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Can curtains REALLY change the entire look and feel of an entire room? That’s what I found myself wondering this week as I attempted (and failed, for the record) to select window treatments for my soon-to-be pink living room (!!). Like, sure, we all know that the correct placement and length and width of your curtains will make your windows look better – here’s a refresher on those rules, if you need it – but can a single curtain panel actually take your design from “wow, this looks pretty good” to “holy crap, this is phenomenal?”

At first, I was a little skeptical – I mean, a pretty room is a pretty room, you know? Does it really matter if the curtains are gray or purple if they ~go~ with the rest of the space? And, well, spoiler alert: IT DOES MATTER. When I looked more closely at what made certain rooms sing, or what made homes feel finished or polished or well designed…well, y’all, it was the window treatments, EVERY SINGLE TIME. Sometimes it was the color (or the lack of color); sometimes it was the proportion; sometimes it was the pattern – but every time, the curtains were the piece that cemented each room’s look and feel. Can I show you what I mean? (This first example is my favorite.)

Bring In Some Color

The bones of these rooms? Incredibly similar. Both are located in Hollywood, both have green lacquered walls, both have lots of brass with hits of black and classic glam elements (veined marble on the left and leopard on the right – my favorites!).

The feel of each room, though, couldn’t be more different. The gray curtains on the left feel a little more masculine and formal, while the magenta window coverings on the right leave this lobby feeling cheery and open. With a few easy (and affordable!) styling swaps, you could totally change the look and feel of each one of these spaces. NEAT, RIGHT???

Here are two more examples of single-color, high contrast curtains that totally transform each of these rooms. A monochrome look in either space would have fallen a little flat, don’t you think? The contrast feels intentional and bold and special – it’s a little detail that adds SO much. (Speaking of little details, check out that copper curtain rod on the left. BIG swoon.)

You may recognize that shot on the left – this house tour went very viral – but do you see how Frances Merrill, the mastermind behind Reath Design, continued to play with tonal curtain panels throughout the entirety of this California home? It’s a fun and fresh idea if you’re looking to add a LOT of visual interest without layering in a ton of busy or competing patterns.

Take your hand and cover up the yellow curtain on the left for a second. The room feels a lot colder and a little darker, right? Opting for a bright yellow curtain and adding those warm, saturated pillows makes ALL the difference in the world. On the right, a bold pop of orange velvet brings a lot of vibrance and youth to this otherwise-traditional nursery.

Keep It Simple

design by jett projects | photo by christian harder | via elle decor

If pops of color aren’t your thing, that’s okay! Quiet and tonal curtains can be total showstoppers, too. If you’re looking to draw attention to a view, consider opting for window treatments that are a near-match for your wall color – do you see how your eyes are drawn straight to the windows and to the view outside when everything else in the home lives within a tightly restrained color palette?

design by jett projects | photo by christian harder | via elle decor

Who DOESN’T want to take a nap in here? It’s like an adult version of a nursery – so restful and calming and serene. The weight of these curtains, in particular, is so lovely – they have the perfect level of light-filtering ability, don’t you think? A velvet in here would have weighed down the space and made an already-narrow space feel a little claustrophobic. Keep your materials AND colors in mind, gang!

design by edel legaspi | photo by roger davies | via architectural digest

Keeping it simple doesn’t necessarily always mean going all-tonal, though. See how the ombré curtains above work to blend the shades of several pieces in this room? An all-white curtain in here may have felt a little boring, but a pattern would have taken away from the quiet sophistication – this light-to-dark faded drape was the right choice to keep things interesting.

Play With Proportion

I KNOW. You came in here with a full knowledge of the rules of curtains and now I’m here to tell you that soooometimes, it’s kind of fun to experiment with breaking those rules. EEP.

Case in point: both of these rooms were completed by Reath Design, and I am really taken with the different approaches they took to outfitting two sets of arched windows. On the left, you see a more traditional rod placement paired with a fun, cropped curtain. On the right, though, we have a traditional length with a less-traditional placement, which allowed room for some modern sconces on either side of the window. It’s cool to take chances and play with your design!!!

design by wesley moon | photo by pernille loof | via architectural digest

LONG LIVE THE CAFE CURTAIN. I think a lot of folks would have opted for roman shades here, but this little curtain adds SO much charm while drawing your eye straight to those painted grilles. (Personal update: I was eyeing romans for my kitchen, but this shot alone swayed me to look into something smaller that only covers the bottom half of my windows. It’d be quaint and sweet, which feels like a perfect match for my lemon-printed wallpaper!)

Okay, okay – I know this is a restaurant, but LOOK HOW COOL THIS CURTAIN PLACEMENT IS. It’s a tiny piece of fabric that creates such a sense of space and place around each booth – could you do anything similar in your home?

design by linehouse | via sfgirlbybay

One more from a restaurant – I know, I know – but sometimes, it’s fun to look for inspiration outside of homes. These above-booth curtains create such a sense of privacy without sacrificing light or aesthetics. Maybe this will inspire you in some way, too 🙂

Opt for Some Pattern

design by reath design | photo by laure joliet | via architectural digest

Alright – we’re wrapping it up with my favorite section and kicking it off with one of my favorite photos: it’s time to POWER CLASH, baby. This is another room from the viral multicolor-curtain home that we peeked at earlier and it’s a masterclass in mixing and matching (the tiny print on the rug! The medium scale wallpaper! The large block print on the window treatments!). Let this be today’s reminder that Em’s classic advice of “pretty looks good next to pretty” is, well, PRETTY SPOT ON. Bring on the pattern!!! You got it!!

I adore Matilda Goad’s home for, uh, about a BILLION different reasons…but her use of window treatments is pretty high up there on the list, TBH. I love how the stripe breaks up those long curtains on the right (and this could be a GREAT idea if you need to extend the length of some drapes you already have – attach a different fabric at the bottom!). And on the left, man – that bold cabana stripe makes SUCH A DIFFERENCE. Seriously – cover it up with your hand – it’s the finishing element that makes this room feel fresh and new.

design by charlap hyman & herrero | photo by laure joliet | via architectural digest

A little extra? Yes. VERY fun? HELL YES. It’s not totally uncommon to match your wallpaper and your window treatments – it’s actually super common in more traditional homes – but this version, with a storybook print and custom bed and leopard carpet, is really exciting and one-of-a-kind. (That said, you don’t have to try this only with wallpaper – do you think you could achieve a similar effect with paint?)

Pattern can be a little subtler, too. First off – both of these rooms are in the same home and I love how cohesive they feel, despite the variation in color palette and architecture. Second off – a big part of said cohesion is owed in part to these simple horizontal-stripe curtains, which bring a hit of visual interest while weaving a common thread through each space.

design by meta coleman | photo by rett peek | via domino

How freakin’ HOME-Y does this feel? It’s designed, but it’s also lived in and cozy and un-intimidating. (Like, you’d feel comfortable eating a snack in here, you know?) The big patterns in this room are pulled towards the front of the shot – the plaid piano bench, the striped ottoman, the gingham chair – and the curtains in the background provide a great balance for those strong patterns in the foreground. The layering of wooden roman shades is really really lovely, too.

Primary color shades, partially painted wall, bold hits of color – is this my new favorite bathroom formula? While I actually think that both of these spaces would look just as great with a solid shade (who am I?!), the bold stripe adds something dynamic to each space – it’s the perfect finishing touch that makes it feel ~designed~.

design by meta coleman | photo by rett peek | via domino

Last but not least – this is one of my favorite room reveals of 2022. Everything in here is incredible – the palette! The rug! The deep sectional! The wicker stool! The casegoods! That patchwork chair! – but those gridded curtains are the icing on the freakin’ cake. They speak to the other colors and patterns in the room; they add quiet interest; they bring depth and warmth. (The rod placement is perfect, too.) It’s a nice reminder that pattern doesn’t always mean in-your-face – sometimes it can just be a liiiiiittle something that makes your home feel polished and considered.

So, uh, WHAT SAY YOU? Let’s talk about our window treatment woes and wins, yeah??? xx

Opening Image Credits: Design by Meta Coleman | Photo by Rett Peek | via Domino



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