Valeria Crescenzi

Curtains 101: how to choose your perfect curtains

Fabrics seem to be THE topic for this October. I have recently talked about fabrics that are perfect for Autumn during an Instagram Live; one of my ongoing projects finally got new, custom curtains… so no wonder if I want to talk about curtains, right?

From my experience in decorating homes, I learned that curtains are often a tricky aspect. And usually, people end up choosing white curtains ‘to make no mistakes’. Well, there are many options out there but before choosing a curtain, there are some basic principles and concepts to keep in mind.

See this post as a 101 guide to curtains and if you’ll need extra advice, I’d be happy to be of help.

First things first: what kind of window treatment does your room need?

The very first step before choosing curtains is figuring out what your room requires

Do you need privacy? Do you need to keep light out (for example in a bedroom)? Or do you need curtains only for decorative purposes? Asking yourself those questions will help you make the first selection between curtains, drapes, blinds, and shades. I prepared a short glossary to help you figure out the difference between all of them (and which one you need).


  • Curtains (1) – are fabric panels that hang across a window or opening to make a room or part of a room dark or private. They can be hung on rods or tracks depending on the function and style you want to achieve.
  • Drapes or blackout curtains (2) – are made from thicker fabrics than curtains and are lined to block out natural light. They mostly come in solid colors and cover the area from the top of the window to the floor.
  • Shades (3) – are pieces of stiff cloth or heavy paper that you can pull down over a window as a covering. They can be lifted with a cord, roller or lifting mechanism. Shades are usually custom-made to perfectly fit the window.
  • Blinds (4) – are generally made of materials such as wood, PVC, aluminium, or bamboo and can be lifted or rolled upwards or sideways.


Image via Pinterest


Photo courtesy of


Image via Bambula Blog


Image via The Shade Store

Choosing the fabrics

Once you got your room requirements clear, you can focus on the fabrics’ choice. Each material comes with its set of characteristics both in terms of functionality and style and, as a general rule of thumbs, heavier, opaque fabrics keep out more light than lighter and sheer ones.

Cotton fabrics are the way to go if you want a good amount of light shining through the window while velvet, heavy microfiber, or polyester are better options for blackout curtains. Some of these fabrics also play a role in balancing the temperature of the room or the noise so ask for advice before buying a specific fabric.

Within each fabric option, you also have a lot to choose from in terms of colors and patterns. Going bold or keeping it simple is just a matter of your taste and room design. Easier said than done, right? Maybe an interior decorator can help 😉

Photo courtesy of Dedar

EXTRA TIP: there are “low-maintenance” and “high-maintenance” fabrics. For example, cotton curtains are part of the first category: they are washing machine friendly and it’s enough to wash them twice per year. Silk or wool curtains need more attention and ask for dry cleaning to keep their shape and pleats. So when choosing your new curtains also keep in mind the practical care aspects of having certain fabrics instead of others.

Picking the right hardware

Step 3 of my Curtains 101 guide is all about choosing the mounting technique.

Do you want to mount curtains inside or outside the window frame? Do you prefer rods or tracks? Do you want the hardware to be visible or not? These questions are not trivial and they will also even affect how you take measures.

Let’s break down the main types of curtain hardware

  • Curtain rods: are generally round poles made of wood, steel, acrylic, or aluminum. Available in different colors and diameters are suitable for curtains, loops, and eyelets. Among curtain rods, you can find locking rods: they don’t need you to make holes in the walls and go directly on the window frame.

Benefits of curtains rods: highly decorative and go with almost any type of curtain headings; they can be bent in case you have peculiar window frames.

  • Curtain tracks: generally made of aluminum, they offer a more discrete, contemporary alternative. They use an internal tracking system with either glides or carriers to attach the curtain.

Benefits of curtain tracks: compatible with most curtain headings except eyelet curtains; are ideal for rooms with large windows, bi-fold, or sliding doors. Curtain tracks can be easily bent to suit your desired angles. Curtain tracks are also a very good option in case you want to use curtains as room dividers >> Have a look at these beautiful partitioning ideas without building walls.

Measure for success

If you have read this far, you know that now it’s time to take measurements. How do you do it? Grab a measuring tape and consider another couple of things before measuring. Are you going to mount the curtains inside or outside the window frame?

If you go for an outside mount, which is the most common option and gives you the illusion of a larger window, the curtains should be as wide as the interior of the window or slightly wider.

If you decide on inside mounting, means that you install the curtains inside the window frame. This option is usually preferred when you want to highlight the window structure.


Curtain rods or tracks are usually hung about 15cm above the window and are 15-20 cm wider on each side. Remember to measure the length of the rail or rod (between the finials), not the window. Then double the total width to ensure enough curtain fullness.


Measure the drop from the top of your curtain pole or track if you are going to buy curtains with eyelets or tab top. For pencil or pinch pleat or wave headings, measure from either the top of the track or the bottom of the rings on a pole.

The length of your curtains depends on the final style you want to achieve. There are 4 main options:

  • Window sill – this size reaches to the top of the window sill. It’s a lenght that works best for kitchen curtains and for small windows.
  • Apron curtains â€“ usually hang 10-15cm below the window frame.
  • Floor curtains â€“ Probably the most common lenght, these are curtains that dust the floor. This is the lenght to go for living rooms and dining rooms.
  • Puddle curtains â€“ Curtains that reach down to the floor with some remaining fabric puddling at the bottom. If you have kids or pets this is probably not the best curtains lenght for you to choose but you can definitely go for this style for your bedroom, pairing a lighter fabric with a thicker one.

TIP: floors, curtain boards, and ceilings aren’t always completely flat. Therefore, measure the height in three different spots and take the average.

Now that we covered all the practical aspects of choosing your perfect curtains, I think you are now craving some visual inspiration. I gathered some beautiful photos showing you all the main types of window treatments: curtains, drapes, shades, and blinds. Enjoy!


Image courtesy of Creation Baumann

Photo courtesy of (from left to right): La fabbrica del lino // Kvadrat

Photo courtesy La Redoute
Photo courtesy of VillaNova
Photo courtesy of Kvadrat
Photo courtesy of Creation Baumann

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