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The Best Window Curtains and Shades, According to Interior Designers

Sheer shades from The Shade Store — The Strategist reviews best window treatments
Photo: The Shade Store

Windows are intimidating. Leave them bare and a place looks naked. Overdecorate them and your best source of natural light gets fusty. Plus, brass or pewter rods? Woven shades or black-out shades? Printed curtains or all-white? Below, we talked to interior designers who had easy answers to some of those hard-fought questions, and let us in on their budget-friendly, go-to sources for setting the window-scene.

The best wooden blinds

Natural Bamboo Roll Up Window Blind
From $25 at Amazon

Of natural wooden shades, Virginia Tupker of Virginia Tupker Interiors says: “They work seamlessly in any interior and layer beautifully with curtains to diffuse the light, cutting glare and allowing you to see through them while still offering privacy. I have used them in modern, rustic, and classic style interiors with equal success.” Tupker also designs her own. Her made-to-order blinds have thread with an intricate Moorish-motif scaling the backside that can be custom-colored. “I recently had them made with black thread and they were perfect in a Scandinavian boho-style project in the Hamptons.”

Bali Northern Heights Wood Blind
$63 at Home Depot

“These are both budget-friendly and chic,” says Nashville-based interior designer Jessica Stambaugh, of simple wooden shades. She often uses a company called Select Blinds for her projects, and like the pale color seen here, in a similar design from Home Depot. “I’ve used South Beach in tan in my own home because they have a modern Zen-like feel.”

Waterfall Woven Wood Shade
From $193 at The Shade Store

“Woven wood shades are like the jeans of window treatments — they are so versatile, can be dressed up or down, and can work with modern or traditional interior styles,” says Erin Gates, principal and owner of Boston-based design firm Erin Gates Design. “They add texture to a room, can be black-out lined, and are cordless, making them perfect for families with small children.”

Wood Blinds
From $216 at The Shade Store

Substantially different from the razorlike metal mini-blinds, New York–based interior designer Bachman Brown uses them to create a slinky and somewhat seductive mood in a room. “Wood slated blinds are timeless. I always think of that 1980s romantic thriller American Gigolo with Richard Gere standing in his apartment at sunset and the horizontal blinds are casting those iconic shadows across his face.”

The best curtains

Seattle 84-Inch Tie Tab Window Curtain Panel
$30 at Bed Bath & Beyond

“My favorite and most used window accessory are drapes. I tend to lean more toward simple and elegant ones — usually white linen — because they do a great job of completing a space without making too much of a statement,” says Toronto-based designer Anne Hepfer. “They work with nearly every space, no matter its style or color scheme. There is something elegant yet approachable in these drapes that makes a room feel entirely more crisp.”

Vivienne Pleated Trim Linen Panel (Set of 2)
$139 at Ballard Designs

“There’s nothing that makes a space quite like curtains, and a simple curtain for me finishes a space in the most elegant way. I like a classic pinch pleat with no trim, it’s not too traditional and not too modern,” says interior designer Alyssa Kapito, who likes to pair the simple silhouettes with a streamlined bronze curtain rod to bring a hint of glamour to a space.

Pleated Printed Lace Curtain
$40 at Spring

Another way to do pleated curtains: These Victorian-esque ones come with some lace detailing.

Linen Grommet Sheer Curtain Panel
$17 at Target

Interior designer Nicole Fuller also advocates for simple linen curtains: “Linen drapes are incredibly timeless, and the neutral colors offered are the best of the best.” She adds, “I am forever in love with the gauzy feel and textured look of linen as the sun shines through this fabric. Fuller recommends the Restoration Hardware Perennials line, but we’re also fans of these affordable ones from Target. They’re also gauzy, and also come in a palette of neutrals.

DKNY Paradox Back Tab Window Panels (Set of 2)
From $40 at Nordstrom

Not linen, but similarly ethereal, and at a great price.

Cotton Canvas Scribble Lattice Curtains (Set Of 2)
From $55 at West Elm

“A large-scale pattern is one of the best drapery treatments you can do for a window. It sets the tone for the room and nothing draws your eye more than a grand-scaled fabric,” says Brown.

Blackout Shibori Window Curtain
$50 at Spring

Another way to get a blue-and-white-pattern pop would be with these shibori-printed curtains.

‘Aster’ Window Panels
$60 at Nordstrom

Yet another way to mix in some pattern: with these drapey curtains that have a stenciled flower print. It comes in five colors, and in some of them (the gray and teal), the flowers take on a slightly abstract, graphic quality.

The best shades

Custom Roller Shades
From $219 at The Shade Store

“Not only do I recommend these to clients, but I have them in my own home,” says Jenny J. Norris, an interior designer known for her creative and colorful projects. “An overtreated window can feel dated. For a more understated window, go for a solid color roller shade. Choosing a more textural option, such as a woven material, allows the perfect amount of visual interest without going overboard.”

Solar Shades
From $197 at The Shade Store

“We use these solar shades for almost every client and ourselves. We always mount these solar shades behind a decorative shade, as they are great for privacy and sun protection during the day. There are options on opacity, which our clients are able to choose based on their needs,” says Anne Maxwell Foster, who runs the design firm Tilton Fenwick.

Real Simple Natural Roman Shade
$50 at Bed Bath & Beyond

“I love layering a natural wood shade with a pair of superluxurious silk curtains. The contrast in material adds so much depth and texture. I have these shades in all of the back rooms in my apartment because they offer just the right amount of privacy, so the neighbors won’t see in,” says Lilly Bunn of Lilly Bunn Interiors.

Cascade Roman Shades
From $479 at The Shade Store

Another good-looking natural shade option is this Roman one, from the Shade Store.

Home Silks Alexa Curtain
$225 at Neiman Marcus

As for the silk curtains, these sheer ones would go with the natural feeling of the shades …

Home Silks Hampton Curtain
$225 at Neiman Marcus

… Whereas these bold striped ones will cash in a bit more on the contrast.

One Kings Lane “Kaleidoscope”
Request price at The Shade Store

“I gravitated toward this new line for a recent master bathroom in the Hamptons. They’re great for bathrooms and closets whose windows need a chic but simple dressing. I often use their flat roman shade, which creates a less fussy vibe that is still tailored and fresh, and feels more appropriate and less overpowering for a tight space,” says Susan Petrie, who runs Petrie Point Designs, of the bamboo motifs, star prints, and kaleidoscopic patterns in the collection. “The motifs have a painted watercolor feel to them and come in a range of subdued colors — another bonus for small rooms where I may have already picked out a bright or heavily patterned wallpaper, as I’m known to do.”

The best curtain rods and hardware

Classic Ball Rod Set in Soft Nickel
$44 at Home Depot

“Windows are one of the first elements I consider when approaching the decoration in a room. For simple rods, we use Morgik, but simple versions from the hardware store are just as good,” says Thomas Jayne. “Lately, we’ve returned to making fancier curtain designs for special rooms — say, a grand library, an especially well-appointed bedroom, or a living room with extra verve.”

Cambria Acrylic Curtain Rod in Warm Gold
$70 at Bed Bath & Beyond

“We love the idea of using acrylic drapery rods because it isn’t your typical utilitarian, metal window hardware. Not only does the clear material keep the focus on the drapery but it won’t draw attention if your ceilings are on the shorter side,” says Jennifer Beek, who, along with her business partner Georgie Tipper, founded J+G Design in New York. For a more custom look, these come in a handful of different metal finishes as well.

Oversized Adjustable Metal Rod in Antique Brass
From $63 at West Elm

“The next step in the window-treatment process is often pairing woven wood shades with drapes, which makes the room feel luxuriously layered and complete. We often use this West Elm rod when layering a woven wood shade and custom drapes — it’s substantial, clean, and simple,” says Gates, who uses these exact rods in her own living room. “I had custom window treatments made and had the rings sewn on, which resulted in a really special, custom look that utilized both custom and ready-made items.”

Dakota Hardware Line
$49 at Restoration Hardware

“I tend to choose the black iron rod from Restoration Hardware, as it is grounding and discreet within its beauty,” says Fuller. More finish options are available; however, Fuller prefers the stark color for many of her projects. “It doesn’t matter if you are working with a curtain that has a pocket or if you are using additional hardware, these classic pieces work beautifully in either application.”

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The Best Window Treatments, According to Interior Designers