What A Difference a Day Curtain Makes: Window Treatment Basics

I recently decided to make a curtain for our living room. In a typical display of indecisiveness I spent several weeks choosing a fabric. I ordered it, it came and I was raring to go until I realized I actually had more decisions to make: what kind of curtain? how long? how high? lined or not? Sigh. So I did what any indecisive procrastinator would do: research.

In addition to a memorable overhead light, curtains, drapes and shades are one of the easiest ways to make a visual impact in a room since our eyes are naturally drawn to the light already. Have a busy room with lots of patterns and color? Choose a neutral, grounding fabric. Have a room already filled with solids and neutrals? Use a fabulous print to liven things up.

Before you start, here are some questions to consider:

• what are you trying to accomplish: add to the aesthetic? privacy? insulation? light-blocking?
• will you be opening and closing them often?
• do you want to make them or buy them?
• if you want to make them, what's your skill level?
• how much do you want to spend?

When I was deciding what kind of curtain (yes, singular, we only have one window!) to make it helped to look at examples in real rooms to get a sense of how I wanted the top to look as well as how high to hang it and how long to make it. Having only one window in this room, my goal was to create some privacy (with a store-bought white sheer) but still let in as much light as possible.

In the end, I decided on a pencil-fold look at the top with hidden tabs in the back. You can find a tutorial similar to this idea on 7 Layer Studio. I would have liked to have this curtain go all the way to the floor (in which case it's technically called a drape, I think?), but did not want to cover the radiator. I admit, it looks a bit abbreviated, but what can you do? To compensate, I hung it about 6" above the frame to make it appear longer. For anyone wondering, the fabric I chose is a medium weight cotton and cost $7/yard (I ordered 2.5 yards).

There are dozens of different kinds of window treatments, but below are the ones that are most commonly found on Ohdeedoh. You can see larger photos above or click on through to the room to see it in context.

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Rod Pocket

See It In A Room: My Room: "Monkey". See also Violet's Small, Sloped, Splendid Space.

Online Tutorial: Design*Sponge

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Tab Top

See It In A Room: Penny Lou's Ode to Mary Blair Art. See also: Phoebe Rose's Mom-made Room.

Online Tutorial: Purl Bee

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Roman Shade

See It In A Room: Madeline's Surprise Makeover

Online Tutorial: Quackadoodle

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Valance

See It In A Room: Baby O's Room See also: Noah's Sunshine Nursery and My Room: Little P and Norah's Sweet & Sunny Nursery.

Online Tutorial: A valance is essentially a short curtain so you can follow a tutorial for the type of curtain top you want and hem it short, usually 10"-18"

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Grommet

What Does It Look Like: My Room: Liam. See also My Room: Sage

Online Tutorial: Sugar Bee Crafts

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Pelmet Box/Cornice

See It In A Room: Graham's Fabric Fabulous Nursery. See also: My Room: Gavin and My Room: Drew Elizabeth.

Online Tutorials: Little Green Notebook (using foam core board), Domestic Adventure (using wood)

Other Great Ideas:

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Hang It High

Who says you have to hang your curtains or drapes at the top of your window frame? In this room, A Baby Bachelor Pad With A Bit Of Blue, they're hung about a foot above the frame for extra drama and the illusion of ultra-high ceilings.

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Embellish a Store-bought Shade

Jenny of Little Green Notebook purchased a blackout roller shade for Toby's Nursery, but made it a piece of art with paint and paper. You could use stamps or adhesives or even get out your embroidery needle.

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Embellish a Store-bought Curtain

Katie used acrylic paint to decorate this simple curtain with mod flowers.

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Embellish a Store-bought Curtain

Jaime of Prudent Baby sewed pom-pom to make a sweet fringe on plain white curtains.

Knowing my mother (who has made curtains for every room in the home I grew up in) was about to visit, I waited for her arrival before completing my curtain. She helped me tweak the top and gave me these two good pieces of advice:
1) always leave a deep bottom hem which will add weight and help the curtain or drape hang well and
2) never hem the bottom until you've finished everything else and hung it up on a test run.

(Image: 1. Carrie McBride. Other images credited in their original posts)

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Family, Window Coverings

As Apartment Therapy's Family Editor, Carrie covers design and modern homelife with children. A lapsed librarian, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two kids and is in contention to break the record for most hours spent at the playground.

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