A Simple Guide to Curtains: Part 1
Updated: Feb 13
#buyingcurtains #homeinteriordesign #curtainguide
If you need help planning your curtains, you’ve come to the right place. Selecting suitable styles for your space can be challenging, as there’s lots to think about. Which length to buy or fabric to choose? Poles versus tracks? And there are so many different curtain headings, from eyelets to pleats and waves to pinches.
But don’t worry; we’re here to help with our two-part guide to planning your curtains. Part one focuses on planning, and part two on navigating the different types of headings, poles and tracks.
So, let’s look begin with a little planning.
Planning Your Curtains
As any interior designer will tell you, curtains make a room – but only when chosen correctly.
Selecting the right colour, fabric, and length are just a few of the many decisions that you need to make, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But jumping straight into buying something that you think will look right can lead to disappointment. The result might be ill-fitting curtains, tracks or poles that don’t work with the fabric or a look that’s less chic and more eek.
It's also worth looking at the room as a whole. If you are changing more than just the curtains, you’ll want to plan the furnishing, colour schemes, and window dressings at the same time. Planning the curtains as an afterthought is always much harder to get right.
Before you make any decisions, there are two crucial factors to consider – the look you want to
achieve and knowing what’s possible in your space. They will help you to decide the fabric you
choose, the type of curtain heading you pick and whether you plump for a track or pole to hang your curtains. It will also help you establish whether an off-the-shelf option will work or whether you’ll go for a custom-made solution.
Know the Look and Feel You Want
Always begin with the end in mind and know what you want to achieve. Are you looking for bold
statements or minimalist chic? Feelings of comfort and warmth or stylish statements that create impact and wow?
Here are some key factors to consider when deciding on the look you want to achieve.
Modern or traditional?
In general, poles play to a more traditional look, and tracks offer more minimalist and modern options. And don’t forget that tracks can offer automation, adding to their contemporary feel and versatility.
Curtain headings can instantly turn a modern design into a traditional one. If you’re aiming for a contemporary look, waves, single pleats, and inverted or box pleats are good choices.
And for more traditional designs, goblets and cottage pleats work well.
Warmth and light – in or out?
Generally speaking, because curtains on tracks are flusher to the window setting, they keep in more warmth and keep out more light than poles. And the smaller the brackets, the flusher the result.
Fabric choice comes into play depending on how important warmth and light are to you.
From thick velvet to sheer voile, there is plenty of options.
For warmth, we’d recommend thermal lining, and for blocking light, use a blackout lining. But remember, you will always see some light bleeding through the edges.
You might not know this, but curtains can also be interlined. Interlining sandwiches an extra layer of fabric between the fabric and back lining. It keeps in warmth and reduces noise whilst adding extra weight to help your curtains drape beautifully. If you like the sound of this option, you’ll need to remember that you can only use interlining on hand-finished curtains, as three layers are too bulky for machine stitching.
Where do you want the focus?
Choosing curtains on poles gives focus to the pole. There are many beautiful poles made from metals and wood and finials that can be as fancy or minimalist as you like.
Choosing tracks, on the other hand, give focus to the curtain. And by selecting a track, your curtains can go all the way to the ceiling, making the room look taller and the curtains more dramatic.
Know What’s Possible in Your Space
It goes without saying that you need to measure your space, but there are other factors to consider
when knowing what will work for your home.
Length and width
You can find curtains in a few standard lengths: 127cm, 183cm or 228cm. Outside of that, you’ll be looking at custom-made options. Take your measurements from where you want the bottom of the curtain to where the pole or track will sit. To make your windows appear wider and higher, add a few inches, or for them to sit just off the floor, take off half a centimetre.
You want your curtains wide enough to make an impact. Measure the width of your window and multiply by 2.2. For a more dramatic effect, multiply by 2.8. Ready-made curtains typically come in 112cm, 167cm or 228cm.
There is no right and wrong way to dress a bay window. And pole or track, most things are possible. You can find poles that bend to fit the bay, and track options include aluminium or plastic hand-bendable trackers and made-to-measure steel tracks.
When it comes to headers, the only types to avoid in bay windows are eyelet and tab-top curtains. These thread directly onto the pole, making it impossible to pull the curtains past any supporting brackets.
Bay windows are notoriously difficult to measure as you need the exact angles. It’s really a job for the experts, so speak to an interior designer or curtain specialist.
What spacing is there for tracks, poles and open curtains?
This is where a lot of people come unstuck. They haven’t measured the gap available between the top of the window and the ceiling. Or they don’t realise there won’t be enough space for a pole. You need enough space to install a pole 15cm from the top of the window frame. And for tracks, you’ll need 10-15cm to allow for the track and header.
Recessed curtain tracks are increasingly popular for their sleek and contemporary design. The track fits into a hollowed-out channel that’s been cut into the ceiling and needs to be considered in the build stage of a project. For a sleek minimal look, we’d recommend a flush white ceiling fixed track.
You need to allow enough space for your curtains to sit when they are fully open. This is called the stack back, and you need to ensure there’s at least 20cm on either side of the window for the stack back to sit on.
So, there we have it, an introduction to planning your curtains. These steps will give you a clearer
idea of what’s possible in your space and the look you want. You’ll know whether you are looking
at custom-made or off-the-shelf curtains and ones hung from a pole or track. And they’ll help to
avoid a wasted trip to the curtain shop, the disappointment of window dressings that don’t fit or a result that looks out of place.
We hope this introduction to planning your curtains has answered some burning questions and that you are excited about the next steps. But if you don’t know your pleats from your pinches or the best
fabric to choose for a track, don’t worry; next time, we’ll be covering:
How to pick the right heading
What to consider with a pole
What to consider with a track
How a professional can help Plan Your Curtains
Are you overwhelmed with your curtain planning? At Lauren Rose Interior Design, we offer a full
and flexible range of services that ensure your curtain choices work seamlessly with your interior
For more information about how we can transform your home, please take a look at our service list or contact us for an informal chat.