Choosing the right window treatments can transform the look and feel of a room. However, with so many options to choose from, it can be tricky to know where to start. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to get your window treatments right.

Measure Your Windows Properly

The first step is to measure your windows accurately. This will ensure you get window treatments that fit properly and look proportional in the space. Here’s how to measure:

  • Measure the width from outside edge to outside edge across the top, middle, and bottom of the window frame. Use the widest measurement.
  • For the length, measure from the top of the window frame to where you want the treatments to end. Common lengths are sill length (to the window sill), apron length (just below the apron), and floor length.
  • Write down all measurements, including any that aren’t standard sizes. This will be helpful when ordering custom treatments.
  • Measure each window individually, even if they look the same size. Windows can differ slightly in old homes.

Having the precise window measurements will make the process of choosing, buying, and installing window treatments much easier.

Choose Appropriate Window Treatments

With measurements in hand, now you can explore window treatment options. Consider the following factors to select the best treatments for each room:


Think about how much privacy you want. Bathrooms and bedrooms often require more privacy. Consider:

  • Sheers and curtains: Provide minimal privacy but allow light in. Best for rooms that don’t need total coverage.
  • Roman shades: Offer more privacy while still letting in some light when raised. A good option for bedrooms and living spaces.
  • Roller shades: Give full privacy when lowered. Best for bedrooms, home offices, and media rooms.
  • Shutters: Fully private when closed. Ideal for bedrooms, bathrooms, and other private spaces.

Light Control

Assess your light control needs. Do you need a dark space for sleeping or watching TV? Or do you want to filter and soften incoming light? Consider:

  • Sheers: Soften and filter daylight but don’t block it out. Great for living rooms and kitchens.
  • Light-filtering shades: Reduce glare and UV rays while still allowing visibility and light. Good for offices and family rooms.
  • Room-darkening shades: Block out almost all light for media rooms, nurseries, and bedrooms. Opt for blackout liners or shades.
  • Shutters and blinds: Regulate incoming light based on how they are positioned. Give the most flexibility room to room.


If heat gain or loss is an issue, select window treatments that provide insulation:

  • Honeycomb shades trap air in their cellular construction to add insulation.
  • Pelmets placed above curtains reflect heat away from windows in summer.
  • Thermal curtains with a blackout lining add a layer of warmth in winter.
  • Shutters act as an extra barrier against drafts when closed.

Noise Reduction

Block outdoor noise by absorbing sound. Look for:

  • Insulated glass if replacing windows. Multi-paned windows better block noise.
  • Blackout curtains that are tightly woven and lined. The heavy fabric muffles sound.
  • Honeycomb shades with cellular layers to absorb noise.
  • Shutters seal tightly when closed to dampen outside noise.

Style & Design

Choose treatments that align with your interior decor. Consider:

  • Color: Does the window treatment need to match paint, upholstery or other colors in the room?
  • Pattern: Small patterns recede while bold patterns make a statement. Overall room decor and personal taste determine what works best.
  • Texture: Add visual interest with textures like sheer vs. linen or embroidered vs. smooth.
  • Shape: Arched windows suit arched treatments. Tall windows look best with long, sweeping treatments.
  • Style: Formal rooms may need tailored roman shades or pleated drapes while casual spaces can get away with relaxed linen curtains.

Ease of Use

Look at functional factors like how the treatments will operate:

  • Cordless: Best for homes with pets or young kids to avoid dangling cords.
  • Motorized: Allow remote or voice control of shades and blinds. Helpful if windows are hard to reach.
  • Sheer: Light and easy to open/close by hand. Suitable for frequently used curtains.
  • Valances: Partial treatments that decorate the top of windows while leaving lower areas uncovered. Quick and easy.


Window treatments range widely in price. Set a budget and prioritize where to splurge or save:

  • DIY kits are the most budget-friendly option if you like hands-on projects.
  • Ready-made curtains and blinds cost less than custom treatments. Good for standard windows.
  • Custom drapes and shades made to fit offer quality materials and exact fit. Worth the investment for prominent or oddly-shaped windows.
  • Motorization adds convenience but also expense. Only motorize hard-to-reach windows or if automation is a priority.
  • Professional installation ensures proper fitting but isn’t necessary for DIYers with good measuring and handiwork skills.

Popular Styles of Window Treatments

Now that you know what factors to consider, here are some popular styles of window treatments to choose from:


Curtains are a classic, versatile choice available in a range of fabrics, colors, and styles.

  • Rod pocket curtains: Slide directly onto a curtain rod. Often the most affordable option.
  • Back tab curtains: Secured with tabs in back for a tidy appearance in front. Require tie-back hooks for holding open.
  • Grommet curtains: Rings or grommets at the top provide a clean, modern look. Easily slide onto a rod.
  • Pinch pleat curtains: Pleated at the top with pinch clips to attach to rods. Achieve a luxurious draped effect.
  • Ruffle curtains: A ruffled heading adds playful charm. Pair with back tab or rod pocket panels.

Use lined curtains for better light blocking. Layer sheers behind heavier curtains to filter light during the day.


Blinds neatly cover windows and are easy to raise, lower, and tilt to control light. Consider:

  • Venetian blinds: Horizontal slats tilt and raise/lower. Made of wood, faux wood, or aluminum.
  • Mini blinds: Narrow slats offer sleekness. Vinyl or aluminum materials.
  • Vertical blinds: Long, narrow vanes hang vertically and rotate open/closed. Great for wide windows.
  • Cellular shades: Honeycomb layered fabric traps air to insulate. Softly diffuses light when closed.
  • Roller shades: Roll up and down on a cylinder. Available in room darkening and light filtering fabrics.
  • Roman shades: Gather into soft folds when raised. Made from woven woods, faux wood, or fabrics.

Blinds work well in formal and contemporary spaces. Opt for cordless blinds or add cleats to keep cords out of reach of children and pets.


Shades neatly cover windows and are easy to raise, lower, and tilt to control light. Consider:

  • Roller shades: Roll up and down on a cylinder. Available in room darkening and light filtering fabrics.
  • Roman shades: Gather into soft folds when raised. Made from woven woods, faux wood, or fabrics.
  • Bamboo shades: Made of natural reeds; diffuse light softly. Provide a casual, natural look.
  • Cellular shades: Honeycomb layered fabric traps air to insulate. Softly diffuses light when closed.
  • Woven wood shades: Add texture with these shades made of natural reeds, grasses or wood veneers.

Shades complement casual, cottage, and contemporary rooms. Layer them behind curtains for added control of light and privacy.


Valances are decorative panels that cover the top portion of windows. They camouflage hardware and add style.

  • Flat valances: Simple rectangular style. Can be attached to a cornice board.
  • Shaped valances: Scalloped, curved, or pointed for added flair.
  • Swag valances: Gathered fabric creates graceful draping. Requires medallion anchors above window.
  • Jabot valances: Ruffled or scarf-like overlays for a romantic look.
  • Tiered valances: Multiple stepped layers, often seen in dining rooms.

Valances complement traditional and romantic decors. Use them alone or layered with curtains, shades or blinds.


Draperies are made from lush, pleated fabrics that puddle on the floor for a formal, elegant look.

  • Ripplefold drapes: Small, tight accordion-like pleats. Offer a sleek, contemporary style.
  • Pinch pleat drapes: Pleats individually pinched and clipped for soft, billowy fullness.
  • Cartridge pleat drapes: Small rounded pleats secured neatly in place. Crisp and formal.
  • Butterfly pleat drapes: Deep inverted pleats spread widely when opened. Have a luxurious effect.
  • Goblet pleat drapes: Pleats shaped like flowers on a goblet. Provide neat, stylish shaping.

Use drapes in formal living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms and offices. Layer with sheer under-curtains to filter incoming daylight.

Special Considerations for Different Windows

Beyond basic style factors, tailor your window treatments to the specific window type and architecture in a space.

Large Windows

Extra wide and tall windows call for appropriately scaled treatments.

  • Extend rod several inches past window edges to accommodate width.
  • Utilize floor length treatments at a proper proportional length to match the window height.
  • Add multiple panels for very wide treatments rather than having one giant panel.
  • Layer treatments such as a cornice and curtains to provide adequate coverage for tall windows.

Small Windows

It can be tricky finding window treatments for petite windows, but a few adjustments can help:

  • Avoid massive treatments that overwhelm the window. Simple cafe curtains or mini blinds keep things proportional.
  • Mount the rod wider than the window to visually expand the width.
  • Use a long vertical treatment like a floor length roman shade to draw the eye up, creating the illusion of height.
  • Add architectural details like trim around the window to add presence.

Arched Windows

Accentuate the unique shape of arched windows with tailored treatments:

  • Use rod pockets at the top so curtains smoothly follow the arch rather than a rigid rod.
  • Choose pleated curtains to highlight the arched shape when drawn closed.
  • Install a contoured valance that follows the exact arch shape.
  • Get custom blinds or shades designed specifically for arched windows.

Bay Windows

Bay windows with angled sides require creative solutions:

  • Use multiple, separate rods with mitered corners sized for the angles.
  • Hang rod pocket curtains from the apex at top so the fabric falls smoothly with the angles.
  • Install individual shades or blinds in each section sized to fit.
  • Use a cornice box with mitered corners around the bay window perimeter.

French Doors

Bring harmony to French door treatments:

  • Utilize the same style, fabric and color of treatments on both doors to create symmetry.
  • Add side panels that cover the door jambs for a polished look.
  • Mount the rod wide so the treatments frame the doors when open.
  • Choose wide panels or dual panels so the treatments cover the doors when closed.


Though positioned high up, skylights deserve proper treatment too:

  • Suspend long curtains from the ceiling at least 6-12 inches above the skylight.
  • Install a sleek roller shade or honeycomb blind in the skylight frame to control light and glare.
  • Use remote control shades for hard-to-reach skylight treatments.
  • Layer sheers behind other treatments to still allow light through.

Choose Hardware to Match Your Style

The hardware you choose to hang your window treatments will impact the overall look. Select hardware that coordinates with the room’s decor and treatment style.

Rod Types

Consider the style of rod and optimal mounting placement:

  • Tension rods: Easy to install but only for lightweight curtains.
  • Wood rods: Best for traditional curtains. Mount high near molding.
  • Decorative metal rods: Often ornate designs. Draw attention when mounted wider than window.
  • Curved rods: Right shape for bay windows. Mount at apex.

Rod Length

Proper rod length prevents sagging:

  • Inside mount: Rod should be 2-3 inches wider than the window frame.
  • Outside mount: Rod should be 4-6 inches wider than the window frame.

Rod Mounting Height

Follow these guidelines:

  • Apron height: Mount rod just below the window’s apron. Around 7-8 inches above the window.
  • Below ceiling: Hang just under the ceiling for a streamlined contemporary look.
  • Above window: For floor length curtains, mount rod 6-12 inches above window top.
  • Equal divisions: Divides space equally between top of window and ceiling. Provides good proportions.


Ornate finials on the rod ends accentuate many traditional styles:

  • Ball finials are round finial balls that come in many sizes.
  • Teardrop finials extend in a point.
  • Spear finials have an elongated spear shape.
  • Leaf finials mimic shapes of leaves and vines.
  • Crystal finials have an elegant, sparkling effect.

DIY vs. Professional Installation

Installing window treatments is straightforward for DIYers with basic skills. However, consider hiring a professional for:

  • Specialty treatments: Motorized, remote control, and skylight treatments often require wiring and programing.
  • Tedious handling: Extra long, heavy drapes and curtains can be extremely difficult to hang and properly pleat on your own.
  • Perfect execution: When investing in expensive custom window treatments or working in a formal room, it’s sometimes worth paying for expert precision.

DIY Installation Tips

If you want to DIY, follow these tips:

  • Use a stud finder and secure into studs wherever possible. Use wall anchors for drywall.
  • Level the rod carefully and measure evenly spaced mounting brackets.
  • Refer to manufacturer instructions for how high and wide to mount specific shades and blinds.
  • For curtains and drapes, hang panels at least 2 inches wider than the window width to allow clean folds.
  • Steam panels and use weights or hem tape for clean hanging.

Take your time and don’t be afraid to get creative in making even tricky windows properly dressed!

Care and Maintenance

Follow these tips and your window treatments will maintain their beauty over time:

  • Vacuum panels, valances, and shades regularly using a soft brush attachment.
  • Spot clean stains on curtains, drapes and roman shades immediately using a mild soap and water solution on a soft sponge or towel.
  • Check curtains, drapes and other fabrics for sun damage. Rotate panels seasonally if needed.
  • Wipe wood blinds and bamboo shades with a slightly damp cloth when dusty.
  • Clean vinyl or aluminum mini blinds by fully immersing in a tub of warm water with a small amount of mild detergent. Rinse, drain, and hang to dry.
  • Repair loose hems or seams promptly to keep treatments looking crisp.
  • Consider professional cleaning for delicate, heavily soiled, or heirloom fabrics. Dry clean drapes and curtains annually.

With the right selection, installation and care, your custom window treatments will not only enhance the aesthetic of your home but also stand the test of time. Use this guide to demystify the process and get your window treatments right with beautiful results!

Frequently Asked Questions

How high should you hang curtains from the ceiling?

Ideally, curtains should be hung so the rod is about 2-3 inches above the window frame for inside mount rods, and 4-6 inches above for outside mount rods. For floor length curtains, mount the rod 6-12 inches above the window top.

Should curtains touch the floor?

Curtains that just graze the floor create a clean, elegant line. However, puddling curtains an extra 1-2 inches on the floor adds a more formal, luxurious effect. Just avoid excessive puddling which can cause tripping.

What is the most popular window treatment?

Curtains likely remain the most popular choice due to the wide variety of styles from casual to formal. But shades and blinds have gained favor for their functionality of easily controlling privacy and light.

Should curtains match the walls?

It’s not mandatory but often looks best if curtains coordinate with wall color. Contrasting shades can work with some decors, but avoid clashing colors. neutrals and earth tones are easy to match.

How wide should curtains be?

For proper coverage when closed, panels should each be about 1.5x the window’s width. Allow 50% overlap in the middle. Wider panels when open will frame the window nicely.


Getting your window treatments right comes down to accurately measuring your windows, choosing styles suited to the room, and properly installing and