How To Take Plain Store-Bought Curtains to the Next Level

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Alicia Macias)

I’m a firm believer that a window without draperies is a missed decorating opportunity (that is, unless you have beautiful windows that would be criminal to cover up!). I like the privacy they offer, but mostly, I’ll take any opportunity I can get to add some texture, color and pattern to a room. Hey, as a renter, you have to optimize those moments to personalize your home, right? And while store-bought curtains are perfectly wonderful out of the package, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to make them a little bit more special.

In my own bedroom, I took a pair of flax-colored linen drapes from HomeGoods, added 4-inch thick black grosgrain ribbon to each side of the curtain, and ta-da, I had far more “designer-y” window treatments than I started with. I love them because they add some contrast to the neutral color, but also feel like something I had custom made (after I hemmed them to the exact length I needed). Another curtain hack that proved successful happened in my sister’s house. After searching ad nauseam for affordable drapes for the super tall windows in her breakfast nook (and failing), we concocted another solution: buy 84-inch curtains at Target, and sew on a panel of coordinating plain-colored fabric to the bottom to make up the difference.

Trick #1: Add Trim

(Image credit: House & Home)

Browse enough designer portfolios, and you’ll quickly notice a recurring detail: thick tape (and we’re not talking Scotch) at the edges of curtains as seen here from House & Home. This is my own favorite trick at home for transforming plain window treatments. It’s as simple as taking your ribbon of choice (I always get mine at either M&J Trimming or Joann Fabric), lining it up with an edge (or just inside the edge) and attaching with iron-on mending tape.

(Image credit: View Along the Way)

Here’s another no-sew option from View Along the Way, who ironed on a thin grosgrain ribbon in a Greek key pattern.

(Image credit: Anne Hepfer)

Speaking of Greek key, how beautiful is the detail on this curtain from a project by Anne Hepfer? The classic pattern really dresses up a plain pair of panels.

(Image credit: Love Maegan)

For a less traditional look, consider sewing or fusing on tassel trim like Love Maegan did here.

Trick #2: Paint your heart out

(Image credit: View Along the Way)

White curtains are probably the easiest drapery type to find. But if you were dreaming of something with a little more pizzazz, don’t fret…just get out your paint brush! View Along the Way opted for even stripes (thank goodness for painter’s tape).

Trick #3: Boost the length

(Image credit: Sims Hilditch via Dering Hall)

The curtains in this living room by designer Sims Hilditch via Dering Hall are likely custom, but they hold a totally doable secret: buy standard length curtains (which are far more affordable and available than extra-long versions), and sew on an additional panel of fabric to get the length you need. The key is to create purposeful contrast with either another plain color or pattern. Try to find a fabric that is similar in texture and weight to your store bought curtain so they look less home made. Ready to give it a try? Check out Debbie Doo’s no-sew tutorial for adding length to curtains.