Not Just Window Dressing

A softer option to blinds and shutters, draperies are an accent with considerable weight. Curtains set the tone for a room and can add vibrancy to any area of your home. But like any accent piece, the right setting requires style expertise — or at least a good eye for complementing fabrics and tones. Juanita Brown, owner of The Curtain Exchange ( franchise in Sugarland, Texas, offers some suggestions for finding the perfect match:

Color The biggest fitting mistake is not in sizing, but in palette selection, offers Brown. “Oftentimes, when customers come in looking for curtains, they are looking for something that is going to match their furniture, but they should also keep in mind the color of their walls.”

Except on white walls, curtains can actually alter the perception of the paint. Taupe and warmer colors can appear pink depending on the lighting in the room. “The same way you would bring in fabric swatches of the sofa fabric, you should also bring in a color sampling of the wall paint.”

Fabrics The exciting news in draperies is that there is great variety in fabric: brushed paisley, bamboo, seersucker, and suede are just a few. Part of the selection task is deciding on an appropriate location. “You have to consider where you’re putting the curtains. You wouldn’t use silk fabrics in the kitchen, bathroom, or any room where’s there’s moisture,” she advises. “You want washables in the bathroom and kitchen. Chenille is great for the bathroom. [It’s] a heavier fabric and it’s warmer. And it’s easy to clean.”

Trends Great fabrics and simple lines make for a strong effect — and give curtains longevity. Frills and trim will quickly date a look, says Brown. Conservative views on length have also changed. Curtains used to just frame the window, “now they’re hanging just below the ceiling or the chrome molding because it gives more height,” offers Brown. Puddling was once a design offense. But today, it is not only acceptable, but a style statement to have fabric gathered on the floor of a den, dining, or living area.

Hardware is most important for a proper setting. Whether it’s the rods that support the drapes, or the finial, which is attached to each end of the rod, options now abound. Hardware designs in wood, antiqued metals, and resin are as much an accessory as they are utilitarian.

If you’re feeling a little intimidated, companies such as The Curtain Exchange, Casa Fiora (, and Hunter Douglas ( offer fitting tips on their Websites as well as experienced sales reps on site. Most high-end shops will allow customers to test-hang curtains before a final purchase. Hunter Douglas offers free brochures and publications online, including What to Wear If You’re a Window and Solutions.