24 living room curtain ideas for an instant style boost

Let these living room curtain ideas inspire you to pay your window treatments some attention

Living room curtain ideas
(Image credit: John Lewis)

Looking for living room curtain ideas? Choosing curtains can be a bit of faff right? So many colors, patterns, materials, you've got different rods, different rings, different lengths. Where do you even start?

Well, might we suggest right here with our guide to living room curtains. So what's the first thing to consider looking for curtains? The impact their design, texture and colours will have on the rest of the space – and your windows in particular. 

After that, you have two further options when buying curtains: ready to hang or made-to-measure; we have found the best of each to give you inspiration for dressing your living room windows.

Cozy living room ideas

(Image credit: Loom & Last)

What curtains are best for a living room?

Whichever you like the best – is one answer to this question! Though of course there are variations and it mostly depends on what kind of style you are going for - period or contemporary? Period properties lend themselves to more elaborate designs - heavier fabrics like velvets and linens and floral prints - some maybe lined too if the house is older and has original sash windows. If you live in a Victorian house you may want to recreate the look from that era for example. 

For modernistas curtains tend to be crisper, more tailored with stripes, retro prints or textured plains. Fabrics could have different finishes like sateen style or floaty toiles.

What curtains make a room look bigger?

A lot of this depends on how you hang them - go high and mount them  above the window frame to create a more spacious feel - sleek, floor-length panels will allow the eye to flow from floor to ceiling and will give the illusion of height. Also extend the rods out past the width of the window frame - this will ‘expand’ the curtains - it will trick the eye!

Choosing bold patterns will also draw attention to the curtains rather than the size of the room - so if it’s on the small side then choose large patterns. Dark shades tend to make a room feel smaller so go for a lighter brighter look. 

Do I have to match my couch to my curtains?

This is a question we get asked often at Real Homes and it is a personal choice, but if you love color and pattern it’s definitely worth a go. Check out point no. 2 above to see an example of how it can work perfectly. 

We asked Lee Clarke, Founder of Warner House (opens in new tab) his view on it;

‘More is more; and matching sofa fabrics with curtains and blinds immediately adds character and personality to a room, especially when it incorporates bold patterns and bright colors. Layering fabrics in this way can also bring warmth and depth to a space. 

However, when using the same fabric design for more than one element of a room, it is important to introduce different textures and fabrics where possible, in order to break up and give definition to the scheme. Cushions are a great way to bring in different designs and patterns, as are ottomans and lampshades. Trimmings add decorative detail.’

1. Consider the impact of the fabric design

Patterned living room curtains

(Image credit: Blinds 2 go)

Large prints and brighter shades tend to look more contemporary and draw attention – perfect if you want to make a focal point of a beautiful window. Smaller prints and paler colors will have a subtler, more traditional effect, allowing other furnishings to take the spotlight.

2. Choose the right weight for your fabric

Living room by Interior Fox

(Image credit: Interior Fox)

Fabric choice is key: heavier fabrics aren't just ideal for colder months or draughty rooms, they will make a living room feel cozy and inviting all year round. Wispy sheers, by contrast, will filter out bright sunlight in summer but allow light in during even the greyest of days – ideal for making a north-facing living room feel brighter.

3. Do your curtains need to provide privacy?

Dark blue living room by John Lewis

(Image credit: John Lewis)

Do you need your living room window dressings to provide privacy, too? If so, consider matching them with sheer panels, blinds or shutters; this has the added bonus of creating a luxurious, layered look. 

4. Which size curtains?

Living room with full height curtains by Neptune

(Image credit: Neptune)

When choosing curtains, you will want to consider your window's shape as well as its size. If you’ve got a bay window, the curtains will need to be a little bit wider to fit all the way around, and if you’ve got tall windows, don’t forget to measure the length and choose curtains at least a few inches longer than the window itself. Hanging curtains at a living room window that finishes at waist height? Take them to the floor for a modern look that exaggerates your window's proportions.

5. Will your curtains keep out the light and cold?

blackout curtains at doors in an extension by Hillarys

(Image credit: Hillarys)

Think about the function of your living room curtains, as well as what they look like. Is it particularly cold in your living room? If so, lined curtains will help insulate the room, and work as blackout curtains. If you have a north-facing living room or if it's dimly lit you will want to go for light, sheer curtains that diffuse natural light. 

6. Consider the design of the curtain top's effect on your room

Small living room ideas

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

Check what type of curtain top you need. Pencil pleat curtains come with little hooks, which although are a little frustrating to fasten in place, allow for a neat and uniform drape across the window. If you have a curtain rail, then you can choose to go for curtains with eyelets, which are much easier to hang, but must be the right length to avoid pockets of light appearing at the top of the window. 

7. Which style – contemporary or traditional?

Sheer curtains in a living room

(Image credit: Harlequin)

The rest is down to style. If your living room is fairly neutral, then you can afford to go for bold patterns and colours, and create a focal point in your living room. But if you prefer to keep things simple, then opt for colours that complement your overall colour scheme. 

8. Merge indoors and out

colourful paint effect curtains

(Image credit: iLiv)

It might sound obvious but think about what is on the other side of your window. If you are blessed with a gorgeous leafy view, pick curtains that are going to enhance that. Choose natural colors and shapes that will work with the greenery outside.

9. Choose two tone curtains

Living room curtain ideas

(Image credit: Neptune)

If you’re a bit of a seamstress then you could add some fabric to the end of some shorter curtains to extend them. Choose a color similar to a key piece of furniture in your living room - it fits with the color-blocking trend that’s been doing the rounds and make sure the lighter shade matches well in some way. Darker colours always work best on the bottom half though so do bear that in mind. 

10. Match your curtains to your armchair

Living room curtain ideas

(Image credit: Warner House)

Yes really! We love how this looks, it really creates some cohesivity and matching the curtain design to an armchair is a great choice. Then, have a couple of cushions covered in the same fabric to scatter on the plain sofa - so the look gets pulled through the rest of the scheme. Chose a few plains too to break up the look and to create balance. 

11. Add a decorative element

Living room curtain ideas

(Image credit: Samuel & Sons)

If you love your existing curtains but would love to give them a bit of a refresh then consider adding a fancy trim! You can get pom poms, beading and braids in similar colors that can either be sewn on - if you’re handy with a sewing machine, or use Wundaweb and iron them on instead. You’ll be amazed at how much difference they’ll make to your living room. 

12. Love rustic style? Add a textured curtain

Living room curtain ideas

(Image credit: Swift Direct Blinds)

If you’re a big fan of textures whether that means rattan lampshades, linen upholstery, silk cushions, rustic wood furniture and tufted rugs, then choosing curtains that have that same tactile quality will be key. They don’t need to necessarily ‘feel’ textured as long as they look like they have one. These curtains shown give that impression and their color really enhances the overall look of the living room as they add warmth visually.

13. Mix stripes and florals

Living room curtain ideas

(Image credit: Sanderson National Trust collection from Wallpaper Direct)

Sometimes curtains aren’t enough - you may be overlooked by neighbours or your windows are huge and you’d like to be able to harness the light better. This is where using blinds and curtains comes in. Using the two layers the look and it means you can control the light during the summer months with the blinds and in the winter get cosy and draught free with closed. Teaming stripes and florals works brilliantly for this kind of look.

14. Let your curtains be the focus

Living room curtain ideas

(Image credit: Dunelm)

If you’re in love with a certain fabric design for your curtains and it’s a full on pattern then go for it! Let them be the focal point of your living room and the way to make the scheme work is to use plains pretty much everywhere else. Plain walls, sofa and chairs will create enough balance and then pop in some patterned cushions. Paint your walls in a colour from the curtain design - this will help to pull the look together. Add in some gold pieces for extra glamour. 

15. Or make a statement with plain curtains

Living room curtain ideas

(Image credit: John Lewis)

As much as a patterned wallpaper can create a standout scheme, there are other elements that are key to the overall look. For example, in this living room the plain green curtains are actually really important to how this looks proportionately. They create a balance and split up the busy wallpaper which could overwhelm the room alongside the plain yet stylish furniture. 

16. Give your curtains two uses

Living room curtain ideas

(Image credit: Loom & Last)

These lovely denim looking curtains add a serenity to this calming scheme, and they are also blackout curtains. This can be an extremely useful option to consider especially if you have guests to stay often and your sofa converts to a sofa bed. They may cost a bit extra initially but they will be worth their weight in gold.

17. Distract from a high ceiling

Living room curtain ideas

(Image credit: Clarissa Hulse)

High ceilings can be a blessing and a curse, and when you already have tongue and groove panelling that’s visually elongating your view then a pair of bright and bold curtains can distract your eye perfectly. Keep the rest of the scheme neutral and accessorise with a few pieces in the same colors as your print. 

18. Add in more color to your scheme

Living room curtain ideas

(Image credit: Loaf)

If you have an existing scheme of mainly off whites and creams with a few coloured cushions you can lift your living room visually by choosing a pair of curtains in a new color. Make sure they are of a similar tone to the colors you are already using so they blend well. You could even use the same fabric as the cushions - maybe a slubby linen or a cosy velvet.

19. Brighten dark rooms with delicate hues

Japanese flower print curtains

(Image credit: Romo)

If your living room is east- or north-facing, it's likely to suffer from a lack of natural daylight. Hanging a pale-colored curtain fabric can boost light levels, while a delicate pattern like this will create a restful feel. Picking out the fabric's bolder accent colors in cushions and upholstery will give the space a more contemporary finish. 

20. Use velvet curtains to add luxury

dark velvet curtains in a living room

(Image credit: Curtains 2 Go)

Velvet curtains hang beautifully due to their weight, have a sumptuous sheen and a tactile quality that will give even a small living room window an opulent feel. Maximize the living room's light levels by fitting a long enough pole or track to ensure they pull right back to the edge of the window's frame when open. 

21. Coordinate with a smart stripe

stripey Mikado curtains by James Hare

(Image credit: James Hare)

Stripes are a classic design that are easy to match with other motifs for a layered scheme. Wider stripes tend to create a more traditional finish; pencil-thin stripes are more contemporary-looking. Multi-colored designs like this give you lots of options for updating your scheme in the future – simply pick two or three shades from the design and echo them in accessories and furniture in different proportions. 

22. Go for retro style

Mid-century style curtains with large print

(Image credit: Dunelm)

Want to draw attention to a large window or beautiful view? A bold print at your windows will give your living room a focal point. And, if you’re a big fan of Mid-century modern style, pick something with a retro vibe and classic 70s colors.

23. Add a burst of colour

Orange curtains with pink dotted sheer curtains from Ikea

(Image credit: Ikea)

Bold living room color schemes have made a definite comeback, and an easy way to achieve this is by hanging curtains and sheers in the same strong shade. Put them in a neutral room to make a feature of the window wall, or match your walls' paint color to the fabric for maximum impact. 

24. Design a tailored look

patterned curtains in a living room with blue walls

(Image credit: Studio G)

If you want your living room to look smart and formal, choose a fabric with a graphic repeat design and ensure the curtains finish at floor level rather than drape down on to it. Pick a wall paint color that complements rather than contrasts with the curtains for a tranquil feel. 

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 18 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time. On the side, as well as being the News Editor of indie magazine, 91, Sophie has a passion for flowers and colour and has recently launched an online styling course, Style with Blooms.