As anyone who’s ever had to pick out curtains knows, choosing the right design can be something of a minefield. Curtain trends can change – and after all, drapes aren’t something you’re going to want to switch out too often if you’re investing in a high-quality fabric. Trying to predict whether the pattern or color you’re most drawn to is still going to be on-trend a few years later is tricky – which is why we so often opt for plain, neutral designs instead.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with neutral – a greige wool curtain can be the perfect sophisticated finishing touch to a grown-up living room scheme, while a floaty linen number in a bedroom helps keep things calm and casual. But if you’re looking for a bit of pizzazz from your curtains, these just might not cut it.
To help you out, we’ve spoken to the experts to find out the interior design trends they’re seeing come through for curtains in 2023 and beyond. From handcrafted details to new ways with pelmets, these stylish ideas are here to stay – and they’ll satisfy the boldest of decorators, too.
Ellen is an experienced homes journalist, and as Livingetc's deputy print editor, works tirelessly to pull together the magazine every month. To find out the hottest new curtain trends for this year and beyond, she spoke to interior designs and fabric experts for their predictions.
The top curtain trends for 2023
Potentially the biggest curtain trend for this year? More of them – and not just framing your windows. ‘Curtains are having a moment,’ says Chloe Jonason, owner of her eponymous studio, which crafts bespoke curtains and upholstering furniture. ‘Curtains on everything – doors, windows, cupboards, walls and ceilings! More is more.... long live the curtain!’
So, curtains are a big deal – but what exactly should we be looking for right now? Here’s what the experts suggest…
1. Pared-back pattern
Today’s design-forward prints are scaled-back and subtle, offering a pop of personality to a space without becoming the focus of the room. ‘I’m currently into curtain fabrics that add a subtle punch to the room, particularly small-scale prints such as a check or a tiny floral on a solid ground,’ says interior designer Julia King of Studio Roene.
Proving curtains aren't out of style, some of the most on-trend prints take inspiration from design’s rich history, or else from far-flung places to bring a sense of holiday back home. Opting for small-scale prints means the design will stay contemporary – but if you’re unsure, there are some safe options that still feel playful. ‘Gingham or check fabric is always a good idea,’ says Chloe Jonason. ‘It will stand the test of time and work in any setting, be it a cottage, country house or city pad.’
2. Handcrafted details
Bespoke details are what makes a home feel chic – and that extends to curtains. ‘I’m drawn to handcrafted details – whether it be an embroidered pattern, hand-quilted panels or even a scalloped leading edge on the drapes,’ says Julia King. ‘Adding these special details to the fabric is a way to make the curtains stand out without overwhelming the rest of the space.’
Embroidered detail also adds subtle texture, making it the perfect choice for a cozy living room or bedroom. To add an edge to plain fabric, look to trims for a hint of pattern and color – British company James Hare does great ones, or try Etsy. You can embrace color trends too by opting for a contrasting color pairing – pink and red, for example, or yellow and lilac.
3. Alternative pelmets
Curtain rails will, of course, never go out of fashion – but for something with a little more drama, try experimenting with a pelmet. Today’s designs have shaken off the old-fashioned associations and offer a new way to add interest to your curtains. ‘Instead of a traditional pelmet, we like the use of lath and fascia in matching fabric,’ says Kate Guinness of interior design and decoration studio Kate Guinness Design, who designed these bedroom curtains. ‘It makes what would normally be a hidden track into a decorative feature.’
‘A trend I can't get enough of is gathered pelmets,’ says Chloe Jonason – ‘always with curtains, but also so pretty attached to a shelf or on top of a roman blind.’ Gathering the fabric adds a decorative element to the design, and you can temper the sweetness with the pattern you use – gingham or stripes will look fitting in a child’s room, while plain fabric feels more sophisticated in grown-up spaces.
4. New graphics
While florals go small, graphics go bold – as the artist Alain Biltereyst’s latest textile collection for Kvadrat, Quote, shows. The collection takes the hard lines of Biltereyst’s graphic paintings and balances them with soft textiles in neutral palettes.
The key to making striking graphic prints work as a modern window treatment is to make sure there’s balance in the mix. Tone down the straight edges of squares and triangles with a pared-back palette and lighter materials; curved shapes, on the other hand, work well with bolder shades and more opaque fabrics. For a playful touch, opt for bold vertical stripes in contrasting colors – and tone down the effect by playing with the width and spacing.
5. Disappearing acts
Perhaps, rather than play with curtain rails or pelmets, you’d rather do away with the extras altogether and opt for a more minimalist look. ‘One feature that is incredibly custom and luxurious is installing drapery into a suspended ceiling,’ says interior designer Marie Flanigan. ‘I love how it draws the eye up, while creating a beautiful feel throughout the space.’
You can ask your architect or designer to create a recess in the ceiling for this, or recreate the effect by installing a simple, solid pelmet in wood, painted to match your walls for a plastered-in look, behind which you can hide the curtain rails. It’s a clever architectural detail that makes a space feel more streamlined.
What are the best trend-forward curtains for living rooms?
Living rooms, like bedrooms, are usually the cozier spaces of a home – which means they lend themselves to luxurious details. One living room curtain trend that works particularly well in this space is layering. ‘I love a layered window,’ says Marie Flanigan. ‘When dressing a window, I love to pair a gorgeous woven wood with a beautiful drapery panel, typically in a solid-colored fabric. I love the texture that the woven wood adds to a space, then complemented with the clean lines of drapery on top.’
Play with structure by pairing flowing curtains with solid panels, as Marie suggests, or experiment with texture by layering solid wool drapes with slubby linen on a double curtain pole. If you only have a single pole, you can still create the effect of layers by being clever with your chosen fabric: we love the look of a curtain with a contrasting lining that offers a flash of color.
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Ellen is deputy editor of Livingetc magazine. She cut her teeth working for sister publication Real Homes, starting as features editor before becoming deputy editor. There, she enjoyed taking a peek inside beautiful homes and discovered a love for design and architecture that eventually led her here. She has also written for other titles including Homes & Gardens and Gardeningetc. While she gets ready to buy a house of her own, she takes inspiration from the works of some of her favourite architects and tastemakers. She has a particular passion for green design and enjoys shopping small, local and second-hand where she can.
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