Buying window treatments can be challenging. There is an infinite number of selections with various opacities, colors, and styles galore. But, if you've ever lost your way shopping for window treatments, have no fear—consider this your ultimate guide to choosing window treatments.
We're sharing how to choose the best fitting window treatments for your home, from blinds to shades to drapes.
How to Know if Blinds Are Best for You
Unlike many other window treatments, blinds give you a high degree of control over the amount of light and airflow that enters a room. They can be made out of a wide array of materials like vinyl, wood, metal, and come in a wide range of price points.
Here are some popular options of blinds to choose from.
- Venetian blinds: When most people think of blinds, they’re thinking of Venetian blinds, which are parallel horizontal slats suspended by cords that can be raised, lowered, and tilted. Venetian blinds come in a practically countless number of sizes, colors, and styles, and can be used on just about any style of window and in any room of the house.
- Vertical Blinds: This option has large, wide slats that run—you guessed it—vertically from floor to ceiling. Each of the slats is individually clamped to the top section and can be rotated from left to right to allow light and air to enter the room. These blinds cannot be pulled up like Venitian blinds can, but can be swept out of the way like drapes or curtains. Vertical blinds are meant to be used on large glass doors and windows.
- Panel Blinds: For something more dramatic and modern-looking, check out panel blinds, which are made from long, wide vertically-hung rectangles of fabric. Instead of having thin, rotating slats, panel blinds slide back-and-forth, and can fully overlap on top of each other.
How to Choose Window Shades
Shades are made out of a single panel of material that will either roll or fold upon itself at the top of a window and can be raised and lowered to different heights. When lowered shades will completely cover a window, which can be advantageous if you want to block light almost completely.
Sunlight can still enter a room with shades made of thin, light fabric, which will diffuse the light and give a room a soft glow. Thicker fabrics will darken a room, which makes them good options for bedrooms and rooms that are prone to overheating from constant, direct exposure to sunlight.
- Roller Shades: The most basic type of shades is roller shades, which can come in just about any color, pattern, style, and opacity you can imagine. The shades “roll up” onto a tube, just like wrapping paper.
- Pleated Shades: Pleated shades fold up onto themselves like an accordion, and are usually raised and lowered using a cord system similar to the one used by blinds.
- Roman Shades: These shades work similarly, but do not have noticeable creases and lay flat when lowered.
- Cellular Shades: If energy efficiency is as important to you as style, check out cellular shades, which are made of at least two pieces of material loosely threaded together, which creates little pockets in-between them. When lowered, these pockets trap hot or cold air (depending on the season), giving your windows an extra layer of insulation, helping your room maintain a comfortable temperature without needing to constantly pump the heat or air conditioning.
What’s the difference between curtains and drapes? Drapes are made of multiple layers of material with a thick fabric backing, giving them a more structural shape. Pretty much everything that isn’t heavy drapery falls into the big, wide, wonderful world of curtains. And what a big wide world it is!
Curtains and drapes come in a myriad of fabrics, pleats, cuts, and styles. To figure out which is right for your design project, the first thing to consider is if your window treatment needs to be functional, or solely decorative.
When to Choose Curtains for Your Home
Curtains can also run from floor to ceiling, though they may not be as light-proof as drapes are. These give a soft, fluttery look to a room and come in a variety of styles, as we lay out here.
- Sheer Curtains: Sheer curtains are thin and semi-transparent, allowing sunlight and fresh air to stream through, but offer a minimal amount of privacy. These curtains are used primarily for design purposes and are often used on top of blinds or shades.
- Semi-Opaque Curtains: These block out more light, but still allow some to shine through when closed, giving a room a soft glow.
- Blackout Curtains: Blackout curtains provide the maximum amount of sunlight protection, darkening a room almost completely when closed. If you’ve fallen in love with a certain design that isn’t quite opaque enough to block out sunlight—something that’s of particular importance in bedrooms—they can be paired with a blackout liner.
- Cafe Curtains: Cafe curtains—or window tier curtains—are a popular choice for bathrooms and kitchens. The curtains are a panel pair, but are half the size of a standard window, and are hung with a rod installed in the middle of the window frame. By keeping the upper half of the window uncovered, the top window pane can be slid down to provide ventilation, letting fresh air in, and letting steam and heat escape.
The Different Options for Hanging Curtains
Another thing to consider when selecting curtains is how you’d like to hang them.
- Rod Pocket Curtains: These curtains completely conceal curtain rods and hanging hardware. In this classic design, the top edge of the fabric can be folded over and sewn to create an open, hollow pocket of fabric. The curtain rod is slipped through the pocket, suspending the entirety of the curtain from end to end. These curtains are often paired with a valance or swag to cover up any unsightly gatherings that come from opening and closing the curtains.
- Hidden Tab Curtains: These are another good choice if you’re not crazy about the look of your curtain rod, but prefer not to use a valance or swag. In this design, there are fabric loops sewed to the backside of the curtains a few inches below the top edge, which go around the rod. The curtain’s fabric is stiff at the top, allowing it to stand on its own, and creating the illusion of curtains that are floating in mid-air.
If you’d like to show off your curtain rod or are interested in using stylish hardware to hang your curtains, there are several different designs that you may want to consider.
- Grommet and Eyelet Curtains: These have large holes running across their top edge, sealed with metal or plastic grommets, or heavy-duty stitching to create a seamless uninterrupted look. To hang this style, the curtain is woven onto the curtain rod, causing the fabric below to fall in straight, symmetrical pleats.
- Tab Top Curtains: Tab top curtains are like the hidden tag variety mentioned above, the difference being that, well, the tags aren’t hidden. On the upper edge of the curtains are fabric loops that fold over the rod, creating a sharp, geometric edge. These tabs are sometimes embellished with buttons or appliques, which give it a casual, modern look.
When to Choose Drapes for Your Home
Drapes always run from floor-to-ceiling and are heavier than curtains, and their lining makes them more opaque. When closed, drapes will block natural light from entering the room. For this reason, drapes are a popular choice for ground-floor windows where they can provide privacy, and if hung in a particularly sunny room, can protect your furniture from fading.
Drapes are also an excellent choice for drafty doors or windows, especially in areas that get cold in the winter.
The Different Types of Drapes
- Single Panel Drapes: These are—you guessed it—made from one of fabric that works best when draped over small or single windows. These are pulled to either side of the window and tied back to create a geometric, asymmetrical silhouette, or can be tied in the center to create an hourglass shape and the illusion of two separate windows.
- Panel Pair Drapes: These drapes are made from two separate panels meant to be tied open on either of the windows, creating a sort of frame around your view of the outside.
How to Choose a Window Valence
There are multiple options to create a top border that will run along the top edge of the windows.
- Valence: A valence is a simple piece of fabric that is hung across the curtain rod, used to cover the hanging hardware. Some valences are straight pieces of fabric that are the same length as the window and hang flat, while some are considerably longer than the frame and are scrunched onto the curtain rod, creating a ruffled effect.
- Pleated Valances: These have a clean tailored look that works well over drapes and over extra-large windows to create definition.
- Swags: For a looser but no-less dramatic look, swags can be a great choice. These are loose pieces of fabric that are artfully hung over a decorative curtain rod, which can be gathered, bunched, tied, and draped as desired to create a custom look.