We independently select everything we recommend. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.


How to pick the perfect living room curtains: Advice + examples from pro interior designers

The perfect set of curtains could be the finishing touch your living room needs.

Modern living room
  • Living room with blue curtains
  • Modern living room
  • Living room with patterned curtains
  • Living room with blue curtains
  • Modern style living room
  • Mid-century modern living room with ceiling height curtains.
  • Living room with blue curtains
  • Coastal modern living room
  • Modern home office

Curtains are a living room essential — and not just for practical reasons. Curtains can help to tie a room together and make a room feel finished.

"Window treatments are a must when looking for a finished look in your room. I always refer to them as the jewelry in the room. They are often that one thing that pulls space together," says Jennifer Davis, founder of Davis Interiors.

if you want to tie the space together. But we do understand that choosing the right ones can be tricky. There are many factors to consider, and everyone interested in interior design knows how crucial the perfect curtains are.

We have spoken to some interior design experts to give you the best advice! Here is everything you need to know about living room curtains:

3 Things you need to consider when choosing living room curtains

1. Function

The function of your curtains is an essential factor to consider. You must consider lighting, privacy, protection, and the like when considering which curtains to buy. These factors will things like the material, layering, and thickness of the curtains you opt for.

Anna Popov, founder of Interiors by Popov, suggests considering the fabric's privacy and light filtering properties. Heavier, opaque curtains may be better for privacy, while semi-opaque fabrics can soften sunlight and protect from UV damage without blocking the view.

A thicker living room curtain, such as a blackout curtain, is great for full privacy. But if you still want light and slight visibility, you'll want to go with some sheer curtains that offer some level of opacity.

2. Fabric

The fabric needs to match or work well with the other aspects of your living room — and though curtains may not be the main focal point of the space, they tend to grab people's attention, so make sure they're consistent with the rest of the space.

“It’s important to select a fabric that fits the design of the room in terms of its function and how formal or casual the room is,” explains Christian Ladd, founder of Christian Ladd Interiors. Hanging curtains that have a boho feel could throw off a modern living space, for example.

Also, think about the color palette. Different colors create different atmospheres. Anna Popov believes, "The color and pattern of the curtains will have a significant impact on the appearance of the interior. Heavier and darker fabrics usually bring drama, warmth, and coziness to the room."

Whether you're getting custom curtains or off the shelf, always make sure that you line them. Jennifer Davis states that lining your curtains "elevates the product's look and protects the fabric from sun damage."

Various fabrics can work for the window treatment in your living room. Of course, it depends on the furniture and decor already in the room and what style and look you are going for.

The following are some of the most common fabrics:

  • Silk: Silk curtains are a luxurious choice for your living room, adding a formal touch to the space, especially if they are puddled or pleated on the floor. However, it is important to line them as sheer curtains or silk can be quite transparent.

  • Cotton curtains: Cotton curtains are quite versatile, coming in a variety of styles and colors. They seamlessly turn your casual space into something more formal. Cotton curtains can be quite stiff, but they are great for privacy due to their opaque construction. This type of fabric also does wonders for adding texture and dimension to your space.

  • Velvet curtains: Velvet curtains are the ultimate luxe addition to your living room. They're super soft and add a touch of opulence with their heavy weight. Plus, they're great for blocking out light and keeping your room warm. Liners can also help enhance the formality of velvet curtains.

  • Linen curtains: Linen curtains are the perfect choice if you're looking for a more casual vibe in your living or dining room. They're lightweight and sheer, which makes them great for letting in light and adding a sense of breeziness to the room. Plus, some linen curtains can even be used as blackout curtains.

  • Sheer curtains: Sheer curtains are a great way to let natural light flood into your living room. They're lightweight and breezy, making your space feel open and airy. Just keep in mind that you'll need curtain liners if you want more privacy. They're perfect for a more casual, relaxed space and can be paired with other types of curtains to balance out the light and privacy.

3. Hardware

"Another important aspect to consider is the hardware that will be used for securing the window coverings to the wall or the ceiling," explains Anna Popov.

The hardware used for your living room curtains is just as important as the curtains themselves. Hardware includes things like rods, eyelets, curtain tracks, rings. These small details are an essential part of the overall look and design of your curtains. The hardware also needs to play well with other aspects of your room — for example, a brass curtain rod might clash with silver lighting fixtures.

Pleating (the way the fabric folds at the curtain header) is another thing to consider when deciding on the right harware to choose — for example, a pencil, French, or wave pleat, might work better with different fixtures and esign styles.

Popov suggests that a ruffle fold pleat works well in contemporary and transitional interiors, providing a clean and tailored look and creating the illusion of taller ceilings.

All of these little aspects will hugely impact the look of your curtains and the overall feel of your living room. And these small details show that there is much more to consider that design and upholstery when choosing curtains, blinds, or drapes for your living room.

Should living room curtains touch the floor?

Length is also an essential factor that you should consider. Curtains come in all different lengths, and each length creates a different style and overall vibe. Some people love curtains that just cover the window, and others want curtains that puddle on the floor.

According to Anna Popov, "You may choose to stay about 1/8 inch above the floor, which is the most functional option. Or going a few inches longer for a relaxed fold on the floor. The only exceptions to this rule are rooms with unique architectural features like slopes and arches, exposed beams, and very high ceilings."

There are varying opinions for length, and it often depends on the space, but I typically prefer curtains to meet the floor, meaning they should be touching the floor but not pooling excessively at the base," adds Christian Ladd.

Curtains that are too long can look messy, while curtains that are too short can look awkward and out of place. So take some measurements and play around with different lengths.

Here are some common curtain lengths:

  • Puddling or trouser-length: Puddling adds a dramatic look. Add 2-4 inches to make them puddle on the floor. The trouser length is around 2 inches more than the whole length to the floor.

  • Breaking: This length gently touches the floor with a slight break at the bottom. This is more of a hovering curtain.

  • Grazing: This makes an authentic look. The curtains simply brush the floor.

  • Floating: Hang the curtains less than an inch above your floor so they 'float' above your floor.

How high should you hang your curtains?

Determining the appropriate height for hanging your curtains can be challenging. Many people struggle with this aspect of window treatment design. Anna Popov advises that a general rule is to hang curtains at the top of your walls, just below the ceiling, and extend all the way to the floor.

"Hanging them higher makes the windows look more dramatic and makes the room feel bigger," says Jennifer Davis. "Hang them at least 4 "-6" above your window trim or 2 "-3" down from your ceiling or crown molding."

Don't forget about width 

You also need to consider the width of your curtains. Interior design expert, Heather Mastrangeli, founder and designer at Innovatus Design, advises to "Always make sure you have allowed enough space on either side of the window for the curtain stack back and add this to the width you need. This will ensure your curtains look luxurious and have ample space beside the window."

The width of your curtains will depend on your personal preference and the overall aesthetic you are trying to achieve. But it is best to have some extra curtain hanging on your wall for complete coverage. The combined width of each of your curtain panels should be about two times the width of the window. This will help to avoid a flat, unappealing look.

Styling living room curtains: 10 ideas from pro designers 

There are various ways you can style your gorgeous curtains. Here are some great ideas to serve as inspiration:

1. Consider the overall color palette 

Color is important. It can make or break the look and feel of a room.

While many people opt for white curtains as they believe they are neutral, white may not always be the best choice. Think about the colors of your walls, furniture, area rug, and other decor in the room. You want all of the colors to flow and tie in together.

Living room with blue curtains
Photo: Christian LaddBlue decor helps to accent the curtain color in this living room.

“I don’t worry about matching curtains to the walls, but I do select fabric and colors that are complimentary, often in the same color family," explains Christian Ladd.

2. Embrace contrast

Don't be afraid of contrast - it's a great way to make your curtains pop. According to Heather Mastrangeli, "Choose a contrasting or different color than the walls. This will make the curtains stand out on their own and not blend into the walls."

3. Create visual interest with pleats

You want your curtains to appeal visually and add magic to your home. Pleats are an excellent way to create different looks that enhance the visual aesthetic of your space.

Modern living room
Photo: Interiors by PopovThe woven structure of the sheer fabric curtains contrasts with the smooth texture of the walls which contributes to the interest in this monochromatic living space.

Descrining the above design, Anna Popov shared: "A minimalistic hardware was used with semi-opaque light filtering fabric with ripple fold pleats. The woven structure of the sheer fabric contrasts with the smooth texture of the walls, which contributes to the interest in this monochromatic interior."

4. Use subtle patterns 

Patterns are wonderful. They add character and give the room some energy, especially if the rest of the decor is fairly neutral.

Living room with patterned curtains
Photo: Davis InteriorsSubtle patterns on window treatments can be the perfect living room accent.

Jennifer Davis' commentary on the above image captures the creativity of subtle patterns, "I love adding a subtle pattern to the window treatments. We generally work with a lot of solid textures, allowing us to get creative and even add some color."

It's all about having fun with your curtains and the look. Don't be afraid to experiment with patterns and add a unique touch to your decor!

5. Introduce textures

In the below living room light-filtering sheer curtains were used to provide privacy while still allowing natural light to enter the room. "We flanked the window with richly textured brocade curtain panels to add a more luxurious feel to the space," says designer Heather Mastrangeli. "The brocade panels are hung outside the actual window, making the window feel larger than it is, and also visually grounding the seating grouping."

Living room with blue curtains
Photo: Kasia Veter Photography The windows of this living room are flanked with richly textured brocade curtain panels to add a more luxurious feel.

6. Add layers

When it comes to window treatments, playing around with different options, such as blinds and curtains, can add layers of interest and functionality to your living room.

Modern style living room
Photo: Davis InteriorsThe combination of curtains and blinds adds visual interest to this living room.

Each type of window treatment serves a unique purpose, whether it's controlling light, adding privacy, or simply adding visual appeal.

Whether you opt for simple, classic shades or bold, patterned curtains, layering window treatments can enhance the overall design of your living room.

7. Go ceiling height 

According to Popov, in the above design, the curtains have been strategically placed to create a sense of height in the room. By mounting the curtains just below the ceiling and letting them fall all the way to the floor, a beautiful vertical line is formed that helps to visually elevate the ceiling height.

Mid-century modern living room with ceiling height curtains.
Photo: Interiors by PopovThese curtains are mounted right below the ceiling and went all the way down to the floor, creating a beautiful vertical line which helps to visually elevate the ceiling height.  

The height of your curtains can also open the room up. Do not be afraid to play with the space you have!

8. Top-down/bottom-up shades for privacy

This window treatment design is perfect for creating a cozy, inviting atmosphere while providing ample light and privacy.

Living room with blue curtains
Photo: Kasia Veter PhotographyFloor length velvet curtain panels bring a luxurious touch to this space and frame the twin recliners in front of the window.

In this curtain design, Heather Mastrangeli says, "We added floor-length velvet curtain panels for a luxurious touch and to frame the twin recliners that we added in front of the window for a cozy feel."

Here, the curtains aren't the main focal point, but they still shine by simply complementing the space.

9. Add matching decor

Make sure that everything in the room matches and that small textures, colors, or patterns tie in with each other. If your curtains have a hint of gold, make sure that decor pieces also have a touch of gold. Remember, visual harmony. You want it all to perfectly match your style.

Coastal modern living room
Photo: Davis InteriorsThis living space features blue accents on the curtains and cushions, as well as a few blue accesories on the shelving.

10. Have fun with hardware

In addition to coordinating colors and patterns, don't be afraid to experiment with different hardware options.

Modern home office
Photo: Davis InteriorsDon't be afraid to experiment with curtain hardware, advises Jennifer Davis. Try to find something unique that works for your space.

Consider adding statement pieces that add a unique touch to the room. This could be a funky knob or a sleek, modern rod. The key is to have fun with the design and not be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to hardware!

Latest guides

Discover more guides

Easy-to-follow guides on how to achieve professional interiors in your own home

Browse all guides