Tips for Buying Window Treatments
Installing window treatments in your home are a quick and easy way to improve the privacy and personality of a room. The options for sprucing up your windows are many, ranging from curtains, sheer curtains, valances, shutters, blinds, and various types of shades including roller, Roman, and cellular designs. Here’s some basic information to help you decide what window treatment works best for you along with easy tips for properly measuring your windows before you buy.
Types of Window Treatments
Window treatments come in a variety of types, designs, and styles. Most can be used alone or in combination with another type such as having mini blinds for privacy and tie-back curtains for appearance. Or you can layer sheer curtain panels with opaque drapes. The sheer panels allow light to shine through during the day when the drapes are opened. The drapes can be closed for privacy or to block the light when you prefer a darkened room.
Window blinds can be made of a range of materials and feature several long horizontal or vertical slats that are controlled by cords that can rotate the slats to open and close them, allowing varied degrees of light to filter into a room. Blinds can also be pulled up or down to block or uncover the window. Blinds can be made of vinyl, natural or faux wood, aluminum, or woven materials and come in different slat widths. Horizontal style blinds are also called Venetians. Blinds with thin width slats are often called mini blinds. Vertical style blinds are also known as panel track blinds and are a popular choice for sliding glass doors or other larger floor to ceiling windows.
Cellular shades, also called honeycomb shades, have a design made of many open “cells” that trap air to add a layer of insulation to windows. This type of window covering can filter or block light and come in either single layer or double layer designs in a variety of color options. They come in light filtering, room darkening, and blackout designs. Because they are insulating, they are a good option for lowering your home energy costs.
Easy-to-operate roller shades are generally made of fabric or vinyl and come rolled around a spring-loaded cylinder that installs in outside or inside mounts at the top of the window. They can be pulled down to cover the window and block light and pulled up to allow light in. When open, they remain tightly rolled and out of the way. They look and work best when mounted inside the window frame and generally are used in conjunction with another window treatment such as curtains. They are however more difficult to clean than blinds and some can be made out of cheap, flimsy materials that will not last as long as other options.
These fabric shades fold or roll down vertically and can be raised and lowered with a pull cord, though there are also cordless versions available. Roman shades can be mounted inside or outside the window frame to suit your aesthetic preference. Since they are made of fabric, they come in a variety of colors, patterns, and light-blocking options to customize them for any room. They are stylish enough on their own and combine the functionality of shades with the decorative properties of curtains.
Festoon or balloon blinds
Another type of fabric shade, festoon or balloon blinds differ from Roman shade in that the fabric bunches up when the blinds are raised and released when they blinds are lowered. Roman shades fold along horizontal creases instead. This creates a puffy look to the blind, giving it a decorative billowy effect.
Plantation (interior) shutters
Shutters are not just for your home’s exterior. Special shutter called plantation shutters are designed for your window’s interior and offer a permanent alternative to less-expensive window treatments. They are custom fitted to your window’s frame and mounted with screws into the frame to become part of the frame’s architecture.
Plantation shutters add style and function to any space while increasing the value of your home. They have slats like blinds that can be opened and closed as desired and can also swung open fully to uncover the window pane completely. Made of natural or engineered wood that is painted or stained to suit your decor, they provide excellent insulation, are easily cleaned, and won't fade like plastic blinds or fabric shades. Café shutters are similar except they only cover the bottom half of the window, letting in more light and providing slightly less privacy.
Valances are placed above the windows and over the tops of the curtains to add a finished look while also camouflaging the track or curtain rod. Valances can also be hung alone for a more streamlined treatment that shows off more of the window architecture. They can also come in softer, gathered style, with straight bottoms, or in a tapered profile with longer sides. They can also be used to create an illusion of height or change the proportion of the window by mounting them higher or wider than the frame.
Curtains come is a wide range of styles, colors, and fabric types and patterns to suit any style décor. Common styles are tie-backs, café curtains and panels. They enhance the appearance of a room while supplying moderate privacy and light control, and help to muffle sound and soften views. The add texture, color, and help you achieve a specific style aesthetic depending on the design, type of fabric, and decorative effect used to mount and arrange them.
Decorative sheer curtains let you add style to a window without blocking light. Made of wispy panels of semi-transparent fabric, they come in a variety of panel sizes, colors, and materials. Often they are used in combination with heavier or light-blocking drapes to give you the option of more privacy when the outer drapes are closed.
Drapes come in a variety of colors, fabrics, and options. You can choose lighter or thicker materials to give you a range of light filtering and blocking options. Drapery panels are made in a variety of heading types for attaching them to the curtain rods including rod pocket, grommet, pleated, tab top, tie-top and curtain rings.
- Rod pockets or pole pockets allow you to feed the curtain rod directly into the pocket or sleeve sewn into the top of the curtain, allowing it to gather together slightly.
- Grommet or eyelet curtains have plastic or metal rings stamped along the top of the curtain panel through which the drapery rod feeds. For the best look, coordinate the color of the grommet rings with the rod.
- Pleated curtains come is a variety of styles including pinch pleat, pencil pleat, box pleat, goblet pleat, French or tailored pleat, and gathered pleat. The pleats are the way the fabric is gathered and bunched together at the top to form a series of folds. The designs vary by the size and shape of the folds. Pleated curtains are hung on the rods via drapery hooks pinned to the back of the pleated curtain top. The hooks can be attached directly to the rod itself or attached to curtain rings which slide over the rod.
- Tab top curtains have fabric loops along the top made of matching or contrasting material. The curtain rod is fed into the loops. These are popular in informal and casual rooms and can only be used on curtain rods. Tab top curtains are more decorative than functional since the tabs do not slide as easily along the curtain rod, making it more awkward to open and close panels.
- Tie top curtains are similar to tab tops except the loops are tied closed rather than being a sewn-closed loop. Like tab tops, these curtain panels are used in more stationary, decorative settings since they are difficult to slide along the rod.
- Curtain rings are attached to the curtains via drapery hooks that pin to the back of the curtains (usually pleated designed) or via drapery clips that are attached to the rings and clip onto the tops of the curtains. The rod is feed through the rings which allow you to easily slide the curtain or drapes closed. You should match the finish or color of the rings to your curtain rods for a cohesive appearance.
Curtains and drapes are installed by hanging them on rods (also called poles) or track systems. These are either single or double style which allow you to layer two sets of curtains such as sheer panels with drapes on the sides, a valance with panels, or a swag with panels. Track systems are usually mounted on larger windows such as bay windows, sliding doors, or curved windows where curtains need to slide freely or move around corners. Other hardware includes the mounting brackets to hold the rods to or above the window frame, curtain rings, drapery hooks, and tie back hardware.
Measure Twice, Buy Once
Measuring windows for curtains is easier than it looks. Just follow these simple steps.
Decide on inside or outside mounting
Outside mounting is the most common for curtains. The rod is secured to the wall outside the window frame and can give you the illusions of a larger window depending where you mount the curtain rod. Inside mounting is designed for shades or to achieve a specific look by installing the rod inside the frame. Note that inside-mount curtains will not completely block the light but offers a more modern, minimalist look.
Determine Rod Length
Measure the width of your window based on whether you want an inside or outside mount. For outside mounting, the curtain will typically extend past the window frame by 3”-6”, so select a rod size based on the window wide plus the additional inches you want the curtain to extend.
Choose curtain length
Ideally, your curtain rod should be mounted 6”-12” above your window frame in there is available space between the ceiling and the top of the window. However, this measurement can be adjusted depending on ceiling height, the space available for mounting, and the aesthetic you wish to achieve. The higher above the window your curtain is place, the larger your window will appear. Once you decide on rod placement, determine the length of curtain you will need. You can select for the end of the curtain to sit about 0.5” above the sill, roughly 6” below the sill, or to go to the floor. For floor length curtains, you can opt for the hem to rest 0.5” above the floor, be even with the floor, or slightly pool on the floor. Measure for the length needed to achieve the effect you desire.
Measure for curtain width
Curtains generally should be 1.5 to 3 times the final width measurement of your window. Adjust the width depending on the look you want. Add extra inches for fuller curtains to give your window treatments a richer feel. A shorter width will create a more tailored look. Curtain panels are usually sold as separate items while others are sold as pairs. If the curtains you are selecting come separately, double the curtain panel’s listed width to determine the size for the set. Select curtains that most closely match your measurements.
How to Hang the Rod and Curtains
Once you have chosen your curtains and rods, you will need to install them on your windows. Here’s some easy steps for mounting your curtain hardware and hanging your curtains.
The first step to installing the curtain rod is to measure and mark the bracket locations on the wall. Use a level to line up the pencil markings so that the rod hangs evenly.
Install the first bracket and double check the placement of the second by holding the rod temporarily in place and checking it is hanging straight and lines up to the bracket screw holds marked on the wall.
Check with a stud finder to see if your marks are lined up with studs. If not, you will need to install wall anchors. Use anchors that are rated for the weight of the curtains and rod. Drill a pilot hole and install the anchor. If you try hammering the anchor straight into the wall without a pilot hole, you will chip or crack the plaster or drywall. Then set the bracket and drive in the screws. Adjust the screws if needed to make a tighter hold, so that the bracket is secure and doesn’t wiggle. Rods wider than four feet will also need a center support.
If hanging curtains with rod pockets, top tabs, or grommets, take the finials off the rod and slide the rod into the curtain tops. Reattach the finials and hang the rod on the brackets, tighten set screws on the brackets, and adjust the curtain panels into position as needed.
If installing panels with rings, slide the rings onto the rod, then hang it on the bracket. Attach the curtain to the rings via the clips or by drapery hooks pinned onto the curtain back. If hanging the panel using just hooks, hang the rod first, tighten the set screws, add the hooks to the panels, and then attach the hooks to the rod.
If you are using fabric, ribbon, or braided tie backs, loop them around each side panel of the curtains in the location desired and attach the ends to the window frame using tack pins or tiny screw hooks. You can also install tie back hardware that screws into the wall features a metal hook that holds the panels back.
Once the curtains are installed, you can adjust them as needed by sliding them along the rod until they are positioned to suit your personal preference.