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Should Curtains Match or be in Contrast to Room Colors

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A few basic rules of interior design may help you decide whether to contrast the color of your curtains with your walls, or match those curtains to your wall paint. Surprisingly, the right choice is not always about the color.

Size Matters

Before jumping in and impulsively buying a curtain because you like its color, evaluate your room. Did you know the size of your room and the location of its windows can help dictate your color choices? For example, narrow rooms will appear longer and narrower if the window placement is on each side of the room and the curtain is a contrasting color.

Light Source

Rooms which have their only natural light source opposite the room’s entry is considered back-lit. Curtains will likely appear darker during the daylight hours and the true color won’t be discernible. A contrasting color with the wall may not be visually evident and could leave the room looking heavy and off-balanced. To understand this concept, think of taking a photograph of a person who is standing with the sun to his back. Without the use a fill light or a flash, the photographic reproduction of the person's face will be dark and lack detail; the background light will overpower his image.

Color Scheme

Regardless of light source, if you’re dressing small rooms, to give the illusion of greater space, use a monochromatic color scheme and match your curtains to the wall. Select a color that’s two to three shades lighter or darker than the wall, but not enough color difference that it stands out dramatically from the wall color.

The opposite is often true if you want to visually bring a room together and create a harmonious atmosphere. Large spaces can look cavernous and disconnected when using a monochromatic color scheme; bold contrasting colors, however, can bring a large room to life.


Curtain style is an important consideration. Heavy fabrics, such as brocades that are formal and bulky, if boldly contrasted with the wall, may give a cluttered effect instead of a warm welcome, particularly in a small room.

For splashes of color at the windows, use contrasting drapery accessories to brighten the window décor. Tiebacks and trims add excitement and bring a cohesive element to the overall design. Window dressing is expensive. When you buy a curtain that contrasts the room color, you’re stuck with that color scheme. It’s less costly to change out accessories than to re-do your windows-you can change your color scheme without having to replace the curtains.

When matching curtains to the wall color, use a contrasting trim and duplicate that color around the room in your other accessories. For drapes that contrast the walls, trim them out with the wall color.

Consult a color wheel and study the rules of complimentary, contrasting and monochromatic color schemes.  Take a picture of your room with you when you shop for curtains.

Whatever color you choose for your curtains, the end result should be a room that conveys the atmosphere that reflects your taste in décor and design.

More about this author: Meggie Hardy

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