Curtain Design Guidelines

When thinking about curtaining a window there are key steps to consider:

Inside or outside reveal
Wherever possible curtains should be fitted to the outside reveal to prevent the loss of light. Ideally, tracks or poles should be 30% wider than the glass part of the window to provide adequate stack back for the curtains when they are open. Tracks and poles should be fitted approximately 10cm above the top of the window to minimize light escaping along the top edge of the curtains. Design tip: Extend or reduce the length of poles and raise or lower their position to create optical illusions, ie heighten squat windows or broaden narrow windows.

Sill, ballerina or floor length
As a general rule curtains should always be floor length with the exception of cottages and kitchens and bathrooms where sill length curtains are both practical or in proportion.  Ballerina length curtains (half way between sill and floor length) can be used on short cottage windows where there is a need to visually elongate the window by either setting the pole higher and/ or lowering the hem of the curtains.

When to use dress curtains
Dress curtains can be used in situations where the look of curtains is desired without the need to ever draw them. This most often occurs in bay windows and when there is a radiator under the window. In these situations consider using roman blinds on the actual windows with full length dress curtains hung to each side. This can prove economical as dress curtains with blinds can use significantly less fabric than full closing curtains. Design tip: Don’t be too mean with the no. of widths used in dress curtains, they should give the appearance of being able to close even though they won’t be drawn.

Off the ground, skimming or overlong
Full length curtains should always be skimming or slightly overlong. In kitchens or doorways it can be wise to have them sit a maximum of 1cm off the ground to prevent soiling and wear but any higher than this and they will look like a chap whose trousers are too short!  Draughty windows or windows above uneven floors can benefit from curtains that are slightly overlong. This can also give a feeling of decadence but anything over three inches is impractical and will cause problems when drawing the curtains.

Unlined, lined or interlined
Sheer curtains can be installed for privacy without excluding light or to achieve a very soft floaty and romantic feel to a room. In all other circumstances curtains should be lined or interlined. Lining and interlinings improve the drape of curtains and protect face fabrics from the ingress of dust and dirt and from the damaging effects of sunlight. Blackout linings can be used to exclude light almost entirely from a room and interlinings give a wonderfully luxurious look to curtains as well as excellent thermal and sound insulation qualities.

Tape or hand headed
Tape headings (pencil pleat or gathered) are more economical to produce and give a soft randomly gathered appearance to curtains. Hand headings are created using stiffened buckram. Each pleat is created by hand and can be positioned to make the most of the fabric bringing forward particular elements of the design. There is large selection of hand headed pleats to choose from, including French (triple), double, cartridge, pinhook, goblet and box to name but a few. These pleats vary in the amount of fullness required, their formality and the way they cause the curtains to hang. French pleats are by far the most popular for their ability to throw the pleated fabric forward and the neatness of their stacking when the curtains sit open.

Track or pole
This choice comes down to personal preference and the amount of space available for fixings above a window. The diameter of the pole should be chosen according to the weight of the curtains and the size of the window.  Similarly, the quality of track chosen should match the weight of the curtains it will be required to carry.

Top treatment (pelmet, valance, lambrequin)
Top treatments can add formality and elegance to a room. They can also be used to give illusions of height to a window by setting them well above the top of the window, so long as the lower edge of the pelmet sits just below the top of the actual window.