Most rooms will benefit from some sort of curtain design at the windows to provide softness and decoration.

If you're looking for a simpler modern style then you may decide to leave your window as it is, but even then the window may be enhanced by using shades or blinds.

The Historical Perspective

The golden age of curtain design was the nineteenth century. Any house which was considered respectable would have had over curtains, under curtains, shades and/or shutters, together with a valance or cornice box (pelmet).

An alternative way was to drape fabric on a substantial pole with heavy rings and ornate finials. Fringes and tie backs were also common, with many of the fringes quite elaborate.

With the changes in taste, style, finance and window size a whole range of design options is available to us today. The elaborate treatments as described above are still used for formal rooms in large houses. But curtains can still make all the difference to a room if they are carefully and tastefully installed.


Linings and Interlinings

If you're using sheer or lightweight fabrics then you'll probably use the fabric on its own.

Otherwise it is advisable to use a lining when making up your curtains. They'll hang better, and also look better from outside.

If you are using a thin fabric, or you just want your curtains to look fuller and richer, then use an interlining as well. This is a thick, fluffy lining which makes your curtains seem fuller and thicker, and also helps to insulate your room.


dining room drapes

Curtains can be as simple as you like, or imposing as in this illustration. Dining rooms can be great rooms to indulge in elaborate window treatments.


How to choose your curtain design

What sort of finish do you want?

Simple or elaborate? Note that modern treatments tend to be simple (for example, single metal pole with integral track and plain curtains), while traditional ones can be more elaborate (heavy interlined curtains with fringe on the edges, with draped swags and tails).

Remember to choose a design which is in keeping with your room style. So if you have a Victorian house, then you'll be safe if you base your window designs on Victorian ideas. Thick heavy poles were often used, or curtains with fabric draped along the top, such as drapes and side tails.

If your room is contemporary (such as minimalist) then a plain track can be used, or a metal pole (brushed steel or aluminum is common) with matching finials (ends).

Make your own or buy complete?

Whatever our financial situation none of us like to spend more than is necessary. So when it comes to curtains, should you make them yourself to save money, buy ready made ones, or employ a professional to do it for you?


You could go this route if you're confident about sewing and using a sewing machine, and if the design isn't too complicated. If the curtain design you plan to use is quite simple it's certainly something you could do yourself. Even if you have no experience, it's not difficult, and there are many excellent books available to show you how to do it.

If you don't like sewing, or don't have the confidence - or time - to make your own, then perhaps it's best to look at the alternatives. If the design is complex, then it could be outside your capabilities. Don't underestimate the necessary knowledge and skills needed for elaborate curtain design.

You can buy curtains already made up in local stores or online. The available designs will be basic ones, perhaps extending to supplying curtains with matching valances in various shapes.

One thing to make sure of is that you follow their measuring advice exactly. Get one detail wrong, and your new curtains won't fit.

The range of fabrics available will be limited, so don't expect to be able to select any fabric you want. For that, you'll need to find a company - probably local - who will make up your own fabric to your specification. If you want to go this far, you're probably best looking at the next option...

If you want a complex design, or elaborate curtains with rolled edges and interlining for example, then you'll save yourself a lot of time and frustration by using the services of a professional curtain maker or designer.

Not only will they be able to execute the work to a high standard, but they will also be able to identify any problems you may not have anticipated. You may think their quotes are expensive, but they won't be nearly as expensive as if you undertake the work yourself and make a complete mess of it!

Often you'll find a professional can also advise you on ways of achieving your objectives in ways you hadn't considered, and these can work out less expensive.



long drapes

This is an ideal situation where a metal curtain pole can be used. There is limited space above the window frame, and a black metal pole fits well with the age and washed walls of the room. The fittings for this type of pole or rod don't take up much room. There are no embellishments to the curtain design, just a band of red below the top of the heading.


You can find practical advice here on what types of curtains to use in different situations.

Poles and curtain tracks have specific uses - this page will show you when and where to use them.

Top treatments, such as valances and cornice boxes (pelmets) may be just the thing you need.



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