Today is not the first time I’m chatting about curtains. In fact, curtains are something I usually dedicate (at least) one post to every time we move. Why? Because they are one of the few things that never (ever) translate from one home to the next. Not only do we typically encounter different window heights, widths and numbers from house to house, but we also deal with different styles and arrangements too. In our most current home, we have not one but two unique window situations we’ve never dealt with before: bay windows and arched windows! Today, I want to share some curtain ideas for bay windows, and chat about why we went the direction we did. Plus, you’ll (finally!) get a look at how our first floor is shaping up!

curtain ideas for bay windows

The Bay Windows | Before

The first floor of this house has three sets of bay windows: two on the front of the house (on either side of the front door) and one set off the back. When we first saw the MLS listing, I immediately noticed the…um…”lovely” window treatments. I prayed the owners would either take them down or take them with them. No such luck. When we moved in, we had three sets of custom, ornate bay window treatments to deal with.

Side Rant: Nothing drives me more crazy than owners who leave behind items in a rental, especially window treatments. It has happened to us over and over, and we always end up having to take them down and store them somewhere safe until we move back out. My hunch is that owners think they are being courteous to leave something on the windows rather than nothing. But (in my opinion), if there are some sort of blinds for privacy, then there is no need to leave anything else for renters to “live with,” maintain, store, or replace. Home Owners: please, please neutralize your windows in the same way you neutralize walls or flooring! Sorry…rant over!

empty living room with dated bay curtains

Formal Living Room (that we use as a playroom)

empty dining room with dated bays curtains

Formal Dining Room (that we use as my office)

When we finally walked through the house in person, I had to chuckle when my Dad (knowing most of our house was decorated in blue) said: “You won’t need to get curtains for the family room because there are already blue curtains in here!”

“Um…sorry Dad…no way are these staying!”

sheer blue frilly curtains hanging in a bay window

Family Room

Curtain Ideas for Bay Windows

In all of our homes, we’ve never had bay windows before, and I honestly didn’t know what kind of curtains to put on them. So…I did a bit of research before buying anything or pulling out the drill. I actually found two super helpful posts by Emily Henderson that guided my decisions. These two posts not only cover bay window options, but also ideas for a wide array of window setups. I highly recommend you read them if you have some windows you aren’t sure how to dress.

After reading those two posts, as well as looking at a lot of ideas on Pinterest, I determined there were three primary ways to dress a bay window:

  • Drapes/panels with a bay window curtain rod (below, Top Left) – In this arrangement, you instal a specialty rod into the bay window itself and hang drapes within the cased opening of the window.
  • Custom shades for each section of the bay window (below, Top Right) – In this arrangement, you’d need to either find or custom order roman-style shades for each specific window.
  • Frame out the bay window with standard rods and panels (below, center) – In this arrangement, you ignore the bump out entirely and hang curtains on the outside of the bay windows, essentially framing them as you would flat windows.

home office with giant bay window and window treatments

Top Left | Top Right | Bottom

What We Did with Our Bay Windows

I absolutely adore the tailored look of the first two options. But as renters who will only live in this house for a few years, it made no sense for us to invest in custom/unique rods or shades that would most likely never work in another house. As such, I chose to go the third option which thankfully was the easiest and most budget-friendly as well!

bay window with two-toned grommet style curtains

Several houses ago, after I realized our curtain situation would need constant tweaking from home to home to home, I stopped buying unique panels and hardware for each room and switched to buying inexpensive black rods and solid, grommet-style curtain panels. Not only do I love that these elements are consistent across our entire home, but both are generic enough that we can buy more or replace elements as needed. Case in point, we needed 2 more really long black rods to span all the bay windows in this house. Thankfully, I had enough panels on hand!

  • Black Rods – These are my favorite because they are super inexpensive, easy to hang, and come in really long lengths.
  • Grommet Curtain Panels – These are my favorite panels since they are really long and thicker/sturdier than usual off-the-shelf panels. Unfortunately, the available colors change with each season so my navy ones have become harder to replace.

TIP! I find that off-the-shelf curtain panels are never wide enough or substantial enough to look quite right. To give simple panels more presence, I always put two panels together on each side. Here, I used a two-tone look for added interest, but you can always put two of the same color side-by-side for a unified look.

two toned curtains hanging next to a shelving system in a playroom

I usually like to hang my curtain panels as close to the ceiling as possible, but the hefty crown moulding meant we had to bring them down (nestled between the cased opening and the trim). I just recently got them all hemmed up using this tutorial…

two-toned curtains hanging in a window

…and now our front bay window is looking mighty fine!

modern window treatments in a bay window

The bay windows on the back of the house are directly across from the playroom bay windows (above) through a set of French doors. So it only made sense to mirror the window arrangement, making the entire space feel more cohesive.

bay windows hung high close to the ceiling

Here, I was able to hang the curtains higher to the ceiling since there is no moulding. This is a really good example of why you should never hem your curtains until you hang them because lengths might vary from room to room!

I should point out that we can do this more decorative curtain installation because the windows themselves have blinds for privacy. So the curtains (in every room) stay in place, and we simply close the blinds as needed.

Learn More: Installing Your Own Blinds or Shades | It’s Easier Than You Think!

curtain ideas for bay windows

I really love how the curtains hung outside the window frame the couch and make the room feel tall and airy.

curtain ideas for bay windows

Striving for consistency, we hung more white panels in the dining room-turned-office, using the same rod arrangement.

white curtains hanging in a bay window in a home office

Curtain Ideas for Arched Windows

Addressing the three sets of bay windows was one challenge. In the back of the house in our actual eating space, we had an entirely different, also new-to-us situation: arched windows! Here are the window treatments that were on the windows when we moved in:

large arched window with blue valence curtains

Yikes, right? (Anyone else singing Surry with the Fringe on Top?!?) I didn’t hesitate to take those window treatments down either, but I was even more perplexed on how to deal with the center arched window. The same research I did for the bay windows also informed me that there were two primary directions to go:

  • Curtain Rod Above the Windows But Below the Arch – below, top row
  • Curtain Rod Above All the Windows, Including the Arch – below, bottom row

Top Left | Top Right | Bottom Left | Bottom Right

What We Did with Our Arched Windows

I really wanted to hang my favorite curtains I’ve ever made (from way back in our Kansas house). However, they weren’t nearly long enough to go all the way to the ceiling. Plus, the sloped ceiling prevented us from hanging the rod fully above the arch. Thankfully, what I preferred aesthetically and what we could feasibly pull off turned out to be the same solution: rod below the arch!

dining room with green and yellow patterned curtains. hanging below an arched window

Like our other windows, these too have blinds that pull down for privacy, so my favorite floral panels are just decorative. Nonetheless, they bring a sense of balance, color, and pattern to this big and bright space.

In the end, I guess I didn’t really hang curtains any differently than I would have if they were normal, flat windows. But that’s a good thing! At first glance, I genuinely thought I was going to have to buy or make some really unique, custom window treatments just to get something more my style on these windows. And while I certainly could have gone that route, I am so excited I was able to get a clean, tailored, and stylish look using items we (mostly) already had on hand!

If you have unique windows in your home/rental and aren’t sure what to put on them, I hope this post not only gives you some ideas, but also serves as a reminder that (sometimes) solutions aren’t nearly as complicated as we make them out to be!

See You Soon!