How to block light at the top of curtains – 4 stylish yet practical solutions

These four tricks for blocking light will ensure the perfect blackout experience

(Image credit: Blinds 2go)

Buying blackout curtains is a great investment. They help to fully darken a room – be it a bedroom or cinema room – while also maintaining privacy and blocking out heat (and cold in winter).

Their blackout material only does so much to keep light at bay, however. If you are looking for a true blackout experience, you might find yourself bothered by the small bits of light that escape around the top of your curtain ideas. But how do you block light at the top of curtains?

We talked to designers and curtain experts to learn how to stylishly block light at the top of curtains.

How to block light at the top of curtains

Whether you are trying to create a darker sleep sanctuary or choose the best curtains for a living room for a cinema-like experience, thinking about leaking light is a must.

Luckily, there are four ways to stop any light from getting in that don’t look slapdash. This is what the experts recommend.

1. Use a valance

living room with olive wallpaper and claret curtains and valance, armchairs, open fire, table lamps

(Image credit: VSP Interiors)

If you are a fan of the traditional look, adding window valance ideas to the top of your curtains can help to block out some more of the light that escapes the top, suggests Drew Sewitz, designer and curtain expert at Valley Drapery & Upholstery. Attaching a valance to a pelmet box that encases the curtain rail will instantly darken any space.

Don’t mistake traditional for dated, however. Done well, a curtain valance can instantly elevate your drapery and make curtains look expensive by layering lush textiles.

2. Layer window treatments

drapes vs blinds, small dining room space with blind on one window and drapes on another, mahogany table and chairs, plant

(Image credit: Megan Warren Design / Vivian Johnson)

Layering is everything in interior design. Not only does it make a home look more expensive and feel cozier, but it has many practical applications too. For instance, layering window treatments can work wonders for blocking out any leaking light – even with blackout curtains.

‘I really like having different layers. Instead of just having your usual curtains or your blackout window blinds, have them both as they’ll really block any sunlight from coming in,’ shares Anna Tatsioni, lead interior designer and architect at Decorilla. ‘What I love about this approach is that on top of offering really good light blockage, it allows you to have different ambient lighting in the room. If you want some light then you can just have the curtains and if you want it to be darker but still have some bits of light here and there you can just open up the curtains and lower the blackout blinds.

‘It gives you options. And there are different fabrics and types of curtains and blinds so you can just opt for the ones that make more sense to you.’

3. Opt for a seamless cornice

Modern gray living room with gray curtains and pelmet on large window, gray corner sofa, gray painted walls, gray patterned ottoman and black table in front of sofa, black media unit with TV, matching ceiling and wall lights

(Image credit: Rachel Usher Interior Design, photography by Two Bears Studio)

For a seamless look that blocks light at the top of curtains, consider adding a cornice with decorative plasterwork to bring your wall trim out and around your curtain rail to cage it in and stop light, Anna Tatsioni, interior designer, recommends:

‘I am a fan of cornices. They are elegant, classy, and chic without being too much. I recommend them way more than pelmet boxes. Somehow, cornices have a vintage feel to them without being outdated as opposed to pelmet boxes, which to me just seem from another time.

‘Cornices smoothly transition from the ceiling instead of being a separate part of it. My suggestion is that you pick the same color for the cornice and the ceiling so they can have an appealing visual effect.’

4. Apply a window film

living room with neutral scheme, gray sofa, white coffee table, black floor lamp, window film, white ceramic vases

(Image credit: Purlfrost)

If a more DIY-heavy approach such as hanging new shades or building a box to conceal the rail is not an option, you can consider using window film to frost glass and reduce light altogether, suggests Bob Berriz, professional designer and owner of Berriz Design:

‘Consider applying blackout window films directly to the glass. I've used these in high-end projects where maintaining a sleek look was crucial. The films add another layer of light control without affecting the overall aesthetics, making them a versatile option.’


Why is my room still light with blackout curtains?

Your room may still be a little light even with blackout curtains if the curtains are not snug around the window. Light wil lleak from around the top, edges, and bottom if the curtains are not big enough or do not sit against the frame completely.
It can sometimes help to mix curtains with blinds or shades to help with this and achieve a completely dark room.

If you want an alternative to blackout curtains that stop all light, you could swap them out for some shutter ideas instead. These are a little trickier to fit than regular drapery, however, they can instantly block all light with very little leakage, while also improving your home's energy efficiency, protecting privacy, and boosting home security. Layer curtains with shutters for a cozy feel that is sure to leave your room completely dark for perfect sleep or a killer movie night.

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.