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Affordable Readymade Curtains and Shades That Will Make Your Home Feel (And Look) Better

I have a bit of a history when it comes to waiting “too long” to hang curtains. For some reason, I don’t prioritize them (as long as privacy isn’t an issue) and I’ve learned that’s ALWAYS a mistake. I am never not instantly taken aback by how much they change a room for the better. I’m talking INSTANT elevation, INSTANT coziness, INSTANT “I look like I have my life together”. But I know that depending on how many windows are in need of dressing, it can really add up. I’m sure this news is news to no one. So unless you have windows that require a custom route, let’s get into some window treatments that will take it easier on your wallet.

Neutral Curtains

design by jess bunge | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: moto reveal: jess’ living room

First, let’s start with a very fun fact. The curtains in the opening photo, the photo above (my old apartment), and the two side-by-side photos below all have different curtains from IKEA. Look at how they all frame and bring a calming softness to each room. I doubt anyone would guess that they were from IKEA and for that we are IKEA neutral-colored curtain fans at EHD for lyfe.

Another reason why these look higher end is because of how they are hung. The rod is hung at 2/3 the distance between the window and ceiling. AKA GO HIGH! Unless you have a special situation where your rod must be hung closer to the top of the window, it will always look better and make your ceiling feel taller. We promise. Here is a post dedicated to how to hang curtains if you want some more guidance:)

design by rosa beltran | styled by velinda hellen | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: the new design rules

Now, let’s get into why a neutral curtain color might be best for you.

  1. It’s a great option if you want to keep things soft and minimal. A no-fail tone if you will.
  2. It’s also great if you want to play with bolder colors in your furniture and decor but don’t want to go all out in the color department.
  3. It’s Timeless. Never goes out of style.

But remember that “white” isn’t your only neutral-toned option. You can go with more of a cream or tan or taupe to add some visual depth (like Rosa did in her bedroom above). You can even go with a soft gray to cool things down. So just because “neutral” isn’t as flashy as something “colorful” doesn’t mean it’s boring. Here are a few of our top picks!

1. Natural Tan Basketweave II Curtain Panel | 2. RITVA | 3. Light Filtering Farrah Curtain Panel | 4. Light Filtering Linen Curtain Panel | 5. Bodulf Solid Max Blackout Thermal Rod Pocket Single Curtain Panel | 6. Linen Curtain

One thing I will say about neutral curtains is that you need to be aware of the “see-throughness” of it all. Look, you might not need privacy so a curtain on the sheerer side might be perfect. Also, the sheerer typically equals less expensive so keep that in mind as you shop. If you are someone who wants light-colored curtains but needs to block out the morning sun, something like #5 is a great option!

Colorful Solid Curtains

design by jess bunge | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | styled by emily edith bowser | from: moto reveal! how jess made her wfh office/living room totally multifunctional

I figured I’d start with my living room/office since “pre pink curtains” I was a white curtain gal through and through. So while my pink curtains are custom by Decorview (because of my beautiful but not in the least bit standard turret window), I think the journey to choose a colorful solid color might be helpful for those on the fence. Basically, my initial instinct was to go white or slightly off-white. That way I could bring in any color I wanted and wouldn’t have to worry about clashing with a color or pattern. But when I hung my IKEA curtains up temporarily, they looked sad and visual got lost in the turret. So I needed a color that popped more and made the room feel happier. That’s why I chose the pink. It’s still slightly neutral but brings a ton of life to the space.

design by sarah zachary | styled by emily edith bowser | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a historic mid-century modern home that was completely brought back to life

But let’s say you want to go bolder! More color! More contrast! Let me reintroduce you to Sarah Zachary’s design. Those saturated golden rust-colored curtains are STUNNING! I love that bold warm contrast to the green wallpaper and bright blue sofa but then look how they complement the wood tones. So good. And while these are also custom you can easily take this idea and implement it with a more budget-friendly option.

design by william hunter collective | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | styled by velinda hellenerik kenneth staalbergemily edith bowser, and julie rose  | from: reveal alert: the color trend we’re very into (that you’ll love too)

Now choosing a colorful curtain doesn’t mean you automatically want a bunch of colors in one room. Maybe you want to go for a tonal design like William Hunter Collective wanted in the photo above. So if you want color but for it to still be calm for the ole eyeballs, this is a cool and fun option.

1. SANELA | 2. Alaina Curtain | 3. Room Darkening Heathered Thermal Curtain Panel | 4. Forest Green Linen Curtain Panel | 5. Luster Velvet Curtain | 6. SILVERLÖNN

I love all of these colors. I know that Arlyn has #1 and loves them. #2 is very close to my curtain color so clearly, I’m a fan. Oh and look at how similar in color #5 is to Sarah’s design?!

Another EHD tip is to stay away from grommet curtains. You know the ones with the metal ring around where the rod goes. Look, if you already own them there is nothing wrong with them. But if you are in the market, pocket rod curtains or curtains you can hang rings with tend to look less readymade and more custom.

Neutral Curtains With A Little Detail

photo by tessa neustadt | from: staging my dream parisian hotel suite with sothebys

So maybe you want a neutral curtain but a neutral curtain with a dash of fun on the side. I’ve got you. Now, you always have the option for a fun and easy DIY like Ginny did with the white curtains with the black pom trim above. Those are actually plain white IKEA curtains (told you we were fans) with an iron-on black pom trim. Had the curtains remained plain white they would have gotten lost against that big beautiful window. So it was a genius idea to add the trim for some contrast and playfulness!

But if you are NOT a DIYer then fear not because there are a ton of great options (like Erik’s curtains above) to give you that neutral look with a twist. Come and see!

1. Modest Windowpane Plaid Curtain Panel | 2. ALVINE SPETS | 3. Light Filtering Stitched Edge Curtain Panel | 4. Light Filtering Lace Trim Curtain Panel | 5. Windowpane Plaid Curtain Panel | 6. Light Filtering Marlow Velvet Trim Curtain Panel | 7. Stencil Vine 100% Cotton Floral Room Darkening Single Curtain Panel | 8. Light Filtering Global Border Curtain Panel | 9. Cotton Canvas Bomu Curtains

Some are playful with a printed pattern like #1, #5, and #7 while with others, the fabric itself is a pattern like #2 and #4. But I love love the subtle pop of color on #6 and the color/pattern combo of #8🙂

Bold Patterned Curtains

design by lea johnson | photo by erin francois | from: tour a stylist’s mid-century-meets-traditional “farmhouse” full of thrifted treasures

Another fun (or maybe not so fun depending on your design preference) fact, EHD isn’t known for our use of patterned curtains…trust me I looked and there were only a few. I think it comes from being more of wallpaper/colorful paint people. That’s not to say you can’t be a patterned curtain/wallpaper/colorful paint person! Many are and it’s awesome. Plus, the beauty of readymade patterned curtains is that you can return them if they end up not working out. Not as easy when you go the custom route…

photo by tessa neustadt | from: sylvia’s makeover: dining room

Now, above is an awesome example of great readymade patterned curtains. They are old Target that Emily’s used to decorate her kid’s nanny, Sylvia’s, home back in 2016. I love how the pattern brings movement to the room and that it’s also the main pattern in the space. It’s not fighting for attention:) But it’s also nicely balanced out by the blue half wall! A perfect example of how to use a patterned curtain.

design by rosa beltran | styled by velinda hellen | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: the new design rules

However, you don’t need to paint your walls to match your curtains. Take Rosa Beltran’s stunning and delicately patterned curtains. They add just the right amount of pattern to add interest and warmth while not taking over the room visually. I doubt these are readymade considering she’s the queen of custom (if you don’t know her business, Clad Home, go now!) but there are definitely similar affordable options out there.

Here are some of our current favorites:

1. Farmhouse Ticking Stripe Custom Curtains | 2. Embroidered Tobias Velvet Curtain | 3. Jen Hewett Imaginary Basket Sleeve Top Curtains (Set of 2) | 4. Light Filtering Jacquard Curtain Panel | 5. Arches Cotton Sleeve Top Curtains (Set of 2) | 6. Velvet Floral Curtains | 7. Green Flower Print Curtain | 8. Penny Curtain | 9. Sheer Ophelia Printed Burnout Curtain Panel

Wanting to have a patterned curtain doesn’t mean you need to go “all-out”. Options like #1, #2, and #3 are still patterned but not “in your face” patterned. If that’s more of what you want then #5, #6, and #9 are fun and pack a big ole design punch!

Last but most certainly not least…

Neutral Shades

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: the feel good flash makeover reveal (a.k.a. my favorite thing i did all year)

Sometimes a curtain doesn’t work or look right. Sometimes you need a shade instead and we are also big fans, as proven by the multitude of rooms we’ve designed over the years. Readymade shades can be a little trickier if you don’t have a standard-sized window but not impossible. The white ones in the above photo come in a ton of sizes.

design by emily henderson and keyanna bowen | photo by keyanna bowen | from: reveal – all the details of the primary suite at the real simple home

Here is an example of when shades were a better option than curtains. First off, choosing a roman shade made it so the wallpaper was the real star of the show. Then with the two windows being fairly close together and the bed/nightstand being against that wall, curtains would have looked heavy and cramped behind everything. So these shades add a subtle pop of color as well as make the room feel lighter.

design by sara ligorria-tramp and macauley johnson | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: sara & mac’s office/guest room reveal –lots of function + even more color and style

Here’s another example of when a roman shade was a better functional option. Since this is a smaller room, real estate is precious and the furniture is pretty close to the walls. This again makes installing curtains hard because they would either be cramped next to or awkwardly squished behind a piece of furniture. Shade to the rescue!

design by jayma mays & adam campbell | styled by emily edith bowser and erik kenneth staalberg | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: the new design rules

Fabric roman shades aren’t your only option! We love the texture of a woven shade like Jayma and Adam used in their bedroom. Some are better for privacy than others but it’s such a great and easy way to add texture to our room!

For this section, I decided to stick with the neutral options since they are the most popular:)

1. Light Filtering Bonaire Balloon Window Shade | 2. Burnt Bamboo Cordless Window Shade | 3. RINGBLOMMA | 4. Linen-Blend Roll-Up Curtain | 5. Tie Up Linen Blind | 6. Cordless Light Filtering UV Protection Paper Roman Shades

I honestly love all of these and it’s really up to you and the style of your home as to which one is best for you!

I hope this was helpful and if you were already shopping for affordable window treatments, I hope your search is now over:) And if anyone else has a great affordable resource or specific curtain they love, drop it in the comments!

Love you, mean it.

Opening Image Credits: Design by Arlyn Hernandez | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Arlyn’s Bright & Happy Rental Living Room Makeover

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🥰 Rusty
1 year ago

Curtains are a bit of a tricky thing for me.🤔
As a result, all of my curtains are either beige-ish, or a muted bluey tone. No pattern.
The only exception is the curtains in my study. It gets hot, morning, blasting sun and I had to buy curtains quickly – the only ones available immediately that fit my window were patterned. Heavily, kinda Aztec-patterned. They make the room! Everyone loves them. … Only, I’m not brave with curtains and know, deep down, that was a one-off and I’ll choose plain or a block-colour muted tone again.
Curtains are singularly t.h.e. only design element I lack confidence with.
Wot’s with that?!?🥴

1 year ago

I LOVE the Sanela cotton velvet from Ikea, great colors and price. You can line them yourself if you feel motivated. I also buy plain cotton/ poly blend panels online and dye them custom colors. If you have just one window, or you want to do a cheap test drive , or you need need groovy fabric for a sink skirt, door curtain or shower curtain, thrift shops ABOUND in single panels and quite often have 2 panels of 1960’s- sheer florals meant for kitchens and bedrooms, and more importantly, very high end 1980’s lined chintz curtains. Clearly a lot of 1980’s custom designer living room decor being replaced. Waverly, Schumacher, Kaufman… I’ve seen it. In particular I recommend large chain thrift shops for this. Single small thrift shops tend to cling to their chintz. Just yesterday I passed up a pair of custom 100% cotton lined toile curtains with classy black iron rings already attached at a large chain thrift . Sadly, it’s almost impossible to find more than two panels of designer vintage curtains in the thrift shop. After 2+ years of low key hunting I just found 4 panels of an acceptable pattern in somewhat challenging colors.… Read more »

🥰 Rusty
1 year ago
Reply to  mouseface

Overdying used to be a trend … let’s hope it comes back in vogue.

1 year ago
Reply to  mouseface

I want to second how great the Sanela cotton velvet curtains from IKEA are. I also like their linen curtains, although they changed the name in the last couple years, and are almost always out of stock. I end up needing to hem to get a custom look, but they can’t be beat for the price.

I also love this tip to check thrift stores. I need to make a trip out. I have so many large chain ones nearby, and I’d like some print curtains next. Vintage would be such a bonus!

1 year ago

A good thing to pay attention to – designer curtains are usually pinch pleated and hang from curtain rings – not directly on a rod, which makes a big visual difference. Just in case anyone is wondering why the link curtains might give off a different look. You can also add drapery “clips” to the back of the rod pocket and attach/hang from curtain rings for a similar look.

Cafe curtain retailer/etsy suggestions would be great!

1 year ago

This is such a great discussion of options – love it! However, note that the sources to purchase really aren’t helpful. It would be great if you didn’t rely on Target all the time as the company will not ship to Canada. As well, a few of the sources are out of stock, The Wayfair curtains need a membership to purchase, and – frankly everyone knows about Ikea.
I would love to see more variety of sources for such a great post!!

🥰 Rusty
1 year ago
Reply to  Pam

Target’s a main sponsor, so probably necessary.
Target in Australia is NOTHING like the US, so doesn’t help me either. 😶 I sooo wish it was the same!
I think sometimes, while everyone knows IKEA, we might not be aware of tge great products they have.

1 year ago
Reply to  Pam

Target curtains also do not come in long enough lengths to achieve the look designers always suggest: rod above window and bottoms kissing the floor.
but I enjoy looking at the pictures for inspo regardless

1 year ago
Reply to  Pam

Where I live (US) Wayfair has no membership, never heard of that…

Colleen S
1 year ago

This is a custom curtains question, but from a seemingly affordable operation: Has anyone had experience ordering curtain panels from Spoonflower? I’m going to experiment with replacing a narrow closet door in my primary bathroom with one of their panels and am wondering about ordering some for my living room.

Roberta Davis
1 year ago

I often opt to go without, in favor of a cleaner look- like some kind of shade, blind or shutter inside the window frame. But I do love these examples you’ve shown and I did use curtains once in a bedroom with a beautiful view to the garden that i didn’t want to obscure with shutters. But I am really not a fan of cheap curtains that look cheap! It takes some skill and knowledge to make cheap curtains look good.

1 year ago

I’d love to know if you have a good resource for 120″+ curtains for those of us with very high ceilings. Most of the off-the-rack curtains stop at 108″ or shorter.

1 year ago
Reply to  Alli

Try cb2

1 year ago
Reply to  Alli

Check out the Quick Ship Drapery panels at Calico:
They come in six different lengths, up to 120″, and in single widths (23″) or double widths (43″) for larger windows. Calico offers a classic Linen/Rayon blend with a dry hand or 100% Silk for a dressier look, both in a variety of colors. You can select from Fan Pleats, Pinch Pleats or Grommet headings. Drapery panels come lined for extra body and protection from the sun. These panels ship in 15 business days and hardware is available as well. The quality is much better than the ready-mades featured in the blog–and the right size will fit your windows!

1 year ago

Love the round up. Would be nice to have a custom drapery roundup? How it works (online?) what to expect; approximate costs; how to get the rod installed (same retailer?) etc.

1 year ago
Reply to  Sunny

Yes please! Jess could walk us through the experience of finding her custom made pink panels, options for where to order, things to be on the lookout for, how the process works and how much we could expect to spend.

1 year ago

I would also love resources for extra long curtains (120” plus) AND hardware! Thanks so much!

1 year ago
Reply to  Julie

Julie, see reply above to Alli for the Quick Ship Drapery panels from Calico–that also come with hardware.

1 year ago

Fun story, I bought Target curtains… hung them up, hems didn’t match. Returned, exchanged same thing! Couldn’t find a set that had the listed measurements. Ended up swearing off Target curtains, bummer because they make some great patterns. Few weeks later browsing the Sunday Target ad and they have a picture of curtains in a living room – clearly showing mismatched hems!

1 year ago
Reply to  rebecca

That’s just crazy.

1 year ago

This is timely because I’ve been agonizing over curtains. I got some affordable ones from World Market in “ivory” that looked neutral in the package but ended up having a yellow cast that ended up coming across as this crazy caramel look with the sun, in a room filled with cool toned neutrals. Awful.

1 year ago

where do we stand on curtains over a bay window?? i have woven wood romans on each of the 3 separate windows, the bay has a bump out (like a window seat minus the seat, if that makes sense…). i’m thinking of hanging curtains for some softness (they don’t actually need to function bc of the shades) on either side of the bump out. is that going to look strange?

1 year ago

Hi, Jess and Emily and everyone– Calico would be happy to consult with you on a post about having custom window treatments made, as this is where we shine, whether shopping in-store, in-home or online (there are 60+ Calico stores across the country). Yes, I work for the company and want to be transparent about that. The company website is: Emily Henderson knows Calico well, as we created window treatments for several rooms in her former home in Los Angeles and she posted about that. Also, the patterned draperies in Lea Johnson’s living room in your blog post were made by Calico. The difference between custom window treatments and ready-mades is night and day in terms of fabric, quality of construction, correct fit, adding lining and lifespan at the window. We recently shopped two competitors for draperies and shades and were less expensive than both–one has a large catalog business and another has retail showrooms–but neither has the wide selection of fabrics available at Calico! We also sell Hunter Douglas blinds and shades. For those in a rush, Calico offers Quick Ship Drapery panels in a variety of fabrics, styles, widths and in six lengths up to 120″–a selection… Read more »

1 year ago

What about curtains in a home with baseboard heaters? Long curtains will rest on the baseboards. I don’t want to heat the curtains either which isn’t energy efficient.

🥰 Rusty
1 year ago
Reply to  Brooke

There have been SOOOO many questions about this over the years!
Not an issue in Australia, but I really hope it is addressed soon.

1 year ago

I have a question about Roman shades and window casing. We don’t have any molding or casing around our windows, and I’m wondering if adding the Roman shade would just accentuate how plain the windows are. I’ve been wanting to get casing installed, but that’s another cost on top of window treatments.

Should I wait until we have casings put in, or is it fine without?


1 year ago

Decorview is OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive!!

1 year ago

Many many thanks for your newsletter it is nice to read valuable insight knowledge. Good to know that it is an excellent habit to save money for difficult days. Moreover, in my opinion curtains either we buy for bedroom or anywhere else in the house have thick fabric its color should be light. I really appreciate that all the things are very well organised.

Best Regards

1 year ago

Amazing article, nice pictures.
Thank you for sharing.

1 year ago

This post made me put up curtains in my living room immediately. 😂 I ran right out to target and got some white ones and a brass curtain rod. They look good!

1 year ago

Curtains are such a pain to find. I have 10ft windows in my rental apartment and had a fit finding something that would be affordable. I find that Amazon has a great selection of linen blend curtains and blackout curtains from Chinese companies. I am not a fan of curtain rings or pinched pleat. My mother commented that this trend was very popular in homes in the 1960s and is so old-fashioned! I like rod pocket or tab top (it is a series of fabric loops at the top) much better. Not very designer looking but so much more aesthetically pleasing.