When it comes to styling your windows, the window treatment options for every room border on endless. With the possibilities ranging from sheer drapes to blackout curtains, it can be easy to just go with the simplest, safest picks. But considering just how much window treatments can set the tone of the room, simple and safe can quickly turn into boring and stale.
To avoid the trap of basic, boring curtains, we turned to a few experts to find out which window treatment options work best, and how to push the envelope of window decor without creating a design disaster.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Quality
Made-to-measure curtains can be pricey, but as the interior design experts at Couture Living told us, choosing well-made fabric is the best way to a sustainable design.
“Not all window treatments provide you with the exquisite, five-star luxury you and your room deserve,” says the Couture Living team. “However, fitting your space with roman blinds or voiles will never fail you. If your room is lacking in natural light, a pair of voiles will dress the window beautifully whilst maximizing light. The key is to choose your color and fabric wisely.”
The team at Nemai Studio agrees: “We understand that most people want to save money on window treatments, but ask yourself how often you open and close your curtains or shades."
Try Before You Buy
It’s true that curtains and blinds can look different at home versus in-store, but there are ways to get a better idea of the look and feel before you splurge.
“Try a curtain and blind configurator and order in samples so you can match these against your wall color and overall color schemes,” advises the Couture Living team. “You want to introduce fabric and colors that complement the room, adding character and definition, without overshadowing your design.”
Consider Your Room’s Aesthetic
While we all spend plenty of time considering which furniture pieces, paint colors, and decor accessories set the tone of our space, it’s possible we’re not putting the same considerations into our window dressings—and we should be!
“A window dressed in heavy fabrics, paired with tie backs and a thick fringed trim, instantly add an outdated look, particularly if your home doesn’t offer a traditional vibe,” says the Couture Living team. “In some cases, this works—like when dressing a stately home or classic, elegant hotel. But if you’re looking to modernize your home, less really is more.”
Interior designer Laura Boyd agrees. “When clients hear the term ‘window treatments’ or ‘drapery,’ they often visualize heavy, dated swags of fabric on thick rods—a sharp contrast to the often fresh, minimal decorating styles that are preferred for modern living,” she says. “That being said, various styles of window treatments are often what make my rooms feel finished and cozy. Without them, something feels undecorated or undone.”
Aim for Timeless, Not Outdated
Interior designer Sarah Ramirez of Found and Collected suggested a few specific things to avoid if you want to keep your design timeless.
“Anything that is overly pleated, layered, and bulky tends to feel dated,” she says. “While there are plenty of classic styles that do remain timeless, there’s always a current-day update to ensure they don’t feel like they’re from another era. Find inspiration and stay true to your own style, and don’t be held back by design outdated rules.”
Consider Your Room’s Function
While your curtains’ visual appeal is important, so is considering the actual functionality of the room you’re dressing. “Most people focus on choosing the furniture first and forget how vital window treatment is,” says the team at Nemai Studio. “The style and texture can change the whole mood of a room [while also altering] the room's light, temperature, and atmosphere, which will positively or negatively impact your [space].”
“Adding window treatment must not be just an aesthetic upgrade,” they add. “Asking yourself what activities you will have in each room is the clue to choosing the right piece to keep it functional.”
Ramirez suggests asking yourself a series of questions. “The primary determining factor when contemplating window treatments is to consider what you need them to do for you,” she says. “Do you need versatile light control options in a bedroom the doubles as a home office? Do you need a big visual statement as part of the overall interior design plan? There can be any number of combinations of needs to be met throughout different rooms, which makes determining these first vital.”
A Layered Look Is Multi-Functional
As Boyd points out, one of the best solutions for window treatment design involves layering. Consider “woven shades with drapery panels on either side,” she says. “This layered look is multi-functional, and mixing in more casual woven shades removes any fuss associated with traditional drapery panels.”
The Nemai Studio team agrees, noting that layering is also key for privacy. “Sheers may filter light nicely but will not add any privacy to a bedroom,” they say. “Think about layering different window treatments, [considering] the time of the day, how the sun comes into the room, and how much privacy you want to have in each room.”
Remember That It’s All in the Details
If solid panels or blinds sounds boring but patterned curtains feel like too big and bold of a leap, Boyd suggests looking for pieces with smaller detailing that can still enhance your treatments. Consider “solid panels with a fun, lead-edge tape trim,” she says. “Using a simple solid with a tape trim instantly modernizes a traditional pleated panel with a handsome, clean edge to keep things simple but interesting.”
Alternately, if you do want to play with patterns, then she advises a sleeker silhouette—like a roman shade: “A simple inside-mount roman shade has clean, classic lines, [perfect for] a fun print! [They’re] an easy, great way to dress windows with minimal fabric and fuss.”
Ramirez agrees, noting that “creatively using print, texture, and layering all feel updated and add impact to a room’s design if you want to go beyond a clean and simple look. Bold patterns on roman or roller shades is a renewed take on the traditional patterned curtains.”
“Clients are wanting unique details, too,” Ramirez adds. “I’ve been adding in simple details like trim and decorative pulls or tassels for a personalized finishing touch.”
Look Past the Fabric and Consider Your Hardware
“Don’t forget about the hardware!” Ramirez warns. “It can be bold and interesting or simple to allow the window covering textile to be the focus. But unique materials and styles have really emerged offering so many ways to add in details. I’ve been sourcing vintage hardware to mix with new for curated unique looks.”
Don’t Go Neutral ... Go Monochrome
If you want your window treatments to blend into the room but the thought of beige bores you to tears, then Boyd suggests leaning into your wall color. “Solid panels matched to the wall color [offers] a more transitional, subtle look. I love doing simple pleated panels with a thin, 1-inch rod matched to the paint color of the room,” she says. “You can also go a shade or two darker or lighter than the walls for a similar effect.”
With this option, it’s particularly key to splurge on high-quality panels. “The fabric and workmanship of the panels make the room feel cozy and decorated without making a statement,” Boyd says. “This is a great route for contemporary and modern rooms that are often monochromatic and/or neutral without a lot of patterns.”
Don’t Forget Update Options for Renters
If you’re renting your home, window treatments are one of those things you might not even realize you hate until you move in. Fortunately, the team at Couture Living assures us there are solutions.
“Renters can still introduce a beautiful window display without putting holes in the walls and upsetting their landlords,” they say. “We recommend a twist and fit curtain pole [or tension rod], fitting in the recess of your window, with the ability to adjust to any size. This avoids damaging the walls with holes, while delivering a beautiful window display with luxurious fabrics to complement your interior, introducing warmth and character.”
Ramirez, on the other hand, says that if you’re allowed to drill into your walls within reason, then window treatments are a worthy cause: “[They] require just a few screws, so if you’re allowed to drill into your walls, then you can do anything!"
“Swap out your standard-issue miniblinds for fabric or woven wood shades to easily elevate your look by adding color, pattern, or texture,” she says. “When it’s time to move out, simply swap back for the old blinds, or your landlord might even appreciate the improvement. If removing the old blinds is not an option, go with an outside mount roman shade which will easily conceal the old blinds. The same idea applies to using curtain panels to disguise vertical blinds, too.”
Consider the Size and Height of a Room
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is ignoring the height and scale of your windows and room. “Of course, height can be variable in every home, but in most cases, the size of a space has standard measurements that can't go wrong,” says the Nemai Studio team. “You only need to make sure your curtain and rod cover almost all the wall height and extend a couple of inches on each side of the window.”
Choosing curtains that work well in the size of your room has an added benefit beyond just looking nice. “The more you extend your curtain, both vertically and horizontally, the larger your window will look,” they say.
If you find yourself with curtains that don’t quite work, Ramirez has a helpful DIY solution. “[If] you want to hang curtains higher but don’t have the length, consider adding a panel of fabric to the top or bottom. Also, adding tabs or using rings will give you a little more length, too.”
Hang Your Treatments Correctly
Along with being too high, Ramirez tells us that, often, “window treatments aren’t working because they are not the right size or hung correctly.”
Fortunately, this doesn’t need to be solved with new curtains entirely. Sometimes, you can just add to what you have. “For shades or blinds that just don’t look great or function well, try layering curtain panels over them. They will soften the look and even forgive any mis-measurement that may have happened—a super common mistake!” Ramirez assures us.
“Typically, when curtains just aren’t right, it’s because they are hung too low and the panels are covering up too much of the window when open,” Ramirez says. “Try adjusting or changing out the curtain rod for one that can extend at least 10 to 15 inches past the outside of the window. You can also calculate the stack back size using a variety of information, including window dimensions and fabric if you’re really getting detailed or going for custom made.”
If you find yourself in a room that isn't working, look to the windows. You might just be surprised by how much a curtain refresh can change your whole look and feel.