What is curtain layering and why do I need it in my life?

So much more than just backdrop, curtains play a pivotal role in setting a room’s mood. They take up a wide swath of visual space at eye-level, adding an injection of colour and texture. Most importantly, they act as a filter for the outside world, striking a balance between your needs for privacy and natural light.

In short, it’s worth giving a little thought to what kind of effect you want to achieve with drapes, especially when you’re choosing curtains for a living room: What kind of social vibe do you want to create? How important is natural light? Can people outside see into the house? Do you want your windows to be showcased and highlighted or is it more important to frame the furniture as a focal point? Will you change the look frequently after decorating? How will it look from outside the house?

Installing layered curtains is one of the best ways to get the most out of your windows, and it’s easier than it sounds. Layering drapes and curtains make windows look luxurious, they have built-in flexibility, and they increase rooms’ summertime shade and wintertime insulation substantially.

A Beginner’s Guide to Curtain Layering

The go-to move is to layer sheer curtains under thicker drapes that have a bit more character, a strategy that lets you adapt a room’s atmosphere to your needs. During the day, the pale, gauzy layer, often in a neutral hue, lets in sunlight and softens the look and feel of the space. This layer adds shade and modesty while subtly tinting the natural light that streams through them from outside. In the evening, drawing a second, heavier blackout curtain increases privacy while creating a more impactful visual presence, which also lets you play with its look and texture — a brighter or patterned drape adds a warm, homey modern touch, while darker, weightier curtains strike a more formal or elegant note. 

The effect can be achieved either by layering two curtains onto a single rod or by installing double rods. I’d recommend the latter because it’s more stable and makes it easier to change either layer. The built-in versatility of the double bracket also offers options, like opening the sheer on a particularly bright day, replacing sheers with window blinds or removing just one layer for cleaning. Double brackets’ flexibility creates new possibilities — imagine, for example, installing double-sided reversible curtains that can be flipped to create seasonal looks. An ambitious decorator can even add an extra layer so that the curtains for windows display differently inside and outside the house, making it possible to repeat the outside-facing pattern across rooms to have the same look across all windows.

Curtains For Small Windows

Rooms with small windows call for a different tactic — enter the tried-and-true pro trick of playing with perspective. Hanging curtains of different lengths restores balance by tricking the eye into thinking you have more window than wall.

For ages, the go-to move for small windows was the valance, a decorative band of draping that rests on top of other treatments, window shades and blinds. It’s a classic design move for a reason — it makes windows seem bigger and brighter, filtering less natural light while still adding a pop of colour and character — but it’s been done so many times for so long that it just seems dated. Instead, go for something fresher: install drapes in a lighter shade that are longer than your windows. This makes the window look larger, feel softer and still lets in as much natural light as possible, with a more modern finish than the old-timey valance.

Ultimately, layering curtains adds options, making room for you to get creative with your space. The possibilities are infinite, so dig in!

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