Reader SOS – When to Use Curtains

I’m back with another “DIY Playbook, Save our Space”. My plan for #DIYPlaybookSOS is to take a reader’s space and (virtually) offer design tips and tricks on how to improve it.

Here are some of my favorite design solutions from this series…

Do I Need Curtains in My Space?

Today’s design dilemma comes from Jill. Her home is over 120 years old, which is amazing, and she adores the original trim and wood floors throughout the house, as do I! Jill reached out with a question about adding curtains to her main living space. Curtains or no curtains? Does every room in a connected space need the same curtains? She poses a lot of great questions and I thought it would make for a very interesting topic.

Jill’s Design Dilemma

Here are a few words and pictures from Jill…

We’re in the process of redecorating and furnishing our living room and could use some suggestions around curtains.

Reader SOS living room

I’ve struggled with whether I should add curtains. And if so, do they go across the two windows or individually per window?

The room also opens to our dining room with 3 more windows in a nook. Do I need to do the same curtains throughout or skip curtains in the dining area?

Reader SOS before living room

It’s also a fairly small living room so the furniture is up against the walls, so not sure if long curtains would look weird.

Do I Need Curtains?

Jill brings up lots of great questions in her submission. Let’s tackle them one by one.

Curtains or no curtains? I use them for a few different reasons. First, and most obviously, I use them to block out light and add privacy. For example, we have blackout curtains in our bedroom and in Ellis’ room and we open and close them daily to block out light. In Jill’s home, she already has shades on her windows that help with privacy and any light concerns.

Answering your replacement windows FAQs
Olive Curtains in Our Living Room

Second, curtains add a lot of warmth, texture, and comfort to a space. They also draw the eye up to make rooms appear taller. For example, I never draw the shades closed in our living room because I already have solar shades on our large windows. But, I added these olive curtains to the entire space to bring in a bit of color, style, and warmth. I absolutely adore them!

So, does Jill’s space need curtains? I don’t think she NEEDS them. The woodwork in this space is absolutely gorgeous and I would hate to hide much of it with fabric. However, I think she could opt for curtains on the one back wall of the living room to add some style and warmth to the room, but it’s certainly not a must!

Does Every Window Need Curtains?

Now, if Jill adds curtains to the one living room area, does she need to do the same for every window in the living space and in the dining room? I’m gonna say “No” in this situation. However, if adding curtains everywhere in a room, I would make sure they all match.

For example, in my living room, I have curtains on the front and side windows, but I don’t have them on the one entryway window. Even though it’s a part of the same room, I decided to forego them because the window is small and the space doesn’t work well for curtains on each side, since it butts right up to the wall. It does, however, have the same solar shade as the rest of the room and I think that keeps everything looking cohesive.

Should Curtains Span Two Windows?

When you have two windows, do you use two sets of individual curtains or curtains that span the entire width of both windows? I think this decision should be made on a case-by-case basis. Because we don’t want to hide the gorgeous millwork in Jill’s living room, I would just opt for curtains on the far outsides of the windows on that back wall.

Alternatively, let’s take a look at my main bedroom. I have two sets of windows and in here I have two sets of curtains where they meet in the middle. I pull these curtains closed daily and I need them to cover the entire span of the window to block out the light.

Do I Use Long Curtains with Furniture?

I am just gonna come right out and say it…I’m not a fan of cafe curtains. If you’re gonna use curtains, I think they should touch the floor. If that doesn’t work in your space, then I would opt for a different window treatment. (This post has some of my favorite options.)

In Jill’s case, she won’t be opening/closing the curtains on a daily basis because she already has window treatments. So it’s a-okay that the couch backs up to the window. However, if you’re going to install functioning curtains, you don’t want furniture pushed up against them.

Our dresser in the bedroom

In our bedroom, we have our dresser pushed up to the windows, with the curtains behind them. It’s not ideal and I have to have the dresser float out a tiny bit so the curtains can move back and forth. If possible, I wouldn’t push furniture up to the walls when you have curtains on your windows, but every situation is a bit different.

My Best Curtain Tips

Now that we answered all of Jill’s questions, I want to review some of my best curtain hanging tips.

  • Opt for “high and wide”: When it comes to mounting the curtain rod, I often install it 8-12 inches off the window and a few inches below the ceiling. This makes ceilings and windows look bigger! Be sure to buy a rod that is long enough to achieve this.
  • Buy enough panels: If you’re going wide off the window, you want to make sure you have enough panels to cover the window completely. I typically use at least two for each window.
  • Buy XL Panels: Since you’re hanging your curtains high, make sure you buy those that are long enough. I like them to kiss the floor or perhaps puddle a tiny bit.
  • Wash & Steam: Before you tailor your curtains, wash and steam them. They’ll likely shrink a bit in the wash and you don’t want to hem before this happens. We use this steamer and it’s wonderful.
  • Don’t forget the hardware: Often, you’ll have to buy all of the hardware separately. The curtain rod, rings, and finials can all be ordered from the same retailer so the finish matches.

New Living Room Design – Mood Board

I hope we answered Jill’s burning questions! She also sent over the details about some new furniture she already purchased for the space – the gorgeous sofa and chairs below – so I came up with a little design plan for the rest of the room. I think navy curtains with a gold rod would complement the new chairs well.

Curtains or no curtains - answering a design dilemma

Sofa (color: Parchment) // Velvet Chairs (color: Sapphire) // Navy Curtains // Gold Curtain Rod // Rug // Marble Coffee Table // Wood Side Table // Table Lamp // Olive Tree // Basket

Submit Your Design Dilemma

I’ll be taking on a new Reader SOS post each month here on the blog. You can email your photos, design dilemma, budget, and information about your style and space to diyp[email protected]. Can’t wait to see your submissions!


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.