How to choose window treatments

I’ve heard many people say that they’re unsure of how to dress their windows in a way that works for their requirements but also looks good. It’s no surprise then that ‘Window treatments’ is an entire chapter in an interior design textbook, and that there are soft furnishings consultants whose primary business is to design window treatments. But I want to show you that it really doesn’t have to be complicated for your window dressing to look beautiful and function well!

First things first, avoid short curtains as they never look good (this is my biggest decorating pet peeve). Another mistake I see all too often is curtains that are hung too low and cover up too much of the window from the sides. This visually reduces the size of a window and the light coming in. Here’s a very helpful infographic to illustrate these points:

Figuring out your window treatment starts with the following 4 considerations:
1.  Privacy – Do you want to create privacy for a street-facing window?
2.  Light – Do you want your room to have all the light that your windows are bringing in? Do you want to reduce sun glare in the day? Do you want to block out all light at night?
3.  Acoustics and thermal – The addition of curtains or blinds can visually and literally warm up your room and reduce noise from outside as well the bouncing of noise inside (echo).
4.  Aesthetics – Window dressings are a great opportunity to add colour and/or pattern, or they can be made to tie in with the wall colour to add softness and quiet elegance. Or perhaps you have a great view from your window that you don’t want to detract from and prefer a simple roller blind that is barely noticeable.

Window treatments don’t have to be the same throughout the house; in fact they really shouldn’t be as each space has different functions and requirements, so think of each room separately. If a room has multiple windows, the same type of treatment should be chosen for all the windows in that room. Case in point: Jessica Alba’s stunning guest house living room below:

This room has different sized windows, but the same design of curtains is used for all. The black strip on the leading edges of the curtain panels is such a fabulous idea!

The sweet nursery below also has multiple windows, each with a lovely blackout-lined roman blind in blue ticking fabric.

Blue stripe roman blinds.jpg

Image: LEIVARS

As seen in this nursery, blackout blinds are a great option for bedroom windows that have a radiator underneath. But what if you love the look of curtains in your bedroom yet have a radiator under the window? The answer is to layer a blackout blind with blackout curtains as shown in the room below:

In this traditional bedroom, the blind is drawn during the colder months, allowing the radiator to perform its function, while the curtains are drawn in warmer months when the central heating is off.

The image above is the large window in my son’s room showing a double layer window treatment. The bed is below the window so this ruled out curtains (because remember, short curtains don’t look good!). Privacy is not an issue, but the sun is blindingly bright on sunny mornings, so the solution was to have a sheer light-diffusing roller blind in the window recess, and a blackout roller blind outside the recess. Yes, you can layer two blinds! Layering isn’t just about a blind with a pair of curtains; it can be two types of blinds, two types of curtains on a double pole, or it can even be a triple layer treatment as I once specified for cottage design where the windows were street facing (voile panel for privacy), and there were radiators below the windows (roman blind drawn in autumn/winter, curtains drawn in spring/summer).

Double layer curtains - Restoring Lansdowne.png

Image: @restoringlansdowne on Instagram

One of my favourite instagrammers Kristine @restoringlansdowne has layered sheer panels with blackout curtains on double curtain poles in her beautiful casual-chic bedroom.

This chic living room above faces a busy street so the light-filtering roller blinds are likely to be drawn most of the time, while the outer roman blinds are likely to be drawn at night for cosiness.

Home of Jennifer Meyer, designed by Pierce and Ward

Image: My Domaine

In the stunning living room above, black linen roman blinds look fabulous on the windows, and can be drawn to reduce sun glare in the day and add cosiness in the evening.

For large windows spanning a wall, light-filtering curtains work really well to diffuse sunlight when it is streaming in, while also making the space feel cosier. The wide dip dye linen curtains look stunning in this chic living space above.

With several stores selling curtain panels in long lengths and different sizes of roller blinds, you may be able to find a really budget-friendly solution that works for your windows, but off-the-shelf products may require a little alteration of the curtain hem or cutting the blind to size. Often, a made-to-measure solution is essential, like if you want to use a particular fabric, have really large windows, or need specialist blinds for Velux windows.

Many homes with extensions have Velux windows and a standard store-bought roller blind isn’t going to work. Luckily, Velux make a wide range of blinds, perfectly sized to your window. We are planning to renovate our home in the near future and as part of this, we want to make some changes to our loft space and add in Velux windows. Ever the planner (I can’t help myself), I’ve already been looking at the wide range of blinds available at Roofblinds.co.uk (a sister company of Velux). From light-diffusing blinds, to roller blinds, to blackout blinds and more, they have ranges to suit different types of spaces with several colour and pattern options, including cute designs for kids.

Velux duo blackout and energy blackout blinds

L: Velux duo blackout blind;  R: Velux blackout energy blind

After all my talk of layering, I’m really liking the sound of the duo blackout blind which combines a light-diffusing pleated blind (to reduce sun glare in the day) with a blackout blind (to block out all light at night). Also on my list to consider is the blackout energy blind which not only improves insulation and blocks out light, but also has flexible positioning so that you can have it open at the top and/or bottom. If you have Velux windows that are in need of blinds, you can check out all their ranges here.

I think that’s the basics covered on this topic! Are you someone who loves or dreads dressing windows? If the latter, I really hope you find this post useful! Don’t leave your windows bare 🙂

This post is in collaboration with Velux. All words and opinions are my own, and image sources are linked.


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20 Comments

  1. October 27, 2017 / 6:17 pm

    That infographic is like an optical illusion. It’s hard to believe both windows are the same size! I like the idea of layering, and I may apply it in the bedroom. It’s good to know they’re also available for roof windows (I’d love a loft room in the future when I grow up).

    • Meera
      Author
      October 27, 2017 / 8:32 pm

      Yes, it’s amazing the difference it makes when curtains are hung high and wide, it really does visually expand the window (and increase the light!)! Really glad you found the post useful, Juan. I hope you get your loft room soon 🙂

  2. October 28, 2017 / 9:39 pm

    I’m a fan of floor length curtains myself. I’ve just helped my mother in law move house and helped her put up short curtains. Shame on me! I’m with you on the short curtains, they don’t look great but she’s just had some custom made and she loves them and her generation don’t want to lose the warmth of radiator out of the window. There’s some truth in that but they still don’t look great! Lovely post!

    • Meera
      Author
      October 29, 2017 / 9:45 am

      Oh no, not short curtains!! 😱😂 So many people think that they can only have one type of dressing on their windows hence all the short curtains, but they really spoil the look of a good room. Many people don’t realise that windows with radiators underneath really should be layered with curtains and blinds; the blinds allow the radiators to remain uncovered in cold months while the long curtains add elegance to the room. And when the heating is off, the curtains can be drawn instead of the blinds. This was the main point I wanted to emphasise with the post xx

        • Meera
          Author
          October 29, 2017 / 9:51 am

          Yay! Thanks Vicki! xx

  3. October 29, 2017 / 8:36 am

    Fantastic post Meera! Window treatments are where I struggle… usually because what I want, and what is functional or would work best, are two different things. I too hate half-mast curtains!

    • Meera
      Author
      October 29, 2017 / 9:49 am

      Thank you Malcolm! Layering is usually the answer, unless you go for shutters which tick all the functions and look great, except they lack the softness of fabric and can be quite expensive. Very glad you’re with me on the short curtains 😝

  4. Jade
    October 29, 2017 / 9:20 am

    What do you suggest for a bay window? Which is street facing so require some privacy but don’t want to lose the light as it’s the only window in the room!

    • Meera
      Author
      October 29, 2017 / 4:23 pm

      A bay window requiring privacy would need layering. Without seeing your bay window and what your mounting options are, I can suggest some options which may work for you:
      – sheer curtains / voile panels (which remain drawn for privacy) layered with standard-lined curtains
      – sheer roller blinds (which remain drawn) layered with standard-lined curtains
      – sheer roller blinds (which remain drawn) layered with standard-lined roman blinds
      Hope this helps! xx

  5. November 1, 2017 / 2:11 pm

    I like the idea of layering blinds and curtains. Our huge bay window has been a huge problem to dress because blinds and voiles wouldn’t fit/ couldn’t be attached and full length curtains were simply too heavy open and close around the bay. #homeetc

    • Meera
      Author
      November 2, 2017 / 9:23 am

      Why were you unable to mount blinds or voiles, Louisa? Have you thought about having 4 curtains panels around your bay instead of just 2? Here’s an example of this – https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/279152876872448580
      You can also get curtains in lightweight fabric rather than heavy traditionally lined curtains.
      xx

  6. November 1, 2017 / 8:41 pm

    I made the mistake of having short curtains a few years back – not sure what I was thinking haha! But I do agree longer length ones look way better. Thanks for the tips 🙂

    • Meera
      Author
      November 2, 2017 / 9:25 am

      Glad you found it useful Medina! 🙂 xx

  7. November 3, 2017 / 11:54 am

    I love that Jessica Alba’s living room! And I’m with you on all the rules about curtains and especially about the length of the curtains! I hate short curtains, although I’ve seen some designs where they actually looked good, I couldn’t do it though!

    • Meera
      Author
      November 9, 2017 / 9:11 am

      No short curtains look good to me Anne Marie 😂😂

  8. November 5, 2017 / 10:03 pm

    Loving these tips Meera! Funnily enough I’ll be looking for some window dressing for one of our bedrooms soon once we replace the window and think I will opt for roman blinds. When we had plantation shutters fitted across the rooms facing the street, we opted to go for the same window covering for all (one is our living room, then upstairs a bedroom and an office) since it looks so much smarter from the street and adds value, rather than having all different window dressings. I can’t wait to see what we come up for the back of the house. Thank you for linking up to #HomeEtc X

    • Meera
      Author
      November 9, 2017 / 9:15 am

      Shutters on every window facing the street is definitely the smartest look if you can afford it. 👍 For those who haven’t got the budget for that and/or prefer the softness of fabric options (curtains or blinds), I wanted to break it down about how to think of layering if one particular option isn’t working. 🙂 xx

  9. April 11, 2018 / 12:27 pm

    This is such a helpful post. I hadn’t considered layering my window dressings but this will definitely help me get a step closer to solving my living room dilemma! My problem is we have a really wide, short window that spans the width of the living room. The radiator is below and there is furniture underneath the window on either side of the radiator. So long curtains wont work. The window is also too wide for most blinds. It’s a tough one!

    • Meera
      Author
      April 11, 2018 / 12:45 pm

      Hi Stacey, really glad you’ve found this helpful. From what I understand, it sounds as if roman blinds might look best for your living room. Roller blinds could work too, but romans generally look better in a living room. As your window is too wide for one blind, it sounds as if you’d need 2 or more blinds according to how to many window frames there are (this is likely to involve having them custom made with a fabric of your choice). Feel free to send me a photo if you’d like

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