How are you going to dress your windows? For most of us, privacy is one of the major considerations — but if this doesn’t apply to you, try leaving a handsome window uncurtained, at least during the day. You don’t have to be conventional. For example, you don’t have to use curtains — blinds will give an uncluttered look and their patterns won’t be broken up with folds. Do consider your windows from the outside too, and how all the windows will look together. Be practical about relating length and weight to headings and rails, etc. — have you considered all the possibilities? Limited funds shouldn’t stop you, for there are inexpensive roller-blind kits, cheap louvre panels and many different and efficient heading tapes.
CHOOSING CURTAINS Curtaining can be expensive, so think carefully how much you can afford and what you want to achieve (noise insulation, complete darkness). Some practical considerations are: will they be fire hazards, how much fullness (better to have masses of something cheap than skimp — you can give quality by lining them) and, of course, colour, texture and pattern. Avoid enormous patterns unless you can afford to change your curtains frequently. If you’re already stuck with them, try adding a neutral border to the edges. If you stick to something plain you can always pep the room up with, say, patterned cushions which will be cheaper to change. Also avoid short but heavy curtains — the material just won’t hang correctly.
As a general rule it’s best to have curtains either 1 cm (½ inch) off the floor or 0.5 cm (¼ inch) above the sill; any shorter and it may look as if you ran out of material. The tops should be either ceiling height or at the top of the window. The exception is if you’re going to have café curtains which will come half-way down your window. It’s best, when you’re measuring up for curtains, to put the track up first. Remember to allow for matching pattern repeats, and to check that the material won’t shrink! If you’ve any doubts about your material, your retailer should be able to advise. Always look at your curtain material against the light before you buy it. Incidentally, sheeting and towelling come in out-size widths, good colours and are comparatively cheap, so they are ideal as curtain material. What’s more, you can always use them as sheets or towels when you get bored with them as curtains.
Curtains will hang much better if they are lined. Not only does the lining protect the curtain material but it provides an extra insulating layer between the cold glass of the windows and the warm room. Linings can either be sewn to the back of the curtains or can be simply attached to the heading tape with curtain hooks. They can then be taken down and washed separately.
You can also buy ready made curtains. The cheaper ones are unlined and only come in standard lengths but are quick and easy to put up.
HANGING CURTAINS Basically there are two sorts of heading tape; one with a drawstring for pulling your material into folds, and one without. Both are very easy to use. As for curtain hooks, they can be either plastic or metal, can fit into a sliding unit on your track or directly on to the track itself. A track should be hidden discreetly behind your curtains. If attached securely, a track will take even heavy curtains very efficiently. A brass or wooden pole should be grandly displayed in a more traditional way. A tension rod or wire will take lightweight curtaining and is very cheap. Some materials may stretch with hanging, so tack your hem, then finish it when your curtains have been up a couple of days.
The simplest of these are roller blinds. They are neat and inexpensive. There are simple kits available for you to make them yourself with your own choice of material, which should be something quite tough and tightly woven; you can also buy sprays for stiffening roller-blind material. Roman blinds are similar but pull up into concertina pleats. You can make these yourself, too, although they’re not quite as straightforward as rollers. Pinoleum blinds are made of fine strips of wood woven together with cotton; there is now a white plastic quill version. Too. Balastore and Pleat Ms blinds are both made of tough paper.
Wands, with slats of metal or plastic that you can angle to control the light entering or pull right up, are inioey. But consider them as au investment. They are a good answer to sloping windows and are excellent for insulation.
Translucent curtains are a well-established method of giving day-time privacy. If they’re at all heavy, you’ll have to use a second track or a pole but it will be worth the effort to have something rather good. Net curtains can look very wishy-washy. You could be more unconventional and use them as a fixed panel or roller blind. Alternatively you could fit frosted glass or buy glass paint and stencil on a design. If you’re not short of light, mirror glass could replace the ordinary sort. A well-tended window box, or shelves of plants across the whole window on the inside are exciting ways to deal with the everyday problem of privacy.