Choosing and using sheer curtains

Written by Jodi-Anne
Russells Consultant
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Sheer curtains are often overlooked as a window furnishing but they’re really rather versatile. Light and airy, they’re highly functional with the ability to filter and diffuse light during the day while retaining privacy. But because they can be made from several different kinds of curtain fabric, available in variety of colours and pattern options, you can also achieve very different looks with sheer curtains.

Here’s our advice on which rooms to try sheers in and various ways to hang them for different effect:

What are they made of?

Sheer curtains have come a long way since ‘nets’ were a thing. You can get them plain or patterned and made from a variety of materials. Because sheers are constantly exposed to a lot of light we recommend you make your choice based on fade resistance as well as appearance.

  • Cotton, including gauzy fabrics and linens, creates fine textures that offer a romantic, sophisticated look.
  • High-end polyesters can give you a glamorous, ornate effect that’s easy to clean and maintain.
  • Lace comes in a variety of colors and often has intricate imagery of plants and flowers. Some people find lace to be a bit old fashioned but there are modern styles available.
  • Silk comes in both soft and metallic textures, and offers a luxurious, contemporary look. Often silk is blended. Chiffon is a more cost effective option that can look similar to silk.
  • Voile is often made of cotton or a cotton blend. It's crisp, open weave fabric gathers and drapes beautifully.

Cannes by Nettex in Ash

How to use sheers

Sheers can be used on their own, although we recommend this mainly for windows in non-living areas (eg. hallways, entryways, stairwells, etc.) as they offer no insulating or light blocking properties. Sheers are also the perfect partner with curtains (not suitable with blinds or shutters) as they offer privacy without blocking out light when the curtain is open. Please note this is only during the daylight. Once it’s dark outside and you turn on a light the sheers become transparent from the outside. Sheers also pair well with a blockout roller blind or venetian blind beneath them which can be closed at night for privacy and darkness.

Another contemporary idea for sheers is to use them as a continuous backdrop in a room because they allow light and shapes to filter through, tying the room together without completely hiding architectural features.

Sheers provide a soft relief in a room that already has a lot going on visually with busy patterns. They’re an excellent choice for tying together mismatched windows, or you can use them to break up large continuous windows into sections by bunching panels together. Sheers also make an elegant room divider if you have large open plan spaces.

What rooms are sheers best in?

Sheers are an ideal solution for any room that gets a lot of light but as they are made of fabric, may not be the best choice in the kitchen or bathroom with all that moisture and heat. As the main benefit of sheers is diffusing light while still retaining visibility outwards, sheers are an excellent addition to bedrooms and living spaces, especially those exposed to the road front or neighbouring properties.

Read more about our sheer curtains
How big should they be?

Like with curtains, you want your sheers to have a bit of a wave to them. When measuring the width, double or triple the width of your window depending how billowy you want them to appear. With the height, if used in conjunction with a floor length curtain, you can either have the sheer the same length (or just an inch shorter) or only have the sheers hang down to the sill. If they are to hang on their own floor length is recommended; not only is it a much more elegant look, due to the lightweight nature of the fabric, the extra weight from a longer length will help it hang straighter.

How they hang

Sheers can be one single panel that sits inside the window frame and doesn’t move. The heading style of this version can be as simple as a folded and sewn seam threaded over a wire strung taught. Or you could have one single panel that can be opened when you desire or two panels that meet in the middle.

For sheers that hang behind a curtain, you will need a separate rod from the curtain. Sheers commonly have a backing strip with hooks that run on a track.

For sheers that hang on their own consider an eyelet or tab top heading style to be more decorative.

Learn what to consider in picking the right curtains for your home

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