Window treatments may not be the first thing you notice when you walk into a room, but they are more important than you may think. In addition to adding color and texture to your space, they can help keep your rooms warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, while adding privacy to your most-used spaces and blocking the sun during your toddler’s naps. Here’s what you need to know before you buy your next window treatments.

The first choice you’ll make is between blinds and curtains. If you choose curtains, go with a length that lets you hang your curtain rod several inches (at least) above your window frame; this makes your windows look taller. If you want your curtains to touch the floor, choose a length that gives you 1-3 inches extra for pooling at the bottom. When deciding on width, determine whether you want the curtains to fully block the window when they’re closed. If so, each panel should be as wide as the window so you end up with twice as much fabric as glass. If you aren’t planning to close the curtains, then each panel should be about ¾ as wide as the windows, so that your end result looks fluffy but not overdone.

If you’ve decided to go with blinds, then your measurements will be more straightforward – you just need to choose whether they’ll be mounted inside the frame or outside to determine the width. If you’re having blinds custom cut, then the dealer will help you choose the right size; if you’re buying pre-packaged blinds, then you can often pick your width and then customize your length at home.

Your next step is to choose your materials. Here’s where the process can feel a little overwhelming since the options are so varied. Adding curtains in a similar color to your walls can make your room feel bigger and brighter; choosing a bold pattern or a darker color can add drama and visual interest to your walls; sheer white curtains add a relaxed, beachy vibe to your space. If you’ve decided to use blinds instead, then choose between wood (in any shade you can imagine), vinyl, or fabric; wood will add a warmer, natural element to your windows; vinyl is easy to clean; and fabric Roman shades can add pattern and color in smaller doses than a full-sized curtain.

Once you’ve chosen your basic look, consider layering another window treatment. Sound a little excessive? It’s really not: Pairing mahogany or cherry-toned blinds with sheer, neutral curtains lets you combine the warmth of wood with the earthiness of natural textiles. If you’ve decided on curtains, dress up the top of your windows with a valance or a cornice. Hang sheer curtains under thicker ones to adjust the amount of light you let in, or frame a window with long, thick drapes and use a fabric shade in a coordinating fabric for blocking light. Combining colors and textures can add a whole new dimension to your room – without overpowering the rest of your furniture or design choices.

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