Do's + Don'ts of Designer-Worthy Window Treatments

Styling your windows doesn't have to be a pane.

Each time I move into a new apartment, the very first thing I do is hang curtains in the living room. A good set of drapes adds color and warmth and makes the empty space feel instantly like home.

It's a no-brainer that a well-dressed window can make or break a room's aesthetic, but if you don't know the basics, then styling your windows can be a huge challenge. But it doesn't have to be! Follow these simple design rules to turn those boring windows into showstopping focal points.

DO: Hang Curtains High and Wide

Multipurpose Family Room With Coffee Table and Chandelier

Multipurpose Family Room With Coffee Table and Chandelier

While limited in space, this multipurpose room feels large and layered thanks to a careful selection of double-duty furniture, mixed patterns and airy hues.

Make your space look bigger and more luxurious by hanging drapes at least 12 inches above the window frame or all the way to the ceiling and extending your curtain rod out three to six inches on each side.

DON'T: Hang Them Right Above the Window



Wide angle shot of a Modern Living room.

Photo by: iStock/gerenme


Drapes that rest right above the frame not only stunt the window but let in less light, which can give the entire space a crowded look. Keep in mind that, when open, your curtains shouldn't fall more than two inches inside the frame on each side.

DO: Layer Window Treatments

Yellow and Blue Patterned Curtains in Living Room

Yellow and Blue Patterned Curtains in Living Room

Soft colors and furniture without patterns lets the beautiful print of these curtains take center stage.

Photo by: michael j lee

michael j lee

Designer windows almost always sport at least two window treatments — whether it be a matchstick shade framed by drapes, wood blinds paired with a pretty Roman shade or plantation shutters topped with a chic valance. Not only does this rule find its roots in functionality (more window treatments, better insulation), but it boosts style, turning the window into a design focal point. Imagine the window above without the yellow drapes. Boring, right?

DON'T: Go Overboard



luxury house interior

Photo by: iStock/gerenme


Too much of anything is usually a bad thing, and window treatments are no exception. The more fabric you put on a window, the less light will shine through and the smaller your space will look. Try a few different layering styles before you commit.

DO: Take Curtains to the Floor

Blue Eclectic Living Room With Floral Curtains

Blue Eclectic Living Room With Floral Curtains

Dramatic artwork and a long wood cabinet keep the colorful style of this eclectic living room from feeling precious. The floral curtains deliver the biggest hit of pattern; a solid blue sofa and aqua walls temper the small, busy print.

Photo by: Laure Joliet Photography

Laure Joliet Photography

A common mistake novice decorators make is purchasing store-bought curtains without first measuring the height of the wall. For a tailored look, drapes should puddle slightly, kiss the floor or hover one half-inch above. The same goes for café curtains on a windowsill.

DON'T: Stop at the Windowsill



Modern and bright living room interior in house

Photo by: iStock/paulprescott72


High waters weren't cool in high school and they definitely aren't cool in your living room. Imagine the window above dressed with floor-length curtains hung high and wide. It would totally transform look of the space.

DO: Opt for Wide-Slat Blinds or Shutters

Eclectic, Neutral Breakfast Area

Eclectic, Neutral Breakfast Area

A round weathered table is surrounded by patterned chairs to create a cozy breakfast nook. Hardwood floors ground the space, while simple white curtains and blinds dress the windows.

Photo by: Joshua Curry

Joshua Curry

A good window treatment adds style. But a great window treatment becomes part of your home's architecture. When choosing blinds or indoor shutters, splurge for wood or faux wood varieties with wide slats. These upscale treatments may cost more up front, but they can actually increase the value of your home in the long run.

DON'T: Skimp Out on Good Blinds



Red kitten tangled in window blinds

Photo by: iStock/AlbinaTiplyashina


This kitten might look cute now, but cuteness doesn't cover the cost of new blinds. Plastic budget blinds break and discolor easily, and they detract from the overall attractiveness of your space.

DO: Use Different Treatments in Each Room

Window Seat Showcases Fun Variety of Patterns

Window Seat Showcases Fun Variety of Patterns

A cushioned window seat provides the perfect spot to enjoy the view in this sea-inspired master bedroom. Adorned with throw pillows and flanked with curtains, the cozy seating area displays a fun assortment of patterns.

Photo by: Tessa Neustadt

Tessa Neustadt

Your home tells a story, and every room represents a unique piece of that story. You wouldn't put a bed in the kitchen, so why would you put café curtains in the bedroom?

DON'T: Assume One Size Fits All

White Contemporary Kitchen With Graphic Shade

White Contemporary Kitchen With Graphic Shade

Worked with the family to bring light and life to this previously dark and dingy space. Family friendly materials were used throughout and thoughtful consideration for practical storage was important. The kitchen was dated prior to starting the project. We added a row of cabinetry up top to heighten the ceilings and make the space feel larger. We painted the upper cabinets the same color as the wall to create unity and the lowers a nice dark grey for contrast and a more modern feel. New fixtures in brass and a great roman shade complete the kitchen. We worked on the adjoining spaces with a restrained color palette and interesting texture and pattern.

Photo by: Haris Kenjar

Haris Kenjar

While the rules mentioned above are good to keep in mind when dressing most windows, they aren't hard and fast. Trust your instinct when styling small or tricky spots and remember that, ultimately, a window treatment is meant to treat light, noise or temperature based on the needs of the space.

24 Window Treatment Solutions for Tricky Spots

See All Photos

Exterior Doors

If your exterior doors are paned, consider adorning them with a single drapery panel on the hinged side. When you want more privacy, simply pull the panel completely across. If the one-sided look doesn't fit your space, however, simply hang another panel on the other side, leaving room for the door to open and close without restriction.

Photo By: David A. Land

Window Seat

For an extra-cozy and stylish look, flank recessed bench windows with a designer combo of woven shades and short-length curtain panels.

From: Blackband Design and GrayStone Custom Builders

Wall of Windows

If your sunroom or other living space is lined with walls of large windows, consider installing small groupings of high-hung drapery panels at intervals around the room. Close them for privacy and light control or keep them open for uninterrupted views.

Photo By: Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Casement Windows

Roman shades mounted on the outside of the frame are a great choice for windows that swing out, like the shallow casement windows in this sun-filled master bathroom. Don't love the look of shades? Drapery panels hung high and wide are also a good fit.

From: Blackband Design and GrayStone Custom Builders

Window Behind the Bed

Easy to clean and classically stylish, plantation shutters are a great choice for windows that are hard to reach, like those situated behind a headboard. For a more dramatic look, flank the window with floor-length drapery panels.

French Doors

Two sets of floor-length drapes (four panels total) hung at each end of an extra-long curtain rod frame the french doors in this chic dining room. When the doors are closed, the curtains can be pulled all the way across for privacy and temperature control.

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Bay Window

Give a plain bay window a designer boost by installing outside-mount Roman shades on each window and flanking the bay with flowing drapes hung to the ceiling.

Odd-Sized Windows


For windows with shallow trim or an odd shape, cordless shades mounted outside the frame add a pop of style without blocking light. Finish with a chic valance to elongate the look of the window. Learn how to make this DIY valance >>

Sliding Glass Door

Forget vertical blinds and flank your sliding glass door with stylish floor-to-ceiling curtains, instead. Hang curtains a few inches outside of the door frame to prevent obstruction when opening and closing doors.

Large Bathroom Window

Water-resistant curtains add stylish color and much-needed privacy to an extra-tall bathroom window. Can't find water-resistant curtains? Try decorative shower curtains instead.

Stair Windows

For safety and aesthetic reasons, cordless shades like these outside-mount Roman shades are ideal for staircase windows.

Photo By: David A. Land

Side Lights

If your window is flanked by gorgeous side lights, like these stained glass beauties, simply hang short curtain panels from a tension rod installed inside the center window frame, allowing the sides to shine.

Corner Windows

For windows that converge at a corner, choose a corner-connecting drapery rod and hang a single floor-length panel at the confluence of each window and on each end.

Odd Door

Does an oddly-placed door have you stumped? Don't stress! Choose a window shade that matches the rest of your space and mount it just outside the window frame. This will help the door blend with other windows in the room while adding style to a hard-to-decorate exterior door.

Arched Window

While arched windows are best left untreated (they're just so pretty!), sometimes the space calls for extra privacy or light control. If so, flank the window with floor-length curtains hung a few feet above if not all the way to the ceiling, allowing a full view of the window when open.

Shower Window

Perfect for those awkward shower windows, an inside-mount roller shade is easily pulled down for privacy and rolled back up for light.

Window Above the Sink

An outside-mount shade adds trendy color and pattern to a lonely window over the kitchen sink.

Boring Windows

Are your windows extra-large and extra-boring? Instead of covering them with blinds, hang gorgeous antique window panels instead.

Dormer Window

While dormer windows add architectural interest to the outside of the house, they do very little for the inside. Dress up an empty dormer window with cordless Roman shades and a cozy window seat daybed.

Wide Molding

Don't cover up enviable architectural detail. If your windows are framed with gorgeous molding, bypass the drapes and install simple inside-mount roller shades, instead.

From: John Lyle

Photo By: Photo Credit: Edward Addeo © Gibbs Smith, Farrow and Ball, Brian D Coleman, Edward Addeo (photographer)

Cathedral-Style Windows

Like arched windows, cathedral-style varieties look best untreated. But if you must, install inside-mounted shades at the window's horizontal point, leaving the gorgeous detail of the transom exposed.

From: Beckwith Interiors and Beckwith Interiors

Utility Space

Utility spaces like pantries and laundry rooms are all about function. Control temperature and light with a no-fuss, cellular shade mounted inside the window frame.

Tall + Skinny Windows

Extra-long decorative drapes help highlight tall, skinny windows without blocking light.

Transom Window

Long navy blue curtains hung high above the transom window in this gorgeous living room let in loads of light and call attention to the high ceilings.

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