Curtains, blinds or both? Here’s how to pick window treatments

Sometimes, it's as simple as no treatment at all

Published August 2, 2022 6:45PM (EDT)

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

This story first appeared on Food52, an online community that gives you everything you need for a happier kitchen and home – that means tested recipes, a shop full of beautiful products, a cooking hotline, and everything in between!

If there's one thing to remember when outfitting a room, it isn't that you need a cozy sofa and an appropriately-sized area rug. You also don't have to keep reminding yourself to add a variety of light sources and verdant plants. These important details aren't necessarily going to slip your mind, but this sole component might: Choosing the right window treatments.

"We ask a lot from our windows," says Nicholas Potts, an architect based in Washington, D.C. "There are times when lighting has to be controlled in certain ways, and other times when treatments are unnecessary."

Interior designer Alvin Wayne agrees. "Window treatments aren't created equally," he adds. "But generally, you want to be consistent when it comes to window covering — pick one length in a room and stick with it." After making so many other more attention-grabbing choices to pull a space together, it's common to let the intricacies around window treatments fall by the wayside. But don't rush through this decision, since the right ones can complement and enhance your design while also providing necessary function.

Here are some tips to consider as you rightfully weigh different window treatments for your home, according to Potts and Wayne. Keep their advice top of mind, so when this is a detail to consider, you'll know what to do.

1. First, Decide How Much Light You Want

If we all could have a say in the matter, then there's a good chance that every window in every home would be perfectly placed to admire the view and let in an ideal amount of light. But since plenty of us are not in this enviable position, then Potts says that the next best thing is working well with what you've got. First, determine how much light the window provides and if that's either too much or too little for the space.

"In bedrooms, the biggest contender is its general orientation: a south- or east-facing room is going to need a heavier treatment, particularly if the occupants like to sleep in," he says. "While in a bathroom, there's little need to screen out light but usually a need to screen out views. So it's an opportunity to look at translucent materials or even films, things that won't cause mold."

If you're in need of some privacy during the day but want to let light in, opt for a semi sheer white curtain. And if you want a bit more privacy at night or light-blocking during the day, you can add another, weightier drape as well, like above.

2. Next, check window placement

From there, take note of any architectural features that could use the right window treatment as a clever sidekick. "Since I'm almost always doing something with the molding around windows when I'm working in a space, I'm not usually inclined to hide it with a bunch of layers of fabric," Potts says, recommending roller shades for this instance. And don't worry if there isn't anything decorative to potentially disguise. That just means that your window likely needs a fabric to help it stand out.

3. Keep it consistent

"My general philosophy on window treatments is that less is more," Potts says. When choosing colors and textures, he likes to go with materials that "harmonize" with the other pieces in the room — and patterns that tend to be on a smaller scale. Wayne echoes this opinion, noting that choosing complementary and neutral colors is best. "In a living and dining room, you can't go wrong with cotton or linen," Wayne adds. "For a bathroom and kitchen, it's a good idea to go with wooden blinds or roman shades." As you choose the weight of a material, look around to see if any artwork or furniture could be altered by too much sun and adjust accordingly.

Above, the double Roman shades in this office nook are both tidy (because they match) and whimsical (because of their shape).

4. Or, use windows as a statement piece

Potts does note that there are exceptions to this minimalistic take. For one instance, a stark room may need a textured window treatment to get some much-needed contrast. And for another, a bedroom may need some stylish help in resisting the morning sun. "Plush fabrics can be a unique way of doing a blackout shade," he says. "I just did a project with velvet roller shades in a bedroom, in the same color as the walls, and they're amazing at totally screening out the exterior environment while still feeling luxurious."

5. Be sure to size things just right

When it comes to hanging window treatments correctly, Wayne and Potts also agree that doing so makes a big difference in creating the desired look. "An inset shade should just fit the frame," Potts says. "Roller and roman shades should never be mounted to the outside of the window." Drapes, since they're used so often, come with equally easy-to-follow advice. "Your drapes should always kiss the floor," Wayne says. And they should be hung to span the full length of the wall in the process. Ensuring that you take the extra step to find the proper size treatment will make your home look more custom, put together, and well thought out.

These gauzy drapes above span the entire width of the French doors, and hang from the ceiling to the floor, elongating the windows and making the space feel larger.

6. Opt to skip the treatment altogether

Now for a detail that may be surprising: "Window treatments aren't always obligatory," Potts says. He makes this call particularly for kitchens, which have panes that can usually handle going bare.

"The kitchen is one room where overlighting isn't typically a problem, and it's also a room that's not sensitive to privacy," he says. "I always recommend to my clients that they try things out without window treatments in their kitchens, and nobody has ever come back asking for them."

Since there are so many different types of windows in the above room, skipping treatments altogether keeps the room feeling consistent, as well as lets the unique window shapes take center stage.

By Kelly Dawson

MORE FROM Kelly Dawson

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Blinds Curtains Decor Food52 Home Interior Design Windows