Curtain Advice

Window treatments are not scary.  They are not a big commitment, they are relatively easy to hang (and remove), and they do not have to be very expensive, although they certainly can be if you want them to be.  But, for some reason, many people seem to be paralyzed by window decor so they don't put anything up, they leave up whatever is already there, or they put up something like a sheet or towel.  In my opinion, window treatments really make a room look finished and lived in. 

Here are a few tips on window treatments. 

1)  Gather your ideas.  Look at decorating magazines, books, and websites for window treatment ideas.  You can often recreate a "look" that you like for less money. 
2)  Don't be snobby.  You can often get great looking window treatments for rock-bottom prices.  No one is going to look at the labels (and if they do, don't invite them over again!).  You may love the look of Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, and custom draperies, but you can often find the same look at about one-fifth of the price at big box chain stores like Target, Walmart, Lowes, and Home Depot.  You should also check out Amazon, Ikea, JC Penney (my personal secret weapon), Sears, and Kohls because you never know what you'll find.  Drapes that have a lining of some sort will be fuller and more dramatic.  I have found most of my curtain rods at JC Penney or at Ross stores. 

3)  Buy in bulk (and return).  When you shop, buy several different versions that might work.  If you have a lot of windows to treat, then maybe just buy one of several different options and bring them home.  You'll never know what's going to work until you get it into your room.  You can hang them on existing hardware (even if you plan to change it) just to get an idea of what will work.  If you don't have hardware, use small thumbtacks (or a willing partner!) to hold them up.  Return what doesn't work.

4)  Measure, measure, measure.  Don't assume you know the sizes of your windows - MEASURE.  Most drapes come in 84" lengths but if you have a newer home or a very old home, you probably need 95" lengths (or more) to take advantage of higher ceilings. 

5)  Hanging tips.  Hang your drapes as high as possible (a few inches from the ceiling ideally) and outside of the window frame.  Hanging them high gives a more dramatic feeling and makes your windows seem larger and your ceiling seem higher.  Hanging them outside of your window makes the windows seem larger but also maximizes the light that comes in because your drapes aren't hanging over the window itself.  DO NOT HANG YOUR DRAPERY HARDWARE ON THE WINDOW FRAME.  This is a major pet peeve of mine and it does nothing for your windows or your room overall.  I like to hang roller shades (used for black-out purposes under other shades in my kids' rooms) and cellular shades inside the window frame so as not to obscure the beautiful moldings we have.

6)  Layer it upLayering types of window treatments will give you a higher end look although it doesn't have to cost a fortune.  In our house, I hung cordless cellular shades cordless light filtering single cellular shades in several bedrooms and bathrooms which are great for privacy, but added drapes and/or valances to really finish the look.  I also have woven shades in several rooms, with drapery over them. 

7)  Take small bitesYou don't have to do everything at once, and you will most likely be overwhelmed if you do.  If you just moved into a new house, prioritize the bathrooms and bedrooms where privacy is key.  If you cannot decide on drapes, see if you can find shades, roman shades, or sheers to be the first layer and then build out from there to find the right top layer or layers. 

8) Reuse and repurpose.  What are you going to do with the old window treatments when you move into a new home?  Often, you can reuse many window treatments in your new home (if you still like them that is).  It may take a little rethinking and some reworking though.  If your new windows are not as tall, then it may mean hemming your drapes which, especially if they are unlined, is not a hard process and will probably take about 20 minutes per panel.  If your new windows are taller, take out the hem and lengthen them a bit.  What used to hang in your old bedroom, may be perfect for your new dining room.  In our house, we reused shades from our old master in our new guest room.

9)  Think abot the whole space.  If you have an open floor plan, then consider how the window treatments are going to relate to each other.  In our house, the valances in the master bathroom match the curtains in the bedroom, and both rooms have the same cordless cellular shades.  Our liviing room and dining room have the same exact drapes and drapery rods.

10)  Custom options.  Custom draperies won't necessarily break the bank, and may be the answer if you are desperate.  JC Penney has a custom design service where they come to your home and measure, and come back and hang them for you.  It's definitley not cheap, but it's generally going to be less expensive than using a big-time interior design service.  If you don't mind shopping for fabric deals (on fabric store bargain tables or online), you can find great stuff and then check the yellow pages (or ask friends) for seamstress recommendations who can make your curtains for you, or sew them yourself if you are so inclined.  Note - the latter route may be harder if you have a lot of large windows that need to be the same. 

11)  It's not permanent.  When it comes to window treatments, very little is permanent.  If you find something that you like better, then don't be afraid to take down what you have and replace it.  It's not necessarily inexpensive to do this, but maybe you will like what you took down in another room better - two birds with one stone.

12)  Have fun.  Curtains don't always have to be white or beige.  Mix it up with patterns and color, and you'll have a more decorated look.  If you do go for white or beige curtains, consider a woven shade or a patterned roman shade underneath.

Let me know if you have other tips for window treatments, and where you have found some of your favorites!