Curtains and blinds buying guide
Dressing your window goes beyond the practicality of blocking out the sun, the cold or providing you with a sense privacy. Window dressing is also about bringing your room together and creating a harmonious style.
Curtains are functional as well as stylish. You can choose from ready-made curtains, made-to-order, plain colour or patterned and different fabrics for a simple or richer look.
The curtain pole (or track, if applicable) is the part that the curtain hangs from. The choice you make will be largely determined by the style of curtain you want and the amount of space you have on either side of the window. A sizeable number of poles can be ceiling or wall fixed, so if your window is especially close to the ceiling, you'll need to order a ceiling-fixable pole.
The width of the pole
It's fairly straightforward to work out what size pole you need. Firstly, decide where you want it to be fixed; either on or above the window. The pole should extend beyond the window at either side by at least 10cm in order to allow the curtains to be drawn back away from the window. It should also sit a minimum of 10cm above the window so as to minimise light when the curtains are drawn. If you're looking to add finials (the decorative knobs that go on the end of the pole), you'll need to allow enough space for those too.
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. The poles are then fixed to the wall or ceiling with the aid of brackets; two will be enough for a pole that measures less than 6ft (180cm), 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.
A pair of matching tiebacks will top the look off nicely.
A curtain heading is the way the curtain is fixed to the curtain pole or track. There are several headings to choose from and each will create a different look so it's important to think about what style you want to create in your room:
Eyelet: If you like a minimal look, this is for you. The curtain pole runs directly through eyelets placed close to the top of the curtain, creating deep folds in the material. Eyelet heading curtains are simple and easy to hang, no gathering is required - they are simply slotted onto the pole.
Please note: Eyelet curtains can only be used in conjunction with curtain poles.
Pencil pleat: These curtains have a tape running across the top that contains three rows of pockets for you to put curtain hooks into. You can place the hooks almost anywhere, so you can decide whether you want the curtains to have deep or shallow folds. You can also raise or lower the level of the curtains depending on which row you attach the curtain hooks to; this will also affect whether the pole or track is visible after fitting your curtains.
To gather your curtains and make the pleated effect, you need to tie the three strings together at one end of the tape. Once you have done this, just pull the strings from the opposite end and gather the curtain as required. How tight the pleats need to be will be determined by the exact width of your window. Please note that the curtains cannot be returned once the strings have been pulled.
Belt top: Also called tab top, this is a more informal style. Belt top curtains use loops of matching or contrasting material that are stitched onto the top of the curtains. Tab tops and belt tops are simple and easy to hang as the pole simply slides through the tabs/belt top section.
Please note: belt top curtains can only be used in conjunction with curtain poles.
Measuring and choosing curtains
Width: Once you've fitted your curtain pole or track, you'll need to find out how wide your new curtains are going to be. We advise you check the length of the curtain pole rather than the window to ensure the window is comfortably covered. You need to measure from the end of the pole or track to the centre, including any overlaps.
The curtain sizes shown on our website and in the catalogue refer to the width per curtain.
If you're choosing curtains with an eyelet or pencil pleat fitting, you'll need double the normal width due to way the curtain fabric is folded, even when the curtains are fully drawn.
- Drop: The length of your curtains is entirely up to you. With that in mind, the following is here for guidance purposes only.
- Window sill curtains: measure to around 1-1.5cm above the sill, or add this amount instead if you prefer them to hang below the sill.
- Full length curtains: you need to measure to 1cm above the floor
- Curtain heading and curtain drop: The type of heading that your curtains have will affect the drop length required.
- 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 above the top of the window.
- Pencil pleat: you need to measure from the eye 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.
A great practical alternative to curtains, blinds are easy to adjust and to clean, making them ideal for use in kitchens and bathrooms.
- Venetian blind: Easily adjustable, not only can Venetian blinds control the amount of light coming into the room, they can also be tilted to give you light and privacy.
- Roller blind: These can be adjusted to just about any height you desire, and can be made from a variety of fabrics and in a wide range of styles and designs.
- Blackout blind: Similar to a roller blind, the blackout blind stops any light from getting through it.
- Roman blind: These blinds literally fold open and closed, giving a more elegant look than a standard roller blind.
- Vertical blind: A staple of office buildings, patio doors and living rooms across the country, these work in a similar way to Venetian blinds, controlling how much light comes into the room along with maintaining your privacy.
Getting the right fit
Depending on your personal preference, you can hang your blind either inside or outside the window recess. This is the first decision you'll have to make, even before you start measuring, as this will determine the width and drop of your blind. It should also be noted that the fabric width of roller blinds will be up to 4cm less than the overall blind width in order to allow for the winding mechanism and fixing brackets.
Inside the window
Measure the depth and width of the window recess at the 3 positions labeled A,B & C below. Use the narrowest measurement to the nearest millimetre as your guide. You should deduct an extra 1cm 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 accommodate the pulley mechanism and 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. Again, measure different points of the window width and use the narrowest measurement, remembering to allow an additional 3.5-4cm for the pulley mechanism. Next, measure the drop; this will tell you how far the fabric hangs at its most extended.
Cut to fit
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.
It's not always possible to get the perfect-sized blind. Rather than choose a blind that's too small, go for the next size up and then cut the blind to size.
Loose hanging chains and cords from blinds are a serious hazard to young children. Every blind we sell comes with an easy-to-fit cleat, which helps prevent this hazard by securing the chain or cord when the blind is in place.