Exploring Living Room Curtains to Style Your Ambiance

Red Curtains in Living Room
An element that serves as both practical and stylistic, living room curtains are an essential finishing touch that can dramatically influence the experience you have within a space. Curtains are a means of adding color, creating privacy, and continuing a color palette or motif all throughout a room. This is especially true in your living room, which for many, is a space to gather with loved ones and relax at the end of the day.

To help you choose the best curtains for your living room, we consulted the experts for advice on elements to take into consideration, different types of curtains, and ideas for styling.

What You Need to Consider When Choosing Living Room Curtains

Placement and Needs

When selecting curtains for your living room windows, the first thing to consider is the placement and needs of your windows. For example, “if your windows face the street, adding a privacy lining to the fabric you select will do two things,” says Angela Boswell, “give you added privacy, and add light to your room through the white color.”

However, if your home is secluded, the need for living room drapery may be to filter the light at certain times of day. “I would recommend sheer or semi sheer curtains if this is the case,” says Boswell. “But if you live in an older home with windows that tend to be drafty, I’d recommend adding insulation in the form of heavier fabrics like velvet or canvas… or, line the window curtains with a blackout lining.”

Living Room Curtains
Sheer curtains can help make the most of the natural light (credit: the drape)

Additionally, consider what you using your living room for. Do you primarily use the space to host events? If so, drapery panels that create a bit of ambiance may be what you’re looking for. Is the space a weekend retreat to catch up on reading? White curtains that filter in light may be the answer. Is the room south-facing and always filled with light? If so, room darkening curtains could be an option.

If you’re stuck when determining your living room’s needs, Abby Evans suggests observing the natural light in the room and deciding what you want for the overall feel. Then, choose a curtain that adjusts the lighting to your preferences.

“If you want a cozy, moody element, lean into a weightier material, like velvet or satin,” Evans says. “For an open, organic feel, pull linen, cotton, or sheer.”

Read more: Curtains, Drapes, Shades, & Blinds: Pros, Cons, and Best Uses

Length and Width

Just like any unique feature in your home, windows come in a variety of shapes and sizes. This means that it’s important to take the width and length of your windows into account while shopping for curtains.

In doing so, however, there’s room for your individual styling preferences to shine. Some may prefer curtains that graze the floor, while others like shorter, practical curtains that don’t serve as a distraction for kids and pets. It’s all about personal preference!

According to Angela Boswell, it’s helpful to take your furniture into account while measuring for curtain length, as “if your windows are behind a sofa or other large piece of furniture, try apron length curtains, which are curtain panels that are between two and four feet longer than the window.”

Boswell also suggests taking your needs into account while selecting the style of living room curtains. “If your curtains will frame the window primarily as room decor, the ability to open and close them is less important,” says Boswell. “But if they will be opened and closed on a daily basis, choose a top style (rod pocket, grommet, or pinch pleats) that is easy to use.”

Stacy Garcia takes the width of the curtain rod into account while styling family room curtains. “You want the width of the curtain rod to extend past either side of the window,” says Garcia. “This allows for more light to come in through the window when the curtains are pulled back.”


Just like when you’re shopping for other home decor items, the type of fabric you choose has a big impact on the energy curtains bring to your space.

“When choosing fabric for a more formal area, fabric that appears heavier will contribute to the illusion of a more formal space,” says Becc Burgmann, “while a more glossy sheer is perfect in a space meant to be more glamorous.”

Stacy Garcia agrees, adding that “denser fabrics will provide more privacy, but tend to feel a bit more formal.”

Red curtains in a living room
Choosing a bold fabric can make your curtains a focal point (credit: the drape)

Below are five common living room curtain fabrics, with advice on when to use them:

  • Silk curtains: Known to be a luxurious choice, silk curtains will provide a sophisticated feel to your space. Faux silk is a popular choice for those looking for a budget-friendly variety that creates the same luxurious effect.
  • Cotton curtains: One of the most popular fabrics used in curtains, cotton curtains are available in a variety of weights and styles. The fabric creates clean lines that compliments a more modern look.
  • Velvet curtains: Classic velvet curtains are the perfect choice for those looking for a room darkening effect. The heavy fabric will certainly do the job, while looking beautiful at the same time. Velvet curtains are often available as blackout curtains.
  • Linen curtains: A favorite in coastal or Scandinavian style homes, linen curtains are light and airy while often still opaque enough to create a sense of privacy.
  • Sheer curtains: For lovers of natural light, sheer curtains are light filtering while creating some level of privacy. Sheers are a practical choice that create an airy, boho feel in any space.

Style of the Room

Keep the style of your living room in mind while choosing new living room curtains, as you want the curtains to serve as a continuance of the style already established in the room– not an eyesore.

If your living room style is more traditional, consider a heavier, darker fabric for your curtains. On the other hand, if your living room is bright and modern, consider a sheer or linen curtain to match the aesthetic already established.

“Once the style of the room is determined, as well as the formality of the room, then you can begin to think about the specific type of fabric, as well as how it will be hung,” says Becc Burgmann.  

Read more: The Best Places to Buy Curtains Online

How to Decide on the Right Curtain Length for Your Living Room

When it comes to length of curtain, there are many different (and often opposing) philosophies. However, it’s important to remember that there isn’t really a right answer.

“One of my pet peeves is when curtains don’t go all the way to the floor, as in very few cases does this look good,” says Becc Burgmann. “Depending on the windows you can start just above the top of the window and go to the floor… I like it when the curtains stop just the tiniest bit above the finish floor.”

Abby Evans always tells her clients to hang their curtains as “high as they can before reaching the trim, and to skim the floor on the bottom.”

“Observe the natural light in the room and decide what you want for the overall feel. If you want a cozy, moody element, lean into a weightier material, like velvet or satin. For an open, organic feel, pull linen, cotton or sheer,” Abby Evans.

Just like the color or fabric you choose for your curtains, length of curtain is a personal choice. The below curtain lengths will give you a better idea of how you can style your curtains:

  • Puddling or Trouser-Length: Curtains that “puddle” form the appearance of a puddle on the floor, meaning that the length of fabric used in the curtain is longer than the distance from the curtain rod and the floor.
  • Breaking: Curtains described as “breaking” are 1 inch longer than floor length. This look is described as a bit more stylized than the floating appearance.
  • Grazing: As the name suggests, “grazing” curtains just graze the floor. Curtains that graze create a clean, uniform look.
  • Floating: Floating curtains stop within 1 inch of the floor, creating the appearance that the curtains are indeed, floating.
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Styling Living Room Curtains: 5 Ideas from Pro Designers

1. Match Fabrics to Wall Colors

A strategy used by many designers is to match fabrics and wall colors to create a continuous color palette that makes the room look larger. “This will blend and make the room feel more expansive,” says Angela Boswell. “Hanging the curtain rods closer to the ceiling will also add to the illusion.”

2. Go Bold

For a simple way to add color and pattern to your living room, many use curtains as a low-risk way to add pattern or a pop of color. “Fabric is always a great way to add some life back into your space,” says Stacy Garcia. “If you want the window to be the hero of the room, don’t be afraid to go bold with pattern and color.”

Bold living room curtains
Bold fabric can bring some life into your living room (credit: Stacy Garcia)

If your goal is to make your window treatments stand out, Garcia recommends using color and object placement to lead your eyes to the window. “Remember to choose fabrics, patterns, and finishes that compliment without overwhelming,” Garcia says.

3. Create Contrast

Joe Human uses curtains as a way to create contrast throughout a room. He also advises varying the hardware and finials, rods, tiebacks, or rings to match or coordinate with other elements in the room to create a continuous look.

“I also style curtains to customize the look I’m trying to achieve,” Human says, “For example, the ripple fold is a more simple modern look, while pinch pleats have more fabric, but a detailed look at the tops.”

4. Pair Down Curtains

While choosing curtains for a living space, Becc Burgmann likes to think that less is more in terms of pattern. She suggests “using wallpaper for the wow factor and curtains that compliment it, not the other way around.”

The exception to this, Burgmann says, is when using roman blinds. “They consume less space and therefore allow for more ‘crazy material,’ without compromising anything else in the room.

5. Embrace Your Style

While design appears to come with “rules,” remember to have fun with it and embrace your sense of style. Abby Evans suggests embracing your style by bringing in a bold color or pattern, or pulling the pattern on your favorite throw pillow to tie the space together.

Velvet living room curtains
Abby Evans says you should embrace your style (credit: Metal + Petal)

"In this Metal + Petal residential design (pictured above), we added a mauve velvet drape to embrace the cozy, luxe feel of the room and add a soft hue to the rich color of the wood paneling and shutters," explains Evans.

Adding style elements that you love will create that “wow” factor that will make you– and your guests– want to use the room all the time!

Meet the Experts

At Living Cozy, we produce our content alongside interior design and home decor experts. In this guide, you’ll advice from:

Written by
Shelby Golding
Shelby Golding is a Colorado-based writer/editor with over a decade of experience. She has a college education in interior design and enjoys woodworking in her free time.
Shelby Golding
Written by
Shelby Golding
Shelby Golding is a Colorado-based writer/editor with over a decade of experience. She has a college education in interior design and enjoys woodworking in her free time.
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