It is always amazes me how window treatment can transform a room, making it cozy and homey. When we used to live in rentals, the windows were among the first things to decorate after the boxes were unpacked and furniture arranged. In one of the rentals, we were constantly getting compliments from the maintenance guy. His first impression was, “What did you do to it, it feels so cozy?!!” I grinned, as it was a mediocre apartment with mediocre furniture and bland walls. But I knew what the trick was. It can be a tremendous transformation on a very low budget, yet many people slap on some curtains without taking a moment to realize how much style and flavor the right kind of window treatment can offer.
Just for fun, I took a couple of pictures of the room with and without the window treatment.
However, the first step in your window treatment journey is to be sure you need to even take it. Walk into your room and take a good look at your windows. Do they add a certain pop to the room all by themselves? If your window has an interesting shape, beautiful stained-glass designs, or frames a breathtaking view, then back away slowly and put down the measuring tape…unless you need the privacy, do not cover it.
Those of us that aren’t so lucky can still create drama, movement, and color by using one of the many options available to us. So, how do I choose window treatments? Because there are so many variables to your room’s needs, layout and style, it’s going to take some thought.
Let’s start with the basics; what does your window treatment need to fill? If it is a bedroom or bathroom, maybe privacy and light-blocking capabilities might be important to you. Perhaps color and design is the end goal for your window treatments. Maybe your windows are just a bit askew, structurally, and you want to fix it without major demolition. Figure out the highest and best use for the window treatments in your room and move outwards from there.
Now that we know what we want, we can start to figure out which window treatment can give it to us.
Blinds are a classic choice when privacy is a must. They also give you the ultimate control over the sun. One flick and you can choose how much light, if any, streams into your room. They come in all types of materials and styles, like café style blinds.
So you can find something that works with your room. This might not be an ideal choice if your goal is to hide an imperfection with the layout of your window, as they tend to be fitted to your casement.
Roman Shades. I’ve always seen shades as being an amalgamation of blinds and curtains. They have the solitude of blinds and the artistic nuances of curtains to bring form and function to your windows. Roman shades are closest to the curtain family, as they are a fabric panel that has been sewn into sections that can retract like blinds. They don’t offer much protection from the sun’s rays, but instead soften it.
Curtains or Drapes. We can’t talk window treatments without discussing curtains or drapes. And out of all window treatments, this one is my personal favorite. They add a definitive frame to your window as well as color and texture to the room’s design. You can use a light, sheer fabric to give it a breezy feel and allow more sunlight into a darker room if you choose curtains.
Or you can choose thick, velvety drapes to give your room an elegant, opulent finish. If darkness is a concern, you can get blackout curtains that keep out light and prying eyes. What it lacks in sun control it makes up for in style.
This is also the best option for hiding any structural imperfections your window might have, as you can play with their placement to make the flaws disappear.
With all these choices, why limit yourself to just one? Combine the privacy and control of blinds with the color and texture of curtains to give the room a finished look. You could pair the focal interest of the café style blinds with a complimentary valance. Or pair the dramatic effect of roman blinds with simple cascade curtain panels to hide the imperfections normally highlighted by fitted shades and blinds. Be creative with your combinations to get everything you want.
Now I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on some of the faux pas that some people (not you, of course) might inadvertently commit. Confession: I have done all of them in the past! But if you stick to these simple basics, even inexpensive curtains will give a luxury feeling to your room.
1) It’s very important to choose a curtain rod length that overlaps the window frame. A good rule of thumb is, while open, your curtains should just cover the window frame but not the glass.
2) Another issue is the length and width of the curtains. The combined width of the panels should equal out to 2-2.5 times the width of the window to be sure it has the drapery fullness you need. Also, the curtain drop (the length of the curtain) should be almost, if not all the way, to the floor. If you have pets and/or children that would cause pooling fabric to be a problem, you can position it about ¼” off the floor.
The puddle drop is my personal favorite.
3) Curtain placement is crucial to the overall feeling of the room. It is recommended to hang your curtains as high as ceiling height to make your room feel bigger. If that feels too excessive, try to hang them at least halfway between your window and the ceiling line.
4) Please, for the love of all things design, do not forget the finishing touches. Something as simple as ironing your curtains before hanging them or choosing a corresponding tie back and decorative curtain rod could mean all the difference in the feel of the room.
Unless you have unusually high ceilings and need custom made window treatment, there are some ready-to-hang, very affordable curtains available that come in several standards lengths – 84’, 96’, 108’ and 120’. If you live in a house with the regular 8’ or 9’, you won’t use 84’ – they are way too short, which makes the walls look shorter. With 96’ or 108’ curtains, you will be able to achieve any look – from float to puddle.
It is always a great idea to get longer panels and the have your local dry cleaner, a handy friend, or tailor hem them for you. Or do it yourself!
Tip: if the panel is not wide enough, you can use two panels on each side. No worries, you won’t see the break because of the fullness. Here is my IKEA hack – several panels of inexpensive curtains swagged off to the side.
Don’t let yourself be intimidated by all the choices out there. The best advice is to go with what you like. At the end of the day, it’s you that will be daydreaming out those beautifully treated windows. As long as you believe your window treatments bring inspiration and art to your space, I would consider that a win.
I compiled my favorite ready-to-hang and affordable curtains that come in at least 94’ length.
Best Drapes and Blackout Curtains under $50 (per two panels)
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Best Drapes and Blackout Curtains Over $50 per two panels (but all under $300)
Regular Curtains under $50 per two panels
Regular Curtains over $50 per two panels (under $250)