How to Choose the Right Types of Curtains for Your Interior

13th July 2022

Choosing the most suitable types of curtains for decorating your space can be daunting. Where to put the pole, which pole to go for, which header style – let light in/block it out?

With various styles and materials, picking the perfect combination can be a struggle if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Don’t panic – we’ve developed a quick guide to help you!


#1 Lighting and Privacy

First things first, you must decide the amount of light you’d like your curtains to let through. Do you want the room to be regularly backlit by daylight? Or have the option to shut it out altogether in complete darkness? This will form the basis for the materials you should choose: 

-For bedrooms and living rooms, opt for a blackout curtain lining when keeping out natural light is a priority (great for south-facing rooms to keep them cool or the rooms of young kids who need daytime naps). Alternatively, the heavyweight characteristics of wool and velvet make them excellent options for creating cosier rooms. These types of curtains naturally retain heat whilst keeping out unwanted light. 

– What about rooms that need a little light during the day? Linen sheer drapes or voiles might be a more suitable choice. These provide a little privacy whilst letting in a large amount of light and are also a great decorative option if you want to create a chic style for your space! Try our soft and billowy Rift Stripe Bluestone Linen Sheer for an elegant sheer with subtle colour.

-Why not add a decorative striped lining to provide extra protection for your main fabric from the sun whilst aiding the structure of your curtains, helping them drape beautifully? 

Seaton Chalk Curtains with Hayle Mist Edging

#2 Check your swag!

We know not everyone is adept at hand-making beautiful curtains, and most of the time, it makes sense to leave it with the experts, but it’s always good to go armed with ideas about what you like. Your curtain maker will add some creative touches and provide tips to create your dream window dressing, but it has to be about what you want because you will likely be living with them!

Consider the room. Swags and tails aren’t likely to suit a tiny window in a modern studio apartment, and similarly, a modern, sleek remote opening rail may not be the best for an undulating cottage wall. It’s about personal style, so get researching. Interior magazines, Ian Mankin Pinterest and our #madewithmankin Instagram hashtag are great places to start.

As described by Ian Mankin in his practical guide, Natural Fabrics, measurements for the finished length and the finished width are required for any window treatment. 

For the most accurate results, install your curtain track or pole before taking measurements, so you know the finished length you’re aiming to achieve. 

According to Elle Decor, if you position the hanging panel about six inches above the window frame, it gives a sense of height to smaller rooms. 

For length, measure from the top of the track or the bottom of the hanging rings down to 1cm above floor level (or sill length) for a modern and crisp design. 

-Adding an extra couple of inches at the bottom can create a gorgeous puddled look, but make sure to use a medium-weighted fabric so it falls nicely without looking too messy. This puddled style is perfect in formal living rooms or dining rooms to create a traditional theme. 

-For more contemporary rooms, measure a few centimetres above the floor level, so the curtains break fashionably, ideal for modern kitchens and bedrooms that require a neat finishing. 

Lulworth Stripe Oatmeal Curtains

For width, measure the entire span of the track or pole, including the return (the distance it projects out from the window frame) and be sure to add 4-8 inches on either side and double the total number to create fullness without too much extra fabric. 

-In bedrooms requiring complete darkness, add the full 8 inches on either side to ensure any creeping light is blocked out. 

-If using a pleated heading, multiply by 2½ before adding the 4-8 inches on either side to allow extra fabric to create the pleats. 

Thinking all this sounds like too much work? Why not get in touch with one of our Ian Mankin designers and makers to help you create the most stunning custom curtains? 

#3 Match your material

Depending on the style and formality of your room, the type of material you choose can play a significant factor in the finished design and practicality. 

Cotton is the most commonly used fabric for curtains because of its versatility and ease of cleaning and maintenance. Due to its lighter weight, cotton is usually lined, so it’s more durable; however, it can be left unlined for a simple semi-sheer finish. Sandra at @the_idle_hands has used our Devon Stripe Sage fabric on unlined curtains in her living room for a tonal design with longevity that will endure changing trends.

Devon Stripe Sage Cotton Curtains by @the_idle_hands

Linen curtains are often used as a less formal option, giving any room a fresh, billowy effect. Pick between our stunning stripes and gorgeous plains to compliment your casual living space. Linen curtains are often used in bathrooms or as a base within double tracks (the first holding a lined curtain to block out light and the second usually a tension wire to hold the sheer linen).

Grain Stripe Indigo Linen Curtains

Wool is a popular option because of its insulating and natural fire-retardant properties. For a warm and traditional style, combine our Gisburn Sage and Sutton Stripe Grey upholstery fabrics, providing a hardwearing and decorative finish. 

Gisburn Sage Wool Curtains

For more help and advice, explore our guide on ‘How to Choose the Perfect Curtain Material’.

General tips: 

Apply tracks for a more traditional/formal look, and hang on curtain poles for a more contemporary/informal design. 

-Choose neutral colours for rooms with a lot of sunlight – less likely for the colour to fade. 

4 Choose your colour palette and design

As Katrin Cargill suggests within her 2001 Curtain Bible, it is best to stick with a two-colour palette for patterns or add texture instead to provide an interesting variety in any room. As far as colour goes, use only the colours you love but make sure to complement deep blues and harsh reds with softer colours such as creams so that the style remains simple and sophisticated.

Patterns work best in isolation, for example, a boldly printed curtain placed in front of plain painted walls provides a scheme with a striking focal point, whilst plain curtains best accompany a printed wallpaper.

To help you discover your absolute favourite fabric designs and colours to suit your home decor, order a range of Ian Mankin fabric samples online.


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