Choosing the right kind of curtains and blinds for your windows sounds like a simple task. However, it can often be more complicated than you might think. I’ve outlined some very simple tips on points to consider.
CHOOSING CURTAINS, BLINDS OR BOTH?
I personally think curtains make a room and would always recommend choosing them if budget allows. Curtains can form the basis of a room’s whole look and add a sense of warmth and luxury. They are also the best choice for filtering out the light for sleeping. I will come onto sleep and light blockage later.
So when would you choose blinds instead of curtains? Kitchens and bathrooms are obvious examples. Rooms that get a lot of bright sunlight also suit blinds better. They give more flexibility for light control whereas curtains have to be fully drawn, plunging your room into dingy darkness in the day (unless you choose sheers). Often you will find that the window itself dictates your choice. For instance where there is limited space above the window for a pole. This room below is an example where a blind was the only option. To stop the blind feeling boring, I added a pom pom fringe for a sense of fun.
One thing to consider is to combine both blinds and curtains. When blinds and curtains are paired together, the two can provide a perfect balance of function and style. The blind generally does the job of light control and privacy and the curtains add softness, warmth and a greater design element. From a design perspective the layer of different fabrics adds real interest to a room.
THE BEST FABRIC FOR CURTAINS
Selecting the best fabric is an essential part of choosing your curtains or blinds. The material will dictate how well your curtains or blinds function and hold up over time. When choosing your fabric the label on the back of the sample will give you a good guide, with picture symbols showing the suggested use (of either upholstery or curtains). What they don’t indicate though is whether they are good for blinds.
Firstly, think of the effect you want to create, which will help narrow down your fabric choices. Linen for instance looks beautiful in country homes and creates a relaxed and informal sense of luxury. This example below from a project I worked on for Justin Van Breda is perfect example of this relaxed feel.
For curtains, the best choices are cotton mixes and lightweight linens as they have a relaxed quality and suit most rooms. However, the slightly heavier linens crease easily and don’t drape so well. My advice is to ask your interior designer or curtain maker what they think before confirming your choice.
For a more elegant feel lightweight wools (with cashmere) and wool/silk mixes are a good choice as they drape so beautifully. 100% silk is a risky choice as it can rot in sunlight, particularly on south facing windows. If you absolutely love silk one option is to add a non silk leading edge to protect it from rotting, as per the image below. Or choose a silk with some synthetic content which is more durable. Wool and silk are the most expensive fabric options so only invest for key rooms, such as your living room or master bedroom.
For blinds choose very flexible fabric so they pleat and keep their shape. Soft cotton is a great choice for blinds. I also love linen but choose wisely as the more informal style linens don’t fold neatly and can loose their shape.
When dressing large windows, the scale of pattern is critical. Too large a print can overpower, while too small looks fussy and will blend into the background. You must be sure you love the pattern before committing. If you are worried then consider selecting a plain fabric with a trim and using the pattern elsewhere. This dining room is a great example. The patterned fabric has been used as a leading edge and a seat pad.
CONSIDER WHICH TYPE OF BLIND WORKS BEST
Romans or rollers? Inside recess or outside recess? These can be confusing options! I would always choose Roman blinds if it’s an option as the pleats add more style than a simple roller. If your blinds sit outside of the window recess then they let in more light during the day and stop views being obscured. But they tend to let in flickers of light down the edges, as they don’t’ sit as snuggly as recessed blinds. The only time this is an issue is when you have young children and long summer evenings arrive.
Ultimately your choice will depend on the window itself. Sometimes you simply don’t have a choice, as the frame will dictate the choice. The image below is an example of this. Within the recess was the only option. If I’d had more space above the window I would have selected outside the recess to make the most of the country views.
In bathrooms and kitchens roller blinds are a good option as their protective coating is moisture resistant. If you keep bottles on your windowsills then make sure your blinds are outside the recess. Otherwise one gust of a breeze and they all end up on the floor!
SELECTING THE RIGHT WINDOW TREATMENTS FOR SLEEP
Blinds with a blackout lining are good for bedrooms and made to measure ones block out a good amount of light. But don’t expect these blinds to prevent any light leaking around the sides. In summer months they tend to move with the breeze of an open window. The new child safety fixings (which are a legal requirement) mean blinds don’t sit snugly against the wall as you might like.
If you want no light at all the best option is to pair with curtains, which stop any light coming in around the sides. Blackout linings on curtains will block much of the light that would otherwise creep through closed curtains. If you choose curtains remember light may escape at the top if you choose a pole. The best way to avoid this is to raise the pole higher, or have a pelmet or covered lathe. This example by Martin Hulbert Design is a great example of a combining both blinds and curtains with a covered lathe.
SELECTING A CURTAIN HEADING TO SUIT THE ROOM
A curtain’s heading is the way in which it’s attached to the pole or track, and it can have a big impact on the look of your curtains. Different curtain headings will create distinctive looks and the cost varies significantly depending on the choice you make. Below is my summary of the headings you could consider:
Triple pleat (also known as pinch pleats) –a classic choice and give a more tailored and elegant finish. They drape beautifully. They are pricier than other options, because they’re more labour-intensive to make
Double pleat – a good choice for a slightly more contemporary look. They work well for modern country interiors where you don’t wish to be too traditional, or go the other way and be too modern
Single pleat (also know as pencil pleats) – for a more informal look. A good option for kids bedrooms as they cost less to make
Cartridge pleat – a good choice for a modern feel and where you have limited space for stack backs. Again, these cost less to make than a triple pleat and require less fabric
Flop over frill/valance – for pretty traditional style country bedrooms
Goblets – very traditional and expensive to make. A good option for tall windows
Eyelet– these suit very modern interiors and tend to be ready made.
FINISHING TOUCHES AND TRIMS
Poles, pelmets and valances: I have already covered headings above. You will also need to make a choice between poles or covered lathes or pelmets. Poles add a textural interest to a room and make more of a statement. They are also good for heavier drapes. But bear in mind that you have to manually shut the curtains unless you invest in pricey corded poles.
If you’d prefer a quieter sophisticated feel then a covered lathe is a good option. You can have these on a corded track, which makes life a lot easier when closing them.
Pelmets have a traditional reputation but more modern shapes can look fantastic in rooms with high ceilings. I love this example by Veere Grenny which is a perfect example of a modern country style. Nothing about this feels old fashioned and the curtains make the room.
Trims: I am a huge fan of trims. Take this example by Clare Gaskins interiors (photo by Nick Smith). A simple and inexpensive fabric can look wonderful with a bold trim.
For curtains there are so many different options. If I was going to recommend one place for inspiration it would be Samuel and Son. Look at their inspiration gallery for some wonderful examples.
Curtain and blind making is an area I suggest is never saved on. Curtains and blinds are items you are unlikely to change for some time and use on a daily basis. Quality workmanship will ensure that these last and keep their shape. If you appoint a cheaper supplier you will inevitably end up with broken items, which end up needing replacing.
A quality curtain maker will also know what to do with uneven ceilings, ensuring that poles are fitted perfectly so your curtains evenly touch the floor. Take this example in this period house. The pole is perfectly fitted and copes with the wonky ceiling and beam detail perfectly.
If you wish to save money consider your fabric choices and type of curtains. For instance you can reduce your budget by selecting a single or cartridge pleat. Not only will the making up costs be less but also they require less fabric. You could also choose a less expensive fabric and add a trim instead.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article. If you would like help selecting curtains and blinds for your home do get in contact. If you are planning on starting an interior design project then I have also written articles on colour scheme ideas for a modern country home and modern country paint colours.