A Guide to Curtain Styles

Great curtains are an investment, not just dollar-wise, but also from a style perspective. So it’s important that you choose and hang them right the first time. A key piece of advice is to buy the best quality you can afford and if you can, consult an interiors expert to help you make the best choice to suit your needs.

There are so many beautiful fabrics to choose from and so many different styles to consider. If you use a patterned fabric for the curtains, for example, then keep the patterning in the rest of the room to a minimum. If, however, you prefer plains, add a complementary pattern to spice up the room. Read on for lots of tips, from different hanging systems to types of curtain pleating.

Why invest in curtains?
The great thing about curtains is that you’re not just investing in something beautiful for your home, you’re also adding practical insulation. Curtains reduce cold and heat but also help to dampen noise.

Good quality window treatments form a barrier between energy-sapping windows and the inside of your house, lowering energy consumption, saving you money and reducing your carbon footprint. During the summer, simply closing curtains – particularly lined curtains – can reduce heat gain inside by up to 33 per cent.

What styles to consider
The curtain style you choose should be in harmony with the style of your home. Each room is likely to be slightly different but should follow form. For example you may have two to three layers in a bedroom – something decorative to dress the window, something sheer for privacy and a blockout layer to control light.

If privacy is not a concern in your living room, it may only need a beautiful set of sheer curtains. A nursery, however, will need a blockout layer to go with some industrial strength sound proofing.

Choosing fabrics
Fabric is one of the key considerations when choosing curtains. The fabric you choose will determine how well your curtains will function and bear up over time. Heavy fabrics may not fold and drape properly when they’re drawn, and if the fabric is too light, it may not fall well. Linen, silk and velvet are great fabric choices as they tend to hang and drape very well.

Take your time and collect swatches. Most fabric shops will provide swatches on the spot, others will have to order them in for you. Create a mood board with your swatches.

Length and width
Curtains should always be long – they should just touch the floor. Hanging curtains higher than the window will add height to the room. If you can, hang your curtains at least 15cm above the window frame. For a more dramatic look, hang them even higher, from the ceiling or just below the cornices. This will lift the eye and make a low ceiling appear higher.

Remember that curtains should frame a window, so make sure hardware is installed to reflect that. A rule of thumb is to allow an extra 10 per cent of rod on each side, but heavier fabrics will require a bit more.

When curtains are open, the space that the gathered fabric takes up is called ‘the stack’. The stack should not cover too much of the window itself when the curtains are pulled.

Curtain hanging system
Curtain tracks

Curtain tracks are an unobtrusive and elegant way to hang curtains. Install double or even triple tracks for a layered look of sheers and blockout curtains, particularly if you lack privacy but want to let the light in. The quiet, efficient and smooth operation of tracking systems make them a very popular choice. They are particularly good if you have a curved window and need to bring the curtain around a corner.

Curtain poles
Curtain poles, or rods, are a really versatile way to hang different types of curtains. They are available in different sizes and can be made from a number of different materials. Poles are usually capped at each end with a finial, a decorative stopper affixed to the ends of a pole to prevent the curtain slipping off.

Heading styles
Heading is the term used to describe the way the top of the curtain attaches to the hardware (the poles or tracks). The most basic heading is the rod pocket (also known as pole pocket) style. This is when the curtain fabric is turned back on itself to create a pocket through which to feed the curtain rod. Heading tape or eyelets are also used, and this determines how the curtain will hang. The type of heading tape you use can sometimes determine the curtain’s character, and deliver either a contemporary look or something a little more traditional.

Pencil pleats

These tidy and consistent folds at the top of the curtain resemble the size of a pencil, hence the name. These curtains are hung with drapery hooks attached to the back of the curtains where they can’t be seen, and then hooked onto a rod system.

Pinch pleats
The pleats are sewn into the curtain for a permanent gathered look. This is a very versatile style that can be hung on curtain tracks or poles.

Pinch pleats can often be quite formal, but these curtains have been trimmed in a cool colour and paired with modern furnishings and finishes to offer a contemporary look.

Gathered pleats
This style of pleated curtain is a cross between a pinch pleat and a pencil pleat. A gathered curtain is created by sewing a pleating tape to the back of the top edge, then pulling cords in the tape to achieve the desired level of gathering.

French pleats
Creating a tailored, elegant look, French-pleated curtains have groups of triple pleats, placed evenly along the curtains to create a formal heading. These curtains stack neatly to each side and are ideal for a formal dining or lounge room.

Goblet pleats
These goblet pleated curtains are the most formal of all styles, with a cylindrical cuff that resembles a wine glass. The main pleat is shaped and filled with wadding or interlining. These curtains are usually seen in grand or traditional rooms with high ceilings.

Other curtain components

Tab-top curtains have loops at the top, made from the same or contrasting fabric. These modern, informal curtains can only be used with curtain poles. They look great in a sheer, billowy fabric and result in deeper folds in the curtain.

Eyelet curtains can only be used with curtain poles and have a very contemporary and almost industrial feel. Curtains with eyelet headings give large, even and naturally soft folds.

Fabric pelmets and valances
These are placed above windows and over the heads of the curtains to add a finished look to the top of the window and curtain, camouflaging the track or pole. They can be used to create an illusion of height and change the proportion of the window.

A valance is usually soft and drapey, while a pelmet is firm and structured and usually, but not always, upholstered.

Timber pelmet
The pelmet featured in this room is constructed from timber and simply painted to create a modern framework to conceal the curtain hardware. The beauty of this type of pelmet is that it’s easy to construct and means you can be a little less concerned about the detail of the poles and tracks. The curtain falls to the floor, seamlessly creating a light and floaty feel.

How to use
Framing the room

Good curtains will soften the look and feel of a room in a way that no other window treatment will.
Curtains can ‘play’ with the proportions of a room, frame a pretty outlook or shield a bad one.

Easy versatility
Use curtains in unusual places. There is nothing more relaxing and soothing than a beautiful sheer curtain fluttering in a light breeze on a summer day.

The popularity of these hardworking window treatments has led to new developments in fabrics with sheer linens and fine wools entering the fold.

Turn day to night
In bedrooms, and nurseries more particularly, curtains can block out the light and keep baby (and you) asleep during daytime naps. The room needn’t look dark and gloomy though. Choose a vibrant colour like this sunny orange to keep the space cheery, even when the curtains are drawn.

Divide and conquer
Divide a room with a curtain cascading from a ceiling track to create a separate zone.


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