Bay Window Curtains: Solutions & Inspiration
Bay windows are beautiful architectural elements designed to let more natural light into a room and provide a more panoramic view to the outdoors. Some also feature a sitting area that can be made more comfortable with throw pillows and blankets. Yet, as attractive as these windows are, there likely comes a time when you need a bit of privacy and light control, you want to spruce up the look of your space, or both. Bay window curtains are a great solution, as they provide privacy, block light, and can elevate the look of your window.
Before diving into ideas and best practices for bay window curtains, it’s important to first make sure you understand what a bay window is, especially in comparison with a bow window.
What Is the Difference Between a Bay & Bow Window?
Bay and bow windows both serve similar functions: They allow a panoramic view of the outdoors and let more natural light into a room. But they do have some key differences:
While the construction of these types of windows are different, luckily, the same window treatment options usually work for both. So bay window curtains will often work as bow window curtains and vice versa.
The Best Way to Hang Curtains in a Bay Window
Bay and bow window curtains can be hung in a couple different ways, and the “best” will depend on your individual situation and your preferences.
The two main ways for hanging bow and bay window curtains include:
- Hanging bow and bay window curtains in the angles of the alcove
- Hanging bow and bay window curtains on the wall in front of the alcove
Option 1: In the Angles of the Alcove
Hanging your bow or bay window curtains along the window panels gives you a more tailored, custom look. This approach will require a curtain rod or track system that’s either curved or angled to fit the shape of your bay or bow window. For your curtain panels, you can either have two larger panels at each end of your window to run all the way to the center, or you can have smaller individual panels between each window. Be sure that, with either approach, your panels can extend to cover the windows they’re supposed to without hitting brackets.
If your bay or bow window is also a sitting area, ideally, the curtains should hover just above the seat. This will keep family and friends from sitting on the curtains and tugging them, which can damage the curtains and the rod or track system. If you do not have a seating area, you can choose a curtain length that suits you best, whether you want them hovering just above the floor, puddling on the ground for a luxurious look, or somewhere in between.
OPtion 2: On the Wall in Front of the Alcove
If you’d prefer a simpler look and easier installation, you can hang your curtains on the wall outside of the alcove created by the bay or bow window. This approach will create a clean, chic aesthetic when your curtains are closed, but they will also completely block the window’s architectural elements. If you love the shape and details of your bay or bow window, this may not be the right approach for your application. Also keep in mind that if you do have a sitting area in the alcove of your bay or bow window, closing the curtains will hide the sitting area from the inside while making it exposed to the outdoors. This can make the area unusable at night when it’s easy to see inside.
If you’re considering your options for hanging curtains and still not sure if bow or bay window curtains are the right choice, there are other window treatment solutions that might be a better fit for your needs.
Other Bay Window Solutions Beyond Drapery
Beyond bay or bow window curtains, you have several other options for your unique windows. Shades and blinds come in multiple styles and many offer easy functionality.
Bay Window Inspiration: Ideas with Curtains & More
Now that you understand the best practices for hanging bow and bay window curtains, as well as alternative options beyond curtains, you’re ready for ideas to spark your inspiration. Discover real world scenarios of bay and bow windows that feature curtains, shades, and combinations of both.
Soft Drapery & Textured Woven Wood Shades
Add visual complexity and greater dimension to your windows with the soft, lush look of bay window curtains combined with textured Woven Wood Shades. Made from natural fibers like bamboo, grasses and reeds, woven wood shades give you an organic, boho-inspired look. When paired with the soft, elevated look of luxurious drapery, Woven Wood Shades help balance the formality of the room by adding a more casual, inviting look and feel.
To further emphasize the warm, inviting aesthetic, choose Drapery in a creamy off-white color and pair it with a light Woven Wood Shade. Balance the bright tones with a black curtain rod or track system. The dark hardware will also help define the beautiful architectural shape of your bay or bow window.
Elegantly Curved Drapery
Emphasize the elegant shape of your window with bow or bay window curtains on a curved curtain rod. The curved rod also gives you greater functionality by allowing you to easily glide your curtains from the edge to the center without grappling with angles in your rod or track system. To make the curve the star of your drapery design, choose a more subtle drapery style like Tailored Pleat Drapery (pictured) or Ripple Fold Drapery. These drapery styles provide a smooth, streamlined look that doesn’t take away from the beautiful shape for your curtain rod or window.
Flat Roman Shades with Decorative Tape
If you’re looking for an alternative to bay or bow window curtains but still want a touch of the elegance of drapery, try a Roman Shade style like Flat or Cascade Roman Shades. Roman Shades are available in many of the same luxurious fabrics as Drapery, but provide a more modern, understated aesthetic. For a bit more visual complexity and definition, consider adding decorative tape to your Roman Shade design. The tape will help accentuate the height of each window in your bow or bay window design while providing a touch of color and texture.
For a defined look, choose a neutral color for your Roman Shades and a pop of color or pattern for your tape. To make the window treatments feel cohesive with the rest of the room, choose a tape color that matches an accent color in your interior décor.
Relaxed Roman Shades
Embrace a look that’s both luxurious and casual with Relaxed Roman Shades to replace your bay window curtains. Relaxed Roman Shades have a gentle curve where the fabric gathers when raised for a look that’s invitingly imperfect. The supple shape of these shades also helps soften the overall angular look of your bay window and complements the curve of your bow window. When mounted inside your window frames, these shades still allow the architectural details of your window to shine through.
Woven Wood Shades & Solar Shades
For a multi-dimensional effect, layer inside-mounted Solar Shades with outside-mounted Woven Wood Shades. Solar Shades are an ideal window treatment for bay windows because they allow the natural light to shine through while also blocking harmful UV rays that cause glare, heat buildup and fading of your furnishings. For greater light control — and textural variety — layer Woven Wood Shades over your Solar Shades. While both Solar Shades and Woven Wood Shades are light-filtering, the combination will give you the privacy you need, while allowing a soft glow of light through. Or, if needed, you can create a room darkening effect with privacy or blackout lining for your Woven Wood Shades.
Get the Right Fit for Your Bay Window Curtains & More
With lots of inspiration featuring bay and bow window curtains — as well as other bay window treatments — you’ve likely zeroed in on the option, or combination, that will work best for your space. To get your project off on the right foot, request a free measurement from our team of professionals. We’ll help take the guesswork out of measuring, whether you’re committed to curved curtains, considering inside-mounted Roman Shades, or are leaning toward a combination. If you need more guidance, visit or call your local showroom to talk to our team of expert Design Consultations who can help answer any questions you have.