Dress up your windows for every season with our tips for ethnic curtain styling on a budget! Get information about fabric, color, style and more!
One of the favorite parts of my morning routine is drawing the curtains and letting the bright sunlight in. It feels like getting a beautiful blessing to start my day. Doesn’t matter whether it’s rain or shine – this is something I always do!
However, curtains are something that most of us consider as an after thought when styling our rooms. The ones we see in pictures of beautiful homes look (and often are) expensive, and if you have many windows, the costs add up. Ask me, my house has more than 35 windows!
When we first moved into this 80 year old bungalow, I didn’t know where to start with the curtains. As a first step, I bought hand blocked curtains for just the living room. But the remaining windows were lying bare, and I was overwhelmed about how to dress them – there were so many options and not all of them were budget-friendly.
However, with trial and error over the past four years, I have realized that curtain styling doesn’t have to break the bank, even if you’re going with a traditional decor theme, like I am. While I’m no curtain expert, here are some practical tips I’ve learnt over the years with regards to curtain styling on a budget.
5 Tips for Ethnic Curtain Styling on a Budget
1. Find your Purpose
No, I’m not talking about becoming a monk and setting out for the Himalayas – find the purpose for your curtain. Yes, you want to dress your windows and not leave them bare, but think beyond that.
If your curtain faces a busy street or another apartment, privacy may be a priority. In other cases, you may want a curtain that blocks the early morning light so you are not woken up at the crack of dawn. Or maybe you just want something that gets rid of the bare look without clashing too much with the rest of the decor. You may also want your curtain to be the show stopper in your room.
It’s also possible that you want your curtains to fulfill a combination of purposes. The best part is that with so many options available nowadays, you can easily get a curtain that suits your space to the T.
Another point to consider is if you want to switch curtains. Unlike furniture, curtains are easier to move, and many people like exchanging curtains of different rooms to freshen up the rooms. In this case you may want curtains that are more neutral and gel with the decor of every room. If you don’t plan to do it, you can stick to curtains that are specifically available for your room. Some people also change curtains based on the season, so that’s another point to think about.
As you go through the remaining tips in this list, remember that there are two ways to get your curtains – buy them ready made or get them custom made. For an ethnic Indian decor theme, you may find that custom made curtains are better, and often cheaper.
2. Choose the Curtain Fabric
This is probably the most confusing aspect of choosing curtains, especially for a traditional Indian decor theme. What is the right fabric for you?
The first thing to do is to let go of any biases you may have. Many people equate ethnic curtain styling with heavy brocades or velvet. While those are certainly good ideas, cottons, gauze, linen and even lace work perfectly well with an Indian decor theme.
The next thing is to consider your purpose which you found in step 1. For many people, privacy is a big priority, and opaque curtains are the best pick for this. Such curtains keep light out to an extent and provide privacy during day and night. Cotton and cotton blends are great, and ethnic block prints are perfect for an Indian theme, especially since they are available in multiple colors and patterns.
If privacy is not a big issue and you’d prefer something lighter, gauze curtains are a good option. You can choose fine net curtains in royal colors like gold, silver, rose gold if you need the light to filter in and give it a lovely glow. One example is this moss green fine net curtain in my day room. It’s where I catch a quick nap in the day or read a little, so it needs some light without being too bright. They are excellent in diffusing natural light so if can close the curtains and still let in natural light.
This is a gauzy material with small red flowers that add some cheeriness. It also has some sequins that are hardly visible but give a pretty sparkle in sunlight. When going for such curtains, make sure the flowers are small and they don’t have lot of sequins.
If you want your curtains to be a show stopper or add a sense of opulence to your decor, go for fabrics like brocade, velvet, silk or faux silk. These materials hang well, and are good for curtains. I wanted this kind of ornate look for my guest room, so I went with an orange brocade curtain that reflects the sensibilities of the temple city of Madurai.
Brocade curtain fabric can be a bit expensive, but you can easily find the color you want if you search among blouse fabrics for Kancheepuram silk sarees. I bought some extra fabric to have more volume for a royal look. However, it’s important to be careful with these fabrics. Brocade can be damaged by sharp edges of windows or furniture. Silk can get damaged if subject to a lot of sunlight, so choose carefully.
If you want a look that’s still traditional without being too grand, light nets are your best bet. I wanted a curtain for my dressing area which would be feminine and luxurious without being too heavy and this golden net curtain was perfect for it. This curtain fabric was a love at first sight and was last of the roll in the shop, so I got it for a steal!
If you want a curtain for layering or for a soft, ethereal look, sheers are perfect. They are light weight and let in natural light, but diffuses it beautifully so the whole room is lit up in a warm glow. These are great for casual spaces and where privacy is not an issue.
Besides your curtain fabric, you also need to consider the lining. Some fabrics like gauze and nets get added strength from lining, as long as you don’t stitch them together so they fall well. Lining also prevents bright colors from fading and adds volume. Fabrics like silk have to be lined or they will get damaged. Avoid lining brocade or velvet or it will be too heavy. Don’t forget to think about the maintenance. Cotton or linen curtains can be washed regularly, but many other fabrics like brocade and velvet will need professional cleaning.
3. Pick the Right Colors
Once you have the fabric sorted, it’s time to think about color! Curtains occupy a good amount of vertical space, so the color can make or break the decor of the room. The best option is to take large samples to your room, hang it on the window and see how it goes with the rest of the decor.
If that’s not possible, you’ll have to take into consideration the other colors of the room, like bed covers, sofas, cushions, and of course, the wall paint. You can either choose a color that blends with everything else, or you can go for a color or pattern that ‘pops’ or makes a statement.
Neutrals are safer, and they are easier to switch between rooms. When going for neutral colors, go for a color that’s a few shades darker than the wall paint. You can also try to match a print in the rug or the sofa. Be careful with prints; if you have a large piece of furniture or rug with a busy print, it’s better to opt for curtains in solid colors, and vice versa. In any case, opt for smaller prints that won’t clash with anything else.
Remember that a horizontal print adds width and a vertical print adds height to the room. If the rest of the room is fairly neutral, you can choose a curtain that is bold and has a print that acts as a showstopper in the room. If you’re like me, you’ll choose a curtain you like and then decorate the rest of the room around it!
Don’t forget about sunlight. Very bright and direct sunlight can fade colors, so avoid bright colors in such places. If you’re using light or unlined curtains, the color of the curtain will reflect in the light it diffuses throughout the room, and this will affect not just the look, but the overall mood of the room as well.
4. Decide on Curtain Rods
You’ve chosen your curtain, now you need to figure out how to hang them! Curtain rods were my big challenge, especially since I had 35 windows to work with! Installing rods in every room would break my budget, so I went for simple steel springs instead. A general rule of thumb is that your curtain rod should be suitable for the fabric you’ve chosen. Light fabrics like sheers or nets can do with thin rods or springs, but heavier drapes like brocade and velvet need sturdier rods.
There are many ways to hang your curtains on rods, the most popular affordable options being the eyelet and tab styles. In the tab style, the curtains have loops on top, through with the rod is passed. These look pretty but are a little difficult to move. The eyelet style features metal eyelets sewn into the curtain fabric through with the rods run. Then there are more elaborate arrangements like curtain tracks and covers, which look grand but can cost a pretty penny.
When choosing rods, consider the fabric again. Light fabrics will go with bamboo rods which look very ethnic, while heavier fabrics may require a steel rod. You’ll also need brackets on either side of the rod to hold them in place, so make sure they match the rod material.
Another important thing to know is how high to hang your curtain rod. Consider the overall look of your room to begin with. For a grand, royal look, let the curtains fall to the floor, even letting the fabric gather on the floor, called ‘pooling’. This works well for traditional decor, but may not be practical with small children or pets. For casual spaces, curtains that end just above the floor work well. Hang the curtain at least six inches above the window frame, to add height to the room.
5. Get some Accessories
Finally, we come down to the accessories, including finials. Finials are the decorative elements added to the end of the curtain rod, and can add that final touch to the window treatment. The good part about finials is that you can change them easily when you want to change the look of the room. I love these brass finials that I think go well with my theme of temple decor.
If you’d like more sunshine into your room, you may want to tie back your curtains. This can be done with a simple piece of fabric, but here is an opportunity to add something pretty to your curtain! You can easily find tiebacks made of cord or even metal, or you can even DIY these to suit your theme. I’m looking for brass ones in a budget – hope I’ll find them soon!
There is really no limit to the way you can accessorize your curtains. You can try hanging pretty stringed charms or those handmade chains of birds and flowers that are available at craft fairs or flea markets. You can add them to just one side or both sides – they’ll look super cute and go perfectly with traditional decor.
You can also add trims to plain curtains for that ethnic vibe. Tassel trims or ones with brocade and mirrors are easy and inexpensive ways to refresh an old pair of plain or neutral curtains. Get creative with what you already have, as I’ve done with this hanging lamp by a brocade curtain.
So these are just some of the things I’ve learnt along the way, and is by no means a comprehensive list of curtain styling tips! However, this should take care of the basics and help you choose curtains that complete the look of your rooms and make them a place you enjoy being in!