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Curtains Buying Guide

BY: Editorial Staff | Nov 25, 2015

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It can be tempting to purchase the first curtains that catch your eye, but before you buy, it’s important to consider where, why, and how you’re going to hang your draperies. Here, we offer curtains ideas for specific rooms in the house and demystify the many types of curtain headings and rods with illustrated guides.

For the Bedroom

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Blackout panels help block unwanted light—from a neighbor’s twinkling holiday display to natural sunlight that seeps in before the alarm clock sounds. Look for panels that block a high percentage of light to ensure the most restful, uninterrupted night of sleep. Some products can block up to 99% of light, and these are ideal in kids’ rooms, home-theatre rooms, and dens.

Blackout Panel Bonus Points

  • They can reduce outside noise that makes it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep.
  • Most panels boast an insulating factor, meaning you’ll save money on energy bills no matter the season.

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For the Living Room

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Decorative printed panels can up the style ante in any room. For a modern look, choose panels with a geometric, oversize floral, or animal print. If a pattern seems too bold, textured solid panels add subtle interest.

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Pleated-top curtains are more formal and traditional with eye-catching details built right in. There are multiple types of pleated-top curtains, including the double pinch pleat (shown above), pencil pleat, and goblet pleat.

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Sheer panels add a breezy, ethereal look to windows and don’t block much, if any, natural light.

Display Tips for Sheer Panels

  • If you’re not concerned about privacy, hang them alone for a pop of color and texture.
  • Use a double rod to hang sheer panels in tandem with opaque curtains, creating a polished look that marries privacy and style.

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Valances—decorative draperies that hang across the top of a window—can serve multiple purposes. They’re often displayed as an accompaniment to curtains, but they can also hang on their own to dress a window if privacy isn’t an issue or if you want to maximize natural light.

Display Tips for Valances

  • Drape a sheer piece of fabric around the curtain rod to create a simple, elegant scarf valance.
  • Hide unsightly hardware and make the ceiling look higher with a traditional cornice valance.

For the Kitchen or Bathroom

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In areas where floor-length curtains aren’t practical, valances, shorter 63” panels, or café curtains are all good options. Café curtains are designed to cover the bottom half of a small window and are often hung inside the frame on a tension rod.

Display Tip: To create a put-together look or more privacy, pair café curtains with a matching valance.

What Is a Grommet? An Illustrated Guide to Curtain Headings

A curtain’s heading not only dictates how to hang a particular set of curtains, but it also adds to curtains’ overall style, from modern and minimalist to traditional and tailored. Here, we cover eight of the most common curtain headings.

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Curtain Sizing 

 

How Long Should Curtains Be?

Floor length is the most common look, but it’s not the only option. Panels are usually sold in three lengths—63”, 84”, and 94” (the most likely size for floor length)—so you should carefully measure from the top of the window to where you’d like the panels to fall before purchasing and again before hanging to get the look you want.

Display Tips

  • Floor-length curtains should touch the floor or sit 1/2" above.
  • To create an on-trend pooled look, you’ll need an extra 1”–3” in length.
  • In a child’s room, the kitchen, or the bathroom, shorter curtains may be more practical.

How Wide Should Curtains Be?

A general rule is that the total width of curtains should be 2 to 2.5 times the total width of the window. You might need multiple sets of panels to accommodate a wide window.

Exception: Pleated panels have fullness built in, so their width can match or be just slightly wider than the width of the window.