Curtains are one of those finishing touches in your home that help make your space feel more pulled together and complete. But, as they also help provide privacy, window treatments aren’t something you want to wait on when moving into a new home or redecorating—especially in a bedroom! That’s why curtains are under the “essentials” in our bedroom checklist.
However, with so many different curtain styles and fabrics out there, it can be difficult to know what works best in your space! And then, of course, there’s the question of curtain hardware and how to hang them. What should be a simple task—hanging fabric over a window—can become quite daunting.
To help you out, today we’re breaking down how to choose curtains—covering the various materials and colors you can choose from, as well as guiding you through picking out the right hardware, how to hang curtains, what weight of materials to choose for bedroom curtains vs living room curtains, and so much more.
Read on for the most common questions we get from customers about curtains, along with all our best tips on how to choose curtains for your home!
What types of fabrics work best in different kinds of rooms?
There are so many different types of curtain fabrics that you can choose from. But certain fabrics and materials are better for different spaces and styles. Below you’ll find the pros and cons to the most common types of curtain fabrics.
Polyester is a synthetic, man-made material that is quite durable.
Pros: Polyester is super budget-friendly and is great for first-time home buyers. It tends to be very low-maintenance and durable—so it’s a great fabric for bedroom curtains, where you’ll be opening and closing them on a daily basis. Polyester curtains are also resistant to wrinkles and can be easily steamed if any wrinkles or creases do occur. Being more cost-effective, this is a great material when you’re thinking through guest room essentials.
Cons: The fabric is flammable and can absorb odors—so being mindful of where you place this fabric is key. Perhaps skip this fabric for dining room curtains, especially if your dining area is open to your kitchen? It can be difficult to remove stains from polyester curtains, so avoid placing these curtains in high-traffic areas or where children may be present.
Velvet is a smooth, soft fabric that is characterized by a dense pile of fibers that have a smooth nap—which sometimes has an almost shiny appearance. Traditionally made from silk, today velvet can also be made from cotton, wool, mohair, and synthetic fibers.
Pros: Since velvet is a naturally heavyweight material, velvet curtains work great as black-out curtains. These are ideal for late sleepers or rooms which get heavy sunlight. Because velvet is a thicker material, it also provides more privacy than your average curtain. A higher-end material, velvet curtains provide a soft, luxurious look and feel which makes them ideal for main bedroom curtains.
Cons: Velvet can be challenging to clean and it is on the more expensive side, so you definitely want to carefully consider where you hang velvet curtains.
Linen is a breathable and durable woven fabric made out of natural fibers from a flax plant.
Pros: Linen is eco-friendly and one of the strongest and most durable natural fabric choices. Linen is also known to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi in most spaces—so if your bedroom or bathroom tends to be on the damper side, this is a great option.
Cons: Linen can wrinkle and shrink easily, so you’ll need to steam linen curtains more often if you don’t like wrinkles and take greater care when washing them.
Picking the Right Curtain Fabric for Your Room
When choosing curtain materials and fabrics, think about the room in which you will hang the curtains. For living room curtains, you may want something a bit higher-end, since this is a space that more people see. If you like a more luxurious look, velvet might be just the thing. For a lighter, airier look, opt for gauzy linen as your living room curtains. In a home office, you might go a bit more utilitarian and want to keep costs down—so perhaps polyester curtains are a good choice here.
And if you’re wondering how to choose bedroom curtains, it’s all about if you want to block out extra light and what look you want to achieve. Blackout curtains, or curtains with a blackout liner, are best for light sleepers or those who want to keep their bedroom cave-like until they wake up. But if you prefer waking up to dappled sunlight, you could consider sheer curtains instead! Want some bedroom curtain inspiration? Head to our bedroom design ideas page!
What should you consider when it comes to colored curtains?
If you’re thinking of going for colored curtains, rather than a neutral, you want to think through if you want your curtains to be a focal point in your space or simply serve as a functional element. This will help guide the color choice you make and how bold of a color to use.
With colored curtains, you also want to make sure that your curtains are complementary to the wall color of the space. Ideally, you’d want to have a touch of contrast between the curtains and the wall color so that your curtains don’t completely blend in with your walls. Beyond that, let your color choice express your unique style and the color palette of the room. In your bedroom, specifically, choose a color that you find soothing or calming.
Shop This Look
What about patterned curtains?
If you like the idea of patterned curtains, there are a few main things you want to consider. First, think through how the pattern will coordinate with the rest of the space. You’ll want to choose a pattern that aligns with the overall style of the room. It’s also important to be mindful of other patterns you may have already in the space, such as bedding, throw pillows or other upholstery. And if your room has wallpaper, you’ll want to consider those patterns as well! The scale of the curtain pattern should vary with those other existing patterns in the room, and ideally complement them. Patterned curtains can have the same effect as a piece of art when completely drawn so keep that in mind during the selection process.
Are custom curtains worth the price tag?
An important consideration when thinking through how to choose curtains? Whether you want to keep things simple with store-bought curtains or if you want to spring for custom curtains. Whether you go with custom or store-bought curtains is all a matter of how much you’d like to spend and how precisely you’d like your curtains to fit.
Custom curtains offer just that: a customized fit for your window size and a tailored look. With custom curtains, you’re able to choose the fabric and lining you would like, as opposed to store-bought curtains where you’re at the mercy of what’s already been made. With custom curtains, there are endless types of designs and styles to choose from. However, all that customization comes with a price tag.
If you aren’t ready to invest big bucks into your window treatments, you’ll probably want to go with a store-bought option. Just be sure to consider the length of the panels and if you have a living room with high ceilings, as this will impact the length of panels you purchase. More on curtain height later on!
What are curtain headers and what style should you choose?
When picking out and hanging curtains, you’ll also want to think about the curtain’s header style. A curtain header is the area at the top of the curtain where it attaches to the rod. And there’s actually a wide range of curtain header styles that can add to the style and look of your curtains.
Pinch pleats, goblet pleats, and box pleats are the most formal header styles. Each style provides a classic look and is perfect for traditional bedroom curtains or for adding elegant style to your space. Curtains with grommets (or eyelets) involve metal rings attached to the top of the fabric, which you then feed the curtain rod through. This makes opening and closing your curtains a breeze! If you don’t like the look of grommets, there are also tab top curtains, which involve a series of fabric loops sewn at regular intervals along the top of the curtain, which you then feed the curtain rod through. This is a more relaxed style. A rod pocket header means you simply feed the curtain rod through a “pocket” at the top, which then creates informal gathers along the top of the curtain. These gathers are more informal and are a great style to use for small bedroom windows or even kitchen windows.
What should you consider when choosing hardware for your curtains?
Hardware Finishes and Styles
The finish of your hardware will greatly impact the look and feel of the room. Opt for finishes that are similar to what is already in the space. Iron and brass are the most popular curtain hardware materials and will easily flow with many styles. Once you’ve landed on a finish, you’ll also want to think about ornamentation. Do you want something more ornate, with scrolled details, or more simple and streamlined? The overall style of your space will help guide that choice.
When it comes to rod sizes, you need to consider both the length and the diameter of the rod. In terms of length, the rod should be slightly wider than your window frame so that your curtains can fully cover the window frames and offer optimal privacy.
The diameter is more impacted by the fabric you choose and how heavy it is. A thin rod can be used for sheers because it’s a lightweight material. A medium-diameter rod is used for custom-made curtains due to the weight of the fabric and lining. A large-diameter rod is used for rooms with high ceilings or two-story windows since you’re dealing with more fabric.
One other thing to consider with rods: Some are adjustable, so if you’d like the flexibility of being able to use curtains hardware from room to room or home to home, opting for an adjustable curtain rod would be a good option for you.
Types of Hardware
Also worth considering? If you want your hardware to be seen or hidden. Utility hardware is strictly functional and is made to be hidden. On the other hand, decorative hardware is meant to be visible. With appealing designs, decorative hardware is meant to add to the look and feel of your window treatment. This ties in closely with header styles since some headers are made to conceal hardware while others help show it off!
How high should you hang your curtains?
This is somewhat a matter of preference—but at Modsy, we like hanging curtains closer to the ceiling than the window frame. This draws the eye up and helps living rooms with low ceilings seem higher! (It’s also one of our favorite small space hacks to make a room feel larger!) A good rule of thumb if you’re going this route? Hang the curtains about six inches above the top of your window frame. However, some people prefer the look of a curtain rod being right in line with the top of the window frame, or just above it. And there’s nothing wrong with that approach!
Just remember: the height of your curtains will impact the length of curtains you should buy. No matter the hanging height, you still want your curtains to hit the floor (or be about half an inch above if you don’t want them to drag on the floor). So, decide what height you want your curtains to be before buying them. (Unless you’re handy with a sewing machine and are confident hemming long curtains!)