The 7 Dos and Don'ts of Finding the Perfect Curtains

Cathedral windows draped with white curtains on either side by decorated living room

The Spruce / Sophia Reay

Framing windows with long curtains and drapes can add glamour and personality to a room. Due to unique design considerations and the vast variety of choices available, it can be a challenging process to choose the right style for your home. Before you head to the store, check out these hints and tips for selecting curtains.

The Purpose of Curtains

You may want to install curtains if you would like to include a splash of color, increase privacy, create darkness, and add a layer of insulation to the windows. In some cases, you might be in search of something that does all of the above. Lined panels will allow you to control the temperature in a space as well as the amount of light that filters through, while a basic cotton lining protects the fabric but still allows for a diffused glow. An insulating backing helps keep your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, and a blackout lining is ideal for bedrooms because it doesn't allow any light to filter through.

Color and Patterns

Curtains take up a large amount of visual space and will have a significant impact on the look of your room. To select the right color, ask for a swatch of the fabrics you're considering. Bring them into the space you're decorating, and hold them up against sofas, pillows, and walls. You can even tape swatches to the wall and live with it for a while before making a final decision.

Curtain Size

Curtains should always be at least double the width of the window, even if they will be drawn most of the time. It's 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 style, they can skim the floor. Short curtains should brush the window sill. If you're buying store-bought panels (as opposed to having them custom made), it's better to buy them too long and then have them hemmed.


Curtain rods should "match" the fabric. Heavier drapes such as velvets work well on large and somewhat decorative rods while light silks and sheers can sit on light-weight, thinner bars. That said, hardware should also compliment the rest of the room, and it's helpful to repeat a material or tie in a theme. For instance, if you've got lucite lamps or chairs, a lucite drapery pole might be in order.

White curtain on black rod in front of cathedral windows closeup

The Spruce / Sophia Reay

Curtain Fabric Options

Cotton is versatile and easy to clean, while velvet is luxurious and private but sometimes a bit heavy for certain spaces. Sheers are light and graceful but don't offer much in the way of privacy, and wool is heavy but strong enough to hold embellishments like tassels and fringe.

Finish With Finials

It may seem like a small thing, but the finials (decorative end screws) at the end of your curtain rod can provide the perfect finishing touch to your window dressing. In many cases, you can purchase upgraded finials if you'd like to change the style without replacing all of the hardware. Remember, a great room is all about the details, and adding finials will complete your look.

Black finials at end of black curtain rod with black rings holding curtain closeup

The Spruce / Sophia Reay

Shop Around

Once you've decided on the color, length, fabric, and style of the curtains you want, look online or in-person at different stores. You may find that you can save money by buying from discounters or outlets.