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What is the rule for buying curtains?

When looking to buy new curtains, there are a few key rules to follow in order to choose the right window treatments for your home. Factors like size, material, color, and style should be considered to find curtains that fit your windows properly, match your existing decor, provide the right amount of light filtering, and meet your functional needs. Following curtains buying guidelines will help streamline the selection process.

What is the rule for buying curtains?

Measure Windows Properly for Curtains

One of the most important rules for buying curtains is to first measure your windows accurately. This ensures you purchase curtains that will fit properly without major alterations. Here are tips for measuring windows for curtains:

  • Use a steel tape measure for accuracy. Do not rely on guessing or approximation of window sizes.
  • Measure the total width and height of the window frame from inside edge to inside edge when determining curtain rod length needed. For height, measure from the top of the window frame to where you want the curtains to stop.
  • Note if your windows are standard rectangular windows or have unique shapes. This affects panel width needed.
  • Account for any clearance around the window frame you want curtains to have when closed. Generally 2-3 inches on each side is recommended.
  • For grommet top curtains, measure the width of the pole they will hang on, not the window frame itself.

Accurate window measurements for curtains ensures no surprises and a proper tailored fit once your new curtains are hung.

Choose Appropriate Curtain Length

Curtain length is both an aesthetic choice and functional consideration when buying window curtains. Follow these general rules:

  • For standard height windows, choose curtains that puddle on the floor slightly or just graze the floor. This helps draw the eye down and make ceilings appear higher.
  • For shorter windows, opt for sill length curtains that stop at or just above the window sill itself. Going too long here can make windows seem squat.
  • Consider room use for length needs too. In kitchens and baths opt for shorter curtains that won’t drag or get dirty as easily.
  • Take into account existing trim or obstructions around window areas when choosing curtain lengths as well. Measure precisely to ensure curtains will hang properly.

Getting the length right balances style and functionality when buying curtains.

Select Suitable Curtain Style

When selecting a curtain style, consider both your decor needs and window type:

Decor Styles

  • Casual Decor: For relaxed styles, chose breezy, natural fabrics like cotton, linen, or hemp. Opt for casual patterns and textures.
  • Formal Decor: Look for fabrics like faux silk, velvet, damask to match sophisticated room schemes. Choose panels with elegant repeated patterns and pleating.
  • Modern Decor: Try solid colors in sleek, flowing fabrics like faux silk or satin for contemporary flair. Layer with textured sheer panels.

Window Styles

  • Small Windows: Use a single panel, tab top curtains mounted close to frame or add sleek horizontal blinds.
  • Large Windows: Long, flowing floor-length curtains make a dramatic statement.
  • French Doors: Layer swag valance over panels overlapping in the middle when closed.
  • Arched Windows: Look for A-line curtain panels with rod pockets rather than grommets. Use draped swags.

When available, buy matching swags, valances and tiebacks to complete the window treatment.

Following basic style guidelines ensures your new curtains fit both your windows and room decor properly.

Choose Appropriate Curtain Fabrics

Fabric type is another top consideration when buying curtains. Follow this general fabric guideline for curtains:

  • Light Filtration: Sheers and lace let light in but offer privacy. Light filtering fabrics like voile, muslin and linen are good for daytime sleeping areas.
  • Room Darkening: Need full blackout? Opt for tightly woven fabrics, blackout curtain linings or dual layered curtains.
  • Durability: In high traffic areas look for durable natural fabrics like cotton, linen or polyester blends that resist staining.
  • Kid & Pet Friendly: For children’s rooms and homes with pets, stain resisting machine washable durable fabrics are a must.
  • Formal Areas: Rich fabrics like faux silk, velvet, damask, help create an elegant atmosphere.
  • Moist Areas: In baths and basements look for mold/mildew resistant polyester, nylon or treated natural fiber fabrics.

Following fabric guidelines for your needs ensures long-lasting, functional curtains.

Select Appropriate Curtain Colors

Curtain color choice impacts both aesthetics and functionality. Use these tips when selecting curtain colors:

  • Match Exiting Scheme: Choose curtain panel colors that coordinate with your wall colors, furniture woods, and accent pieces for a cohesive flow.
  • Neutral Backdrop: Natural linen, cream or beige curtains help walls “pop” rather than compete visually.
  • Contrast Trim: Use rated dark curtains on light walls or vice versa for dramatic effect. Contrast the header valance or use trims bindings for added interest.
  • Mood Lighting: Light filtering ivory or white curtains give daytime brightness. Bold hues like ruby or navy create mood.
  • Hide Dirt: Dirt hides better on darker colors. But dark curtains also block more light.
  • Kid Friendly: For kid’s rooms opt for easily cleaned darker patterns over light staining pale solids. Consider durable blackout fabrics to encourage good sleep habits.

Choosing coordinated shades that suit the room use helps curtains enhance both style and function.

Factor In Your Budget for Curtains

Setting a curtain budget helps narrow down opening price points and materials to focus your selection search. Here are average curtains costs to assist:

  • Low Budget ($20-60): Opt for discount stores and sales for these curtains. Choose polyester blends over more expensive natural fibers. Consider readymade sizes verses custom measurements.
  • Mid-Range ($60-150): Look for a balance of value and quality with better woven natural cotton, linens, bamboo and faux silks. Semi-custom sizing available. Shop specialty stores for sales.
  • High-End ($150+): These are investment pieces for focal windows made from the finest materials like silk, linen, velvets in custom sizes. Expect heirloom quality construction.

Once your budget is set, it’s easier to zero in on opening price points and fabrics to filter options.

Using these key rules as decision guidelines when buying curtains helps simplify the selection process while maximizing both aesthetics and functionality. Taking accurate window measurements, choosing appropriate lengths, styles and fabrics, and factoring in color schemes and budgets allows you to pick the perfect custom or readymade curtains for your home.

Key Takeaways When Buying Curtains

  • Measure windows carefully from inside frame to inside frame. Standard heights are 84 inches to 108 inches long.
  • Choose curtain lengths based on aesthetic goals and room use. Consider potential dirt and pet damage.
  • Style should complement both window type and decor. Be cohesive with color schemes and accessories.
  • Fabric is a balance of durability, light control and budget. Kids rooms need durable blackout options.
  • Coordinate curtain color with wall colors. Set brightness and mood lighting goals.
  • Budget for investment pieces from higher end suppliers vs discount fabric savings.

Using these essential tips as a decision checklist helps simplify buying process.


Finding the right curtains that fit properly, match decor, and meet functional needs comes down to following the golden rules when buying window treatments. Carefully measuring windows, mapping out design goals, setting budgets and fabric priorities help focus the selection process while avoiding costly ordering mistakes. Whether going custom or readymade, using the right measuring and planning methods allows you to dress your windows with beautiful, functional curtains.

Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. What size curtains do I need?
    Choose curtains about 2-3 inches wider than the total window frame width on each side when closed. For length measure from top of frame to where you want curtains to stop. Standard lengths range from 84-108 inches long.

  2. How many curtain panels do I need per window?
    It depends on the width of your window. A good rule of thumb is to divide the total width by 36. So a 72 inch window would use 2 panels at 36 inches wide each. Allow for some stacking and overlap when closed.

  3. What curtains go with my decor?
    Choose curtain fabrics and trims that coordinate with your existing color scheme, furniture wood tones and accent pieces. Be cohesive. Look at metallic chains, decorative finials and other accessories to tie in style across room.

  4. What fabric is best for curtains in high traffic areas?
    Durability is key for high traffic window treatments. Look for tightly woven natural fabrics like cotton, linen blends. Polyester blends also resist staining while still draping well.

  5. What fabric provides the best light control?
    For maximum light control, choose closely woven fabrics in darker colors on dual curtain rods to create thick layered panels when closed. Adding separate blackout lining provides further light filtration for sensitive sleep spaces like nurseries and bedrooms.

  6. Do I need a curtain liner?
    Liners help control light and airflow from windows. Consider adding them to help curtains maintain shape, provide further insulation and allow easier cleaning while protecting curtain fabric itself.

  7. What are the best curtains for a kid’s room?
    Durability and easy cleaning are essential for kids rooms. Look for machine washable blackout fabrics in fun patterns to encourage healthy sleep habits. Darker colors hide stains best. Avoid delicate sheers prone to grabby fingers.

  8. What are good curtains for a kitchen?
    Kitchens need durable, machine washable fabrics in medium to dark colors that won’t show grease stains. Shorter cafe length curtains covering just window frames keep fabrics out of cooking mess zones. Look for mold/mildew resistant materials in humid areas.

  9. What curtains are good for bathrooms?
    Bathrooms need moisture resistant fabrics that withstand steam. Polyester blends and treated natural fibers resist mildew and laundering. Coordinate colors with towels and accessories. Keep lengths short, at window height or sill length.

  10. What are the best readymade curtain sizes?
    Common readymade curtain panel dimensions range from 40 inches wide to 54 inches wide in varying length lengths from 60 inches up to 120 inches long. Measure the total window frame width and height when ordering ready-mades for the best fit.

  11. What curtains go on a patio door?
    Layering is key for wide sliding patio doors. Use floor length sheers with matching opaque panels on double rods for adjustable privacy and light control. Swag valances mounted at the header add further styling.

  12. Should curtains match the walls or decor?
    Curtain color should coordinate with wall colors and overall room decor instead of fully matching. If using prints or patterns choose subordinate schemes vs competing central focal point looks.

  13. Why are my curtains not wide enough?
    Check that you ordered panels about 2 to 3 inches wider than the total window frame width, not just the glass pane alone. Hookless curtains mounted on slim poles need more width for clean gathering while grommets work better stacked narrowly inside the frame itself.

  14. How do I shorten curtains that are too long?
    For minor length adjustments allowing curtains to just graze floor, use hem tape turned up and secured with an iron set to synthetic fabric temperatures. For major shortening, create a new hand stitched bottom folded hem sealed with seam binding.

  15. What is a good price for custom curtains?
    On average, custom curtains range from $60 per panel on the lower end using discounted fabrics up to $150+ per panel for top tier bespoke designs using high end decorator fabrics and trims. Price also depends on overall window sizes in question.

  16. Where can I buy affordable curtains?
    Check big box stores like Target and Walmart for readymade panels under $25 in polyester blends. Watch for sales. JCPenney and Kohl’s also offer Values collections. For custom panels on a budget, try online retailers like Wayfair and Zulily for under $60 per panel.

  17. What are the best blackout curtains?
    For maximum light blockage, choose closely woven 100% polyester or poly/cotton blends in dark colors. Lining curtains with additional blackout fabric or installing them on double rods helps. Top blackout brands include Eclipse, NICETOWN and Jubilee Homestyle’s.

  18. Where should curtain rods be mounted?
    Mount horizontal full length rods as close to ceiling as possible. Center between windows with 3-4 inches framing each outer edge. Place ends 6-12 inches beyond window frames depending on style allowing panels to fully cover when closed.

  19. Do I need special curtains for bay windows?
    Bay windows need layered corner to corner curtain panels crossing in the middle. Specialty bay rods with curved extenders mount inner panels while outer panels hang on side mounted standard rods.

  20. Can curtains be cleaned?
    Check fabric care instructions. Many machine washable polyester and cotton/poly blends can be laundered on gentle cycles. Dry clean only silks, velvets and delicate sheers prone to water marking. Infrequent spot clean or surface vacuum between deep cleanings.

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