One of my goals with Nadine Stay is to break down design and make it feel more approachable for anyone who is overwhelmed by design. My mission is to make design less intimidating and more inspiring by showing the thought process, the renovation, and the mistakes we make along the way. To show the process from start to finish in our own home and to look at someone else’s finished space and break down why each element works together as a whole.
I don’t know why curtains have become such a repeat topic on my blog, but then again…they carry so much weight in the overall aesthetic of a room. A year ago I shared a few recommendations on how to hang curtains in a way that makes the room and window feel bigger. That’s a great place to start. Then later I got some questions about what window treatments to use when you have a heat register below the window. So I broke that down in this post.
That sparked more conversations about specific window situations because every home is unique so today I’m breaking down 7 unique window set ups and when I prefer to use curtains vs shades.
(Keep in mind that these suggestions are simply my preferences and each can be tweaked or modified to work for you.)
SHADES – Curtains look best when they have room to breathe so if space is tight on either side of the window, I prefer the look of shades. I have a general rule of thumb that I use in my own home – if there’s less than 12″ of space on either side of the window, I use shades. This applies to a window next to a wall, door, fireplace, cabinets, etc.
My exception to this rule is if the window is large and you can afford to cover up some of the window with the curtains.
CURTAINS – Like I mentioned above, curtains do wonders when they have room to breathe. A big blank wall with a window is a prime opportunity to create illusions with curtains! Fill that empty space on either side of the window with double wide curtains. Curtains that extend 18”+ beyond the window frame make the window feel bigger. But curtains also soften the room by breaking up all the hard surfaces.
SHADES MOST OF THE TIME – The size of the bay window and the base of the window plays a role in what I prefer, but generally speaking I recommend shades. If there’s a window seat, shades offer privacy without cluttering the space.
My recommendation changes to curtains if the bay window is more of an extension of the room. If the windows or wall extends to the floor and there’s at least 12” of space within the bay on both ends, I love the look of curtains. Take this space for example by @houseabovetheriver.
CURTAINS OR SHADES – There are so many factors that play a role in this and honestly, there’s not one rule that applies to all situations. Every home will be different, so my advice is to try out your options and see what feels best for your space.
That being said, I personally have a few tips I use for myself –
Is there trim between each window connecting them? Is the gap less than 12 inches? If so, I like to treat that as one window with curtains on either side. If the spacing is more than 12”, perhaps a set of panels for each window would work. Or maybe you have a row of windows and curtains for each might break up the view too much…then I like to bookend the windows with one set of curtains on either end.
Shades could work great too! If you need to soften the space, opt for a fabric shade vs a natural woven material.
SHADES – We have a set of narrow windows in our house and curtains would just drown them out. There aren’t any hard and fast rules (that I know of) on how wide the window needs to be for curtains, but in my opinion if there’s more fabric than window then shades may look more appropriate.
CURTAINS OR SHADES – A lot of times we see these short and wide windows that are placed high off the ground in bedrooms or basements. Whether you pick curtains or shades is entirely up to you, but I have some thoughts on both options.
Since the window is so short, shades may cover up valuable window space so take note of the valance height or how much space the shade takes up when pulled all the way up. Depending on how high the window is, this may not be an issue. Otherwise, you could consider roller shades instead which cover less of the window.
If you opt for curtains, I like to balance the visual weight of the space by placing a piece of furniture below the window. A dresser, a bed, a side table for example fill out the empty space below the window. (Just be sure to leave enough space behind the furniture to close the curtains!)
CURTAINS – I like to treat patio doors like a window so if the space allows, I prefer curtains. Hang them high and wide and don’t skimp on the number of panels you use. If you have enough fabric, it should still have some wave to it even when pulled shut. If not, add another panel until there’s plenty of fabric to cover the doors with a wave.
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