Unsure of how to treat your windows? Here’s advice on dressing them in style

CURTAINS, shades and blinds serve both a practical and decorative purpose in a home. But these decor staples can be deceptively difficult to navigate.

Who among us hasn’t had questions about how to hang or choose a window treatment? We asked experts for advice so even novices can start decorating with confidence.

First, know the terminology. Draperies, curtains, shades, blinds: These are all window treatments.

“Drapery typically means full-length,” said Adam Skalman, vice president of sales for the Shade Store, while curtains typically refer to something that’s shorter in length and made of more sheer material. Shades, typically consisting of fabric and brackets, are a relatively affordable option for spaces where light and privacy are a concern. Blinds, with horizontal or vertical slats, come in materials such as wood and metal, and they work well in rooms in which you want to control the brightness level.

The heading of a window treatment refers to how the curtain looks on top of the rod. Finials – pieces that can be attached to the ends of rods – provide decorative flourish and help rings stay in place, says Erika Hollinshead Ward, an Atlanta-based interior designer and owner of Erika Ward Interiors.

As with any design project, start by thinking about what you want to accomplish.

When choosing a window treatment, consider how the colour complements other furnishings in the room. – WP-BLOOM

How much light and privacy do you want?

Hollinshead Ward says that to block out light, lined treatments in heavier fabrics are a good option and can even provide some extra insulation (these are also called “blackout curtains”). Lighter fabrics, such as linen or cotton blends, work well as sheers, which provide some privacy but won’t block out light. They’re great for spaces where natural light is in short supply.

“Someone might be able to see your silhouette, but you won’t lose any of the light,” she says. In rooms where you’d like more flexibility and ease in controlling light levels, Hollinshead Wood and Skalman both suggest using a shade, then layering a curtain or drape on a rod in front of it.

If you want to use only curtains and want the benefits of both sheers and blackout panels, you could hang a double rod, although Hollinshead Ward says this is costlier and can look dated.

Top-down-bottom-up shades, which can open from the top or bottom, can accomplish this as well, but are usually more expensive than standard shades. For large windows that give off a lot of light, Skalman likes vertical blinds. Cellular shades also filter light and work well in rooms that need extra insulation, he says.

If you’re after total darkness, Hollinshead Ward recommends hanging treatments to fully cover the window’s trim.

What other architectural features must be considered?

When deciding which treatment to use, think about the other furniture and fixtures in the space. “If you have a radiator under a window, you may not do a drapery; you may do a Roman blind,” Erika Hollinshead Ward says, because it extends to the just bottom of the window instead of the floor. Is there a bookcase right next to the window that will be obscured by curtains, or a chair in front of it that would make longer drapes look strange?

What’s your budget?

Custom drapes are typically the most expensive option. Skalman says often there are other options that will meet your needs with less hassle and cost.

“If someone is new to the game and is looking for something clean and modern, that’s sort of the little black dress of window treatments, is probably a roller shade.” he says. – WP-BLOOM