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modern country living room with slip cover sofa and rustic timber coffee table

How to Choose the Best Type of Sheer Curtains: Colours, Tracks, Headings and More

What’s the best type of sheer curtain for your home? Where should they be hung – wall or ceiling? And should they touch the floor? How about the track; what colour should that be? Oh and how about the colour and material: what’s the best option there?

These are all questions I get asked a lot, and today I want to answer them for you. Because, I hear you, sheer curtains can be hard to get right if you’re feeling less ‘design eye’ and more ‘design cry’ right now.

Sheer curtains are hands-down my fave type of window treatment. They’re my first go-to (in conjunction with a roller blind underneath) when designing client homes. So let me share some of my knowledge with you to make the entire selection process easier.

modern white dining room with white s fold sheer curtains on black track
crisp white sheers are a foolproof option

7 Questions to Consider when Choosing a Sheer Curtain

Like a lot of other design choices for your home, deciding on the best type of sheer curtain is really about going through a series of questions. Once you answer each one you tend to reach a decision pretty quickly.

The seven main considerations when narrowing down the sheer curtain you’ll want for your home are:

  1. What heading style will you go for? There’s a few we’ll cover off below
  2. What colour and material will you choose for your sheer?
  3. Where will they be fixed – wall or ceiling? And how wide will they go?
  4. Do you want them raised off the floor, or pooling onto it?
  5. What rod/track colour will your sheer curtain sit on?
  6. Which direction will they open: Centre or left/right?
  7. Will they open via a cord or hand-pull?

Don’t feel overwhelmed by this. I’ll take you through your options below for each of the 7 questions above, so you can reach a decision on your sheers once and for all. It’s not as hard as it seems, I promise!

types of sheer curtain headings sfold eyelet pleat

1. Sheer Curtain Heading Styles: S-Fold, Eyelet or Pleat?

The heading of your sheer is a good place to start, because it really can make or break the overall look of the curtain more than any other element can. Here’s a quick description of the main heading styles on offer:

S-Fold Curtain Heading

This is the one I run with the most when working with design clients. The top of the curtain curves back and forth in an ‘S’ orientation along the track or rod it’s fixed to. It’s a modern look with a sense of sophistication to it. Because the track it’s attached to can be barely visible, it’s a somewhat minimalist look. It’s an absolute foolproof option and will look good in any style home.

sage green bedroom styling coastal bedroom with rattan bedside table and vj panelling
wall to wall sheers are great in larger rooms

Eyelet Curtain Heading

Eyelet curtains curve back and forth, the way an S-Fold curtain does, except there’s a rod running through each ‘S’ at the top. Rather than being attached to a slimline track, you slide a rod through each hole in the top of the curtain, which has a metal eyelet attached to it to protect the fabric. This style works best in a traditional home where you want the rod to be a feature.

Pleated Curtain Heading

This is by far the most traditional of the sheer curtain headings available. With pleats, there’s more bunching and detail across the top of the curtain because there’s more fabric being used. Because there’s more fabric, you do get a lot more bunching when the sheer curtains are open. The pleated curtains are attached to a rod/track using small hooks or rings.

There are of course different types of pleats available, so ask your curtain manufacturer if the traditional route is one you want to go down.

living room with grey pencil pleat sheer curtains with pelmet
a pelmet can be a nice way to conceal a pleated curtain

2. Best Sheer Curtain Colour and Material

Once you know the curtain heading you want, it’s time to consider the fabric and colour. Now, as you’re probably well aware, there are tonnes of colours available, and the same goes for fabric. I don’t want to overcomplicate it, so let’s explore some of the main options for you.

Colour

Most clients I work with are going for a white or grey curtain. The idea of having a sheer curtain is to add softness to a room and filter the light. As such, you’re not looking to add a dramatic colour statement to the space.

When choosing a sheer curtain colour, you need to consider the tone of your walls and flooring. There should be a relationship between these three elements. If you want an effortless, fade-into-the-background vibe, choose a white sheer with a white wall. If you want to add a bit of interest, contrast a grey sheer against a white wall.

I did this Hamptons home where the walls were a light blue. I chose a crisp white sheer curtain to contrast against the paint, because that’s what the Hamptons look is all about. Concrete floors in a mid-grey, for example, pair well with light grey sheers or white ones, depending on how much interest you want to introduce.

centre open striped sheer curtains on black track in master bedroom
nice sense of texture in this sheer curtain material

Material

There are even more materials than there are colours available to you with sheer curtains, and every supplier will have their preferred materials to choose from. There are a few main types though.

On the lighter, smoother and more transparent end of the spectrum we have a Voile, which is a blend of cotton, linen and polyester. It’s a simple, clean-looking material that works well in a variety of interior design styles. It’s often the more affordable option and doesn’t deliver much detail or interest in the fabric.

On the slightly heavier and more textured end of the spectrum we have linen sheer curtains, which aren’t as transparent and present a noticeable weave in the fabric. These are great for traditional homes with Hamptons or Provincial styles, or can even add some warmth to industrial spaces that feel a bit cold and sterile.

There are options in-between these two material ends of the spectrum, but it’s best you ask your supplier to see the options in-person. And always ensure you hold them up in the light against a window, because the colour and material will always look different here than sitting flat against a tabletop in the studio.

white sheer curtains fixed to wall below cornice in coastal master bedroom
decorative cornice = sheers fixed to wall

3. Should You Fix Sheers to the Wall or Ceiling?

There are a few things to consider when deciding on sheer curtain installation configs. Firstly, what sort of cornice do you have? If it’s a modern square-set cornice you can install the sheer on a track from the ceiling, or mid-way between the ceiling and top of the window frame. I prefer the former for a more contemporary look.

If you have a decorative cornice, you should always install the sheer curtain track on the wall, not the ceiling. If you install the track on the ceiling, the cornice poking out from underneath the curtain either side will look very odd indeed; like a mistake.

Whether you want the sheer to run the width of the window/door frame or the entire wall comes down to personal preference. Running it across the whole wall gives more a sense of drama, but in a smaller room with lower ceilings it can feel like the sheer curtains are swallowing the room. I would reserve ceiling-to-floor and wall-to-wall sheers for larger spaces.

In this project we ran sheers across the entire wall – floor to ceiling – because the room had high ceilings and needed some softening.

4. Should Sheer Curtains Sit On or Off the Floor?

This is another decision that has a lot to do with the style of your home and the vibe you’re going for with the windows.

The modern approach is to have them sit off the floor about a centimeter, so the curtains do not rub against the floorboards, tiles or carpet. This is the approach I use 90% of the time in homes. It’s clean, it’s modern, and it allows for an easy open every time.

I’ve only ever let them pool onto the floor when I was doing a traditional Hamptons-style home. We chose a heavier textured linen, and let them drape on the floor about 10cm. If you have a traditional home, then you might want to go with this option. It does bring a sense of nostalgia and formality with it.

Just be aware that sheers pooling onto the floor won’t be as easy to open as sheers that sit off the floor on surfaces like carpet. And they can get visibly dirtier over time if they’re white.

hamptons bedroom with striped wallpaper and white sfold sheer curtain on black track
black tracks create a focal point in traditional schemes like Hamptons

5. What Track Colour Should You Choose?

Track colour really comes down to whether you want to make the windows a focal point or not. If you’re going for an S-fold sheer dropping from the ceiling, obviously we already know the track will be pretty transparent and not at all noticeable. But you might want an S-fold installed just above the window frame, where the track is black to make a statement. 

If you’ve decided to go with an eyelet sheer curtain because you have a more traditional home, the rod will be very visible. And so deciding on a colour is key.

A chrome/silver is a safe option, and the least offensive. A brass curtain rod will certainly pop a lot and bring a sense of luxury with it (albeit a more outdated feel). A black rod, which I’ve used before, is a nice idea in a home where you want to draw the eye to the window and create some drama. The bedroom above is a nice example of this.

Consider if your windows are to be the feature in the home. If flooring or wall colour is where the drama is already at, let the sheer curtains be a supporting player and opt for a transparent or chrome track that whispers, not yells.

light grey sheer curtains in coastal living room with high ceiling
centre-open for windows, side open for sliding/stacker doors

6. What Direction Should the Sheers Open In?

This consideration is more around function and usability, than it is looks. With each window and door you’re covering in a sheer, you’ll have the option of where the sheers open and in what direction.

For double French doors, for example, you’d want the sheer to open in the centre and stack either side of the door. For a more contemporary back sliding or stacker door, where it opens from one side, you’d have the sheer opening from that side too, with the stack of fabric sitting at the other end of the frame.

For windows, most of the time, you’d have the sheers open in the middle of the window with fabric stacking either side when open. But bear in mind, you do need wall space either side of the window for this. If you don’t have somewhere for the fabric to stack when the sheers are open, it can be a deal breaker.

dining room with black fabric chairs and white sheer curtains with s fld heading
cord-open is easier on larger windows and doors

7. Hand-Drawn or Cord-Drawn Opening?

Lastly, another usability consideration. This one is in relation to what mechanism you’ll use to open your sheer curtains: hard-drawn or cord-drawn. There’s really no right or wrong here. It’s more a question of what you prefer.

Hand-Drawn Sheer Curtains

Hand-drawn sheers open via a stick/wand that drops down from the curtain track. The stick is usually transparent so you don’t see it. Opening sheers this way takes a little more work because you’re using your own strength to stack the sheers, but it’s really not too difficult.

If it’s a centre-open sheer just bear in mind you’ll have to push the sheers open one way, and then the other, so it’s double the amount of work. This system on larger windows can be a little tricky, especially for shorter people.

Cord-Drawn Sheer Curtains

Cord-drawn sheer curtains open via a cord that sits on one end of the window or door frame. You open them the same way you would open roller blinds. It’s a simple chain system that requires little effort.

You will see the cord attached to the window frame when the curtain is open though. So it’s not as hidden/clean as the transparent hand-drawn cord. It’s much easier on a large window though, especially if the sheer is centre-open.

Got any more questions about the best types of sheer curtains, be it colours, styles, tracks, materials or anything else? Drop me a comment below and I can address and concerns you might have!

This post includes images and/or videos of Metricon display homes and events, reproduced with permission. © Metricon Homes Pty Ltd 2021.

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Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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Comments

8 Responses

  1. This article is perfect timing Chris as I am looking at replacing my old romans with some beautiful sheers in our kitchen/living area. The only problem is that I have 2 sets of bi-fold doors, with limited space either side. I was told that S-fold sheers would not work well in front of bi-folds, as when the doors open and close they may ‘bump’ into the sheers? Would you have any suggestions for how I could achieve the beautiful sheer effect in front of these bi-folds?

    1. The doors bumping into them isn’t necessarily an issue. Is the problem the curtains will be pushed tight and possibly creased when the doors are open, or the curtains just won’t open far enough for the doors? If you’re using a window treatment supplier they can help you pick the best solution. Quite difficult to do without seeing the space and getting some more information.

  2. As a Curtain professional there is one other thing that you may wish to consider..to me, there is nothing worse than seeing a neutral ,warm toned exterior home facade.. think timber cladding and tan bricks etc paired with bright white sheers.. especially on the front window facade. It just looks so stark and cheapens the look of the home. So I suggest also keeping in mind the look from the outside, same goes for white blinds..lots to consider!

  3. Would be curious to know your thoughts about blockout curtains in bedrooms and sheers. What you do:
    a) blockout curtain and sheer (and would you have blockout at the back and sheer to the front?);
    b) sheer and blockout blind (knowing it would have to be mounted on the architrave);
    c) blockout curtain with sheer blind (at least this way the blind can be mounted within the window recess); or
    d) plantation shutters and sheer.

    1. Hey Rich, I always prefer to go for (b) sheer and blockout blind (knowing it would have to be mounted on the architrave). I’m actually doing this for a client in Black Rock at the moment. Ideally you want the roller fixed inside the window frame, but it can still look nice even if it’s outside the frame with a sheer over the top. Just keep in mind the track for the sheer will jut out from the wall a bit. But still my preferred look.

  4. Thanks for your advice Chris. Prior to reading this I had gone for option A from the comment above but it looks too heavy in the room so am planning to remove the blackout curtain behind the sheer. I chose a slate grey sheer which is quite a constrast against white walls. What paint and carpet colour do you think would work well with this. Rookie error.. now matching the room to the sheers!! ‍♀️

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LET’S GET DECORATING!

I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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