Picking new curtains can transform the look and feel of your living room. But with so many styles, fabrics, lengths, and colors to choose from, it can be challenging to select the perfect drapes. This comprehensive guide will walk through the key factors when shopping for living room curtains, from design considerations to tailoring options. Follow these tips to ensure your new window treatments fit beautifully, block light optimally, and elevate the decor of your space.
Measure Window Dimensions
The first step is accurately measuring the physical size of your windows. This determines the necessary curtain lengths and widths. Have a tape measure handy and note these key dimensions:
Window Height – Measure from the top of the window frame to the sill in inches. Round up to the nearest whole inch.
Window Width – Measure across the full width of the window frame in inches. Include the entire span the curtains will cover.
Ceiling Height – Measure from the floor to the ceiling in inches. This ensures you get long enough curtain panels.
Measure every window the curtains will hang on, as they may not all be identical sizes. Having precise window measurements ensures you purchase curtains that fit perfectly.
Choose Curtain Length
Curtain length is both an aesthetic and functional choice. Follow these guidelines based on your goals:
Sill Length – Panels just long enough to reach the windowsill offer a clean, tailored look. Best for smaller windows.
Below Sill – Letting curtains puddle an extra few inches below the sill provides a soft, breezy feel. Adds height to the room.
Floor Length – Panels reaching to the floor make a luxurious statement. Optimize light blocking. Can impede opening windows.
Puddled – Extra long curtains pooling dramatically on the floor create an opulent style. Harder to keep clean.
Choose your preferred curtain length based on the room dimensions, personal style, and how much floor space you want visible.
Select Curtain Width
Curtain width (fullness) affects both appearance and light blocking:
Just Covering – Panels sized to cover the window to look tidy but let light seep around the edges.
Half Again – Allowing curtains to overlap windows by half again as much improves coverage and insulation. Provides a balanced look.
Twice as Wide – Curtains twice the width of the window frame maximize light blocking. Creates very full, gathered panels when drawn.
Wider curtains require more fabric but give a grander look and better light control. Weigh the pros and cons against your budget.
Choose Curtain Style
Beyond size, consider what overall curtain style fits your living room aesthetic:
Tab – Simple back fabric panels. Provide clean lines, especially in linen and cotton. Easy to iron and layer.
Pencil Pleat – Narrow, uniform pleats. Softer look than a tab. Versatile for tailored or casual decor. Require pinch pleat hooks.
Grommet – Rings in the curtain header slide over a rod. Create casual fullness and texture. Available in various sizes.
Rod Pocket – Hidden unlined pockets hold the curtain rod. Clean, modern style. Difficult to layer or tie back.
Back Tab – Combination of tab panel with a narrower front overlay connected at the top. Allows varied layering and visual interest.
Mix and match styles like back tabs and pencil pleats on separate windows to develop your unique living room look.
Select Quality Fabrics
Fabric choice impacts the drapes’ appearance, durability, and light blocking. Assess these common living room curtain fabrics:
Cotton – Natural fiber breathes well. Provides fullness and soft texture. Wrinkles easily but easy to launder.
Linen – Made from flax. Has a natural slubbed texture. Lightweight and casual. Wrinkles but fits cottage or beachy styles.
Velvet – Made of tightly woven cotton, polyester, or silk. Luxurious look, often with sha een. Shows wear but insulates well.
Silk – Shimmering delicate fabric with beautiful drape. Requires dry cleaning and lining. Luxurious but high maintenance.
Polyester – Synthetic fiber. Budget-friendly. Wrinkle and stain-resistant. Machine washable. Less natural drape than cotton or linen.
Blackout Lining – Added opaque back lining blocks almost all light. Useful for living rooms with lots of windows or needing dark.
Combine fabric types for contrasting textures and looks. For example, pairing back tab linen curtains with blackout-lined velvet drapes over other windows.
Calculate Yardage Needed
Once you’ve decided on length, width, and fabric, it’s easy to estimate the total yardage required:
- Take your window width measurement.
- Multiply by the fullness ratio – 1x for just covering, 1.5x for half again wider, 2x for twice as wide.
- Divide this total panel width by 36″ since the fabric equals 36″ wide.
- Round up to the nearest quarter yard.
- Multiply by the number of panels needed for each window.
This gives the estimated yardage per window. Repeat for all windows being covered, and add up the totals. Allow for excess to be safe.
Having your fabric yardage quantities planned makes purchasing curtains much easier.
Shop Ready Made or Custom
You can save time by purchasing pre-made curtains, or having them custom-sewn to your exact specifications:
Ready Made – Available at most stores like Target, Walmart, or online. Limited sizes and fabrics but very affordable and quick.
Semi-Custom – Made to order with options for common sizes, fabrics, and styles. A middle ground between ready-made and full custom.
Custom Curtains – Created according to your precise measurements and fabric selections. Allows maximum personalization. Most expensive option.
If going custom, find a local curtain maker or seamstress. Order 1-3 months in advance as custom takes more time.
Match or Mix Curtains
When covering multiple living room windows, choose whether to match or mix your new curtains:
Matched – Buying identical drapes for all windows creates consistency. Suitable for more formal spaces.
Mixed – Varying styles, prints, or colors at different windows add interest. Better for informal, eclectic rooms.
As one option, hanging matching solid color drapes over the main window provides a neutral backdrop. Then add accent curtains at side windows for pops of color and personalized flair.
Layer Curtains for Depth
Layering curtains creates appealing visual depth and dimension:
Main Drapes – Floor-length curtains in a neutral solid color serve as the base layer.
Sheers – Lightweight transparent panels filter and diffuse light beautifully when layered over main drapes.
Toppers – Shorter contrasting valances act as crowning accents atop lower layers.
Curtain Ties – Fabric tiebacks add elegance while keeping layers gathered.
Mix sheer, opaque, patterned, and textured fabrics for an ultra-luxe layered look. Ensure proper rod sizes and layering order for your desired aesthetic.
Choose Complementary Colors
When it comes to color, both bold and subtle approaches work for living rooms:
Matching Paint or Walls – Pick a curtain color drawn straight from your existing wall color for seamless coordination.
Contrasting – Vibrant drapes that contrast strongly with wall colors make them a focal point.
Neutrals – Stick with whites, beiges, or grays as a safe base for most color schemes.
Patterns – Unify rooms with matching prints. Or create excitement with playful contrasting patterns.
Keep the overall style of the space in mind. More traditional rooms suit matched or neutral schemes, while modern spaces can handle bold contrast colors.
Factor in Window Treatments
Integrate your new living room curtains with existing or planned window treatments:
Blinds/Shades – Layer curtains over window shades or blinds to combine privacy and style.
Cornices – Horizontal cornice boards conceal curtain rods while framing windows.
Valances – Vertical top treatments complement the curtains while masking hardware.
Smoothing Liners – Liners prevent curtains from catching on window trim or blinds.
Measure window treatments together with curtains during planning to ensure proper lengths and stacking order.
Mind the Budget
Assess your budget and where to splurge vs. save:
Fabric Type – Luxurious silk will cost more than basic polyester or cotton. Choose quality fabrics for front-facing drapes, and cheaper ones for lesser-seen locations.
Embellishments – Curtains with ornamental trims, bands, grommets, or patterns add expense. Reserve for statement windows.
Installation – Hanging rods yourself saves over professional installers. Factor in some DIY time for most rooms.
Off the Rack – Ready-made curtains are cheaper than custom but limit personalization. Great for kids’ rooms.
Setting an overall budget beforehand keeps curtain costs reasonable and ensures you don’t overspend.
Hanging Curtains High and Wide
Proper hanging height and rod length optimize both aesthetics and function:
High – Install curtain rods as close to the ceiling as possible. This makes windows and ceilings appear taller. Go at least 6-12 inches above the window frame.
Wide – Extend rods several inches beyond the window frame on either side. Allows curtains to stack attractively and ensures full coverage.
Ceiling Hooks – Use strong ceiling hooks and anchors rated for your curtains’ total weight. Install precisely level and centered over windows.
Taking time to hang curtain rods correctly prevents sagging and makes the living space visually taller.
Choosing the Right Curtain Rod Hardware
Don’t overlook the importance of proper curtain rods and hangers:
- Select adjustable extension rods to fit snugly between walls. Threaded tension rods work for rental homes.
- Match metal finishes throughout the room. Brushed nickel and chrome have modern appeal, while bronze feels traditional.
- For heavier drapes, use wood rods or steel rods with diameters of 1 inch or greater.
- Choose decorative finial caps that coordinate with your style. Frame each window individually.
- Use ring hooks with clip-on rings or tab-top curtains, and pin hooks for creating perfect pleats.
Robust supporting hardware keeps curtains functioning and looking great for years.
Iron and Steaming Curtains
Routine care keeps curtains looking their best:
- Ironing cotton, linen, or poly-blend curtains removes wrinkles and refreshes crushed areas. Use medium heat and steam.
- Regularly steam velvet or silk drapes while hanging to relax fibers and remove creases or folds.
- Vacuum with a soft brush attachment occasionally to remove dust buildup.
- Spot clean stains on washable fabrics gently using a small amount of mild detergent and a damp cloth.
- Dry clean embellished or silk drapes annually to remove embedded dirt and restore a lush look.
Follow individual fabric care instructions, and properly iron or steam right after hanging new curtains and periodically after. This maintains an orderly, crisp look.
Adjust Length Over Time
Curtain lengths may need adjustment as window treatments evolve:
- If mounting curtains above blinds or shades allow extra length for sufficient overlay.
- Check floor clearance if adding rug layers that affect total height.
- For bobble trim hems, seamstresses can let down length by an inch or two as needed.
- Reduce overly long curtains by folding back tops and stitching new header casings.
Evolving room decor and furnishings over the years may necessitate revisiting curtain lengths. Make updates in harmony with your current style.
Know When to Replace Curtains
Signs it’s time to shop for new living room curtains:
- The fabric appears washed out, frayed, or stained despite cleaning attempts.
- Curtains no longer match the room’s evolving color palette or style.
- Better light blocking or insulation is needed from aged fabrics.
- You desire upgraded heading styles like grommets or back tabs.
- Damaged areas or missing hooks cannot be repaired cost effectively.
Aim for replacing living room curtains every 5-10 years to keep the windows looking fresh. Shop sales to make upgrades affordable.
Living Room Curtain Design Tips
Some key design tips for choosing living room curtains:
- Draw inspiration from current interior design trends like bold patterns or 18th century opulence.
- Frame windows individually for maximum flexibility.
- Balance windows symmetrically or asymmetrically depending on the space.
- Use lighting to create a focal point curtain.
- Incorporate family heirlooms or handcrafted details.
- Splurge on drapes for the most visible or used windows.
- Add length and softness to balance hardwood floors and high ceilings.
- Control incoming sunlight and privacy without sacrificing views.
Get creative while keeping the overall living room style in mind. Mix textures, layers, and colors confidently.
Ensure Proper Illumination
The correct lighting showcases curtains beautifully:
- Use interior illumination like floor lamps or sconces to make drapes pop at night. Side lighting creates depth.
- Layer curtains behind lamp shades to diffuse glare.
- Position picture lights above key windows to highlight details.
- Draw sheers and blinds open fully during daytime to observe curtain colors in natural light.
Optimizing both artificial and natural light helps curtains make the desired impression in your space.
Make a Design Statement
Beyond function, curtains provide opportunity for personal style to shine:
- Go bold with vibrant colors or prints that show off your personality.
- Keep it romantic and soft with delicate sheers and florals.
- Achieve a welcoming cozy feel with warm earth tones.
- Modern spaces suit sleek solid colored drapes.
- Add texture with nubby linens or velvety fabrics.
- Incorporate family keepsakes or custom details through embroidery.
Your living room curtains should make you smile each time you see them. Thoughtfully selected drapes you feel good about create that lasting impression.
Living Room Curtain Inspiration
For more living room curtain examples and ideas:
- Browse interior design magazines, blogs and Pinterest boards.
- Look to decor TV shows and home styling websites.
- Check out model homes to see treatments in fully furnished spaces.
- Talk with sales associates at curtain and design stores.
- Look back through old photos of your home for design hints.
- Take notes when you see drapes you love in other spaces like hotels or homes.
Collecting curtain inspiration fuels creativity for your living room revamp.
Finding the Perfect Living Room Curtains
With the right planning guided by your style, selecting new living room curtains can be a fun and rewarding process versus a daunting chore. Take it step-by-step:
- Measure windows carefully for accurate sizing.
- Browse options while considering your goals – light control? decoration? budget?
- Choose suitable lengths, fabrics, colors, and styles for the room.
- Allow time for custom pieces if desired.
- Hang rods properly and iron or steam panels.
- Mix and match drapes over different windows for the character.
- Adjust over time as needed for wear or redesigned spaces.
Soon you will have beautiful new tailored curtains boosting your living room’s style and becoming a prized focal point. Confidently choose window treatments that make you proud.