The Best White Curtains Don’t Have to Be Plain
Our favorites are scalloped, striped, and sheer.
Updated Jun 13, 2023 10:20 AM
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When it comes to the world of drapes and curtains, the options can feel endless. Do you want colorful or neutral, patterned or minimal, long or short, lightweight or luxe? But don’t let choice paralysis leave your frames bare. Even the smallest windows deserve a bit of dressing up—and they don’t always need a statement-making fabric. In fact, stylist and florist Naomi deMañana says that all you really need is a pair of the best white curtains.
“This is one of the most popular curtain styles for a reason,” deMañana shares. “White curtains easily allow light to shine through, offering a nicer transition between morning, afternoon, and night.” She notes they can be as soft and subtle as you like, especially if your walls are already painted in a similar shade. “They’re like your favorite white tee: classic and timeless,” she continues. “You can’t go wrong.” Read on for our top picks for the best white window curtains.
- Best value: H&M Multiway Linen-Blend Curtains
- Best texture: Amazon White Embroidered Curtains
- Best chambray: Gap Home Chambray Organic Cotton Window Curtain Pair
- Best café: Vermont Country Store Classic Hemstitch Curtains
- Best velvet: DKNY Modern Velvet Curtain Set
- Best linen: Quince European Linen Curtain
- Best scalloped: Ballard Designs Emma Scalloped Panels
- Best sheer: CB2 Linen Sheer White Curtain Panel
- Best pattern: Hearth & Hand Subtle Grid Lines Curtain Panel
Best Value: H&M Multiway Linen-Blend Curtains
Available sizes: 59-by-118 inches | Fabric type: 60% cotton, 40% linen | Machine washable: Yes
What we like:
- Panels sold as a set
- Hemming tape included
- 1 size only
Why we chose it: Light, long, and airy, these curtain panels are a steal for less than $45 each.
We’re always fans of a stellar H&M Home find, especially when the price tag makes us look twice. With a blend of natural cotton and linen fibers, these curtains teeter on the edge of sheer but are just opaque enough to provide a bit of privacy. Hang these pretty much any way you want: on a curtain rail with loops, with drapery hooks, or a modern wave style. And while we love the extra-long length, you don’t have to send this set out to get hemmed if it doesn’t sit nicely in your space—it ships with tape for an easy, free fix. Styling tip: Since the material is prone to wrinkling, give the curtains a quick steam to crisp up wayward folds.
Best Texture: White Embroidered Sheer Curtains
Available sizes: 54-by-63 inches, 54-by-96 inches | Fabric type: Polyester | Machine washable: Yes
What we like:
- Textural, pom-pom-like details
- Affordable price
- Sold as a set
- Sheer, voilelike material
Why we chose it: Embroidered florals are like a boho sundress for your windows.
For a sweet, fun take on a white curtain, deMañana is drawn to these embroidered beauties. The curtains are sheer but not too transparent thanks to their textural, tufted details, and the pom-poms and lacelike material evoke a bohemian wedding veil. An extra-large rod pocket simplifies the hanging process.
Best Chambray: Gap Home Chambray Organic Cotton Window Curtain Pair
Available sizes: 48-by-63 inches, 48-by-84 inches, 48-by-96 inches, 48-by-108 inches | Fabric type: Cotton | Machine washable: Yes
What we like:
- Quality stitching
- Rod tab
- Not lined
Why we chose it: A bargain buy for organic cotton, in a warmer shade of white.
Multiple reviewers confirm this pair of curtain panels from Gap’s home line is a quality purchase. Despite the too-good-to-be-true-sounding price tag, commenters share the feel is heavy and thick, yet opaque enough to allow just the right amount of sunlight to filter through. This is largely in part thanks to the chambray weave, making the cotton appear more dense, so much so that one shopper likens the texture to linen. The set is just as durable, too; the quality stitching has refused to unravel after multiple washes, other reviewers report, and the khaki dye—an off-white that feels warm, not boring—remains just as bright. “I would purchase again and again,” another shares. As to how wrinkle-resistant they truly are is still up to debate; some argue these look crisp right out of the package, whereas others have had to tap an iron.
Available sizes: 24-by-80 inches, 30-by-80 inches, 36-by-80 inches | Fabric type: Cotton | Machine washable: Yes, with cold water
What we like:
- Sold as a set
- Perfect for kitchens
- Lovely hemstitch
- For installing at the middle of your window
- Air-drying preferred
Why we chose it: Open needlework along the edge makes this shorter style sophisticated.
If you’ve ever stopped for breakfast at an old-school diner, you may have noticed the windows half covered with mini curtains. Café, or tier, curtains are made to hang between the top and bottom of the frame, providing privacy below and letting the light in up above. They may have retro, circa-1950s elements, but with a lovely hemstitch detail and a crisp silhouette, they’re still just as timeless in 2023.
Best Velvet: DKNY Modern Velvet Curtain Set
Available sizes: 50-by-84 inches, 50-by-96 inches, 50-by-108 inches | Fabric type: 80% polyester, 20% cotton | Machine washable: No | Dry-clean only
What we like:
- Sold as a set
- Luxurious material
Why we chose it: For a luxe take on white.
To elevate neutral, go-with-everything curtains, try a luminous fabric, which is deMañana’s trick for imbuing a space with drama. The high sheen of this slub velvet almost sparkles when illuminated by sun or the light of a nearby lamp, and the set is created by a brand deMañana trusts. The only con? These fully lined panels are on the heavier side, so you’ll have to pair them with a rod strong enough to hold up their heft without buckling.
Best Linen: Quince European Linen Curtain
Available sizes: 48-by-84 inches, 48-by-96 inches, 48-by-108 inches | Fabric type: Linen | Machine washable: Yes
What we like:
- Made from 100% European flax
- Long length
- Edge hem is a little untidy
Why we chose it: For softly diffused light, tap the luxe texture of linen.
Relaxed yet sophisticated—that’s how we’d describe Quince’s linen curtains. The textured weave elevates the white colorway, and while they’re great for diffusing light, they aren’t totally sheer. The cotton lining offers the just right amount of shade and privacy at a medium opacity while still letting a bit of light through. Relatively new to the retailer’s site, these already tout a nearly 5-star rating. Multiple reviewers love the fact that they are designed to be hung two different ways from either a back tab or pole top. Shoppers describe them as “fresh and soft” with a “lightness” and “air of luxury.” But the best part? You’re getting 100% European flax linen curtains at a pretty affordable price. And if you buy four panels at once, you’ll earn $20 off your next purchase. Win-win.
Best Scalloped: Ballard Designs Emma Scalloped Panels
Available sizes: 50-by-84 inches, 50-by-96 inches, 50-by-108 inches | Fabric type: Cotton | Machine washable: No | Dry-clean only
What we like:
- Includes 10 drapery pins
- Matching bedding
- Cotton lining
Why we chose it: Add a touch of whimsy to your window with decorative edges.
Domino editors can’t resist a good scalloped edge, and deMañana can’t either. The trim on these soft, curvy curtains also offers a moment of colorful contrast; choose among cornflower (a light blue), indigo, and matching white. With their pared-down take on frills, these linens may skew cottagecore or shabby chic, but that doesn’t mean the playful shape is only suitable in English manors or London townhomes. Have fun mixing eras and styles with this still-going-strong trend.
Best Sheer: CB2 Linen Sheer White Curtain Panels
Available sizes: 48-by-84 inches, 48-by-96 inches, 48-by-108 inches, 48-by-120 inches | Fabric type: Linen | Machine washable: No | Dry-clean only
What we like:
- Woven details
- Smaller rod pocket
- Includes only 1 panel
Why we chose it: A woven yet wispy white design.
Whether you choose ivory or classic white, these CB2 sheer panels are a surefire way to nail effortless elegance. The featherlight quality still holds a fold, but if you like to keep your windows open in the warmer months, they’ll gently lift in the breeze. For a modern look, pair these see-through curtains with a matte black rod, or go the more transitional route with a brass finish and sculptural end cap.
Available sizes: 54-by-84 inches, 54-by-95 inches, 54-by-108 inches | Fabric type: Cotton | Machine washable: Yes
What we like:
- Subtle grid pattern
- Tie top
Why we chose it: Panels that read relaxed farmhouse, just like a French tea towel.
This Target pick comes in three colorways, and if you’re torn, our vote is taupe for the stripe (though we won’t knock the light blue and gray for a nautical nod). The subtle grid has a faded, vintage vibe that’s further accentuated by the linenlike look of the cotton. These panels have a slightly sheer feel, so they likely won’t do much to block out light if you’re feeling an afternoon nap coming on. But they do offer a medium weight. Reviewers also note they’re easy to wash, and the pattern is as understated and pretty in person as it appears online. Another bonus: They’re Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified.
We Also Like
How We Chose These Products
We asked deMañana (our former in-house style guru) to find the best white curtains. She prioritized natural materials, sourced from brands that are trusted by our discerning editors, and added in a few unconventional, unique styles to show that white curtains are anything but boring. In fact, her picks prove that the best white curtains aren’t just panels of plain cotton; they can be velvet or blackout, lined or unlined, long or short, for every window type and style.
Our Shopping Checklist
When it comes to curtains, its best to prioritize natural fibers for both aesthetic and environmental reasons. But that’s not to say synthetic blends should be completely dismissed; some fibers, when used in smaller quantities, can help with durability and maintenance. White curtains can be made from a variety of materials, but these are the ones you’ll find on deMañana’s list:
- Cotton. DeMañana says cotton lends a simple, fresh feel. It’s a “sweet” fabric, by her standards, and she loves placing it in the kitchen for this reason. Cotton is a broad category that encompasses other weaves like muslin and voile.
- Linen. On the other hand, deMañana describes linen as being a bit earthier, since you can actually see the woven details. “A really thin weave of linen will both filter and provide light,” she says, but she stresses that it’s the weight more than the weave that determines the amount of sun that trickles through. Take note: A 100% linen option has a tendency to react to humidity levels, which can cause the fabric to slightly shrink or expand.
- Polyester. An artificial fiber, polyester is derived from plastic, though there are some alternatives out there created from recycled materials. It’s typically blended with the natural fibers listed above to cut back on manufacturing costs and increase durability.
- Viscose. This is another synthetic fiber; lightweight and soft, it’s typically tapped as a substitute for silk. And although it’s primarily made from tree pulp, chemicals are still needed to create it, so we’d only recommend it as part of a blend, if at all.
Installation and Hardware
While it’s up to interpretation and personal preference, the standard is to hang curtains just above the window or between the window and ceiling and to use panels that are double the width of the window frame. As far as length goes, “there are generally three different styles to dress your windows: at the windowsill, just below the sill, or at the floor,” explains deMañana. For a bit of drama, try long white curtains that reach the floor, a look she particularly prefers in bedrooms and living areas. In kitchens, ending at the sill is a more common tactic.
Taking measurements is as easy as grabbing your measuring tape. Extend the tape from the top of the windows to where you want your curtains to fall, whether it’s at the sill or kissing the floor. And don’t forget to factor in a curtain rod. We almost always suggest going with a rod that can extend past the window frame. If light blocking is the goal, opt for outside mounting: Install the rod around 4 to 6 inches above the top of the window or from the middle point between the window frame and ceiling. (This will also drive home the illusion of a taller ceiling and larger room.) For inside mounting, on the other hand, install a rod within the frame. This is great for letting in light but means your curtains are limited to the size of your window.
Care and Maintenance
For the most part, curtains can largely be left out of your weekly cleaning routine, though as a fabric, they attract much of the same things other furnishings in your home do: odors, dust, you name it. We’d suggest taking your curtains down for a gentle wash cycle about once or twice a year (but first consult the manufacturer’s instructions—some panels are dry-clean only). And do be warned: Going with a white curtain does raise the same concerns as wearing a white sweater to an Italian restaurant. The color may require some extra care, like more frequent dusting or brushing, as fiber buildup can be more noticeable.
Q: Why are my white curtains turning yellow?
What type of material are your curtains? Some fabrics are more susceptible to discoloration, a natural process that happens over time and can be hastened by sunlight (which curtains are exposed to all day long). Also, how do you usually clean your curtains? If you’ve been overwashing or introducing intense chemicals like bleach, synthetic fibers will more easily lose their dye. Next time, mix a half cup of hydrogen peroxide with a gentle detergent to see if it helps, or spot-treat stains as you notice them.
Q: Will white curtains provide enough privacy?
This is more dependent on the type of curtains you decide to go with. Sheer white curtains, for instance, will definitely not do much in the way of obscuring the view inside your home. If privacy is priority number one, we’d suggest going with blackout curtains, soundproof curtains, or panels that are lined. Velvet curtains are also a nice choice, especially if you’re looking for a hint of luxury or to cover up drafty frames.
The Last Word
Drapery is the ultimate finishing touch in a room, and the best white curtains can add a lovely layer of softness while concealing any unsightly window frames and drawing the eye up, elongating the walls and ceilings of your space. If you’re overthinking how to dress up your windows, don’t: All you need are the best white curtains.