Two things you need for a good night's sleep are darkness and quiet. The right window treatments can provide these.
A good interlining, while it adds to the cost of curtains, can block out most street noise and light, says Calico Corners' Jan Jessup.
Blackout lining is made of thick cotton or a cotton-polyester blend; there are white linings that can be used with pale color curtains. But these might not have sound-muffling benefits. A decorator trick is to instead line curtains with bump cloth, a flannel with a waffle surface that is as thick as a light blanket.
Bump-cloth interlining not only blocks most sound and light, but "it makes things hang like a million bucks," Jessup says. "With expensive fabrics such as silk, it gives a strong line of defense against sun damage and prolongs the life of window treatments." Silk curtains with any kind of interlining should last about a decade with proper care, she says.
A typical window treatment consists of two lined side panels, a sheer layer underneath, and a valance or swag at the top. A multilayered treatment provides visual balance if you have elaborate bed linens, says designer JoAnn Zwally of Ashton Design Group. A thick or layered treatment also cuts down on drafts, according to Cathy Lowery of G Street Fabrics in Rockville.
Choosing neutral colors can give you the option of changing bedding seasonally, Lowery says.
To custom-make a basic two-panel treatment with pole swag and cascade, without sheers, for a standard 48-inch window costs about $500, depending on fabric. Custom treatments take six to ten weeks to make; installation can be done in a few hours.
These days there's greater selection in ready-made curtains and window hardware. In ready-made, the rule of thumb is to buy treatments that are two to three times the width of the window to allow for a good drape.
One hot look is brisby pleats, a casual modernist style with pleats pinched at the top edge at intervals. Also popular are curtains with large grommets that are threaded directly on the rod.
Some companies now offer the equivalent of semicustom: ready-mades with custom-level looks in unique fabrics. The Silk Trading Company has a "Drapery Out of a Box" selection made of interlined silk with a choice of pleating and fabric. Stores such as Anthropologie and Country Curtains have looks ranging from exotic embroidered sheers to country calicos.
The trend of letting a foot or more of curtain puddle onto the floor has run its course, designers say, though it's still seen in very romantic or exotic schemes. Think of a curtain as a pair of pants and the floor as the shoe: Avoid the "high-water" look, and let curtains "break" at the floor as a pant leg would over a shoe, with about an inch or two of fabric on the floor.
Roman shades are popular for bedrooms because their simplicity and variety fits in many decors. They can range from a contemporary sheer with a few folds to near-balloon proportions fashioned from chintz. Shades that roll down from the top as well as up from the bottom are good for bedrooms and bathrooms, says bath designer Carolyn Thomas of Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath, because they allow in light from the top while still providing privacy.
Shutters, a trend from a few years ago, offer privacy but can allow for light and noise leak.
Remote controls that let you adjust window treatments from the comfort of your bed are a nice feature. These can be done on any curtains hung with traverse rods.
A remote curtain-opening system runs about $1,200 to $1,500, according to Dan Rachefsky, owner of Drape Rite, a Hyattsville window-treatment company. You can also install a system yourself for about $600; a good place to look for information and products is www.smarthome.com.
Newer bathrooms often include large windows that may not require curtains, depending on how close your neighbors are. If you do need bathroom curtains, Jessup recommends cotton.
"It's more friendly to humidity," she says.