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Window Treatment Buying Guide

A man installing curtain rods over a sliding glass window.

Updated March 18, 2022

Holly H.

By Holly H.

Installing new window treatments, blinds and shutters is a quick improvement that immediately adds personality to your new home. Settle in by sprucing up your windows.

Curtains

Sheer curtains in a living room.

Curtain panels are solid pieces of fabric that hang from wall-mounted rods or clips and provide more privacy than sheers. They’re a great option for media rooms, bedrooms or any room where you want to block light and enjoy complete privacy. Choose the right window curtains:

  • Fabric choices run from simple cotton and printed polyester to lush velvet, silk, wool and woven tapestry.
  • Plan to purchase panels two to three times the width of your windows for a stylish effect. If you plan to keep the curtains open, choose curtains that are 1-1/2 times the width of the windows.
  • Unlined panels are less costly but may become semi-transparent at night when interior lights are on. Check that you’re comfortable with the level of privacy any panel provides.
  • Most panels require a sturdy hanging rod. It can be a simple metal rod or something more elaborate. Remember to consider hardware costs when planning a window treatment purchase.
  • Lighting level options include light filtering, room darkening and blackout.
  • Blackout panels help block nearly 99% of sunlight. They also reduce energy costs by blocking out heat in the summer and cold in the winter. Use blackout panels in living rooms and bedrooms for added comfort.
  • If intense sun is an issue, as with a west-facing window, look for panels that block light completely.

Refer to the table below to determine the type of drapery panels that’ll work best in your home.

    Panel Styles

    Sheer Curtains

    Sheers are wispy panels of semi-transparent fabric that soften views and provide moderate privacy. They look best in living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms. Sheers should be layered with other window treatments if privacy is a concern.

    • When choosing sheers, keep in mind that the kind of fabric you select depends on the look you want to achieve and the level of care you’re willing to provide. Polyester sheers have a slight sheen and create a more formal look. They’re also easy to launder and require little ironing. Cotton sheers offer a casual, contemporary look. Lace sheers feel romantic and traditional. Both cotton and lace sheers may need to be cleaned professionally.
    • For a full, floaty effect with generous waves of fabric, select panels that are two to three times the width of the window. You may need to use multiple sheers to achieve this effect.
    • Sheers are usually light enough to hang from spring-loaded tension rods, which are inexpensive to install.

    Curtain Hardware

    Drapery Rod

    These come as single and double rods. With a double rod, you hang sheers on the lower rod and drapery panels on the upper rod.

    Clips and Rings

    Use these if you don’t want the curtains to hang directly on the drapery rod or if you need added length.

    Holdbacks

    These allow you to draw curtains away from the window to let light in or create a formal look. Mount holdbacks beyond the edge of the window frame. Holdbacks look good in a formal dining room or living room.

    Popular hardware finishes include:

    • Oil-rubbed bronze
    • Antique bronze
    • Brushed nickel
    • Matte black
    • White

    Finials

    Finials are the end caps of a drapery rod. The finial prevents the curtain from sliding off the drapery rod and also provides an element of style. Popular drapery finials include:

    • Solid ball
    • Filigree ball
    • Marble
    • Mercury glass
    • Wood
    • Leaves

    Blinds

    White blinds in a home office.

    Blinds connect thin strips of plastic, bamboo, wood or metal with strings and hardware for easy adjustment. They look best on narrow windows in bedrooms, kitchens and workrooms. Choose the right blinds for doors and windows:

    • Mini-blinds have 1/2-inch- to 1-inch-wide slats made of very thin material.
    • Plantation or Venetian blinds are 1 to 2 inches wide and made of slightly thicker wood or molded plastic than that of mini-blinds.
    • Vertical window blinds feature strips of fabric and plastic hanging vertically from an overhead track, making them the best option for controlling light and providing privacy with a sliding glass door.
    • Sliding door blinds are another option for vertical window coverings.
    • Bamboo blinds are durable and made with natural materials. They filter various shades of light.
    • In-stock blinds are available in a range of common window sizes and cost much less than custom-sized blinds.

    There are two light level types to choose from: light filtering and room darkening. If possible, mount a blind inside the window frame for a cleaner look. Shop for a blind 1 to 2 inches smaller than the width of the opening. For wide windows, plan to use two or more smaller blinds for coverage. Small blinds are easier to operate than long, heavy blinds.

    Custom or Standard: Which Blinds Do I Need?

    A person closing tan Roman shades.

    Blinds add a nice touch to any window or door, but be sure you’re getting the right-size blinds to fit your particular windows. In-stock blinds fit common windows and come in premeasured sizes. Custom blinds can be cut in store to fit your particular window needs. Cut-to-width blinds can be cut at home to perfectly fit your window.

    Use standard blinds for common windows, such as double hung windows, picture windows and sliding windows. These all come in standard lengths and widths, so you should be able to find the dimensions you need.

    If your home has windows with less-common sizes — such as arched windows, skylights, portholes or trapezoid windows — they’ll likely require custom blinds.

    Roller Shades

    These bolts of vinyl or fabric mount to the top of window frames and unroll manually. They work well on narrow windows in just about any room.

    • Pre-sized roller shades are much more affordable than custom-sized shades.
    • If possible, mount roller shades inside the window frame for a cleaner look. Shop for a shade that’s 1 to 2 inches smaller than the width of the opening.

    Roman Shades

    These tailored panels of fabric or natural material mount to the inside or top of window frames and bunch up like an accordion when you pull a cord. They work well in any room and window width. Choose the right Roman shades:

    • Roman shades are pre-sized and cost much less than custom shades.
    • Lined, cloth Roman shades are best for light blocking and privacy, while unlined shades usually only filter light.

    Cellular Shades

    Cellular shades, sometimes called honeycomb shades, are designed to insulate your windows and improve privacy. They’re perfect for the living room and bedrooms. Choose the right cellular shades:

    • Single- and double-cell shades are available.
    • You can choose from light filtering, room darkening and blackout designs.

    Interior Shutters

    Shutters aren’t just for covering the exterior of your windows. They can also add beauty and charm to the inside of your home. These wood or plastic shutters are mounted with hinges on each side of the window frame so they open and close easily, and they feature adjustable slats to allow for varying degrees of light and privacy. Shutters look great in kitchens, family rooms, bathrooms and workrooms.

    Valances

    To give your windows extra flair, cap them off with valances. These top treatments are narrow strips of fabric that run along the top width of a window. They look fantastic in any room where you want a stylish touch, whether it’s the kitchen, living room, dining room or bedroom.

    • Pair valances with blinds or shades for light control and privacy.
    • Valances often require special mounting hardware. Remember to consider hardware costs when planning a window treatment purchase.
    • For a full effect with generous waves of fabric, purchase a valance with fabric that’s two to three times the width of each window.

    Window Film

    Window film is an option that requires no hardware to install. Different types are available for various functions:

    • Glare Control: This film blocks ultraviolet rays that cause interior finishes to fade.
    • Heat Control: This film reflects heat to keep your air conditioning costs down in the summer. Some also have a low-emissive coating that helps retain heat in the winter.
    • Privacy Control: There are several finishes to choose from for maximum privacy, including mirrored, etched, frosted or decorative films.
    • As a Décor Element: A variety of tints, textures and patterns is available — from frosted glass and mosaics to geometric patterns and rice paper and more.

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