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HOME THE LONG AND SHORT OF CURTAINS A well-designed set of curtains can complement your architecture, provide a starting point for an interior design scheme and, in general, give your room a sophisticated feel. But choosing curtains can be confusing. Katherine Sorrell explains all. Headings and hangings The way in which a curtain hangs is determined by its heading, often created by a tape which is sewn onto the back of the curtain and pulled to form gathers, pleats or a variety of other styles. Some headings are only suitable for certain weights of fabric and sizes of curtain. For a less formal look, however, there are plenty of alternatives. Tab-tops and tie-tops are often found on ready-made curtains, though they can be fiddly to draw. Curtains can also be hung from a deep hem which is simply slid over a pole, from large eyelets punched in the top, from clips (magnetic ones are easy to use) or even just from hooks.

brass, bamboo, acrylic or glass in various diameters (for various weights of curtain), and are usually circular in profile, though reeded and fluted styles are also available. Designed to be on show, they require a certain amount of clearance above and below to look right (if space is limited, a ceilingmounted track is probably a better option). To finish off the pole at either end, and also to prevent the curtains sliding off, there’s the option of a plain cap or a pair of finials. If you choose very distinctive finials, ensure that they co-ordinate with the overall style of window treatment and the decoration of the room. On narrow windows or dormers, portiere (or swing-arm) rods are an alternative to fixed poles, while for a modern effect you could use tension wire, fixed taut within the window opening. A more subtle effect can be achieved by using a track rather than a pole; this is usually a better option for bay windows too, as they can be bent around to fit. Tracks may be made from plastic (inexpensive) or metal (better-looking) and be mounted either on the wall or the ceiling above the window.

Poles, tracks, wires and rods The most straightforward way to hang curtains is from a pole, ideal for short, straight runs. Poles might be fixed or extending, made from wood, wrought iron, steel,

Window disguises Curtains will cover tracks but only, of course, when they’re closed. When open, if you can’t stand the look of a bare track, you’ll need either a pelmet or a valance, usually about one-sixth of the depth of the curtain and slightly wider than the track. Hung high above the window, they can also make it seem taller; the opposite if hung low.

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