Focus on window treatments: curtains

In part one of this new decorating series, interiors journalist Rachel Ogden looks at different style options, fabrics, and shares expert design advice

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Kelly Hoppen’s advice for choosing curtains

  1. I absolutely love texture and it’s always a big part of my designs. When it comes to curtains, rather than choose the fabric simply for its colour and pattern, think about how it feels and falls. I love curtains that pool on the floor, as this creates an opulent and luxurious feel. Curtains that just touch the ground often lookKelly Hoppen 13_NH_KELLY_HOPPEN_0007 over-tailored. Cascades of voile, lace or unlined silk give privacy while allowing light to flood in unhindered.
  2. Neutral curtains will co-ordinate with almost any style, as well as changing accessories and décor. If your curtains are easy to change, then I would suggest co-ordinating your curtains with the seasons like you do with accessorises: a beautiful light linen in summer, switching to an opulent velvet fabric curtain in winter. This change really freshens your interior design without being too expensive or time-consuming.
  3. Curtains can transform a window space and the room as a whole. They dress up what is a very functional element and make the windows part of the room’s design. They can also control the light source, which is vital to good design. However, curtains should be one element of the entire scheme as opposed to the focal point. They’re a beautiful finishing touch, but it would be unadvisable to base your design around them.

Creative trim

Some tassels can look fussy and dated, but don’t write off trimmings altogether – even plain materials will add definition and extra colour to your curtains. The most important thing to remember is to make sure the scale, weight and proportion is in keeping with the fabric and curtain style. Simple stripes call for a trim that’s equally pared-back, so try flat strips of fabric to frame the window and knotted lengths at the top to draw the eye upwards.

3 Ian Mankin - Blue living room - Sofa in Oxford Stripe Navy, armchair in Ticking Navy, curtains in Grain Stripe Indigo - lifestyle - Portrait

Linen curtains in Grain Stripe Indigo, H250xW190cm, with linen/cotton mix trim in Campbell Union Navy, both £39.50 per m or £190 for complete curtains; sofa in Oxford Stripe Navy cotton fabric, £29.50 per m; all Ian Mankin

Split Space

Not only for adding colour and style to a window, curtains can also be used to inject personality into other places. They’re ideal for splitting adjacent rooms, separating the areas for a cosy feel, then drawing back when you want the space to work as one. Curtains are also more fluid than a static room divider, so perfect for narrow living spaces, and for absorbing noise. Choose a fabric with plenty of character, whether it’s drawn across or hung in wave

9 Sanderson Ottoman Flowers Portrait Main

Linen curtain in Ottoman Flowers 225348, £52 per m; Sanderson

Keep out draughts

Heat often escapes through the gaps around doors, letterboxes and keyholes when it’s chilly outside, so a set of curtains in front will help trim heating bills as well as look stylish. You may not want curtains all year round, so choose a solution that’s easy to replace. Pleating rivets

Walcot House 2011

Elegant curtains

Frills and flounce aren’t the only options for curtains in a period home. Instead, choose a treatment that’s still rich and decorative but also with a deliberate simplicity. Inspired by Biedermeier style, a more modern interpretation of French Empire, these curtains are made from sophisticated plain silk, accentuated with statement tiebacks and a delicate trim along a straight pelmet.

7 Residence K1 Albany-9032

Bespoke lined and interlined, double-width untrimmed curtains and straight pelmet with Greek key braid pelmet in Henry Bertrand Buckingham Shantung Coffee pure silk fabric; three knife pleated panels in Lelievre Virtuose pure silk fabric in Blonde, with jacquard braid and tassel fringe, £12,500 for H350xW290cm window, including electrically operated curtain track and installation, Residence Interior Design

Make your windows seem bigger

Guest bedrooms tend to be small but that doesn’t mean the curtains have to be. Adding an extra 35 to 45cm to your pole length will enable you to pull back the curtains to see the whole window, while helping a narrow opening appear wider. Be sure to match pattern scale to room size – big prints can overpower and tiny ones blend into the background.

11 Tuiss lace-120090-roller-blind

Made-to-measure cotton curtains in Berry Tree by Scion, with standard lining and double pinch pleat header, H220x W160cm, £331.67; cotton roller blind in Lime Lace by Scion, H160xW120cm, £66.83, both Tuiss

Wool hangings

Durable, with a natural crimp and spring that allows it to retain its shape when hung, wool has great properties for curtains, as it’s also fire-retardant and resistant to bacteria, mould and mildew. However, it’s the material’s insulating and sound-proofing properties that give it the most appeal for thick winter curtains, so use it to keep out pesky draughts in rooms where you spend a lot of time.

13 Moon, chair upholstered in Elemental Threshfield in Jade, U1436 N06 - Copy

Bright shades

If you don’t have a south-facing dining room with plenty of daylight, you can brighten up a cold space with a smart window treatment. Curtains and blinds in co-ordinating yellow shades will inject colour into the room, making it feel bright and welcoming, as well as easy to adapt to the level of light throughout the year.

10 Style Studio Kensington Dijon Curtains_Sion Mimosa Roman Room

Made-to-measure curtains in Harewood cotton/polyester-mix fabric in Dijon, H230x W100cm, £297; Roman blinds in Sion cotton/polyester-mix fabric in Mimosa, H165xW80cm, £274 each. From left, Feather Apple cushion, £44; Harrison Zest cushion, £60; Lottie Ochre cotton cushion, £39.50; Oasis Lime cushion, £39.50, all Style Studio

The Illusion of space

While not everyone has high ceilings for a dramatic drop, there are still plenty of ways to give curtains a stylish finish. Add more length to your dimensions – the more material you have pooling on the floor, the more it draws the eye, creating an atmospheric design statement. Similarly, luxurious fabrics are a must, so consider silk taffeta, rich velvets and shimmering satin. Silk curtains must always be lined to prevent fading and help them hang better

4 Kingdom Interiors EMPIRE MAIN

Pinch pleat curtains made from Kasmir pure silk taffeta in Luxe, £73.80 per m, with Ottoman pure silk taffeta edging in Steel, £69.70 per m, H450xW300cm, both from the Empire collection by Prestigious Textiles, Kingdom Interiors

Customised Curtains

Contrasting borders are particularly useful for creating different effects with your curtains or directing attention to where you’d like it. Deep strips of material at the top or bottom of drapes will draw the eye to the ceiling or the floor, while outer and inner edge borders will pick up on a colour in the rest of the room. Above all, don’t skimp on the depth of your border – wide lengths will give it an unmistakable luxe look.

8 Sahco GrandHotel_Velona_Grazioli

Curtains in Velona 2574-05 Trevira CS fabric, H350xW200cm, £186 per m, with a border in Avalon 2194-37 velvet Trevira fabric, £107 per m; chair in Grazoli 2577-05 Trevira CS fabric, £136.60 per m; rug in Visco T007-01 FTH-221 ginger, W80xL250cm, £550 per m², all from