Identify the problems

For many of us a bay window curtain is a major problem. The secret of solving this is to think about your needs, and then think about available options - how you can fit schemes to your particular window construction.

It's best if you divide the problem into three stages.

  1. Stage one looks at practical considerations. For example, do you need privacy, or is too much sunlight coming into the room and fading the furniture and carpet?
  2. The second stage is to consider what window treatments you are able to use inside the bay itself.
  3. The third stage looks at the options for using curtains on the main wall on which the bay is situated.

Be practical

Don't think about designs and color at this stage, just consider a few practical points.


Do you need privacy? Can people outside easily see into your room (and you don't want them to)?

If you want to let in daylight but not prying eyes, then consider using voile or sheer curtains which hang permanently over the windows. You may sometimes want a clear view from your windows, in which case fit tracks so you can draw the voiles or sheers back when you need to.


Direct sunlight causing damage. It will fade your fabrics, carpets, rugs and upholstery. Prolonged exposure will make your fabrics rot, and ruin wood furniture, especially veneered finishes.

As with privacy, use Roller or Roman shades which you can raise and lower as necessary. Voiles and sheers are also useful, but need to be sufficiently heavy to withstand strong sunlight.

Using the space

Some bay windows are large enough to have furniture placed in them. If so, and you sit there in an easy chair or at a desk, some form of protection from direct sunlight or just bright light may be necessary.

Vertical blinds are a good choice, as you can adjust them to control the exact amount of light you choose to let in. This is particularly useful if you're using a computer screen.


drapes in bay

The bay - or bow - window in this photo is quite large, and adds a significant amount of space to the room. The solution for the window treatment is to use sill length curtains inset as shown. Because the window is relatively large, even though the curtains take up space when drawn back to the sides, there is enough free window to allow plenty of daylight through.


Bay window curtain - inside the bay

At this point you need to look at how the bay window is constructed. Certain factors will indicate which options are available to you as you decide on your bay window curtain.

If the windows reach up to the ceiling, then a valance or cornice box may not be suitable. This does of course depend on the size of the bay area; if your ceiling is high, then you may well have room for a top treatment. In some cases, it might even be advisable, so as to lower the perceived height.

If you do use a valance or cornice box, make sure you make it deep enough in proportion to the drop of your bay window curtain. If your ceiling is low and the windows finish just below it, the temptation is to make the top treatment too small so you don't cut out too much light. It's best to avoid using a top treatment altogether rather than making it too small.

A deep window sill or ledge may make floor length curtains impractical. If you do go for a floor length bay window curtain then make sure the bay is big enough so you can fit the track far enough in from the window so the curtains clear the ledge.

But be careful - if you bring the track in too far your bay window curtain will look detached from the window you're trying to dress! If in doubt, use curtains which finish just above the ledge.

If the windows cover all the bay (so there is no wall space on either side), even when the curtains are drawn back they will still cover a large section of the window.

In this case you may want to use Roman or Roller shades, or consider some of the options in the next section. Another alternative is to have your curtains tied back with an attractive hold-back or tie-back.

To enable your bay window curtain to hang clear of the windows, sheers, voiles, etc, make sure you get a track which can be fitted away from the window. You can either use long brackets (if available) or use top fix brackets (you fit the track to the ceiling).

Vertical shades can be a particular problem. A wide ledge is usually the best situation in which to use both vertical shades and curtains, as this gives space for both to function normally.

Your bay window may also have a door leading into the garden. Floor length curtains will be the most satisfactory option here, and they will close to cover the door.

However, if you can't have floor length curtains and you need to have some covering for the door, you may be able to attach a curtain to the door itself, perhaps tied back to secure it. If this isn't possible, then use a Roman or Roller shade instead.


Bay window curtain - on the main wall

There are two reasons why you may wish to have some sort of treatment around the bay area on the adjoining wall.

  • Sometimes you find that everything is working against you in your bay window - no space to fit anything, deep window ledge, ceiling too low, and so on. By placing some sort of treatment outside the bay you can detract from it and play down its deficiencies.
  • The other reason is that you simply want to make a nice feature of that part of the room and make it look more luxurious. So put some curtains on the main wall to act as a 'frame' for the bay area.

In many cases the ceiling of the bay window area is lower than the main room. If so, use a pole set across the bay, with a pair of dress or false curtains supported from the pole at either end. This is one situation where an elaborate pole can be used to good effect.

You could also use a cornice box, valance or swags if you want to make more of an impression.

Most bays are large enough to contain one or more items of furniture, such as a chair, desk or couch. To make sure the bay is included as part of the room, have your curtains tied back so the effect is to frame the bay area.

Don't forget to plan ahead with your color scheme if you use chairs, a couch or upholstered item in the bay area. It's easy to install a wonderful set of drapes and them realize that the couch you planned to use is completely the wrong color...!

If your bay window is quite shallow and doesn't have much room in it, another option is to forget about it altogether as regards curtains and treat it just like a normal window. Have a full set of curtains on the main wall which completely shut off the bay area when they are closed.

A variation on this idea is to use dress curtains, but have voile or sheer curtains closing behind the dress curtains. This way, you can still get the impression of the space provided by the bay.


There are many combinations you can use for your bay window curtain. By isolating the different needs and requirements you can make the most of the situation to enhance your room.




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