If you’re buying custom made curtains it’s well worth investing some time and thought before taking the plunge. After all, once your curtains are in situ, it’s harder to rectify mistakes or issues that you might have overlooked. To make the groundwork easier, we’ve put together five key tips for shoppers, particularly useful for those purchasing custom curtains online.
ONE: Why curtains as opposed to blinds?
While blinds have been popular in recent times, curtains, previously seen as something of a ‘nanna option’, are definitely getting their groove back thanks to the abundance of exciting new fabrics hitting the market and a new taste for luxury. With a wide range of styles to choose from, curtains are great choice for lounges and living areas; and are of course also very well suited to bedrooms. For rooms that are smaller, they can even add depth and height by mounting curtains just below the ceiling to “cheat” a window up, creating the effect of a taller ceiling. They can also be styled to co-ordinate with any décor and can be dressed up with pelmets or headings.
The insulation and blockout properties of curtains
Aside from their aesthetic merits, extensive experiments have shown that heavy-duty curtains offer the best overall results for insulating properties. In winter a house loses heat from glass windows while in summer, outdoor heat radiates inwards. The right custom made curtains improve insulation because they create airspace between the glass and the window covering, and the thicker the curtain covering, the better. It makes sense therefore that the best result comes with heavier, tighter fitting window coverings to prevent convection of air between the window covering and the glass of the window.
For summer insulation, increasing numbers of consumers are opting for blockout curtains.Blockout curtains are treated with specialised coating to prevent light transference through the fabric and are a great way of keeping light and heat out during Australia’s scorching summers. (They can also trap heat during the winter, reducing heat loss by as much as 25 per cent.) Blockout curtains are hung wide and high, ensuring the fabric at the top of the curtain is placed so that it blocks the light effectively.
TWO: Consider the different styles of custom curtains
Eyelets, through to long drops and pencil pleats – the choices are virtually endless. However if we’re talking about popularity, the market for eyelet custom curtains is particularly strong at the moment, as many homeowners looking for a cost effective, pared back style are opting for this look. With their clean cut, metallised ‘holes’ through which a contemporary curtain rod can be threaded, eyelet drapes create a relaxed and casual ambience and can be used with a wide variety of fabrics; eyelet sheer curtains maintain your view but create daytime privacy, while eyelet curtains in translucent or blockout fabrics are also common. Popular choices of fabric for this style tend towards neutral linens or bold contemporary plains or prints – anything with an unfussy, modern feel. Eyelet curtains are also one of the easiest types of drape to install. All you need is a drill, a couple of screws, a tape measure and a pen and paper. The measuring element is really required, as with most curtain styles, to establish the drop; the curtains should hang several centimetres below the window frame or sill and should also be hung clear of power outlets and other protruding elements. For eyelet curtains you simply feed the eyelet onto the rod, ensuring that the last eyelet stays on the outside of the mount to hold the curtains in place.
By contrast, long drop custom made curtains add elegance and drama to statement zones such as the living or dining room or master bedroom. They’re ideal for covering longer windows, but can also be used to add height to a room over standard sized windows. Hanging your curtain rod several centimetres above the window and allowing for a full length curtain to the floor or even beyond to create a puddling effect, can make a stunning statement, although it is better reserved for lower traffic areas of the home. Meanwhile inverted pleat curtains, pencil pleat curtains and pinch pleat curtains are all popular styles. The inverted pleat curtain offers a clean contemporary effect while the pencil pleat consists of tightly gathered folds kept in place by a cord. With pinch pleat curtains the top of the curtain is literally pinched together and the drape is hung using metal hooks at the top of the back of the curtain panel.
THREE: Think about tracks + rods for your custom curtains from day one
Choosing the right tracks, rods and hardware is one of the most important decisions in completing your custom curtains and should be considered at the outset rather than as an add-on once your curtains are chosen. There’s an enormous range of tracks available, from single to double or triple tracks. Double tracks are a great way of layering sheers with curtains, while triple tracks allow for the addition of a valance. Tracks can be mounted onto walls or ceilings to achieve different design objectives; some modern homes even have recesses between the ceiling and the window to allow for a really stylish hang in which the curtains appear to hang down from ‘behind’ the ceiling at the edge of the room. You can also choose from hand drawn, cord drawn or motorised tracks. Drawn systems can accommodate one way draw for single curtain panels or two way draw for dual curtain panels. For taller windows, corded tracks are also worth considering; curtains are opened and closed using a pull-cord, which is useful as it protects fabric from damage. To achieve the optimum hang, it’s important to ensure that the track is suitable for the weight of your custom made curtains. PVC tracking tends to be inexpensive, flexible and works well with lighter weight curtains, while aluminium is a more costly option but is more robust.
Motorised tracks allow your curtains to glide open and shut and stop exactly where you’d like at the touch of a button. Leading motorisation suppliers such as Somfy provide electric curtain tracks with a central or side opening, designed to blend in with your décor scheme. The advantages of motorisation include the blissful absence of cables to operate or strings to get tangled, while curtains can be controlled with one click to protect homeowner’s privacy and prevent glare from the sun’s rays entering the interior. Many motorisation options include handy features such as a favourite position memory, which allows you to program a preferred position of your curtains to ensure your drapes close in the same way every time.
FOUR: Choosing the colour of your custom made curtains
Colour is a deeply personal choice that depends on your individual taste and preferences. Having said that, most curtain retailers will attest that plains and neutrals continue to be the standard for curtain shoppers, mainly because they fit with almost any décor, and, if a serious investment is being made in custom curtains, will also stand the test of time.
At the light end of the colour spectrum, white remains one of the most popular colours, whether it’s applied to sheers or heavier fabrics. It adds freshness to the neutral palette that still holds sway and looks great with white or cream walls and polished timber floors.
By contrast however, darker colours including black and grey are increasingly on trend. Black drapes with a white print form a great statement in a modern interior and can be offset with pops of colour – say earthier tones or, for the more daring, bright punches of colour such as yellow or magenta. If you’re after a more subtle look, dark charcoal linens or pale grey chambrays also work well, and for more opulent or traditional décor schemes, jacquards and velvets add luxury and elegance.
Earth toned curtains from sand to taupe to red dust are a great way of adding a sense of authenticity and warmth to an interior, while bright pops of colour in curtains such as cerise, mustard yellow or persimmon orange are also a great way to draw the eye and create impact.
Blue has made a strong comeback in recent times, with dusty robin’s egg, teal and more recently navy, drawing strong interest from fashion forward homeowners. Blue custom made curtains will create a sense of stylish, cool harmony for the main living areas of your home. Green of course evokes the natural world but can also be used for high directional impact when applied in its more gem oriented guises. For example emerald green curtains offset by striking black and white are a great statement.
FIVE: Finishing your custom curtains with trims & accessories
Trimmings and accessories such as decorative curtain rods, curtain tiebacks and exotic curtain rings provide a real finishing touch to your window treatment, whether it’s contemporary or traditional. Tie-backs are one of the strongest sellers being purchased along with readymade curtains online, and are available in many and varied styles, colours, and textures. Tassel and bullion fringing for curtains are also popular, providing an opulent finish. Contemporary tiebacks and modern decorative curtain rods in steel or copper, as well as exotic elements such as crystal finials are experiencing strong demand.Bronze or black rods feel classic without drawing a lot of attention to themselves, while chrome rods can look provide a modern touch in contemporary rooms. White rods can definitely work in certain locations such as bedrooms or breezy contemporary living areas.
SUMMARY: Selecting your custom curtains should be a labour of love!
Window treatments such as custom made curtains are one of the best investments you can make in your interior décor scheme and selecting them should give you joy, especially when you remember what they’ll bring to your home. They have great functional benefits and are a marvellous way to ‘dress’ your room and give it a sophisticated, complete look. Good curtains can be the key to any major makeover, adding height, drama, atmosphere, texture and colour to any space. As mentioned above, they’re wonderful for creating “the great curtain illusion”, which involves hanging drapes to create the effect that a window is much taller and grander than it really is. Curtains are also a great way of bringing flow to a room. For example, if you have a number of windows along one wall with spaces between them, use one rod to create a seamless look. Adding curtain panels over sections of wall makes smaller side-by-side windows look like one big wall of glass. If you have one window that’s not balanced within the overall symmetry of a room, cleverly hung curtains can make it appear more symmetrical.
A checklist for choosing your custom made curtains might include the following pointers:-
- What visual effect do I want to create? Contemporary, industrial? Traditional, opulent? Light and translucent or heavy and light-blocking? Use magazines and online resources such as Houzz and Pinterest to hone your personal style guide.
- What kind of rod or track do I want to use? How do I want my curtains to be pleated and hung?
- What role do I want my curtains to play? Aesthetic, functional (cold and heat insulation, privacy etc.) or both?
- What’s my budget?
- How long do I need my curtains to last? Do I want a fashionable chevron print that might be dated next year or something more timeless? Do I want a hard wearing, fade resistant fabric curtain? And do I want to lengthen my curtains’ life by including lining, cord-pulls or even motorisation?
- Finally, am I in love with my custom curtains?
This last point might sound frivolous, but it’s actually crucial. As a key part of your décor and one that can’t easily be changed, you want to make sure your curtains give you a real buzz every time you look at them.
Before visiting a curtain retailer or buying your custom made curtains online, try to tick off as many of these pointers as possible, particularly the last one! The result will be a selection and installation process as light and smooth as the swish of a motorised sheer!