Curtains and blinds buying guide
Providing a stylish frame for the window, the right curtains or blinds can really improve the look of the room. The fold and fall of the drapes can add glamour and chic, but they’re also practical, keeping in the warmth and keeping out prying eyes. Choose well, and you can give the whole room individuality and style using attractive draperies.
Curtains can be bought ready made, or for more challenging window sizes, may be made to order. Heavy fabrics may give a richer, more luxurious finish to a window and are especially useful for large window spaces. Floaty muslin styles have a more romantic look. Patterns add interest to a room, plain colours can be more chic.
Hanging the curtains
The curtains are hung from a specially fitted curtain pole (or track). This can be fixed either to the wall above the window, or if the window is set particularly high, to the ceiling. The pole you choose depends largely on your choice of curtain, and how much space you have either side of the window. Some poles have ornaments or finials at the end that require a little more space.
You have to measure the space to decide what length of pole you will need. It’s important that the poles extend past the edge of the window frame by at least 10cm (about 4in), so that when the curtains are pulled back, the closed curtains are away from the window. It should also sit a minimum of 10cm (about 4in) above the window so that the closed curtains completely block out light from the outside world.
Fixing the pole
Most of the curtain poles in our range are extendable; the stainless steel-effect poles can be cut to size if they turn out to be slightly too long for the space. The poles are then fixed to the wall or ceiling with brackets; two will be enough for a pole that measures less than 180cm (6ft), but longer poles will need an extra bracket in the middle for support.
At least one ring should be positioned outside of each end bracket next to the finial. This is to ensure the outside edge of each curtain is held securely in place and will not move towards the centre during use.
Many people like to fix some matching tiebacks to the wall either side of the window frame, which hold the curtains and give a neat finish to the window dressing.
The heading refers to the way the curtain runs along the pole or track. Each style of heading makes the curtain hang in a different way and has a very different overall look.
The simplest, minimalist look is when the curtain has eyelets near its top, which you simply pass the curtain pole through, when the curtains are open the fabric hangs in deep folds. This is quite a contemporary look, and it’s achieved very simply, with no frills or gathering.
Similar to eyelets, but even more easy to fit to your window, are belt top or tab top headings, which can also only be used with curtain poles. They consist loops of material either in the same pattern as the curtain, or in contrasting fabric, that are stitched onto the top of the curtains. Tab tops and belt tops are easy to hang as the pole simply slides through the tabs/belt top section.
More choices of fitting and levels come with pencil pleat headings, which mean that the curtains have a wide tape running across the top, on which you fix a row of curtain hooks that fit to the track or pole fixed to your window. Using a different level of the tape for your hooks mean you can adjust the height of your curtains, and you can choose whether the bunching at the top completely covers the curtain pole or not. If you put lots of hooks in, your curtains will have many shallow folds when they are open, few hooks means deeper folds. You tie up the threads at the end of the curtain hook tape to gather the curtains. Once you have done this, though, you have customised the curtain to fit your window, so they can’t be returned to the store.
Once the curtain pole is up, you need to find out what width of curtain you need to buy to make sure the window is completely covered. The best way you can ensure complete coverage is to choose curtain size by measuring the pole width, rather than the window.
Our curtain sizes are given per curtain, which mean the width measurement is from the end of the pole to its centre, Allow for a little overlap, just to cover all the spaces.
If you want your new curtains to run along the pole with an eyelet or pencil pleat fitting, you'll need double the normal width, to allow for all the folds in the fabric that are formed when they are drawn.Curtain drop
The Drop is the length of your curtains. They can reach all the way to the floor, or just to the windowsill, according to your needs.
As a guide, windowsill curtains measure to about 1-1.5cm (up to 0.5in) above the sill, or the same amount below the sill if you prefer the window space to be completely hidden when curtains are closed.
Full length curtains stop about at 1cm (just under 0.5in) above the floor.
The drop length you require depends on the type of heading (eyelet, tab top or pencil pleat, as explained above) you choose for the curtains.
Eyelet: you need to measure from the top of the pole to where you like the curtains to finish, and then add on 4cm (1.5in).
Belt top (tab top): you need to measure from the top of the pole or track. In order to minimise the light coming into the room, these should be positioned approximately 15cm (about 6in) above the top of the window.
Pencil pleat: you need to measure from the centre of the curtain ring for a pole or from just above the track for your desired look. Pencil pleat curtains can be adjusted to a certain extent after they've been fitted, which makes them a little more versatile than eyelet or tab top curtains.
Often used for kitchen and bathroom windows, blinds are easy to adjust and to clean, so are highly practical. The come in a variety of styles:
- Venetian blinds: these have vertical slats, which can be closed up or let shafts of light come into the room. They’re easy to clean and to adjust to the size of your window, and our range includes aluminium slats, wooden effect or wood. Venetian blinds can also be tilted to give you light and privacy.
- Roller blinds: these roll up to the top of the window when opened and can be made to fit any window size. They can be made in any fabric to suit the look of your room.
- Blackout blinds: these are roller blinds that are designed to exclude all outside light from a room when they are unrolled. Many people prefer them for children’s room, when total darkness is needed to help them sleep.
- Roman blinds: these are horizontal blinds fold up neatly into a stacked effect when they are opened, so they look more elegant than roller blinds. When they are unfolded they have a completely smooth finish
- Vertical blinds: once only offices had these but they’re becoming increasingly popular in modern homes. Their technical term is lamellae. Vertical blinds are like a cross between a curtain and a blind, with slats that run from the top of the window to the bottom. The function that makes them so attractive to home owners is that verticals can direct light into the room with a subtle turn, so you can control the light levels accurately.
Fitting your blind
It’s up to you whether you hang your blind inside or outside the window recess, but it makes a difference to the measurement you take for the space. Once you’ve decided this, you can measure up for width and drop. If you’re measuring for a roller blind, the fabric width needs to be about 4cm (about 1.5in) less than the overall blind width in order to allow for the winding mechanism and fixing brackets.
Inside the window
If you’ve chosen for the blind to sit inside the window recess, measure the depth and width of the window recess at the 3 positions labelled A,B & C below. Use the narrowest measurement to the nearest millimetre as your guide. You should deduct an extra 1cm (0.5in) from this measurement so there's a small amount of clearance each side of the blind once it's installed. The recess will need to have space for the pulley mechanism; the fabric drop will be the length it hangs at its most extended.
Outside the window
The blind needs to extend beyond the window width, with an overhang of at least 4cm (1.5in). Again, measure different points of the window width and use the narrowest measurement, remembering to allow an additional 3.5-4cm (up to 1.5in) for the pulley mechanism. Next, measure the drop; this will tell you how far the fabric hangs at its most extended.
Cut to fit
It's not always possible to get a blind in a perfect size for your window. Rather than choose a blind that's too small, go for the next size up and then cut the blind to fit the space. You can use a mini hacksaw to cut the tube and lath (the small wooden pole that runs along the bottom of the blind) to the desired size, and sharp scissors or a cutting knife to trim the fabric.
Take care to include a means of tying up chains and cords to blinds. If they hang loose beside the window they are a strangulation hazard for young children. All our blinds are sold with a cleat, or hook, which you can fix on or next to the window frame to secure the cord or chain when the blind is in place.