How to Choose a Curtain Color for Any Room of the House?
March 13, 2023
Professionals agree that curtains are pretty much a non-negotiable during the design process. A drapery always makes a room feel finished, no matter if the look is center stage or a pretty backdrop for the rest of the room. Why exactly are curtains so key? "Window treatments add height, layers, and softness to a space," explains Sarah Montgomery of Sarah Montgomery Design, who also believes that curtains make a room appear more tailored and complete.
But you won't want to rush into the curtain-buying process. It turns out that there are many important factors to keep in mind when choosing a curtain color for any given room within your home. Below, experts weigh in with what to keep in mind when selecting a curtain hue for your space.
Don't Make Curtains Your First Buy
When designing a room from scratch, curtains might actually be one of your very last purchases. "Choosing curtain color isn't necessarily the first choice you make when designing a space," Amy Peltier, of Amy Peltier Interior Design & Home, says. "In fact, it should be one of the last choices you make. After you pick your paint color, rugs, and furnishings, you can then determine if you want your curtains to be subtle or if you want to add bold accents to your room."
Look to Your Wall Color
When the time comes to search for some curtains, look at your wall paint. "For a modern home, I like to choose the color of the drapery fabric to be either a step darker or lighter than the wall paint," Dallas notes. "In this style of room, the drapery is more part of the background than it being center stage for the room."
Daria Demin, of Circa 22 Design Studio, maintains a similar approach. “When it comes to window curtains or shades, I like to match them with the wall color—it creates a minimalist and well-tailored look," she says. But you can also feel free to take cues from surrounding furniture, Demin says. "Select [curtains] based on the complementary color, meaning the opposite color of the main piece of furniture in the room."
Peltier appreciates white linen curtains when designing modern, clean-looking spaces. "This will be the finishing touch and help add texture to your space," she says. But if you're feeling vibrant, by all means, say yes to color. "If you are more daring and want more of a bold look, pick curtains with some pattern to them," she adds. "Decide that your room needs more punch? Layer in curtains with colors to create contrast and interest."
Note That Room Type May Influence Your Decisions
Montgomery will often decide whether to go bold or stay neutral depending on the type of room she is designing. "I'll often use a small-scale print, woven texture, or stripe in a living room," she says. "In the dining room, where there tends to be less upholstery and other soft finishes, I'll bring in a bolder color and pattern."
Order Swatches Before Making a Commitment
If you haven't already, it's always best to sample your curtain fabric at home before placing an order. "I always recommend ordering swatches first, even if you are going for a neutral fabric," Montgomery notes. After all, it's important to get a sense of how the fabric will appear as the lighting within a room changes throughout the day.
Consult the Color Wheel
Decorators and designers rely on the color wheel to find compatible colors and see how colors relate. The wheel shows hues around a circle, illustrating the relationship of primary, secondary and tertiary colors to one another. The three primary colors are red, blue and yellow. The three secondary colors are green, violet and orange. Tertiary colors are hues of these shades as they go around the wheel: red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet. The colors opposite one another are complementary colors. Blue is opposite orange, one reason that decorators pair these two colors together. Yellow is opposite violet, and red is opposite green.
Adjacent colors are called analogous colors. These colors can be used to vary tone or create highlight. If red is a dominant color, it can be softened by using red-orange or red-violet. You can see how colors can set a mood and reflect light. Pairing opposite colors can create a vibrant look. Toning a color down with white or deepening it with black also adds to a look. Although they are not on the color wheel, neutrals, such as tan, white, grey and black, are used to soften or contrast color. The pattern and color of curtains can be used to complement, enhance or dominate the color scheme of a room, all based on the science of the color wheel.
Contrast Warm and Cool
As you select colors for your curtains and accessories, consider how colors affect feelings and comfort. Colors evoke feelings of warmth and coolness. Cool colors include blues, greens and violets. Cool colors are associated with water, sky and grass. They are calming and soothing, appealing to the intellect. Warm colors include yellows, oranges and reds. Warm colors denote heat, fire and sunshine. They are stimulating, appealing to the emotions. Looking at the color wheel, we see that warm and cool colors are on opposite sides of the wheel. This is because each color absorbs and reflects light differently. Light colors reflect light more than dark colors do.
Black and white also denote warmth and coolness. White is cool, and black is warm. Neutrals do not have much pizzazz by themselves even though particular shades may have warm or cool hues. However, when paired with color, they add sophistication and excitement or tone down intensity.
By contrasting warm and cool colors, you can play up mood and enhance a feeling of comfort. If you live in a hot climate, go with cool colors at the windows of living rooms and bedrooms. If you live in a cool climate, warm colors at the window will contribute to a feeling of warmth indoors.
Pairing curtain color with the room's purpose contributes to the ambience. Deep, warm colors such as burgundy complement dining rooms, where guests want to feel cozy. Often bathrooms and bedrooms are decorated in cool colors because these are places where you want to relax. Bright red curtains at a bedroom window may affect your sleep. The key is balance. If your walls and flooring are in cool colors, try warm colors for curtains and accessories to balance the look.
Go With Your Feelings
If you like a color, explore it. Almost any color can be used if attention is paid to scale, intensity of hue and how it is combined with others. Analogous colors on the color wheel are often considered to clash, such as using red and orange together. However, if you use an analogous color for a hint of contrast or to lessen the intensity of the hues, it can work. In the 60-30-10 scheme, a fourth color can be added by splitting the secondary color.
If in doubt, take color swatches home. See how your choices match wall color, floor coverings and furnishings. Think about the mood the colors and patterns will set. If you have antique carpets for flooring, you may prefer to let them be the focal point. Use one of the carpet's secondary colors at the windows to complement and enhance. If your floors are herringbone wood, a paisley drapery in rich colors will complement both the pattern and the warmth of the wood.
Your living space should reflect your taste and lifestyle. Although there are basic rules that help bring a space together, ultimately it has to appeal to your sense of beauty. Explore your tastes and experiment. If you have a basic palette to work with, accessories and window coverings can be easily changed to reflect seasons, mood and taste.