Guide to choosing the right curtains

Curtains are a great way to express your style within the home you love. If you’re making changes around your place – maybe even building new – we’re here to help make sure you’re confident you’re investing in the right window furnishings.

Things to factor in include the purpose of the room, the size of the windows, how much light the room gets, what type of fabric works best, what colours will look good and whether you should buy ready-made or get curtains custom made for you’re the space.

This page will answer many of those questions so that when it comes time to start your curtain buying journey, you know the many different options you have.

How to best use curtains around the home

Curtains are best in rooms and areas of the home where you want to create a feeling of warmth and cosiness – such as living rooms and bedrooms. A thick, lined fabric curtain is the window furnishing of choice for areas you would like to insulate in winter. For a summery feel across a patio door, choose a lightweight or sheer fabric. Wherever you’d like to express your style through colour and pattern in your home, curtains can help. However, they are less practical in rooms that get a lot of moisture, such as kitchens, bathrooms and laundries. Keep reading for more useful information on how to best use curtains around the home.

Choosing curtains for you living room

Curtains in this high-traffic area of the home need to be practical, functional and decorative. You need to consider the space they’re covering, where they’ll hang in relation to the window, how they’ll operate, what you need them for, and of course the myriad of colours and patterns they could have.

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Choosing the best curtains for bedrooms

To create a good sleeping environment choose curtains that help reduce noise and block out light. Our blog article covers how to achieve these practical requirements as well as covering some style considerations to create the perfect bedroom environment you'll never want to leave.

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Choosing curtains for an open floor plan

The mix of different décor and surfaces found together in open plan homes means you need to choose curtains that are style-versatile. Our top tips include creating an overall complementary scheme to tie a space together while also factoring in what’s practical for which part the room.

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Selecting the right fabric type

It’s easy to make a choice based on textures, colours and patterns. But each fabric type also has its own benefits and best uses based on weight, light filtering/blocking qualities, durability and sun-fade resistance. The type of fabric you choose also affects how your curtains fall and some fabrics are better for different rooms too.

It’s important to note that as New Zealand’s climate can be quite humid and our sunshine harsh, we recommend fabrics crafted from either synthetic fibres or a blend of natural and man-made. These have proven to stand up to our environmental conditions.


Cotton is versatile and offers a crisp, clean feel that suits traditional or modern styles. As it can be a very light fabric, cotton curtains do need to be properly lined so they hang and fall as desired.


As a natural fibre, linen is difficult to manage and degrades quickly. We recommend linen blends or linen look fabrics to achieve the same look you want at a more cost effective price with better performance and longer life.

Sekers Dunraven assorted


A very common choice; polyester is durable, affordable, easy to care for, and doesn’t really wrinkle, stretch or shrink. Choose polyester for bedroom and living areas, but avoid it in the kitchen as it’s flammable and absorbs odours.


Made of either natural or synthetic fibres, if you want glamour and richness in a room, pick velvet. It’s thick and heavy making it great for bedrooms and living spaces where you want to block cold air and light and reduce noise.


With a similar texture to wool, acrylic is a lightweight fabric that drapes beautifully and provides great insulation. Acrylic curtains attract and disperse moisture effortlessly, they’re hypoallergenic and resistant to mould and mildew.


Voile is a crisp, open weave fabric that is best utilised for sheers. It gathers and drapes wonderfully, creating a light, airy ambience while maintaining a high level of privacy.

See our sheer curtain range

Altitude by Nettex in Ash

Tips for choosing fabrics:
  • Hold the sample up to a window to see how it filters light.
  • If the sample is large enough, pleat it at the top to see how it drapes.

Find your style

brown and grey industrial textured curtains on black timber walls

Erosion James Dunlop

green blue teal leaf foliage pattern curtains in modern boho lounge room on mint green walls

Aruba James Dunlop

Beige sheer curtains in modern beachy dining room with outdoor scene

Drift James Dunlop

green blue white and red floral pattern curtains in vintage lounge room on white walls

Twining James Dunlop

Linen curtains

We can help you achieve the popular linen look with a wide range of curtain fabrics that drape wonderfully to create an airy, relaxed feel; a great curtain option for bedrooms and living spaces. We recommend linen blends or linen look fabrics to achieve the look you want at a cost effective price with good performance and a long life.

Kyoto by James Dunlop in Chalk

The drawbacks of pure linen

We appreciate you may have a certain look in mind when choosing linen curtains so we aim to be upfront with our recommendation to choose a linen blend or linen look fabric. Here’s why:

  • Pure linen fabrics can come at a premium price that does not align with its delicate and temperamental nature.
  • Pure linen is not suited to New Zealand conditions as it moves with humidity, meaning your curtains may either be too long or too short on any given day.
  • Pure linen is notorious for creasing and cannot be steamed out as this stretches the fabric.
  • They are quite difficult to clean requiring gentle treatment.
  • Linen can attract mould and mildew, which will eventually rot the fabric.
  • Pure linen has a short lifespan.

Read our guide to styling linen curtains for tips on how to hang them and see a selection of fabric options.

Choosing and using sheer curtains

Sheer curtains are really rather versatile with the ability to filter and diffuse light while retaining privacy. Learn how to use sheer curtains, including which rooms they’re best in and how to style them.

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Styling your curtains

You may be surprised by the many factors that influence the overall look and functionality of their curtains. Here’s what you need to consider and some advice on getting it right.

Colour and pattern

It’s important to get fabric samples so you can hold them up next to the wall in order to see how they work in your space – does it work with your walls and the light in the room? If possible try them both at night and during the day in natural light. Consider a darker colour for high traffic areas so as it doesn’t get too noticeably dirty. Rooms that get a lot of light probably need a lighter colour as a darker one will fade. Plain fabrics can be dressed up with decorative rods. And think about pattern size and pattern repeat; if you choose a large pattern, ensure it’s for a large window for good effect.

Further advice

Choosing curtain colours for white walls

Here are some options to consider when choosing curtains for white walls, such as using neutrals, having fun with colour and pattern, and how to do white on white.

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How curtains can hang

One of the key factors in how good your curtains can look is how you hang them. You can have them window-sill length (a fraction below) if there is something in the way or it is your preference, but floor length gives optimal performance. There are variations of this length to consider:


Offers a simple and sensible, casual look. By leaving no more than a centimetre of space between curtain and floor they’re practical too as floating curtains don’t gather dust from the floor. They are also easier to open and close.


A very common length with the curtains resting on the floor with a slight bend just above the hem. A few centimetres is enough.


Sees a large amount of fabric pools or puddles on the floor. This style does gather dust and they need some reshaping every time you move them so they are high maintenance. The type of fabric you choose will influence whether you can attain this look or not; light, airy cotton-esque or linen style is best. Pooling curtains add a lovely softness to rooms with lots of hard furniture. For a relaxed and casual look with a linen-like fabric, let them pool where they fall. For a more formal look, deliberately pool them to the left or right or centre, depending where the wall panel is in relation. They are also better in bedrooms than main living areas as the excess fabric on the floor can be a tripping hazard.


Requires expert measurement as just a centimetre too short or long and you have a completely different look. However, it is a clean and simple choice. Better on hard surface floors as opposed to carpet, which it can pull against when opening and closing.

Breeze by James Dunlop in Chino

4 common curtain mistakes you can easily avoid

This article covers how high from the window curtains should hang, how far down to the floor, and how wide curtains should be as well as heading style considerations.

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Heading styles

Heading styles refers to the way the curtain is sewn at the top. This affects the way it gathers and drapes. The width, depth and separation of the waves of a curtain can really change the overall look and feel of your room. Most of these styles can be hung from a curtain track using hooks or from a rod with rings and hooks. It’s worth noting that some heading styles are better suited to different fabric types; for example:

Pencil pleat

Regularly used to create a relaxed, classic drape.

Single pleat

Classic and economical; ideal for small spaces and patterned fabrics.

Double pleat

Achieves a contemporary feel, whilst maintaining fabric efficiency.

Christelle by Charles Parsons in Taupe with double pleat

Reverse single pleat

Minimalistic and modern; uses less fabric so takes up less space and is more cost-effective.

Reverse double pleat

Minimalistic, clean line look; uses more fabric to create a fuller and more luxurious look.

Paris wave

Designed by Russells; combines inverted pleat with a rounded wave-like front for a fuller appearance.

Tab top

The simplest of curtain systems. Tab top curtains have loops of fabrics attached to the top of them, and your curtain rod is fed through these.


Tailored with a European influence; threaded onto a rod to create a large wave-like effect.

Aruba by James Dunlop in Jungle curtain with eyelets

Choosing a curtain heading style

Here, we go into detail about the heading styles – what they look like and what to consider in choosing them.

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Getting the most from your curtains

Many people choose curtains for their style versatility, but they can be very practical too. To ensure your window furnishings perform how you need them too, here are some blog articles people find helpful in making the right choices:

Are curtains the right solution or would blinds be better?

Warmth, light, style, practicality - read about the different things to consider when choosing between curtains and blinds.

Learn more

Get the best of curtains and blinds with Veri-Shades ®

We call these ‘the clever curtain’. With no weights or connecting chains you can simply walk right through them.

See the range

Pairing your curtains with blinds

Many people use curtains and blinds together on the same window to achieve the best of everything – light control, privacy and insulation. Here’s our advice on getting the combo right for your needs.

Read article

Enhance your curtains with lining

Thermal lining

Thermal lining maximises heating efficiency. It may also help to reduce outside noise and unwanted light.

Blockout lining

Block-out lining reduces natural light and UV rays, providing an ideal solution for darkening a bedroom or media room. They also offer good thermal properties and may help to dampen sound.


Interlining is the layer of fabric between the main fabric and lining. To increase the insulating properties of your curtains a light to medium weight interlining can be added. Interlining is ideal for increasing thermal performance and reducing noise.

More on noise reduction

Sounds travels in waves that bounce off hard surfaces but get absorbed by soft ones, so while curtains and blinds might help to dampen sound, they cannot eliminate it completely. Here’s our advice on reducing noise in your home.

Read more

How to soundproof your bedroom

Whether you want to minimise noise coming from outside or stop it travelling around inside the home, here are some of the easiest ways to soundproof your bedroom.

Read more

Find your style

White sheer curtains in contemporary lounge room on large windows

Forever James Dunlop

gold and white branch leaf foliage pattern curtains in cosy bedroom on blue walls

Anya Maurice Kain

light teal blue curtains in modern lounge room on white walls

Frisco James Dunlop

grey wave pattern textured curtains in contemporary lounge room on white window frames

Perla James Dunlop

Curtain maintenance

How to clean your curtains

Always refer to the cleaning instructions provided and follow those. Here’s a quick list. Handwash - Thermal backed curtains - Sheer curtains Delicate machine wash - Unlined curtains - Cotton, acrylic and polyester curtains Dry clean only - Lined curtains - Velvet

Why choose custom-made curtains?

The benefits
  • You’ll get exactly what you want. If you choose Russells, one of our consultants will meet with you at your home and bring a wide variety of samples so you can see how different colours and patterns look in your space.
  • You’ll get experienced advice about which fabric types are best for certain rooms, eg. bright rooms, damp rooms etc.
  • Your curtains will be professionally measured and expertly made with special attention to detail.
  • A good curtain manufacturer (like Russells) will offer a product warranty.
  • There may be a finance offer to help make it affordable. At Russells, we partner with Gem Visa to offer interest free purchases. See our latest offer and Ts and Cs here.
  • Professional installation is included as part of our service.

Check out our process


What to look out for: • There is time involved in having curtains custom made as they are crafted to your exact measurements. • It may cost a bit more than a mass-produced readymade curtain but the end result is so worth it.

Cannes by Nettex in Pearl

Budgeting tips:

  • Complete the most lived in rooms first
  • Ask your consultant for fabrics within your price range; our huge fabric collection ranges from cost effective to premium and includes fabrics from well-known fabric houses as well as exclusive ranges we’ve sourced direct
  • Mix it up with blinds in some rooms
  • Use less fabric in rooms used infrequently, eg. decorative curtains or shorter length

Helix by Warwick in Moonbean

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