Blinds, Curtains and Voiles – all about Window Treatments

There’s no getting around the fact that dressing windows is an expensive business. So on this week’s podcast Sophie and I dived in to sort out your Romans from your Londons and your rollers from your pull-ups to help you decide what you should do with your windows either to protect your privacy, prevent the draughts or just make them look prettier.

curtains by harlequin
curtains by harlequin

I have come late to this topic. Partly because when we moved in I was on a minimal, lightly Scandinavian, path and partly because by the time we had replaced the electrics, plumbing, kitchen, bathrooms, doors and windows there was no money left for fripperies. So it was minimal Ikea roller blinds throughout, but fixed across the middle of the sash to allow light in from the top downstairs with black-out versions in the bedrooms.

Over time we have replaced our bedroom blinds, first with white linen Roman blinds and then with a heavier green velvet version. It wasn’t until I moved into my office that I decided I wanted something lovely. So, on the recommendation of Sophie I rang Chloe at Willow Bert Interiors (based in the south east of England) to discuss what should be done. Regular listeners will remember I originally wanted curtains but the window slopes into a corner so there was nowhere for it to pull to the side and the frame reaches the ceiling so it was tight there too.

mirador blind by harlequin
mirador blind by harlequin

In the end I opted for a London blind – this is a less structured version of a Roman so it falls in a gentle curve in the middle rather than the regimented Roman lines. I love it so much that I have immediately started looking for the sitting room which has a bay window. This makes curtains problematic as it’s a narrow room and finding the space to pull them back will compromise furniture placement. I also think the London blinds will look a bit like frilly knickers when there are three of them hanging there so it’s back to the Romans.

I plan to source the material from the Haines Collection, which, as I have mentioned before sells remnants and seconds to save them from being thrown away. I need 8m which is much less than curtains will take making it more affordable too. As I have done in the office I plan to use a ticking stripe on the back so it will look nice from outside as well. I used a a pink version from Ian Mankin in the office with a classic William Morris Honeysuckle print on the front.

Sophie has a friend who had fairly plain stripes on the inside and, on the side facing the garden, she chose a zippy neon chintz so it always looked pretty when they were sitting outside looking in. A great idea if funds permit.

two sets of ready made curtains sewn together will give a more luxe feel to a window, image by alun callendar of Sophie Robinson's house
two sets of ready made curtains sewn together will give a more luxe feel to a window, image by alun callendar of Sophie Robinson’s house

There’s no getting around the fact that curtains are hugely expensive. They need a lot of material and skill to make and there’s a good chance that standard readymade versions won’t fit your windows. So what to do? Firstly, if you are thinking you might move, or your tastes might change, then you need to think carefully if you want to invest in bespoke curtains in a neutral colour that might be able to move with you or if you should jazz up some ready made ones.

Sophie has ordered some plain linen curtains for her bedroom ; there are three windows and she needs 25m of fabric – but she is also going to add giant pompoms from Samuel and Sons. This is an easy way to dress up something plain and means you can change it in time if you want to change the colour of the room but can’t  bear to replace the curtains. There are so many gorgeous frills and trims you will get lost in the site. Plain colours are also more affordable than flamboyant floral designs.

jumbo pompom fringe from samuel and sons
jumbo pompom fringe from samuel and sons 

And, of course, you can also do this with readymade curtains to create something more bespoke as well. Remember Sophie bought some ready made curtains for her sitting room but to make them more luxurious she bought two sets for each window and sewed them together, which is another good way to pimp your window (see the striped curtains above).

Finally, where possible, you want to hang your curtains as high and as wide as you can so buy long poles. This is not only so they don’t cut the light but it will also make the window look bigger. Pelmets are up to you. Some feel they make a window look more finished, some feel they are an unnecessary furbelow. Personally, I would choose a fabric covered wooden pelmet that isn’t frilly or fussy but that’s my taste.

When it comes to blinds, some will say they should sit inside the window frame (see below) others that they must go above so they don’t cut the light. It’s your room and your taste but if the room is dark anyway I would perhaps go for the latter. And if your frame is nothing special – or you don’t like it then you want to cover it as much as possible.

pompoms from samuel and sons
pompoms from samuel and sons

We can’t leave this subject without looking at privacy. Nets have been seen as desperately old fashioned for years but Pearl Lowe is a fan of antique lace curtains so it’s probably only a matter of time before they return. Window film is also popular although don’t forget that while people can’t see in you can’t see out either.

lace curtain panels from Pearl Lowe
lace curtain panels from Pearl Lowe

For my sitting room I am looking for pull-up blinds which, as the name implies, sit at the bottom of the window and pull up to the middle where they attach with a magnet. The 20yo has them in his street-facing bedroom but they are a little “office”. I think it’s a lot more common as a concept in the US although a quick search did reveal some options here but I know nothing about the companies so I’m not going to link. If you have any recommendations then do add them in the comments below.

And we can’t leave without mentioning the short curtains and radiators dilemma. I like long curtains, they just look better. If you have radiators under windows (as many of us do) then you can, as Sophie suggests, have a blind and add curtains for dressing. I would just go with the blind. There are so many gorgeous fabrics around and a velvet Roman or floral London is, to my eyes, no less luxurious than a curtain. And much, much cheaper.

office of madaboutthehouse, burgundy half panelled walls, pale pink armchair, vintage wooden desk and monochrome geometric rugs.
office of madaboutthehouse painted in Little Green Arras with Ferdinand ceiling and london blind by Willow Bert Interiors

So there you have some curtain thoughts. I hope that has proved helpful. Elsewhere on the show we discuss the resurgence of English Country Style – which I wrote about last year. And Sophie announces that she wants a cat so we discuss pet-friendly furniture. You can, of course, listen here.

With huge thanks to our sponsor Harlequin, part of the Sanderson Design Group, for sponsoring The Great Indoors. They have redone their website with lots of in inspiration and digital design books to make it easier for you to sort through all their fabrics and find the one you want.


Tags : blindscurtainsthe great indoorsthe great indoors podcastwindow treatments
Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Loved this podcast episode! Our trainer suggested clear vinyl furniture protectors for sofas and chairs, while you’re training your kitty. You can buy it on Amazon – I purchased Panther Armor Furniture Protector; it attaches with upholstery tacks and prevents scratching.
    We had a Ragdoll, a very gentle and mellow breed. They are a bit puppylike and will fetch and follow you from room to room. They’re also larger when full grown, so won’t get up on tables and counters.

  2. Thank you Kate and Sophie! That was a cracker of an episode – maybe one of the best you have done. Really fab mix of informed discussion and useful ideas mixed with such funny bits and a real good dose of sensible, grounded reaction to the crazy pet suggestions. Loved it all. Thank you!

  3. I learnt to make Roman blinds last year – sewed 15 all together, saved loads of money, mainly for my daughter’s new house, only 1 for me. Love the idea of a contrasting lining – may be for next time (in 20 years time!).

  4. This is good timing because I am planning to make a Roman blind for my study. It’s not hard if you are not in a rush, can sew basic level and take your time… Will deffo listen to the podcast before I start X

  5. I have only very recently heard of London blinds – that design & the fabrics for your office window are delightful! If I may – a quick heads up on Roman blinds. I recently replaced my professionally handmade Romans (10 years old) with some from Hillary’s Blinds. I chose an Abigail Ahern black & white fabric with contrasting trim, both of which I adore, BUT I discovered on their installation that Hillary’s do not make their blinds with the fabric carefully stitched to the lining – they machine stitch fabric to lining where each rod is positioned 🤦🏼‍♀️ The room faces south and I now have tiny pin pricks of sun in neat rows at regular intervals. I guess ‘you get what you pay for’ applies. Fortunately the fabric design still wows!

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