Draw the curtain on these common window covering faux pas and learn what to do instead.
Window treatments are one of the most influential decorative features of a room, but they should also fulfill a practical function. Whether providing privacy, light control, or thermal and acoustic insulation, curtains, blinds, and shades play an important role.
When it comes to choosing and hanging your window treatments, there are a few common mistakes designers say they see over and over. And since many window treatments can be costly, it’s worth getting them right the first time.
With this in mind, we sought out expert advice. Bradley Odom, founder and principal designer of Bradley Odom Interiors, and Davina Ogilvie, founder of the window treatment company Wovn Home, weigh in on people's most common mistakes when dressing windows—and how to fix them.
Related: 23 Modern Window Treatment Ideas
1. Hanging Curtains Too Close to the Window
Ogilvie explains that hanging curtains too close to a window is one of the most common mistakes people make. “Unfortunately, it’s all too common to see hardware installed directly over the top of the window frame,” she says. Hanging them so close to the window can make the room feel small and won’t do the window much justice either.
“Your safest bet is to follow the rule of 10,” she says. “Make sure to hang your curtains a minimum of 10 inches above the window top. This will result in a room that looks much taller and grander.” Another reliable rule is to fix the pole or track midway between the ceiling and the top of the window, a space also known as the ‘dead light.’
2. Choosing the Wrong Fabric
It’s easy to get lost in the joys of color and pattern when choosing a fabric for your window treatment, but the weight and material are equally important considerations in relation to the style of the window. “Choosing a fabric that is not too heavy and hangs well is key,” Ogilvie says. “Thick fabric will not pleat or hang easily, making the drapes look and feel very heavy. Opt for a lightweight fabric to avoid a drab or dark feel.” Lightweight cotton or a cotton mix usually works well for curtains with a lining and interlining to protect the fabric, provide extra weight and body, and block out light and cold draughts.
3. Prioritizing Aesthetics over Function
“I often see shoppers opting for a curtain style or lining without considering what purpose the drapery needs to serve in the space,” Ogilvie says. “It is crucial to consider this when beginning the process of choosing window treatments.” For example, blocking out light and privacy are key priorities in every bedroom. “A great solution for a bedroom is room darkening shades and sheer drapes,” she suggests. “The shades will give you a dark space to sleep while the sheer drapes will provide privacy during the day while still allowing the light in.”
“The more a space is used for utilitarian needs, the less you want an extensive amount of fabric,” Odom agrees. In general, curtains work best in bedrooms and living rooms because they have a lower footfall and lend a sense of luxury and softness. “To soften the hard surfaces of a kitchen or bathroom, Roman blinds are a good option,” Odom says.
Blinds and shutters are typically the most suitable window treatments in kitchens and bathrooms as they are exposed to moisture and fumes that may stain and absorb smells that are difficult to remove. Likewise, avoid hanging curtains in places with heavier footfall where drapes may be a nuisance and create a possible trip hazard.
4. Window Measuring Mishaps
“A huge mistake people often make is forgoing professional measuring,” Odom says. “Those trained in the craft of window treatments take any number of things into consideration—the width of the window, the rod length, and the size of the room and the wall on which it is going—that will ensure the window treatments look exactly as intended.” This becomes even more important when commissioning custom curtains as you can’t send them back, so you’re probably better off leaving it to the experts.
“While we want to make sure our drapes hit the floor, a common mistake I see is over-measuring, which results in a large puddle of fabric at the base of your drapes,” Ogilvie adds. The good news is this mistake can easily be resolved by taking your drapes to the tailor for a quick hem. “If you desire a puddle, you only need about five inches of additional length," she says.
5. Selecting Hardware That’s Too Narrow
People often forget to leave enough space for the curtains to stack back when drawn open. “As well as installing your hardware at least 10 inches above the top of your window, the track or pole should also extend 8-10 inches on either side of your window width,” Ogilvie says. You might have heard professionals talk about the ‘stack back.’ That’s just the space that the curtains take up on either side of the window when they are fully opened. Different headings and fabric weights take up more space than others, so it’s worth taking this into consideration before ordering your hardware.
6. Untrained Drapes
“Something that often takes people by surprise is the need to train your drapes,” Ogilvie says. “Training your drapes will ensure the panels will follow the pleat style throughout the fabric from top to bottom.” The best way to do this is by steaming your drapes and gathering the pleats in your hands, making sure the fabric follows suit. Then, tie the panel with a ribbon ¼ of the way from the bottom and let it sit for 48 hours. Weighting your drapes and shades on the bottom hem will further ensure they fall correctly and add a luxurious weightiness when pulling them closed.
7. Choosing Impractical Blind Mechanisms
“Opening and closing your shade is something you will do every day, so make your life easier and pick the right control for you and your family,” Ogilvie says. “From cord lock to cordless or motorized, there are a range of options to fit your space and your budget.” Motorized blinds allow for easy operation at the touch of a button and can even be automated when you go away. Manually operating roller blinds are usually installed with a spring or sidewinder mechanism, while Romans tend to have a pull cord. Blind cords are a strangulation hazard for young children and pets, so always make sure they are installed with the appropriate child safety devices. Whichever option you choose, “be sure to think about function first to guide your choice,” Ogilvie says.
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