Buying Guide to Window Treatments


Buying Guide to Window Treatments

Window treatments do multiple jobs in living spaces. The right one can help with a room's noise, light, and heating issues. A window treatment can even liven up a room without the need for extensive renovation, solving for decorating hazards like oddly placed windows and lackluster views. A window treatment adds the finishing touch to your room's décor. There are lots of options when it comes to dressing a window and this handy guide will help you make a great choice

Window Treatments

Other than sprucing up your room's décor, what else are you looking for your window treatment to do?

My window... Look for window treatments that offer...
  • is in a room that gets lots of sun exposure.
  • is in a very dark room.
Light Control/Room Darkening: These types of window treatments allow natural light to brighten up the room, soften the lighting, or, if you need it, completely darken the room.
  • is in my children's bedroom /playroom.
Noise Control: A window treatment with multiple layers will help to absorb sound when children are playing and keep the room quiet when they're sleeping.
  • is in the warmest room of my home
  • is in the coldest room of my home.
Energy Saving: Heavier window treatments with natural fibers, such as cotton or linen, help to keep a cold room warmer. Additionally, the space between the fabric and the window prevents cold or hot air from circulating, which can reduce home heating and cooling costs.

How's the view?

The right treatment can enhance or disguise a window. To frame a window or the view, opt for an elaborate window treatment. To hide a window or view, de-emphasize by focusing on the room itself. For poorly placed or oddly shaped windows, simple treatments that blend with the surroundings are your best bet.

What is the style of the room you're decorating?

My room is... How you can style your window:
Casual Create a warm and inviting atmosphere with subtle layering. You might want to consider the following window dressings: Roman shades, woven wood blinds, drapery panels with tab tops or box-pleated valances.
Formal Establish a refined, luxurious look using polished hardware and two to three layers of material. To achieve a formal look, hang casement curtains of sheer or lace fabric in the window trim area, then layer drapery and/or a valance. Consider sumptuous fabrics, such as tapestry, brocades, silks and velvets.
Contemporary For a contemporary window treatment, keep accessories to a minimum. Opt for sleek, sophisticated design elements with clean lines. You might consider reflective metal hardware and fabrics with solid colors or modern geometric patterns.
Traditional Creating a traditional window treatment usually follows a three-step design process: a sash, a draw drapery, and an over-drapery. Depending on the size or position of your window, one or two of these dressings will also achieve the traditional look. Consider solid-colored or printed fabrics with textures.

What about patterns? There are two major categories types of patterns fall into.

Do you prefer...? How you can style your window:
Masculine Styling To achieve a masculine sense of style, consider window treatments that have fabrics with subtle patterns, such as stripes and checks. Deeply colored solids also work well, in hues of brown, navy, burgundy, dark green, and even black.
Feminine Styling To achieve a feminine sense of style, consider window treatments with generous amounts of draping. Pastel and floral fabrics in silk and lace with ruffles, tiebacks, and other embellishments work nicely.

Measuring Tips

Before you make a purchase, you'll want to decide how you'd like your window treatment to hang: on the inside or outside of the window frame. To measure your windows, you'll need a pencil, retractable measuring tape, and paper.

Measure from the inside of the window to the other side for the width of the inside of the frame. Measure from the outside edges of the window molding for the width of the outside of the frame. Measure from the outside edge of the top of the window to the outside edge of the bottom of the window to get the height of the window.

Windows may look identical, but they are not always perfectly straight, nor exactly the same size.

Inside Mount

To obtain the most accurate measurements start by measuring width horizontally from the inside of the window to the other side. Measure in three different places: at the top, middle, and bottom of the window. Use the narrowest measurement. Measure the height of the window vertically from the inside edge of the top of the window to the inside edge of the bottom of the window. Also take three separate measurements from the top to bottom: the right side, the middle and the left side. Select the longest measurement.

Outside Mount

First measure the horizontal width of the window from the outside edges of the window molding. As with an inside mount, measure in three different places and use the widest width. To measure the vertical height of an outside mount, determine where you are hanging the rod, either directly on the top section of molding or if above the molding, add 1”to 3” for the mounting brackets. Mark the location with a pencil. Determine if the curtain will fall to the bottom of the frame or hang further below the window to achieve a longer look and mark that spot with a pencil. Then measure from the top point to the bottom point.

More Tips:

  • Hardware will generally extend 4" beyond the window frame (2" on each side).
  • A curtain rod's length doesn't include the decorative finial.
  • While many rods are expandable, wooden poles come in standard lengths of 4', 6', and 8' and may be customized.
  • For a full look, plan on two to four times the fabric width to the width of your window.

For panels, the height includes the tip of the tab or ring to the bottom of the panel.

  • Panels are usually hung 4" above the window frame (commonly 96").
  • Shorter panels are meant to hang 4" below the window sill (commonly 63").
  • You'll typically want to use an even number of panels (four per window creates a full, gathered look).

For scarves use this equation:


For blinds and shades that will be mounted to the inside of a window frame, you will need exact measurements. Follow these steps:

  • For inside (recessed) shade or blind mounting: Measure the width of the window to the nearest 1/8". Because not all windows are exactly "square," measure the width in three places: high, middle, and low. Record the shortest width. Next, measure the length of the opening.
  • For outside shade or blind mounting: Measure the width of the area to be covered; include window trim when applicable. The recommended overlap is at least 1 1/2" on each side. Next, measure the length of the opening adding 3" to the measurement in order to accommodate bracket installation.

When it comes to choosing the right window treatment for your room, there are three things you'll want to consider: type of window treatment, the fabric, and the hardware. All three factors combine to form the perfect window treatment.

What is the shape of your window?

My window is... Your window shape is called:
Shaped like a rectangle [typical window shape: patio door, door way, sliders.] Rectangular [Horizontal or Vertical] Types of rectangular windows are:
  • Bow
  • Double Hung
  • Hopper
Box-shaped Square
Is polygonal in shape and projects out from the exterior. Bay
Narrow and located on either side of my door. Sidelight
Semi-circular (and sits above my door or window). Eyebrow or Circle Top

Type of Window Treatment

Whether your style is traditional or contemporary, there are many types of window treatments to suit your room's décor. Each of these types of window treatments comes in a wide variety of styles, fabrics, and materials from which to choose.

Type of Window Treatment Description
Panels Panel is the term used to describe the big piece of fabric that hangs on a window, which can be called either a curtain or a drape. Curtains are casual, usually made of lightweight fabrics, while drapes are more formal and fashioned from heavier fabrics.

Panels are available in several standard top styles. The type of top style a panel is will let you how it hangs from the rod:

  • Rod/Pole Pocket, Pinch Pleat and Back Tab (gathers at the top and conceals rod)
  • Tab Top, Tie Top and Grommet Top (decorative rod remains exposed)

Panels generally come in the following lengths: 63", 84", 95" and 108".

Sheers Typically made of see-through, lightweight, plain-weave fabric called voile, sheers come in various textures, colors, and styles. These versatile panels can be used alone or by layering.

Sheer panels generally come in the following lengths: 63", 84", 95", and 108".

Valances Valances are short panels that cover the top portion of a window. They can be used alone, or with panels and blinds.

There are several types of valances. Some of the most common are:

  • Blouson: Can be hung two ways: stuffed for a balloon look or tailored for a straight look.
  • Ascot: Has a tiered or pointed look.
  • Festoon: Hangs curve-like over the window.
  • Scarf: A versatile style that can be hung using a sconce, swag holder, or decorative rod.
  • Patriot, Federal, or Tucked: Tucked to create swags across the width. Usually trimmed along the bottom edge.
  • Tailored or Straight: Rectangular straight across.
  • Scalloped: Bottom edge is lined with rounded curves.
Valances are available in a wide range of widths, lengths, and top finishes.
Tiers Kitchen tiers are short panels that are used on smaller windows and are usually sold in pairs. They are often paired with matching valances at the top of the window.

Standard lengths for kitchen tiers are: 24" and 36".

Blinds These are slatted window treatments that can be rotated to different positions to create privacy or to block/reduce sunlight. They can be combined with fabric window treatments for a layered look.

Blinds are typically constructed from wood, aluminum, or vinyl.

Blinds come in standard window measurements or can be custom fitted.

Shades Shades are solid or tone-on-tone fabric window treatments that stack or roll up to the top of the window when raised. They are usually hung from inside the window frame. They're great for insulation and filtering light.

Shades come in various styles. Some types you might want to consider are:

  • Cellular: Made from two layers of fabric to create an accordion-like, honeycombed style.
  • Roman: Features loosely folded horizontal pleats that hang flat when lowered and fold up neatly when raised.
  • Woven: Usually made from natural or natural-looking materials, like rattan and bamboo.

Shades come in lengths of 64" or 72" and a variety of widths that can accommodate windows between 18" and 72".

Door Panels These panels have small rod pockets at both the top and bottom, and are hung using spring tension or sash rods.

The best way to select the right fabric for your window treatment is by playing up the room's overall style. If your room's décor is formal, opt for heavier drapes in silks and brocades. If your room is casual, choose easy-care cotton and polyester. Let your room's style and function dictate fabric choice.

Fabric Type Description
Cotton This most versatile, easy-care fabric used for window panels consists of 100% natural fiber.
Linen Made from fibers of the flax plant, linen allows some light to filter through and allows for more privacy than sheer panels.
Silk A natural fiber that is made from the pupae of the silk worm, silk has a radiant sheen and retains vibrant colors.
Polyester This man-made fabric is wrinkle resistant and generally resists fading. Polyester is often blended with cotton or rayon to achieve the look of finer fabrics, such as silk or suede.
Lining A lining is a layer of fabric placed on the back of panels to protect it from dirt, dust, and sunlight. A lining can also help a panel drape more smoothly.

Some types of linings are:

  • Blackout Lining: This 3-layer fabric consists of two layers of cotton and one layer of opaque material. It completely blocks out light and can be used along with decorative panels.
  • Interlining: Typically made of cotton, this third layer of fabric is sandwiched between the fabric and the lining to provide light and noise reduction.
  • Foam Backing: A coating is applied to the back of the panel to provide thermal qualities, room darkening properties, and noise reduction.


Not strictly functional, hardware also pulls the entire look of your window treatment together. From sleek to ornate, hardware can dress a look up or down depending on your room's needs.

Hardware Type Description
Rods or Poles Rods are the main support for your window treatment and are usually made of metal, wood, or plastic.

There are two types of rods:

  • Non-decorative: These rods are meant to be concealed by fabric. Types of non-decorative rods are: white curtain rods, Dauphine, magnetic, sash, tension, and café rods.
  • Decorative: These rods are meant to be seen and are available in a wide variety of styles, materials, and finishes, as well as in telescoping and fixed lengths.
Double or Combination Rods Use these rods when layering a valance on top of sheers and/or panels.
Projection Rods Use projection rods when there is a fair amount of space between the window treatment and the wall. Such can be the case when layering panels or fitting around large moldings.
Finials Finials add a decorative touch to the ends of a rod. They come in many styles and finishes.
Rings Rings can be decorative and functional, as they add to a panel's look and allow for panels to slide easier. Rings can be slipped onto a rod and clipped to a panel.
Holdbacks or Spindles These decorative hardware accents are secured to a wall and hold panels open.
Sconces or Swag Holders Use sconces or swag holders to hang scarf valances or to hold curtain rods.


Many window fabrics and materials, such as cotton and polyester, can be washed and dried at home, while others like silk and bamboo will need to be dry cleaned, spot cleaned, or vacuumed only. Check the manufacturer's cleaning instructions for each type of window treatment you have.