Curtains are back, baby. And they’re a trim version of their former selves, trading tizzy embellishments for unfussy, modern style

Curtains are controversial. Anyone who lived through ’80s fashion will also remember ’80s window coverings with their balloon pleats, scalloped pelmets and draping swags, and feel a little nervous about their return. Fear not, the new curtains are like a Pilates-toned, rehabbed version of their old selves, so we’re welcoming them back to the party.

Sheers are lightweight curtains that allow light to penetrate and are the go-to for modern interiors. “An open-weave sheer creates a delicate, refined look, and can be combined with a textured plain fabric for a more polished feel,” says Cam Warwick, joint managing director of Warwick Fabrics. Filtering light is but one of the benefits; sheers can also soften a hard-edged space, without hiding any architectural features. “Sheers are most effective when hung as a wall-to-wall treatment,” says stylist Imogene Roache.

Mid-weight fabrics, such as linen, are a popular choice. “Casual linens and crinkled cottons provide a timeless aesthetic, and technological advancements mean man-made fabrics can now provide the same relaxed movement and finish with less creasing and fading,” says Cam. This kind of fabric also blocks more light, if this is required, and with the addition of lining, can provide complete blockout, which is perfect for bedrooms. Lining also has insulation benefits, making it harder for heat to transfer through the windows, and will protect the curtain fabric itself from fading in the sun.

Heavier fabrics – such as velvet or silk – create a grand, dramatic feel. These options are best if you’re looking to create a luxurious statement – and if so, you’ll also want the fabric to puddle on the floor. Either mid-weight or heavy fabrics can be teamed with sheers, using a double track or double rod. This will give you multiple options for privacy and light control.

Once you’ve settled on the style of fabric, pay attention to the detail of where and how to hang your curtains. Placement is everything. “The higher the curtain rod, the taller the window looks,” says Imogene. “The best rod position is halfway between the top of the window and the ceiling.”

Length and width are also important; your aim is always for the curtains to look generous, rather than stingy. You’ll want your curtains to fall to the floor, not just to the bottom of the window. And that means they should actually touch the floor, either barely skimming or pooling generously, rather than sitting a few inches off the floor. Take this into account when choosing your fabric and check whether washing or dry cleaning may shrink the material. “When your curtains are open, the stack of fabric shouldn’t cover too much of the window itself,” says Imogene. “When they’re closed, they should still have some drape, rather than looking stretched tight across the window. You’ll need enough fabric for two-and-a-half times the width of the window to create this effect.”

It’s possible to buy ready-made curtains and hardware to install yourself – try West Elm, IKEA or Freedom – but if you can’t find anything to fit or have something special in mind, consider getting professionals involved. Most businesses will send someone out to assess your needs and measure your windows, then come back to install the curtains once they’re made.

neutrals

Shades of pale grey, beige and white or darker charcoals are a safe bet, adding a layer of texture without hogging the decorative limelight. “Choosing a slightly darker tone than your walls can be a subtle and understated addition to your room,” says Imogene. Check out a few of our favourites:

Dominique Kieffer By Rubelli ‘Voila GL’ fabric, POA, South Pacific Fabrics 

Designers Guild ‘Latticino’ fabric, $114/m, Radford Furnishings

‘Zephyr’ fabric, $56/m, Warwick Fabrics

Pepe Peñalver ‘Nature’ sheer fabric, POA, Westbury Textiles

pattern & colour

If you’re looking for a statement window, go with bold colour or dramatic pattern. “Large-scale prints and patterns lift a room and can even make a space feel larger,” says Imogene. A fine print can also work if windows are not the dominant feature in the room. Here’s a selection of some bold choices:

the right track

“Pinch and pencil pleats on a tracking system are the most sophisticated look for curtains,” says Imogene. Tracks often run along the ceiling line or are concealed behind a shadow line or bulkhead. If your curtains are hung at ceiling height, look at motorised tracks: try somfy.com.au or silentgliss.com.au.

hardware

The two most popular options are curtain rods and tracks. “The weight of the fabric will determine what kind of rod is best to use,” says Imogene. “Lightweight and sheer curtains will sit well on a slimline rod but a heavier curtain will need a sturdier system. Eyelets and tab-top curtains are best in a casual space, but use quality hardware as it will be more on show with these styles.”