10 Clever Tips for Shopping for Window Treatments, According to a Design Pro

updated Sep 23, 2021
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I never gave much thought to window treatments before I had a kid. For many years, I just hung white cotton panels on tension rods and in one top-floor rental I had no curtains at all. However, parenthood made me realize that a good shade is worth its weight in gold: Blackout curtains can be the difference between a good night’s sleep and a dawn awakening. A nice sheer curtain gives you privacy while blocking the sun’s harshest light. Slowly, I’ve upped my curtains and blinds game.

However, I still haven’t had the guts to put my money into custom window treatments: I’m so nervous I’ll choose the wrong thing! So when Cortney and Robert Novogratz, the husband-and-wife design duo behind The Novogratz, launched their second collection with The Shade Store and Cortney offered to take questions, I jumped at the opportunity. As a mom of seven who has lived in a ton of different houses, I knew Novogratz would have advice for parents of young kids like myself. Here are Novogratz’s tips and tricks for picking the right window treatments for your family home:

Let the house tell you what to buy.

Novogratz believes that in any home, the windows themselves tell you what they need. A Mid-Century Modern house’s windows, for example, will call for simpler, more streamlined treatments than a Victorian’s paned double-hungs. If you’re unsure what the house “wants,” look at images of similar houses, she says. (I’m totally inspired to do a loose roman after seeing one in Cortney’s breakfast nook.)

Layer two window treatments.

For flexibility and formality, Novogratz says sometimes you need two window treatments. For example, for many rooms, Novogratz opts for a sheer treatment close the window for daytime privacy and a darker/heavier drape or shade layered on top to close at night and dress up the window.  

Think safety first in kids’ spaces.

Novogratz likes cordless shades for their convenience in every room, but especially in kids rooms, where typical window accessories, like dangling cords and chains, can be unsafe for children. If you’re dying to do a drape, mount the rod firmly to the wall. “When my twin boys were very little, they would even try to swing from the drapes, I’m not kidding you,” she laughs.

Blackouts are a must for kids’ rooms.

“I really recommend blackout material for bedrooms for children, whether they’re infants or all the way to teenagers—and that can be in a drape or a shade,” says Novogratz, whose own kids range in age from 12 to 24. “It just allows them to be more calm. They can sleep longer or go to bed earlier, because you can really adjust how much light comes.”

Opt for patterns in rooms kids will use.

Novogratz says, “I am definitely not afraid of color or pattern,” of her penchant for bold prints, but it’s a more practical reason that she suggests patterns for kid spaces: “If touchy little hands grab hold of the drapes, the patterns will hide sticky fingers.” 

Think simple but fun in kids rooms.

“When you’re finishing the nursery, especially if it’s your first child, there are so many expenses,” Novogratz says. “It can be quite overwhelming. If you need window treatments, I think a fun patterned solar shade says enough and does enough to finish the room.” In one of her own tween daughter’s rooms, Novogratz opted for the simplest style of roller shade, but in a fun painted lips pattern.

Splurge on public rooms, save on private spaces.

Novogratz says she would splurge on window treatments for the space where you entertain because “you’re going to bring your family, friends, and all the people you love the most there,” she says. To keep your overall budget down, she recommends saving on more private areas like bedrooms and bathrooms.

Hardware should be a supporting player.

“Your hardware should be beautiful and you can have some fun with it, like a lucite ball at the end, but it doesn’t need to be the showstopper,” cautions Novogratz. The curtain rods and finials “should just be the backdrop.”

Mount ‘em high.

Many people mount their curtains just above the top of the window frame, but Novogratz agrees with the wisdom that hanging the curtain rod or track higher above the window gives the illusion of a larger window and taller ceiling, effectively lifting the eye upwards. In Novogratz’s new home, she hung both curtains and shades right at the ceiling in several rooms.

Use the in-house designers.

If you’re struggling to decide on what you want, take advantage of the in-house designers from custom fabricators like Novogratz’s partner The Shade Store (their advice is free). “There are so many options! On a Roman shade you have to decide if it is loose or very tight, with a drape you can do a kiss or a puddle to the floor, the in-house designers really do walk you through that, the same way I do for clients, if I go over to their homes.”