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Design

One Tiny Change: 26 Rooms Where Curtains Made All The Difference

Can curtains REALLY change the entire look and feel of an entire room? That’s what I found myself wondering this week as I attempted (and failed, for the record) to select window treatments for my soon-to-be pink living room (!!). Like, sure, we all know that the correct placement and length and width of your curtains will make your windows look better – here’s a refresher on those rules, if you need it – but can a single curtain panel actually take your design from “wow, this looks pretty good” to “holy crap, this is phenomenal?”

At first, I was a little skeptical – I mean, a pretty room is a pretty room, you know? Does it really matter if the curtains are gray or purple if they ~go~ with the rest of the space? And, well, spoiler alert: IT DOES MATTER. When I looked more closely at what made certain rooms sing, or what made homes feel finished or polished or well designed…well, y’all, it was the window treatments, EVERY SINGLE TIME. Sometimes it was the color (or the lack of color); sometimes it was the proportion; sometimes it was the pattern – but every time, the curtains were the piece that cemented each room’s look and feel. Can I show you what I mean? (This first example is my favorite.)

Bring In Some Color

The bones of these rooms? Incredibly similar. Both are located in Hollywood, both have green lacquered walls, both have lots of brass with hits of black and classic glam elements (veined marble on the left and leopard on the right – my favorites!).

The feel of each room, though, couldn’t be more different. The gray curtains on the left feel a little more masculine and formal, while the magenta window coverings on the right leave this lobby feeling cheery and open. With a few easy (and affordable!) styling swaps, you could totally change the look and feel of each one of these spaces. NEAT, RIGHT???

Here are two more examples of single-color, high contrast curtains that totally transform each of these rooms. A monochrome look in either space would have fallen a little flat, don’t you think? The contrast feels intentional and bold and special – it’s a little detail that adds SO much. (Speaking of little details, check out that copper curtain rod on the left. BIG swoon.)

You may recognize that shot on the left – this house tour went very viral – but do you see how Frances Merrill, the mastermind behind Reath Design, continued to play with tonal curtain panels throughout the entirety of this California home? It’s a fun and fresh idea if you’re looking to add a LOT of visual interest without layering in a ton of busy or competing patterns.

Take your hand and cover up the yellow curtain on the left for a second. The room feels a lot colder and a little darker, right? Opting for a bright yellow curtain and adding those warm, saturated pillows makes ALL the difference in the world. On the right, a bold pop of orange velvet brings a lot of vibrance and youth to this otherwise-traditional nursery.

Keep It Simple

design by jett projects | photo by christian harder | via elle decor

If pops of color aren’t your thing, that’s okay! Quiet and tonal curtains can be total showstoppers, too. If you’re looking to draw attention to a view, consider opting for window treatments that are a near-match for your wall color – do you see how your eyes are drawn straight to the windows and to the view outside when everything else in the home lives within a tightly restrained color palette?

design by jett projects | photo by christian harder | via elle decor

Who DOESN’T want to take a nap in here? It’s like an adult version of a nursery – so restful and calming and serene. The weight of these curtains, in particular, is so lovely – they have the perfect level of light-filtering ability, don’t you think? A velvet in here would have weighed down the space and made an already-narrow space feel a little claustrophobic. Keep your materials AND colors in mind, gang!

design by edel legaspi | photo by roger davies | via architectural digest

Keeping it simple doesn’t necessarily always mean going all-tonal, though. See how the ombré curtains above work to blend the shades of several pieces in this room? An all-white curtain in here may have felt a little boring, but a pattern would have taken away from the quiet sophistication – this light-to-dark faded drape was the right choice to keep things interesting.

Play With Proportion

I KNOW. You came in here with a full knowledge of the rules of curtains and now I’m here to tell you that soooometimes, it’s kind of fun to experiment with breaking those rules. EEP.

Case in point: both of these rooms were completed by Reath Design, and I am really taken with the different approaches they took to outfitting two sets of arched windows. On the left, you see a more traditional rod placement paired with a fun, cropped curtain. On the right, though, we have a traditional length with a less-traditional placement, which allowed room for some modern sconces on either side of the window. It’s cool to take chances and play with your design!!!

design by wesley moon | photo by pernille loof | via architectural digest

LONG LIVE THE CAFE CURTAIN. I think a lot of folks would have opted for roman shades here, but this little curtain adds SO much charm while drawing your eye straight to those painted grilles. (Personal update: I was eyeing romans for my kitchen, but this shot alone swayed me to look into something smaller that only covers the bottom half of my windows. It’d be quaint and sweet, which feels like a perfect match for my lemon-printed wallpaper!)

Okay, okay – I know this is a restaurant, but LOOK HOW COOL THIS CURTAIN PLACEMENT IS. It’s a tiny piece of fabric that creates such a sense of space and place around each booth – could you do anything similar in your home?

design by linehouse | via sfgirlbybay

One more from a restaurant – I know, I know – but sometimes, it’s fun to look for inspiration outside of homes. These above-booth curtains create such a sense of privacy without sacrificing light or aesthetics. Maybe this will inspire you in some way, too 🙂

Opt for Some Pattern

design by reath design | photo by laure joliet | via architectural digest

Alright – we’re wrapping it up with my favorite section and kicking it off with one of my favorite photos: it’s time to POWER CLASH, baby. This is another room from the viral multicolor-curtain home that we peeked at earlier and it’s a masterclass in mixing and matching (the tiny print on the rug! The medium scale wallpaper! The large block print on the window treatments!). Let this be today’s reminder that Em’s classic advice of “pretty looks good next to pretty” is, well, PRETTY SPOT ON. Bring on the pattern!!! You got it!!

I adore Matilda Goad’s home for, uh, about a BILLION different reasons…but her use of window treatments is pretty high up there on the list, TBH. I love how the stripe breaks up those long curtains on the right (and this could be a GREAT idea if you need to extend the length of some drapes you already have – attach a different fabric at the bottom!). And on the left, man – that bold cabana stripe makes SUCH A DIFFERENCE. Seriously – cover it up with your hand – it’s the finishing element that makes this room feel fresh and new.

design by charlap hyman & herrero | photo by laure joliet | via architectural digest

A little extra? Yes. VERY fun? HELL YES. It’s not totally uncommon to match your wallpaper and your window treatments – it’s actually super common in more traditional homes – but this version, with a storybook print and custom bed and leopard carpet, is really exciting and one-of-a-kind. (That said, you don’t have to try this only with wallpaper – do you think you could achieve a similar effect with paint?)

Pattern can be a little subtler, too. First off – both of these rooms are in the same home and I love how cohesive they feel, despite the variation in color palette and architecture. Second off – a big part of said cohesion is owed in part to these simple horizontal-stripe curtains, which bring a hit of visual interest while weaving a common thread through each space.

design by meta coleman | photo by rett peek | via domino

How freakin’ HOME-Y does this feel? It’s designed, but it’s also lived in and cozy and un-intimidating. (Like, you’d feel comfortable eating a snack in here, you know?) The big patterns in this room are pulled towards the front of the shot – the plaid piano bench, the striped ottoman, the gingham chair – and the curtains in the background provide a great balance for those strong patterns in the foreground. The layering of wooden roman shades is really really lovely, too.

Primary color shades, partially painted wall, bold hits of color – is this my new favorite bathroom formula? While I actually think that both of these spaces would look just as great with a solid shade (who am I?!), the bold stripe adds something dynamic to each space – it’s the perfect finishing touch that makes it feel ~designed~.

design by meta coleman | photo by rett peek | via domino

Last but not least – this is one of my favorite room reveals of 2022. Everything in here is incredible – the palette! The rug! The deep sectional! The wicker stool! The casegoods! That patchwork chair! – but those gridded curtains are the icing on the freakin’ cake. They speak to the other colors and patterns in the room; they add quiet interest; they bring depth and warmth. (The rod placement is perfect, too.) It’s a nice reminder that pattern doesn’t always mean in-your-face – sometimes it can just be a liiiiiittle something that makes your home feel polished and considered.

So, uh, WHAT SAY YOU? Let’s talk about our window treatment woes and wins, yeah??? xx

Opening Image Credits: Design by Meta Coleman | Photo by Rett Peek | via Domino

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Erin Dae
2 months ago

Fun Friday read! Thanks for featuring lots of different styles, great food for thought on how to translate to a real life space.

Susan
2 months ago

Now I’m eyeing my curtains and wheels are turning

aaaagggghhhhh! this is the kind of post i look at all day because i keep coming back to it, like it’s too good that i have to take breaks. soooooo much good stuff here. yes to curtains making a room. that meta coleman lead photo sucked me in. i’ve seen this before, but it’s like it’s new every time i look at it. just so much to look at! and it’s all good. sigh. love that chair in the reath design picture. the jetts project room 10000% makes me want to nap in there. it just screams dreamy summer afternoon nap. the edel legaspi living room shot is my ABSOLUTE favorite of all of these. yes, love the ombre curtains. that whole room is just too too good. the pink with that shearling is yum. the wesley moon dining room/nook is eeeek! that light fixture. i’m obsessed with it. the wallpaper. the cafe curtain. the beautiful pitcher full of flowers. that chair. the high curtains plus amazing light fixtures in the studio gram restaurant are perfect. the linehouse restaurant: the upholstered benches!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and the light fixture + coved ceiling are so so good together. okay. the second reath design room……… Read more »

🥰 Rusty
2 months ago

Lovely, so……you like it then?? LOL🤣🤣

Reply to  🥰 Rusty

that obvious, huh? 🙂

🥰 Rusty
2 months ago

😊

Christine
2 months ago

Yay, a curtains post! I have a question that has hexed me for years: My house has big beautiful windows, including bay windows in the front (it’s a Victorian-style rowhouse). The challenge is, there are radiators in front of all of them! Right now I have long puddled curtains that just kind of hang around the radiators, but I don’t know if there’s a better option. I could do something shorter that hangs ABOVE the radiators but I feel like that will cut the wall off and take away from some of the grandiosity of it all. Any examples or suggestions? Love the post, thank you!

🥰 Rusty
2 months ago
Reply to  Christine

We don’t have radiators in our himes in Australia, but soooo many people have begged for this solution, I really hope EHD does a solution post for you guys! 🤞🤞🤞
I imagine it’d be a really tricky situation, unless you liked half-length curtains – another thing rarely done in Australia.

Bre
2 months ago
Reply to  Christine

I feel like you need a double system, your long puddled curtains with a more functional, simple roman shade behind.

Elizabeth
2 months ago
Reply to  Bre

This is what I have done, but instead of a roman shade I just use a roller shade. I only pull it down for a few hours in the morning in the summer when the sun is beating in. I also put a shelf over the radiator.

Shelly
2 months ago
Reply to  Christine

I have a similar situation with the radiators under my windows.
I have a double curtain rod, with long curtains that touch the floor that stays open most of the time on one rod, and on the other rod I have curtains that reach just a hair above my radiators and those get opened and closed on a daily basis. The shorter curtains are lighter weight and lighter in color than the long ones.
I do this because I live in an old house in New England, but if I lived in a place where the temps were warmer all year round then I would do the long curtains with the shades like the other commenters suggested.

Juanita
2 months ago

“Like, you’d feel comfortable eating a snack in here” LOL. Caitlin I love you! And the photos in this post are gorgeous.

🥰 Rusty
2 months ago

So much eye candy!
Great post, Caitlin.👍

A lot of this 70’s mixed with 90’s vibe is waaay off my aesthetic, but it’s fun, quizzical and entertaining to view it through the eyes of the next generation! 🤗
‘Fresh….new…” nope! But, nonetheless, interesting to look at and hear how others experience it.

Like, really….the posts have improved in writing standard lately, yaaay!

Lucy
2 months ago

This is great. I love curtains, pictures of cool design, and Caitlin!

Kira
2 months ago

I would looooove a post with advice for how to go through the process of hanging things in different materials. I just bought a house with plaster walls after having drywall all my life! How do I do this? What if I had brick – how would I hang curtains then?

kim
2 months ago
Reply to  Kira

Drill, baby, drill!

🥰 Rusty
2 months ago
Reply to  Kira

Drilled holes with rawl plugs in them, screws to hang from.
Most houses in Western Australia are double brick exterior walls with single brick interior, so that’s the way we roll!
It makes you think very, very carefully, before you hang anything.

Cris S.
2 months ago

Every time curtains come up I think I jump on the comments to let people know you can make these! You need a $200 sewing machine and the patience to watch some youtube videos, but otherwise curtains are a matter of straight lines and attention to detail. Well, and a lot of floor space while stitching fabric, lining, and interlining together. But I put up with cheap curtains I was unhappy with for over a decade at our last house and in the new one I swore I was going to have really nice ones, that as you say, were an asset to the rooms. I had the most rudimentary sewing machine skills from my mom, watched lots of videos, haunted fabric.com (now owned by Amazon so some of the great sale deals have disappeared but it’s still pretty good) and 1502fabrics.com for a fabric I loved and then bought LOTS of it (I wanted full length pinch pleat full curtains like in this post’s heading photo and even at $12 a yard it adds up) – three times the window’s width for each panel. You do need to invest in solid curtain rods and rings for the weight (I… Read more »

Living Room Curtains1.jpg
Cris S.
2 months ago
Reply to  Cris S.

Here are the kitchen curtains – instead of contrasting trim tape these have more toned/matching trip tape. People tend to gravitate to one philosophy or the other.

Kitchen Curtains2.jpg
Sylvie
2 months ago
Reply to  Cris S.

Beautiful job!

Elizabeth
2 months ago
Reply to  Cris S.

Yes, make your own curtains! I’ve also used sheets, they come in a nice weight. you get a large amount of fabric without having to sew panels together and they hang nicely. You don’t always have to line them and can use clip on curtain rings. It’s as simple or detailed as you want to go.

elle
2 months ago
Reply to  Cris S.

beautifully done, Cris! Yes, making drapes is possible. It is easy for me to get overwhelmed by fabric choices, but you have done a masterful job. Kudos to you!

🥰 Rusty
2 months ago
Reply to  Cris S.

Fabulous stuff!!! 🤗

Lane
2 months ago
Reply to  Cris S.

It looks beautiful!

Georgia
2 months ago
Reply to  Cris S.

Stunning! Most fabrics are only 50-60″ wide. How do you make them look so full? Do you stitch multiple panels together?

🥰 Rusty
2 months ago
Reply to  Georgia

Yup!

Cris S.
2 months ago
Reply to  Georgia

I did! The kitchen curtains are three 54” panels sewn together, which is why clearing space to lay everything out is so helpful.

Lisa
2 months ago

I know I am in the minority, but I absolutely hate curtains hung between the window top and the ceiling. It looks like you were uncertain how to do it and just guessed at a placement. It is much more pleasing to my eye to be at the top of the window molding or where the wall meets the ceiling, but in between looks kinda sad to me. When did this trend start?

Siel
2 months ago
Reply to  Lisa

It started when designer started telling everyone it makes your ceiling look taller. Which it most of the time does. But I also agree that it looks a little ridiculous when the gap is too wide. I’m not a fan of the curtain placement of the last photo, but in the others it was ok for me.

Lucy
2 months ago
Reply to  Lisa

Yeah it reads to me like a “hack” to make small windows seem bigger. If you actually have nice-sized windows and tall ceilings, I think the curtains should relate to the window casings not a random point on the wall.

Lane
2 months ago
Reply to  Lisa

It might look weird sometimes, but those 84″ curtains hung from the window casing looks even worse. I prefer a 2/3rds split, either 1/3 of the distance from the top or closer to the curtain rod.) In 8ft ceilings homes, closer to the top is typically better. When window coverings take up more space it looks more refined and creates better proportions for the room. The only exception might be where homes have significant architectural details like lots build in bookcases or benches. In those cases fabric shades might look proportional and adequate. For most of us curtains will provide better proportions. Now, when it comes to how wide to hang curtains will depend on window width. You need enough panels to cover the entire window without it looking tight or flat. When you gather the fabric on the sides, most people will prefer it doesn’t cover up the light and the view. So you’ll want the fabric to be just slightly covering the edges. It does make the window appear slightly bigger, but it is how it should be. There will be exceptions when you actually have huge windows and you don’t mind covering up that light or view.

Erin
2 months ago

Seriously dope round-up Caitlin! Love the variety of different styles and your groupings are excellent. Thank you for this going into the weekend, much needed. And what is this treatment on the walls and ceiling on the first green Ricky Strauss room?? It looks like a bar in a pond, underwater-so cool!

KD
2 months ago

100% fan of curtains. And I, too, have swooned over those same Meta Coleman rooms!

LouAnn
2 months ago

I need a support group for people who hate curtains. 🙂 I would have to see all of these rooms without curtains to determine if they really “made all the difference.” For me, in most of these rooms, the only window treatments I like are the shades. I would donate most of these dust-collecting curtains. Lol.

Diane
2 months ago
Reply to  LouAnn

I’m with you, LouAnn. If you just subtract out the draperies in these rooms, then yes, the decor may look out of whack. But if a room is intentionally designed with minimal window coverings, then an interesting conversation of colors, textures, and patterns can be introduced through other elements. I personally prefer for my windowns to maximize sunlight and minimize dust collectors, so I am definitely on your no-curtains team!

2 months ago

Excellent post, Caitlin! Next to paint, window treatments make the most impact on your space. They soften the room and can add texture, color and pattern. These are great examples of how to do this. Whether you DIY them or get custom drapery or shades uniquely designed and made for you, they will add another level to your home and make it feel special.

Kitty
2 months ago

Great post!! Loved the idea of adding a different fabric at the bottom to add visual interest and how the striped curtains bring continuty in the home with different colored walls.

annie
2 months ago

What a great roundup of curtains. Thinking about them for my home and this has been inspiring. Also, learned about some new designers. Thanks a bunch!

Lane
2 months ago

Curtains are things that can be changed seasonally. You can have thicker fabrics for winter and more breezy fabrics for summer. As long as they work with a room’s palette and their dimensions are right, there’s no need to take it too seriously.

2 months ago

Thanks for this great read! I’ve fallen in love with a group that focuses on curtains here in NYC called Queens Design Team. The changes they create with the addition of curtains is amazing insta is @qdt3000

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