I've had a long-standing love affair with cafe curtains. I know what makes them lovable and useful, and I know their failings.

My thrifty mother made the cafe curtains in the bedroom I shared with my sister when we were teens.

She sewed them in crisp white cotton that was printed with small pink rosebuds, and she finished the top edge with a pale green trim that had loops. The loops threaded onto brass curtain rods anchored midway up the window trim.

Mom liked those curtains because they were easy to sew. She didn't need pleater tape, lining, or fancy hardware for hanging.

And she especially liked them because they didn't use as much fabric as full-length curtains.

And today...

These are some of the same reasons home stagers can use cafe curtains to their advantage.

Cafe curtains have a simple appeal. They're in their element in farmhouse kitchens, coastal cottages, the breakfast nook, a sun parlor, and the bistros they are named after.

They're easy to make. They're economical. They are charming and homey. But these "half-curtains" have a downside that might make them unsuitable for your staging project. Used in the wrong room or the wrong house, they can look skimpy, informal and cheap.

Here's how to make the most of these short window dressings.

Not welcome here

If you're looking to create a luxe, high-end room, full-length draperies with plenty of fullness are your ticket. In fact, draperies made of fabric that has weight and width can turn an ordinary room into something quite stylish and rich.

If you want a room-darkening window treatment, or the complete privacy that comes with top-to-bottom draperies, then cafe curtains are not your answer.

Although they tend to convey a breezy casualness, cafe curtains can be designed to look more formal if you use statement curtain rods, brackets, finials, and rings. Hardware with some heft will add some gravitas. These could be made of wood or metal. And fabrics like velvet or heavyweight drapery textiles will make these short curtains less cute and more serious.

More memories

My mother also made the cafe curtains for our beach cottage. The small bedroom where my sister and I slept all summer faced east, and the sun streamed in early to awaken us. Another day of going barefoot awaited!

Cafe curtains let the sun shine in, and at the same time provide privacy. Although my sister and I didn't want to block the view, create privacy, or darken the room, cafe curtains might be perfect for you if you are staging a room where the view from the window might be something you don't want to call attention to. If the window overlooks a neighbor's messy backyard or an unattractive rooftop, cafe curtains will block the line of sight but not the natural light.


These curtains can be simple or elaborate. The simplest version could be the ones made from dishtowels fastened to a tension rod with clip-on rings. Nothing wrong with that in the right setting!

The panels can be shirred on the rod for a hardware-free hanging. The problem with shirred, or "rod-pocket," curtains is that they can be difficult to push open and to stay pushed to the edges of the window. Rings or fabric loops are more likely to stay in place.

If you are making your own cafe curtains, you can stitch the rings onto the fabric, or buy clip-on rings, which make washing the curtains easy.

The simplest way to install cafe curtains is with a tension rod that sits inside the window frame. For home staging, this eliminates the problem of anchoring brackets to the wall or trim, where the next buyer may not want brackets.

Tips and tricks

I like to see cafe curtain rods that sit at exactly the halfway point on double-hung windows, or wherever there is a sash edge. This method gives a cleaner, more deliberate appearance than a rod that crosses a windowpane randomly.

I also suggest that the curtain rods and the curtain rings be made of the same material -- natural wood, or painted wood, or brass, or nickel, or whatever. Or at least the same color, such as white plastic rings on white metal rods.

My eBook, How to Make No-Sew Curtains and Draperies top Stage Your Home includes some easy cafe curtains that are perfect for home staging.

Some cafe curtains require no or minimal sewing skills. These burlap versions 
are folded and fringed at the top edge.

Some cafe curtains are more elaborate, edged with contrasting piping 
or a band of coordinated textile, and then, like this example
 from Soyna Hamilton, finished with fancy trimmings. 

There are other ways to make informal cafe curtains 
look more impressive. One way is to hide 
the curtain rings so that the fabric looks like 
it has a pleated top, as in this photo of the back 
of the curtain panel from Young House Love. 
Ikea sells these Syrlig rings, clips and hooks as sets that 
you can use with pleater tape to make a top tab that is evenly pleated. 

Here is a way to convert a hemmed piece of fabric into a curtain panel that can be threaded onto a rod. 

You'll find 15 other new-sew methods to make all kinds of window treatments in my eBook, No-Sew Curtains and Draperies to Stage Your Home.  All the styles and methods I describe in the book are designed with economical, easy home staging in mind. Download your copy now and get started dressing your windows!