Updated: Apr 26
There’s so much information about this topic I could seriously write a novel. That was a fair warning. Grab your cup of coffee, sit back and enjoy. Or watch the after school special here.
Remember those? After School Specials? I suppose they don’t make those anymore because there are fewer latch key kids? More kids going right from school to piano, then drama and finally soccer…all before dinner? I digress. Back to curtains.
Before I answer your burning question - “Which curtains should I choose for my room?” we need to address the elephant in the room. You know the one. Or ones. The ones labeled “All the mistakes you are probably making with the curtains in your home.” Ok, before you get all sad thinking you are the worst person ever for making these mistakes, you need to know that I am currently making mistake number one. As I type this, I, a home decorator, am willfully making the number one mistake. And guess what? I don’t really care and I’m urging you to also. The mistakes I’m mentioning are mentioned for education and guidelines only. If you’ve ever been curious why the Pinterest pins of living rooms all look so perfect and put together, it’s because they AREN’T making these mistakes. Trust me. Now, take a look at my list and go cross reference with a look at a few Pinterest pins of living rooms so you can see for yourself.
Once we understand the mistakes we’re making, we’ll address all of the ways we can make different choices if we want to.
Mistakes you are probably making with the curtains in your home:
Your curtains are TOO short
Your curtains aren’t wide enough
Your curtain rod is hung too low
Your curtain rod is hung too narrow
Your curtain rod is too thin
The finial on your curtain rod looks stupid (OK…I threw that one in. No one, and certainly not former teachers like myself, likes the word stupid. But seriously, we will be talking about finials because sometimes that’s the element that makes your curtain situation appear askew.)
Your curtain rod is the wrong color
Your curtains are the wrong color
Your curtains aren’t curtains, but instead they’re plastic blinds, vertical blinds, cheap blinds…
Can we stop now? Yes. Yes we can.
Great. I’ve listed off one, two, maybe three things that you are currently doing in your own home. What action needs to be taken? That, my dear, is entirely up to you. And the advice I give here is really the mission behind fig & farm (at home): I teach busy moms how to learn to love the house they call home by teaching them diy and budget decorating skills. If you love your house…no action needed. If you think your house is ‘meh,’ maybe take a look at this list and see if it’ll help you out of your house funk. Side note: you are probably in the house funk category if you can answer yes to several of the following. 1. Do you avoid inviting people over (pre-Covid of course) because of the way your house looks? 2. Do you buy things for your home that you like, but you don’t know how to put them all together once you get them home? 3. Do you binge watch HGTV and wish that your home could look like the homes on the shows? 4. Do you have posters on your walls and call them art? ;) 5. Do you think that decorating should wait until the kids are grown and gone?
Get on with it already. I’m trying. Really I am. Remember that novel I forewarned you about? Yup…that was chapter one. On to chapter two.
Why should we choose curtains anyway? Well Susan, so glad you asked.
Imagine you getting dressed up all snazzy-like to go on a hot date with hubby. You’re wearing the dress that only comes out once or twice a year and you can either dress it up with your three inch heels or dress it down with your sneakers. You decide on the heels because they go better with the set of bangles that your auntie gave you and your dangly earrings with the fringe. But you don’t stop there. You ditch your messy bun for some curls and wash your face before applying all the things, including the base coat that swears it will make your eyeshadow stay on just a smidge longer.
Curtains are like that. They complete the look, or in house terms, the room. Curtains are the finishing touch that makes everything else in the room all come together.
So, how do I choose the right curtains for my room? Not quite ready. Before we can talk about the best curtains for you we need to talk about the curtain rod. No, I’m not joking. Once we know what rod to choose and how to properly hang it, THEN we’ll be able to move on to the curtains.
Chapter three. The curtain rod.
The basic guidelines are these - I call this the Goldilocks Method.
Not too narrow and not too wide…just right
Not too thin and not too thick…just right
Not too high and not too low…just right
You want your curtain rods to extend between 6 and 12 inches beyond each of the outside edges of your window frame. Six may be a bit too narrow, twelve may be a bit too wide, but if your range is somewhere within there, that’s good.
You want your rod to be proportionately thick to the size of your window. This is why most cafe curtain rods are super thin - because the windows are generally on the small side. The larger the window, the thicker the rod.
If you must choose one way to hang your curtains, either high or low, choose high. When you hang your rod at a higher height it draws the eye upward making the room and window appear larger than they actually are.
My starting formula: I start by measuring six inches from the outer edge of the window frame and six inches from the upper edge of the window frame. Where those two points intersect is where I START my rod measurement. Does it look about right? Great - go with that as a starting point. Want it a little higher or wider? No problem.
Once you have the rod placed where you want it, measure from the rod to the floor and that measurement is how long your curtains should be. How wide is your window frame? Take that number and add another 18 to 24 inches to it. That’s how wide you want your curtains to be.
But what about the color of the rod? Whatever color or material you choose, you should think about these things:
Keep the same rods for windows that are in the same room, adjoining or within sight lines of one another. This will keep the look cohesive.
What ever finish you choose for your rod (matte black, oil rubbed bronze, gold, etc.) make sure this color is not an outlier within your room. If it appears once on the rod, it should appear somewhere else in the room at least three more times.
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FINIAL! Chapter 4.
The finial says a lot about the style of the room in general. Think about these guidelines:
Simple lines = modern, not fussy, classic, not trendy
Glass = traditional, elegant, timeless, fancy
Scrolled, detailed or ornamental = traditional, sometimes elegant, sometimes dated, sometimes fussy and rigid
What do you want your room to say? Speak it with the finial and the curtain.
Whew…we made it. On to the curtains. Which curtains are the best curtains for your space? Otherwise known as chapter five.
Here’s really where I could get on a soapbox and talk about what style you want to have your home decorated in, what colors do you like and not like, whether you like sheer or blackout, solid or patterned…I’m going to skip all that and chat about generalities for a minute.
Tone on tone = calm, cozy, cohesive, elegant
Patterned = playful, fun, energetic
Contrasting solids = safe, sometimes playful
When choosing which curtains are best for your room, think about how you want your room to feel. Calm and cozy? Choose a curtain with a similar tone to the wall it’s sitting on. This doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a solid. It can be patterned tone on tone and still have a similar feel. What if you want your room to feel playful, full of life and fun? Choose a pattern that is bold.
If you choose a pattern, think about these things. What is the color of the wall that the curtain will be sitting on and is that color represented within the patterned curtain? If you are wanting a room that looks thoughtful and cohesive, the wall color should be somewhere (either the base color or a small accenting color) on the patterned curtain.
Here’s an example:
Your walls are a creamy white. You can choose a patterned curtain with a creamy white base color that the pattern pops out of OR you can choose a contrasting color(s) with the creamy white showing up here and there within the pattern.
A bonus tip: choosing a pattern can be fun, but if you choose a patterned curtain with colors that aren’t showing up anywhere else in the room - the curtains could end up acting like a bully in the room and dominating the space. Back to the creamy white wall example. Say you choose a curtain with a coordinating creamy white base (check…you followed my directions) with burnt oranges, yellows and reds as the pattern, you’ll want to make sure you have one of those patterned colors (burnt orange, yellow or red) appear somewhere else within the room at least three other times. This will help make your room feel cohesive.
This can all feel a bit overwhelming if you let it. The Cliff Notes version: think about size of rod, simple finial, curtains hanging so they brush the floor or sit ever so slightly above and color coordinate. When you think of it that way, it's not so tough. If you want help or want to know if you're on the right track, reach out. Send me a message at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you made it this far you should celebrate! There’s nothing quite like reading a textbook for fun. Can I get an Amen?!