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Mastering Window Treatments: The Ultimate Guide to Fabric Selection, Styling, and Installation

*This guide is to help you make the most informative decision on window drapes. It does not replace professional recommendations*

I remember vividly shopping for curtains for my first home. On a tight budget, I walked aimlessly around Bed, Bath and Beyond and looked at every option they had available and started to sweat. What size did I need? What fabric was the right fabric? How wide is 54" really? I had beautiful oversized windows that I was purchasing for, one being a 6' picture window and I just grabbed whatever 84" curtains that had enough sets and hardware that stretched out far enough and headed home.

After hanging the curtains, I quickly realized the mistake I made. The color was a purple, gray (this was when "gray" was in) too short when hanging and SHINY. Now, you may not think it sounds that bad but my walls were yellow. Yes, this was before I was certified in color, before I spent countless hours learning whatever I could about window treatments AND before I even thought of starting my own interior design business. My walls were yellow and my "curtains" were pretty much purple 🙈 You can guess why I do not have a picture saved.

After being in this business for over 8 years now and having designed and guided so many window treatment decisions, I thought it was only best I write a blog post about it. This way, hopefully, this will save you not only a ton of research time but also money. So, save this post to your Pinterest board and keep coming back to it every time you need guidance.

Custom or Retail Window Treatments?

Before I get into some quick guidelines for you, I want to clear up a myth that custom window treatments are extremely pricey and no one can afford them. Here's the thing, they can become expensive depending on size and fabric selection HOWEVER, that is more for extra large windows or special designs. There are plenty of semi-custom retailers out there that given your window measurements will make you beautiful drapes or shades, for around what you would pay for retail AND they are exactly the right fit. Another thing to consider, which a lot of us disregard, is how important window treatments are to a space. Window treatments that are the incorrect size or color can make the windows look smaller, the room outdated and aesthetically unpleasing. You are able to find great window treatments from a retail store but they are the usual lengths of 84", 96" and 108" inches and widths around 50" for each panel, some may offer a width of 100". This could make it difficult to find the right size for your window and end up costing you more money then intended.


Quick Guide to Measuring:

Here are my quick pointers for measuring (for those of us that scan the post to find what we need 😆):

  1. Measurements: Start by measuring the width of your window from the outside of the trim on each side and the height from the top of the window frame to the bottom of the window frame. Include the ceiling height and if there is crown molding what the distance is between that and the top of the window trim.

  2. Mounting Hardware: Choose the appropriate mounting hardware based on the weight of your drapes and the style of your window. Options include standard curtain rods, decorative rods with finials, or ceiling-mounted tracks for a sleek, modern look. Make sure the hardware is securely attached to the wall or ceiling, using anchors or screws for stability.

  3. Placement: Position the curtain rod or track above the window frame to create the illusion of height and make the window appear larger. The general rule of thumb is to mount the hardware 3 inches below the ceiling height (or under crown molding) to give the window some more height, but this can vary depending window type. For arched windows, you want to hang the rod OVER the arch as high as you can depending on ceiling height(please do not put it between the arch and lower windows). For those cathedral ceiling rooms with arched windows on either side of the fireplace-I hang the rods at the height of the lower adjacent wall (so if the adjacent wall is 9' high I'll place the rod at that level as long as it is over the arch).

  4. Width Extension: Extend the curtain rod or track beyond the width of the window frame to allow the drapes to fully open without obstructing the view. The extension should be at least 6 to 12 inches on either side of the window, but again, this can vary based on the size of the window and the desired look.

  5. Drape Length: When choosing the length of your drapes, consider whether you want them to skim the floor, pool slightly on the floor for a luxurious look, or hover just above the floor for a more modern aesthetic. Ensure that the drapes are long enough to cover the entire window when closed but not so long that they drag on the floor when open. For heavier fabrics, which can stretch over time, take a 1/4"-1/2" off the desired length.

  6. Fullness: To achieve a full, luxurious look, opt for drapes that are 1.5 to 2 times the width of the window. This allows for ample fabric to create beautiful folds and pleats when the drapes are closed. For a more tailored look, choose drapes that are 1 to 1.5 times the width of the window.

  7. Styling: Once the hardware is installed, hang the drapes on the curtain rod or track, ensuring that they are evenly distributed along the length. For a classic look, use curtain rings with clips or hooks to attach the drapes to the rod. Alternatively, for a sleeker appearance, opt for grommet-top or rod-pocket drapes that slide directly onto the rod.

  8. Final Adjustments: Step back and assess the overall appearance of the drapes. Make any necessary adjustments to ensure they hang evenly and smoothly. Use a steamer or iron to remove any wrinkles or creases and achieve a polished finish.

What fabric is right for you?

Well if measuring got your head spinning, take a break, grab a coffee (or wine 😆) and come back to this section. If you didn't know before, the choice of fabric can also have an impact on how the drapes hang and look. My go-to's are Velvet for that soft but luxurious look, linens and the non-shiny polyester for a more casual feel.

Cotton: Known for its versatility, breathability, and easy maintenance, cotton is a popular choice for curtains and drapes. It comes in a variety of weights and weaves, ranging from lightweight voile to heavy canvas.

Linen: Loved for its natural texture and relaxed elegance, linen lends a timeless charm to window treatments. It offers excellent light filtration and breathability, making it ideal for creating a breezy, laid-back atmosphere.

Silk: Renowned for its luxurious sheen and drape, silk adds a touch of opulence to any space. While silk drapes beautifully and reflects light gorgeously, it requires delicate care and is best suited for formal or decorative use.

Velvet: With its plush texture and rich appearance, velvet brings a sense of warmth and luxury to window treatments. It offers excellent light-blocking properties and enhances insulation, making it perfect for creating a cozy ambiance.

Polyester: A durable and budget-friendly option, polyester is resistant to wrinkles, fading, and stains, making it ideal for high-traffic areas or households with children and pets. It comes in a wide range of colors and textures, mimicking the look of natural fibers.

Sheer Fabrics: Delicate and lightweight sheer fabrics such as chiffon, organza, and voile allow soft, diffused light to filter through while maintaining privacy. They add an airy, ethereal quality to window treatments, perfect for creating a dreamy, romantic atmosphere. I love adding a sheer layer under a heavier drape fabric! This way you can close the sheers, still have natural light come through while maintaining some privacy.

Some things to consider:

Light Filtration: Consider the amount of natural light you want to let into the room and choose fabrics accordingly. Sheer fabrics allow more light to pass through, while heavier fabrics offer greater light control and privacy.

Privacy: Determine the level of privacy you need in each room and select fabrics that provide the desired degree of coverage. Thicker, opaque fabrics offer more privacy, while sheer fabrics allow for partial privacy while still allowing some visibility.

Insulation: Choose fabrics that offer insulation properties to help regulate temperature and reduce energy costs. Heavier fabrics like velvet and wool provide excellent insulation against heat and cold, while sheer fabrics offer minimal insulation.

Don't Sweat, You've Got This

I know drapes can be extremely intimidating. Heck, it took me a good 2 years in my business to even consider sourcing retail drapes, let alone semi or completely custom. But once I saw the difference having the right fabric color or pattern, hung at the right height and width along with the correct panel size, I knew there was no going back. Drapes to a room are the shoes to our outfit or necklace to our shirts. They complete the look, the make the room all come together. Please don't forget that.

Choosing the right fabric for your window treatments is an exciting opportunity to infuse your home with style, comfort, and personality. By considering factors such as light filtration, privacy, texture, color, and maintenance, you can select fabrics that not only enhance the beauty of your windows but also create a cohesive and inviting atmosphere throughout your space. Whether you prefer the timeless elegance of linen, the luxurious allure of silk, or the practicality of polyester, there's a fabric choice to suit every taste, budget, and lifestyle. So go ahead, explore your options, and have fun with it! Transform your windows into stunning focal points that reflect your unique sense of style and design vision.

I'd love to know what you would add to this list, leave a comment below with some ideas!

Happy Decorating,

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