials at the end of your curtain rod can provide the perfect finishing touch. Remember, a great room is all about the details.
12 Tips for Buying Curtains
Buying curtains seems like a no brainer. You do a little measuring, go into the store, pick out what you like, and you’re good to go. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There are many factors that go into the purchase of curtains and you have to get a lot of them right in order to choose a winner.
So if you’re thinking about buying curtains, keep these 12 things in mind:
the length will depend on what else is near the curtain. If your bed is under a window, you might want shorter curtains; so they don’t get in the way. Also, If the curtains go behind a couch, maybe shorter is better, too. If it’s a curtain for the kitchen window over your sink, you’re obviously not going to want it to go to the floor!
there are several different options and it pretty much just depends on the look you want for the room. If you want a light, airy look, you probably won’t want heavy drapes. If you have a privacy issue, you won’t want sheers.
this is an important point, especially if you have kids or pets. Choose something that spot cleans easily.
4- Dry clean only or machine washable—
be sure to check the label – taking curtains down to dry clean can be problematic and expensive
keep in mind that curtain rods can eat up a big part of the budget. Shop carefully and get creative – use closet rods, poles and inexpensive café rods. You may get some great deals at thrift stores and yard sales.
6- Rod color—
some people color-match the rods to the grommet color – that is purely a personal choice
Watch for clearances for curtains and rods; that can save you a bundle.
8- Tie Backs—
if your curtains slide open, you’re good to go. However, if want to tie them back, don’t forget to purchase tiebacks.
9- Additional window coverings—
if you have blinds or shades, you can buy “cheater curtains” which cover the edge of the window and don’t actually close. Sometimes blinds look harsh and the cheater curtain can warm things up. If you have an idea as to what sort of look you want to go for when it comes to blinds, then it may be worth checking out companies like SmartBlinds to see what they have on offer, regardless of whether you want to go for something more traditional or modern.
However, you can get really nice blinds or shutters for your windows as well, you don’t have to get curtains. If this is something that interests you, you can have a look at something like Shuttercraft for more information.
10 – Window size–
Don’t ever guess! Measure the width and height of the windows.
11 – Number of panels—
don’t try to skimp – buy the right number of panels, to begin with, and save yourself a second trip to the store
12 – Color—
if you can, take pictures of the room, including the colors you’ll be matching to, and take those with you. It helps you get it right the first time!
What about Fabric and Color
Consider the mood of the room. For a formal space, there’s heavy silk or velvet (a great insulator); both are dry-cleaned only.
More practical (often washable) options include silky rayon blends and cotton sateen. For a casual feel, there are billowy linen (generally dry-clean only) and crinkly crushed velvet.
Cotton and cotton blends work with any type of decor and bring a crisp, neat feel, as does seasonless wool or wool blends.
You’ll need to decide if you want the curtains to blend with the decor or to pop. For blending, pick curtains that are the same tone as the wall but a few shades darker, or choose a non-dominant subtle color in the room (a soft shade from the rug, say). A bold color will work like an exclamation point (if you’re looking to add some wow). Also keep in mind that in a space where the sun shines through unlined curtains, the color will infuse the room. Blue can be eerie – pink, cheery.
Prints and Patterns
A rule of thumb: If you have patterned furniture or bedding (or a very elaborate rug), stick with solid curtains. If you have solid-color furniture or bedding, consider patterned curtains. For a subtle hint of style and energy, go for a small, neutral print, like dots or paisley, this reads like texture from afar. A large, graphic print in a color that relates to the existing decor is daring but can be spectacular.
How Long Should Curtains Be
Floor-length is the way to go unless there’s a radiator or a deep sill in the way. Ready-made panels are available in lengths from 63 to 144 inches. Measure from the floor to where you’ll hang the rod, and then round up. You can always have the dry cleaner hem them a bit if needed. You’ll get the most current look if the fabric makes contact with the floor (or sill or radiator). Too-short curtains look nerdy.
Here are two surefire approaches:
1: Just Hitting the Floor or Sill
This look is classic and tailored; it makes sense if you’ll be opening and closing the curtains a lot (they’ll easily fall back into place every time you move them). The fabric should just touch the floor or hover half an inch above. This is also a great approach for café curtains (short panels that cover only the lower portion of a window and hit the sill), which work well in spots like the kitchen and bathroom.
2: Breaking Slightly at the Floor
Panels that extend onto the floor by one to three inches are the most stylish right now. They’re more relaxed than those that graze the floor, but they still feel tailored—think of a pair of dress trousers. If you have uneven floors or are worried about precision measuring, this style is more forgiving. In formal rooms, an exaggerated take—six or so inches of fabric pooling on the floor—can look romantic but is also high-maintenance; curtains need fluffing every time you vacuum or the cat lies on them.
Where Should They Be Mounted In Relation to the Window Treatments
Generally, hanging curtain brackets on the wall above and outside the window molding looks best; it allows the fabric to fall gracefully. If you have detailed window frames you don’t want to cover, an inside mount (hanging curtains within the frame) can work. Below are two hanging tricks that decorators love for maximizing windows—you can opt for just one technique or use both on the same window.
1: Hang Above the Frame
To create the illusion of a taller window, mount the rod four to six inches above the window frame—or halfway between the frame and the ceiling molding. (Within reason—don’t go more than eight inches above the frame or it might look awkward.) A track mounted on the ceiling also lengthens windows. Be sure to account for the extra fabric when measuring.
2: Hang Wider Than the Frame
Extending the rod three to six inches beyond the frame on each side makes a window feel grander and allows extra light to stream in when the curtains are open (the fabric hangs against the wall without blocking the glass). You can also use this plan to reveal pretty molding. In this case, you may want to leave as much as 12 inches on either side. Remember to adjust your width measurements for this look.
Guide to Curtains and Window Treatments – What about the Top
The top hem of a curtain, known as the heading, can help define the overall look—casual or formal, feminine or sleek—and also play a part in functionality (allowing the panel to slide easily or not). Here’s a quick rundown of common options.
1: Basic Heading, With Hooks
A traditional flat heading that attaches to the rod via rings stitched into its top hem or, sometimes, drapery hooks (the rings attach to the hooks). With either setup, the curtains move easily.
2: Rod-Pocket Heading
A channel along the top holds the rod and creates a casual, gathered effect. A nice choice for curtains that will stay put, because shimmying the fabric back and forth can be difficult.
3: Pleated Heading
There are many styles, from narrow pencil pleats to wide, flat box pleats. Because they’re structured, these panels read more formal than do other types. Pleated curtains generally operate with drapery hooks and rings.
4: Tab-Top Heading
Flat loops of fabric hang on the rod. This can look relaxed with sheers or buttoned-up with stiffer fabrics. A variation on this theme is tie-tops, with bows instead of flat loops—still casual but more feminine and romantic.
Guide to Curtains and Window Treatments – What Type of Rod Should I Use
Decorative curtain rods should relate to the style of the room. Those that are completely hidden from view can be chosen based on function alone. Here are common options.
1: Classic Rod
An adjustable pole, often featuring ornamental end caps (finials), that attaches to the wall with brackets. Match the metal to other finishes in the room. You can buy a double-rod version if you want to layer with sheers.
2: Return Rod
An adjustable U-shaped rod that screws directly into the wall; panels wrap around the curved sides, making this a good solution for blocking out light. They are also available in a double-rod style for layering.
3: Track Rod
Drapery hooks attach to pulleys inside a track. They can be installed on a wall or the ceiling. Some tracks resemble a rod with finials, concealing all moving parts inside the pole. Curtains glide effortlessly.
4: Tension Rod
The easiest and cheapest but least sturdy option, it adjusts to fit inside a window frame with no hardware. Bare-bones, it’s meant only for lightweight panels or café curtains.
Do I Need Tiebacks
If you want to be able to pull curtains to the side for more light or a more formal look, tiebacks are the answer. They’re also a nice way to display a view. Mount a curved metal bracket or a peg (known as a rosette) on the wall about two-thirds of the way down the window. Match the room and the rod for style and finish. There are simple fabric tiebacks and fancy ropes with tassels for a grander effect. For a more casual look, try tying a curtain in the center of a window with matching fabric or a wide grosgrain ribbon.
Guide to Curtains and Window Treatments – What about Installation
A handyman can hang curtains for you. If you would rather do it yourself, hanging ready-made curtains is not that difficult. Rods usually come with mounting hardware and instructions. You may need to buy rings separately. Beyond that, hanging panels involves a stepladder, a tape measure, a pencil, a level, a handheld drill, a screwdriver, and a stud finder. If there are no studs where you’re anchoring brackets, use toggle bolts instead of screws!. You can view helpful how-to videos at potterybarn.com and barbarasway.com
Window Treatments and Curtains Brief History
People have been decorating with fabric ever since they discovered weaving – and even before then. The pre-historic man wore furs, used them for bedding and covered cave entrances with them to keep the cold out and the heat in. When weaving was discovered, fabrics were used to define spaces in order to create a sense of privacy, on bedding and windows. Whilst treatments can make windows look stunning, it is important not to neglect any damage to your windows. You should visit lifetimewindowscolorado.com if you notice anything wrong with your windows. They are still used for this to this day, but the key difference is that they can be purchased much easier now, thanks to machinery as well as the internet. Just check out myfabricconnection.com to see how many different fabrics can be instantly purchased.
As textile production evolved, along with the introduction of weaving and dying, the quality of fabrics improved as well. These early textiles, first spun in ancient Egypt, were comprised of linen and flax. After this, wool, cotton, and silk were also used for textile manufacturing. As time has gone on, other materials have been used for interior design and not just fabrics, now wood and plastic are just a few of the other materials that are used as window treatments.
During the Early and Middle Ages, people used woven textiles over doors and windows.
These tapestries and other heavy cloths were used to keep out the cold, especially if the castles were located in frequently chilly areas, such as Northern Europe and England.
Even with fireplaces in most rooms, it takes quite a bit to keep them warm. Before glass was manufactured, wooden slats were used over windows, which made for a lot of draftiness. Curtains helped to keep warmth in rooms. Often, heavy fabrics were hung around the beds, insulating the sleeper from drafts and cold rooms.
During the Renaissance, glass-paned windows were introduced.
At first, without being covered, these windows allowed light in and passersby to see in. For privacy and warmth, hangings were used over them.
Although the ancient civilizations of the East in Persia, India, and China had long-produced textiles and used them to cover openings and separate rooms, these ideas took many years to translate to European and American homes. Trade with these ancient cultures from the time of the Crusades brought examples of finely woven textiles to Europe.
Over the centuries, textile production areas in Italy, France, Holland, and the UK became well known for silk, linen, cotton, and wool -inspired by the treasures of the East but adapted for Western tastes. Textile manufacturing machinery in the 1800s allowed for textiles to be mass-produced.
Around 1850, household textiles were available to the emerging middle class who sought decorative help and advice from drapers and decorators. Lace curtains, “net” or “sheer” curtains, became staples of every home to maintain privacy as towns and houses grew increasingly dense. For curtains architectural styles and window treatments at this point, the more elaborate and ornate, the better!
Curtains and drapes have evolved over the decades.
Many people preferred the elegant look of brocade and elaborate window treatments that reflected an elite and classy lifestyle. However, window treatments began to take on an “architectural” aspect. On one end of the spectrum, we had billowed café style curtains, heavy cornices, and some old-world charm. On the other hand, people began to experiment with color, sometimes matching, sometimes clashing with the décor. It was a period of discovery and rebellion and lifestyles started to reflect this attitude. Curtains are among the first details that add a dramatic focal point when you enter a room there are thousands of drapes and curtains from which to choose.
Basic Curtains Styles for Window Treatments
Those are the easiest and the most versatile curtains
Tab Top curtains
were made with narrow straps that loop or tie at the top edge, which are threaded through poles for curtains.
the type of curtains where the rings and can be made with a small grommet as well as large grommets.
mostly sheer fabric material used to cover the lower sash of the windows
the stylish and easy to sew curtains, where stitched pocket at the top of the curtain is shirred onto a curtain rod.
Thermal or Blackout curtains
use very tightly woven fabric, usually in multiple layers. They not only block the lights but also serve as a sound control
A sheer or net curtain
one that made from translucent fabric, such as loosely woven polyester voile or a cotton lace. Sheer curtains allow a majority of light to be transmitted through the fabric, with the fabric weave providing a basic level of UV protection while retaining maximum visibility outward through the curtain
provide the next level of heat insulation and light absorption. Uncoated fabrics constitute the vast majority of fabrics used in curtains and are composed of a tightly woven fabric, most typically a cotton/polyester blend, which is mostly opaque when viewed in ambient light
consist of a standard uncoated fabric with an opaque rubber backing applied to the rear of the fabric to provide improved light absorption. To create a coated fabric, a liquefied rubber polymer applied in a single coat to an uncoated fabric and subsequently fused dry by means of a heated roller
Lined curtains provide maximum light absorption and heat insulation;
they which typically consist of an uncoated fabric at the front to provide the look and feel of the curtain, with a separate coated fabric attached at the rear to provide insulation
a decorative addition to your already existing curtains. They drape over your other curtains, often sheers, to frame the window decoration. A window scarf can be made to match your curtains or out of drapery material.
a different kind of window treatment. They may use as a window scarf that matches your drapery and swags across the top, or they may construct into a more boxy design that mounted above the window to disguise or hide drapery rods. Some homeowners use valances even without existing curtains; just to add a decorative flair above their window. Most valances require brackets for hanging, although some need standard rods, like those used for curtains.
Curtains Types of Hardware
- Curtain rods are a very old curtain-hanging tradition. They come in many beautiful and durable designs, with a wide range of length options.
- Finials are decorative ends of curtain rods. They come in many styles and finishes, with different shapes, such as scrolls, leaves, fleur-de-lis and decorated oval or balls. They are available in brushed silver, copper, and poly-resin finish.
- Curtain rings attractive and easily attached to your curtains or drapes. They slide easily along a curtain rod without having to pull open a telescoping rod, making it easier to open and close your drapes.
- Tiebacks are soft loops of fabric, cord, chain or other material that holds back drapes. They tie around the drape itself, either centering it or pulling it off to the side and tying it to a vertical rod. This allows a bigger view outside and more natural light to enter the room. Curtain Design Tips and Ideas
Selecting the Right Fabric for Window Treatments
- Lightweight curtain fabric, such as lace, linen, and sheer cotton; a good choice if you are planning to sew or hem them yourself. If you are going for an antique or dressy décor, then delicate lace a great choice.
- For more versatility or casual feel, cotton is more appropriate. Lightweight fabric allows light to come into the house more plentifully. so it may not suit well for bedroom windows. Rather, good for sitting rooms or kitchen, which often lack natural light and could do with additional warming. They add a relaxed, casual feeling to a room. Lightweight fabric also used to layer over the heavier fabric to add style.
- The patterned curtain fabric a great choice for a creative look. With so many various decorative fabric prints to choose from; you can add a minimalist flair to your living room, bedroom, or bathroom. Patterned fabrics come in a variety of floral, striped, plaid, and animal prints.
- Medium-weight and heavyweight curtain fabric a good choice if you need highly functional curtains; it meant to keep out the cold and the light. These fabric weights more versatile and practical than their lightweight counterparts; whether you want formal, contemporary, cottage, country, or traditional styles. Medium-weight fabrics like cotton and canvas come in many varieties and will go with nearly any home décor style.
- Heavyweight fabrics like suede, denim, tapestry, tweed, and velvet great for commercial curtains; in hotels and restaurants and work extremely well as insulation during the winter and as blackout curtains during the day. Heavier fabrics with rich colors and textures, such as silk and velvet, give your windows a more formal look.
- Medium-weight and heavyweight fabrics add texture to a room; they provide a great focal point in an otherwise plain room.