Window Treatment Buying Guide

Turn any window into a stunning focal point


Choosing between the many different options available for your window can be a complicated one. This guide breaks down the types of window treatments, reasons why you may want to choose one over the other and then finally, when you are ready, how to measure for different window treatment types.

The right type of window treatment can make or break a room. Happy Interior’s Group states “The right drapery can turn any window into a stunning focal point.” This guide is to help you select just the right window covering for your particular window and taste. But just in case, once you read through this guide and still have questions, give us a call and let us know how we can help!

Types of Window Treatments

From curtains to drapes, to blinds, to shades, there is no shortage of the types of window treatments. Here are a few for you to consider for your home.


Typically a solid covering for a window that raises or lowers exposing a small portion or a full view of the window.


Defined as having slates or vanes that can be raised or lowered or slated outward or inward to expose or decrease the amount of sunlight that comes through.

Drapes and Curtains

Drapes Drapery Panel for Window Treatment
Curtains & Curtain Panels for Window Treatment
Cafe Curtains for Window Treatment
Window Sheer for Decor

Drapes/Drapery Panels

A drape is considered the most formal version of window treatments. They are typically lined and made out of heavier fabrics, such as linen or velvet. They cover the full length of the window from above the window and window frame to the floor. Drapes hang from rods on rings, hooks, grommets, or from a fabric sleeve.

Curtains/Curtain Panels

This option is more casual than a drape with the biggest difference being that they are not usually lined. Often, they are hung from a rod by tabs but can be hung by other methods as well including a casing, or curtain rings. Often, they are made of lightweight, sheer or semi-sheer fabrics.

Cafe Curtains

This is a window treatment covering only the bottom half of a window. They are mostly used in a kitchen or kitchenette area. They are inspired by what is used in a typical cafe.


Rather than a type of window covering, this is more about fabric content. A sheer window covering is usually considered a curtain. A sheer curtain is a semi-transparent fabric providing moderate privacy but still lets the sun stream in. Often, these are great to pair with other sheers or even other fabric types for a layered look and more coverage.

Blackout drapes/ curtains block out close to 99% of sunlight. They can reduce your overall energy costs in summer and winter. Suggested locations for use are in living rooms and bedrooms. Typically, blackout drapes are a heavier window covering and need a sturdier hanging rod. Good quality blackout curtains look like a good quality decorative window treatment.

Valances and Window Scarves

Valances for Window Treatment
Scarves for Window Treatment


A valance is a window treatment that covers only the top portion of the window including the drapery hardware. There are many styles of valences to choose from such as cascading, scalloped, imperial, Charleston and inverted box to name a few so there is sure to be just the right one for your situation.

Window Scarves

Window Scarves are long, continuous pieces of fabric that are draped over a rod/pole or used in conjunction with a drapery sconce. It creates a soft framing around your entire window. However, it will not block much sun. If it is a window that needs more insulation, consider paring with a shade, blind or even drapes.


Shades are typically a solid covering for a window that raises or lowers, exposing a small portion or a full view of the window. Because of the beautiful materials combined with the different types now available, many individuals choose shades for its aesthetics as much as its functionality. They also pair lovely with drapes or curtains.

We will cover a few types – Roman shades, roller shades, cellular shades and pleated shades.

Several types of Roman shades exist. A Roman shade is simply considered a solid window covering made out of fabric that stacks when closed. Although cordless is available, usually a cord is used to open and closes this form of window treatment.

Plain Fold Roman Shades
Flat Roman Shades for Windows
Waterfall Shades for Windows

Plain Fold Roman Shade

Much like the flat Roman shade, a plain fold Roman shade does lie flat, but the difference is that there are seams that run every few inches, which helps the fabric to fold evenly. A good choice for rooms such as bedrooms or bathrooms where they will be opened and closed frequently.

Flat Roman Shade

A flat Roman Shade lies flat against the window when fully extended. When raised, it is stacked into a neat accordion fold. It is constructed of a solid piece of fabric with no seams. This version provides a very clean and uncluttered option. Choose this option when you have shallow windows.

Waterfall Roman Shade

Also referenced as a soft fold or hobbled Roman shade, this shade features gentle folds of fabric to provide a soft, cascading appearance when fully extended. Choose this type when you want a little extra fabric for a light blocking option. Keep in mind that this shade has extra volume and thus will require more window depth.

Rolling Shades for Windows
Cellular Shades for Windows
Pleated Shades for Windows

Rolling Shade

A rolling shade is made out of vinyl or fabric and is attached to a spring roller. It is intended to mount on the inside of the window frame. It is an inexpensive and practical solution as it comes in a large range of sizes. This is also a great option if you would like the shade to be hidden from view when “rolled up”. Pair it with a valance or window scarf treatment for extra insulation.

Cellular Shade

Also known as a honeycomb shade, this type of shade extends the entire width of the window. The “cells” hold air to create a barrier between the window and the room itself, reducing overall cooling or heating needs for the home. Of course, it also blocks out direct light. The shade itself when raised, folds up like an accordion to minimize its appearance when collapsed. Single honeycomb cells are stacked one to top of each other creating a “single” row. Double honeycombs are made with two rows of cells. The double cell cellular shade has increased material strength as well as a greater insulation value than those of a single cell shade.

Pleated Shade

Unlike Honeycomb shades that have a double or quadruple row that form a tube like cell that runs the width of the shade, pleated are made with only one layer of fabric. A pleated shade protects beautifully against the sun but less so when it comes to the cold. Also note that the cords of a pleated shade are visible, both inside and outside the room.


Blinds for Window Treatment

Window blinds are defined as having slates or vanes that can be raised or lowered or slated outward or inward to expose or decrease the amount of sunlight that comes through. They come in horizontal or vertical options. Available in a variety of colors, materials and styles, blinds are often the perfect choice for a multitude of situations. The vinyl option is typically the least expensive while the heavier wood options are more luxurious and therefore cost more. They do come in mid-range materials such as bamboo, and faux wood that is stunning and at price points accessible to nearly everyone. As an option, these can be paired with drapes or curtains.

More about Draperies and Curtains

Understand measuring, pleat types, and other tips will help you be satisfied with your purchase decision.

Drapery and Curtain Pleat Types

When considering draperies or curtains, you will want to determine what type of pleat style to get. There are several options available.

  • Consider a French pleat if you like simple, classic and elegant. It is suitable to hang from rings or carriers. This is the perfect choice for pairing with a traverse rod.
  • If you are looking for a clean, modern look, consider a grommet style. Typically, the inside diameter of the eyelets used for the grommet is 1 5/8″. You will want to pair with a rod that compliments the grommet metal finish and has a nice decorative finial to complete the look.

  • A hook belt – or ribbon is placed on the back of a pole pocket and is used to attach either to a ring, which gives a modern yet elegant option or it can also be used in combination with drapery pins to use with a traverse rod.
  • An inverted pleat header adds fullness without the look of a traditional pinched pleat look. It is clean and flat across the top when closed.

  • Parisian pleats have an element of refinement. They create an illusion of an upside down v (technically referenced as a French pleat) at the top of the curtain providing an elaborate fullness.
  • A pole pocket hung on rings is a classic contemporary look that will suit any style.
  • A back tab pole pocket is a very versatile option. They can be hung using the pocket or with the back tabs that provide a gathered or rippled effect.

French Pleat Header, Grommet Top Header & Hook Belt

Measuring for Curtains and Drapes

Metal Tape Measure to nearest 1/8"

Step 1 – Measuring Tips

Use a metal tape measure. Make sure to round to the nearest 1/8″. The width is listed first and length is listed second. For example: 50″x84″ – 50 is width and 84 is length.

Measure the Window Width with casing or molding

Step 2 – Measuring Window Width

Measure the window width and include any casings or moldings and add 4″ per side. The additional inches are for the rods to extend on either side of the window. If there is no molding, measure the window opening space). For enough fullness, multiply that result by 2 or 3.

a. Standard fullness, multiply by 2
b. Deluxe fullness, multiply by 2.5
c. Ultra fullness, multiply be 3

Note: when measuring pleated drapes, the fullness is included in the flat measurement.

Measure the Window Length

Step 3 – Measuring Length

You want a minimum of 4″ up from the top of the window. To make your room feel larger, bring your curtains up to the ceiling leaving a few inches for the curtain to have a little breathing room from the rod to the ceiling. Measure the length of the window plus any extra area you want to cover the top or the bottom. If sill length is desired measure to just below the bottom of the sill. If you want your drapes to fell extra luxurious, add a few more inches to have your drapes puddle onto the floor. Keep in mind, for tab curtains, include the tabs unless otherwise specified.

Note: For drapes that will be hung with rings: Measure the distance from the rod to the floor and deduct the ring height from this amount. For rods with pocket panels, measure the distance from the rod to the floor plus the diameter of the rod. Grommet panels will typically be 1″ higher than the top of the grommet opening, so add an extra inch in your floor to rod measurement. With all drapery types add the amount for puddling to the final number.

Curtain Measuring Rings and Floor Height

Curtain Rods

Curtain rods are an important element of selecting the correct window treatment. It will affect what type of window covering you choose.

  • Return rods typically have a 90 degree turn on either end that turns back or returns to touch the wall in order to attach directly to the wall without the need of additional brackets.
  • Tension rods are spring loaded rods that press against the window frame so that no hardware is needed. Lighter weight window treatments are recommended when using tension rods.
  • Cafe curtain rods are very lightweight and unobtrusive. They are placed at a midway point on the window frame, often on the outside of the window casing with decorative hardware. This type of rod is paired with a café curtain.
  • Traverse rods are typically used over a large window. A series of rollers and strings that manipulate the opening and closing of the drapes are used. Decorative traverse rods use the same series of rollers and strings but the rod and rings are exposed rather than covered by the drape, cornice or architectural valance. Combination Traverse Rods include a stationary curtain rod in front or behind a traverse rod. Other combination traverse rods have two rows of traverses.
  • Double rods allow one to layer draperies. For instance, one may wish to use sheers under a more heavy material such as velvet.
  • A telescoping rod is a rod that will adjust dependent on the size of the window. These rods will need to be finished with a finial.
  • Center support – if a window has a large span, a functional support or two will be required to prevent the rod from bowing. Ideally the support will be in the middle of the window. However, if the rod is very long, more than one center support will be needed. This will affect where and how your drapes will slide open. Consider how often the window or door opening will be used and where the supports and the panels will lie.

Different Types of Curtain Rods

Measuring Your Window for Curtain Rods

Measure the width of your window to the framed edges plus 6-18 inches (on average 8″ will work), leaving room for the drapes to fully open to expose the window beneath. Take into consideration if the rod will be inside mounted, trim mounted, or wall mounted.

When measuring, always use a steel tape measure, measuring to the nearest 1/8th. Accuracy counts! Double check your measurements to be sure you have precisely what is needed for each opening door or window.

According to Shane Inman, Senior Principal interior designer of the Inman Company, most rods require center supports every 30-36

Window Treatment Tips

  • To make your windows seem larger, extend your curtain rod to the sides of the windows. To make your room seam taller, hang your drape closer to the ceiling vs the window frame.

Window Treatment Tips

  • To provide the ultimate in insulation and varying natural light, combine at least two types of window coverings.
  • The term drape and curtain, even though they are technically different are often interchanged among consumers and manufacturers. Make sure to read the entire product details in order to be sure you are selecting the perfect treatment for your home.
  • Keep in mind, that the right choice for window coverings is a combination of your taste and the style of the room where they will hang.
  • When looking at drapery measurements, note that inches, never feet are used.
  • When measuring for your window treatments, use a carpenters or metal tape measure, not a dressmaker or flexible tape measure.

Combining Window Curtains & Drapes

Window Treatment Definitions and Terms

  • Apron: the molding on a window just below the window sill on the window frame.
  • Break: Where the drape folds or creases at the floor. The break determines how large of a puddle you desire.
  • Finial: The decorative piece used as an end cap for a drapery rod. It is a decorative piece, typically made of wood, metal or glass.
  • Gathers: Created to make fullness, this is when the fabric is pulled or drawn together.
  • Grommet: A large opening encased in metal or plastic in the casing of a drape, used to put a rod through. They are also referenced as large eyelets.
  • Header: The top area of the casing for a rod pocket. It forms a ruffle on the upper side of the rod.
  • Lining: A fabric backing for drapery panels. This lining can aid in privacy, temperature control and body.

Window Treatment Definitions & Terms
  • Panels: drapes and curtains are sold in panels. This is a section that can be used alone or in multiples depending on the fullness desired. Be sure to read the product description to be certain you are aware of how many panels come in a package. Some are sole in singles while others are sold in sets.
  • Pleats: This technique is also used to created fullness but is completed with an exact repeat pattern of folds.
  • Puddle: Excess fabric pooled onto the floor at the base of the drape. This makes for a very formal look. Puddles can be in excess of 1-10 inches.
  • Return: This is the measurement from where the curtain hands from the wall to the rod.
  • Ring: This is drapery hardware that slips over the rod or pole that usually has a clip from which to hang the drape.
  • Sill: a part of the window trim, it is the ledge of a window where sometimes there is room for plants.
  • Stack back or stacking space: The amount of space the curtains occupy when fully opened. This will potentially affect the length of the curtain rod. The stack back for a lined curtain requires a 15 percent addition to the window width. The stack back for a blackout adds an additional 25 percent to the window width. The curtain rod should reflect the stack back measurement.
  • Tiebacks: A piece of material, that can be made out of metal, fabric, or rope, that pulls drapes and curtains away from the center of the window for a soft flowing effect.

Questions to Consider

Q – How long should my drapes be?
A – Drapes should go at least 4 inches above your window frame and at a minimum, fall to your floor. To give the illusion of tall ceilings, bring your drapes up close to the ceiling and puddle them on the floor. Make sure to reference “Measuring for Curtains & Drapes”.

Q – How wide should curtains be? How many panels do I need?
A – Your curtain rod should extend 3-4 inches on either side of your window frame. If you have more space in the room and you want the window to appear larger, go wider. Once you determine how wide you would like your curtain rod, multiply that distance by 2 or 3 for the proper fullness – that is if you are not using a pleated drape. Make sure to reference Measuring for Curtains & Drapes.

Q – Where should I mount my window coverings in relation to the window?
A – On average, there should be a minimum of 4 inches on either side of the window. However, if you are mounting café curtains or different types of blinds, you will mount them inside the frame or as a service mount.

Q – Where should I mount my curtain rods in relation to the ceiling?
A –
You should mount your curtain rod as close to the ceiling as possible to give the illusion that your room has tall ceilings. However leave a few inches of breathing room so it doesn’t crowd the ceiling too much (unless you are using a boxed cornice in which case, these often go up to the ceiling).

Q – What type of rod should I use?
A –
There are many types of rods to choose from (see curtain rod types). You will know what type of rod to use based on window size and application. For instance, if you have a very large window to cover that you foresee that you will open and close frequently, consider using a decorative traverse rod. If you have a small kitchen window that you desire to be more casual, consider a café rod. If you are looking to utilize grommet drapes for a more casual look, consider using a classic rod.

Q – Do I need tiebacks?
A –
You may want to consider tiebacks when you have layered drapes that are very formal. Using tiebacks when a drapery is not opened or closed often is ideal.

Q – How should I install my window treatments? Should I hire a handyman?
A –
Hanging window treatments can be done yourself if you have the right tools (such as a level, a hand drill) and you feel confident in using them. Making sure everything is accurately measured and level is the most important. Hanging cornices and certain blinds and shades can be a little more challenging so you may want to consider using a handyman who specializes in window treatments in those cases.

Q – How do I care/clean/launder my window treatments?
A –
If any of your window treatments are dusty, simply vacuum it using a clean upholstery attachment. Read your care labels. Most drapes will recommend dry cleaning. Some curtains may allow home laundering. Do be careful if your window treatments are lined, as the lining my shrink even if the external fabric can be laundered. Those with stitched-in pleats, tassels and other elaborate embellishments should be dry cleaned. Velvet drapes can be freshened without dry cleaning or washing by brushing them with a chamois cloth dipped in hot water and thoroughly wrung out. For fibers such as silk that say they can be hand washed, wash them in tepid water using mild dishwasher detergent by swishing gently without wringing or twisting of any kind. Keep your curtains dust free by using a dedicated vacuum cleaner’s soft brush attachment and vacuuming them routinely. As a tip, to keep the fabric from sucking into the vacuum, place a stiff piece of plastic screen or a clean nylon stocking between the nozzle and the fabric using a rubber band. Airing them out on an outdoor clothesline that is protected from birds is also an effective method for keeping your drapes/curtains fresh.

Q – What color should I choose? Should I choose a print or a solid color?
A –
Consider style and mood of the room and whether or not you want it formal or more relaxed. Solid curtains provide more decorating options with other décor in the room. Select bright curtains that will coordinate with other colors that will pop into the room even if it is just a small piece of décor on a shelf or a bright color in a painting. If you prefer the curtains to blend with the décor, select curtains that are slightly darker than the walls or another non-dominant color that is used in the room. Don’t use patterned curtains if you already have patterned walls, furniture or bedding unless you like your room full of color. Consider using a print in a daring or bold color if you want a room that has drama and glam. Use subtle small prints for a more traditional and elegant effect. Patterns such as stripes, chevrons and geometric shapes bring a modern touch to the room.

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