Designing With Curtains


The word window that we know today is derived from the Old Norse word for wind, vindr, combined with the word auga, which means eye. Literally, vindauga means the eye of the house where the wind enters.  In fact, the main function of a window is, and has always been, ventilation. Historically, windows were small in order to protect against intruders and severe weather and, with the development of the glass, windows became the focal point of a room where people could appreciate the exterior view.

In today’s age, although even the most minimalist room needs a window treatment, when it comes to window treatments, the options and items to factor in are endless. From color and fabric, to length and fullness, to custom-made versus ready-made, to even energy efficient ones, choosing the right curtains for your home can be extremely overwhelming.  Below are few things you should consider when designing with curtains.

Architectural Style — Each home has a different architectural style. Therefore its window treatment should embrace both the architectural style of the home and its interior design style accordingly.

Fabric – Choosing the right type of fabric is essential as it will dictate how well your curtains will function as time passes by. If the fabric is too heavy your curtains won’t fold crisply when drawn and if they are too light, they may not fall properly, making the room look like it is unfinished. Although linen, silk, faux silk, and velvet are considered the best choices for window treatments as they tend to hang very well, you should consider the amount of sun exposure in the room before selecting your curtain’s fabric. When designing rooms exposed to an excessive amount of sun light, I tend to use Sunbrella products as they will last longer and resist fading.

 Color — Another important factor in is color and pattern. If your room is full of patterns and colors, opt for a more neutral color that will blend with the surrounding walls and also prefer solid colors over busy patterns as you don’t want your curtains to compete with the other patterns in the room. A good rule of thumb to avoid visual pollution is to limit the number of colors to 5 and the patterns to 3.

Energy Efficiency — While some fabrics like suede, velvet, tapestry, and tweed have the natural ability to keep the cold out of the room, some curtain manufacturers also offer energy efficiency curtains from Moshells. Those curtains, most of the times, interlined with a thick insulating felt material, will not only keep the room warm, but also, they will help to filter out the light coming in, making it the perfect choice for bedrooms. Furthermore, lining and interlining are what give curtains their body and fullness.

Length — One of the commonly asked questions is how high should my curtains be, and although there is not such a rule that dictates the height of your curtain, you should keep in mind that the higher your curtains are hung, the taller your room will look like. Since most of the windows are placed around a foot from the ceiling, I tend to hang the curtains about six inches above the window frame, this way I still have some room left between the rod and the ceiling. As far as the total height of the curtain goes, I tend to keep it full height, measuring from where the curtains will hang from to the floor, minus half inch. Keeping the curtains a half inch from the floor will give the room a more modern look.  (For a more traditional look, with the curtain slightly puddled on the floor, you should add another three to four inches to the length).

Width and Fullness — When measuring the width of your window, be sure to add another eight inches on each side and double the total number to ensure curtain’s fullness. For a richer look or when using a light-weight material, triple the total number.

Custom –Tailored versus Ready-Made Curtains — While a custom window treatment allows you to create a more tailored look, ready-made curtains tend to be less costly, making them a great option for individuals on a budget. Even thou custom-tailored panels come in endless design options, from material to header style, stores like Restoration Hardware, ABC Carpet & Home,  Room & Board, and Pottery Barn are also a great option for high-quality window treatments at affordable prices and, whenever you feel overwhelmed, talk to an interior designer or a window treatment professional.

VK Sustainable Concepts’ Principal Andrea Vollf, LEED AP ID+C, is a registered interior designer and sustainability professional with over fifteen years of experience in the interior design and marketing industries. Connect with Andrea on Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

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  • Curtains have always been like an afterthought to me until I had a sliding door that faced West. That afternoon sun is BRUTAL and I wanted a solution that filtered it, looked great with the style of my kitchen and were affordable. I didn’t want my kitchen to be DARK, just not have the sun blind you.

    So I actually shopped for curtains and once I hung them I realized that my kitchen was NAKED without them. I now take curtains more seriously LOL

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  • Rachael says:

    Great information! I need to buy new curtains – I’ll need to print this for a guideline. Thanks so much for the great resource!

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