Interior Design

10 window dressing rules to make a room feel bigger, brighter and better

Window dressings can make or break a room – here's how to make them work

Window dressing rules
(Image credit: Henry Prideaux)

A well-designed room deserves swishy curtains and attention to detail, does it not? Why spend money on beautiful paint shades and great quality furniture if you’re going to skimp on the window dressings? They are the finishing touch – that final piece that completes the space. 

However, there are rules to follow that address certain issues like ceiling height, dealing with color and pattern and the big question – do you let them drape? 

We’ve pulled together 10 expert tips on how to deal with the most common issues so you can make your room feel fabulous.

See: Interior design tips – decorating secrets for the world's top experts

1. Use curtains as a decorative backdrop

Window dressing rules

(Image credit: Romo/Black Edition)

You can use patterned curtains to create a design statement – almost like a backdrop to the rest of your scheme, this will work especially well if the fabric is quite sheer and light can seep through them. We asked Emily Mould, Design Director at Romo and Black Edition for her advice on using patterns.

‘Creating a maximalist statement has evolved to become much more considered, moving away from the pattern clash of the past. Choose a hero pattern and introduce color, print and texture around it, allowing the design to take centerstage whilst layers of print and color add depth and textural touches to make a harmonious interior.’

2. Work with the room proportions you have

Window dressing rules

(Image credit: Interior Fox)

‘Opt for floor to ceiling curtains, ensuring there are no gaps. This look adds height to a room, while keeping a clean and simple aesthetic. And attention to detail goes a long way, explain Jenna and Mariana from London-based Interior Fox

‘For example, we like to swap out the eyelets to match the curtain pole. This simple but effective technique makes all the difference and helps to create a more unified and custom look. 

'Gone are the days of shorter curtains, they feel dated and can make a window feel small and boxed in. Instead create a cohesive look by complementing the curtains with the wall color.’

3. Tackle a corner window cleverly

Window dressing rules

(Image credit: Loom & Last)

If you’re lucky enough to have a beautiful corner window then dressing it correctly is key to maintaining the light and character of the space. We asked Harry Cole, founder of Loom & Last how to deal with this tricky issue.

‘Corner windows offer a great source of light, but it can be a daunting decorating decision when dressing them. Simplify the design process by treating each window as a single unit and hang each pair of curtains on separate rods. To ensure unity within the space, position the rods at the same height to create an L shape, but remember to allow enough room between the brackets.’

See: Cottage curtain ideas – inspiration for a pretty, cozy home

4. Frame a window to create a focal point

Window dressing rules

(Image credit: Henry Prideaux/Tom Sullam)

Have you heard of a ‘lambrequin’? We hadn’t either, but it’s a fabulous way to jazz up a window with a blind so it becomes almost architectural in style. Interior designer, Henry Prideaux explains, ‘I am always delighted when there is an opportunity to use a lambrequin layered over a Roman blind within a suitable scheme. 

'This traditional design technique provides a window treatment with a dramatic edge, framing the window like a theater set to give a space structure and gravitas.’

5. Choose the right fabric and drape

Window dressing rules

(Image credit: Secret Linen Store)

Molly Freshwater, Creative Director at Secret Linen Store explains what she looks for when it comes to choosing the right fabric and drape:

‘I always think of window dressing as the final finishing touch to your room. The color is important, but for me the fabric and drape is at the top of my curtain list to get right. My first rule of curtains is that they should be long to the floor and in the case of 100% linen curtains, even longer.

'If it’s an airy, bright feel that you want in the room, it has to be 100% linen. These curtains let the light dapple through, and give you privacy at the same time. They can be drawn back to almost nothing during the day, and if you want to tie them they are so light, you need only use a lovely ribbon.

'If you need to keep the light out completely, a blind behind the linen will do this job and leave your room looking light and airy as and when you want it.’

6. Layer with a valance to create a statement

Window dressing rules

(Image credit: Carlos Garcia Interiors)

In a period property, we can use the character of the original features and inspiration of the past to recreate window dressings how they used to be. In this instance, the valance complements the rest of the scheme and frames the beautiful window seat area perfectly. 

Carlos Garcia, interior decorator at Carlos Garcia Interiors shares what he did:

‘I chose a valance to give softness, warmth and a touch of understated opulence to the room. The loosely hand gathered heading adds informality too and suits the beautiful Robert Kime floral linen.’

See: Country curtain ideas – window dressings for rural rooms

7. Get the colors right

Window dressing rules

(Image credit: Jane Churchill)

The easiest way to get the color right is to match to your existing scheme. By that, we mean the key colors, so in this room designed by Jane Churchill, we have the mustard walls and magenta rug. Both these shades can be seen in the curtain fabric and they create a cohesive feel. 

If you love your fabric then why not have an armchair covered in the same design? Matching like this is a big trend this summer and it ties in with the maximalist look that’s doing the interior rounds too. 

8. Team a patterned blind with wallpaper

Window dressing rules

(Image credit: Gunter & Co)

‘When you already have a patterned wallpaper,’ explains Irene Gunter, founder of global interior designer studio Gunter & Co, ‘choosing a subtle fabric in a mix of soft colors that match tonally is a good way to embrace the maximalist trend in your home in a way that is a little less overwhelming.

'It’s a good idea to use blackout lining as this ensures the fabric doesn’t look overly yellow, which can happen when the light shines through.’ 

9. Create the illusion of ceiling height

Window dressing rules

(Image credit: Henry Prideaux/Tom Sullam)

One of the biggest issues with dressing windows can be low ceilings, we’re not all blessed with stunning high-ceilinged rooms, so tricks need to be employed to create the illusion of height, as London-based interior designer, Henry Prideaux shares below:

‘A trick that good designers often use – if a window is low in proportion to the ceiling height, is to position fittings as high as possible so that curtains are hung above the top of the window frame to draw the eye upwards making the room feel taller and the overall effect more dramatic. 

'In a similar way, Roman blinds don’t necessarily have to sit immediately on top of the window. They can be fitted slightly higher and then pulled down to conceal any expanse of bare wall above the window to make the elevation appear taller allowing the window treatment to be more appropriate within the rest of the room.’

10. Correct uneven proportions with window dressings

Window dressing rules

(Image credit: Kelling Designs)

Potentially more of an issue in older properties but a tricky issue nonetheless, so we enlisted the advice of Emma Derterding, founder and creative director of Kelling Designs for her solution:

‘If you have windows at various heights within the same room, then I'd always utilize these to give the illusion space. For the higher window, take your curtains right to the ceiling as this will make the room feel taller and make the most of the ceiling height. 

'For lower windows, fit the curtain rail to above the window leaving the wall above exposed as this will help balance the space and give a sense of grandeur.’