Window Curtain Design Ideas

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Curtains are often a forgotten element of interior decorating, left until the very end, and then hastily chosen. But your curtains have a big impact on the look of your home and should be selected with some thought as to the room they will be in, the style that will best complement your room, and the color and size that will look the best over each window.

While it can seem a bit overwhelming to choose curtains, the decision is simplified if you first consider the function of the curtain, which can be:

  • Privacy
  • Blocking out light
  • Decoration

Think about the room the curtains will be hung in:

Harmonize with your overall decorating theme:

  • Country
  • Modern
  • Asian
  • Eclectic
  • Traditional

Then look at your choices with an eye to colors and fabrics that will provide the most pleasing appearance while meeting your requirements for each room.

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Curtain Uses

While curtains may serve more than one purpose, it is important to think about the primary use for each window.If privacy is the main issue, look for drapes with a heavier fabric, or a lining.Lined curtains not only provide maximum privacy, they also:

  • Insulate against cold or hot weather
  • Reduce outside sound
  • Darken the room

Blackout linings provide the most protection against light, and are a good choice if someone works nightshifts and is sleeping during the day, or is very sensitive to bright morning light.

Sheer curtains give an airy, delicate feel to a window, but do not provide any privacy. Use sheer curtains only on windows that are not in the line of view from outside the home, or use retractable blinds for privacy at night.

Decor Style

Curtains should continue the style of your home.

  • Small patterns, warm country colors, and wrought iron curtain rods compliment your country theme.
  • A modern decorating style looks good with bold patterns or colors, and grommet-topped curtains that have built in openings for the curtain rods.
  • The Asian style home looks great with simple, unfussy curtains in a solid, woven fabric.
  • If you decorate with an eclectic, anything-goes feel, you can continue that casual style with your curtains, but avoid too much fussiness or detail.

Curtain Types

Curtains come in many styles, and it can be confusing when you don't know the difference between a rod pocket and a pinch pleat. The following are some of the more popular curtain styles.

  • Pinch Pleated - A traditional style featuring pleats at the top of the drapery that are stitched in place, and then pressed together in groups of three near the top header. Drapery pins attach the curtains to the hanging rod. Tiebacks accentuate the design, hold the drapes open, and provide access to the door or window.
  • Wellington Flat Panel - These are flat panel draperies that are not gathered or pleated. Wellington panels frame a window on each side, and do not open or close. Drapery pins or rings attach the drapes to a curtain rod, which is often decorative.
  • Grommet Top - Similar to a shower curtain, grommet top drapes have metal reinforced grommets across the top, for hanging on a curtain rod with no need for pins or hangers. Grommet top curtains are very popular, with a casual, contemporary feel.
  • Rod Pocket - Common in country decor, the rod pocket drape is a simple style with a sewn sleeve across the top that slides over the curtain rod. The tightly bunched fabric gives a shirred appearance across the rod.
  • Flowing - Flowing drapes are not pinched or pleated. Small pins attach the drapes to rings encircling the curtain rod, and the curtain fabric droops between the rings. Flowing drapes are a nice, casual look, and pair well with an elaborate drapery rod.

Curtain Toppers

For a little extra flair, hang a curtain topper to set off your drapes. There are many different types of toppers.

  • Swag - A topper with short, gathered fabric across the top of the drapes, with longer sides that angle outwards.
  • Valance - A general term that refers to a short curtain that covers the top of the window, often over longer drapes but sometimes on its own. Very popular, valances come in many different styles: with and without pleats, attaching to a rod or hanging from rings, ruffled or plain.
  • Scarf - As the name suggests, a scarf topper is a sheer length of fabric that drapes casually along the top of the curtains. Often wound over the curtain rod, the scarf hangs down along the sides of the drapes.

Curtain Size

It is important to measure carefully before shopping for, or ordering curtains. Generally, you will double the width of your window for the best curtain size. This allows for enough fabric to form gentle curves and pleats.

The style and use of the room determines the length of the curtains. Formal rooms usually have long curtains hanging to the floor, or even pooling in graceful piles of fabric on the ground. Curtains extending only a little bit past the windowsill give a casual feel. Cafe-style curtains, such as are frequently used in kitchens and bathrooms, end right above the sill.

Picking curtains can feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be a dreadful task. Taking your home's decor, your requirements for privacy, and your own personal style into consideration will simplify the decision, and you will soon be admiring your perfect new window treatments.

Last Updated: September 12, 2011
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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