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Can curtains be lighter than walls?

When decorating a room, one of the most important design elements to consider is color. The colors you choose for your walls, flooring, furniture and decor have a huge impact on the overall feel and aesthetic of the space. One common question that often comes up when selecting colors is whether it’s okay to use lighter colored curtains than the wall color.

The Short Answer

The short answer is yes, you can absolutely use lighter colored curtains than your walls. In fact, this is a very popular and common design technique. Going with lighter curtains creates an airy, bright feel and can make a room appear larger and more open. The key is choosing curtain colors that complement your wall color without matching it exactly.

Why Go Lighter with Curtains

There are a few main reasons why choosing lighter curtains is a good idea:

  • It creates contrast – The contrast between lighter curtains and darker walls is visually appealing and adds dimension.
  • Brightens the room – Pale curtains reflect more light, making the room feel airier and less closed in.
  • Makes the room feel bigger – Light colors give the illusion of more space.
  • Provides flexibility – Lighter curtains work with a wide range of wall colors and makes it easy to switch up your decor.

Going with lighter curtain colors is an easy way to brighten up a room and make it feel more open and inviting. The light fabric helps reflect natural light around the room, creating a soft, diffused lighting effect.

Tips for Choosing Lighter Curtain Colors

When selecting lighter curtain colors to go with your wall color, here are some tips to follow:

  • Stay within the same color family – Choose a lighter version of your wall color (eg. pale blue curtains with navy blue walls). This creates cohesion.
  • Look at the undertones – Cool-toned curtains pair best with cool walls, and warm with warm.
  • Consider the lighting – Rooms with little natural light can handle more contrast between curtains and walls. Brighter rooms look better with subtler shifts in color.
  • Layer textures and patterns – Add visual interest by pairingpatterned curtains with solid color walls.
  • Watch brightness – Don’t go too extreme between wall and curtain colors. Soft, muted palettes are easiest on the eyes.

In most cases, curtains that are two to three shades lighter than the wall color will give you the perfect lightening effect while still allowing the walls to be the dominant color.

Lighter Curtain Ideas for Common Wall Colors

Here are some examples of fitting lighter curtains with popular wall paint colors:

Navy Blue Walls

  • Light blue
  • Baby blue
  • Light gray
  • Ivory/off-white
  • Soft yellow

Charcoal Gray Walls

  • Light gray
  • Pale yellow
  • Baby blue
  • Lavender
  • Blush pink

Forest Green Walls

  • Sage green
  • Lime green
  • Chartreuse
  • Ivory
  • Light brown

Rich Red Walls

  • Pink
  • Coral
  • Peach
  • Butter yellow
  • Ivory/Cream

These are just a few examples of wall and curtain color pairings that work well together while still creating contrast through lighter hued curtains. Feel free to get creative and come up with your own combinations!

Curtain Styles for Lighter Curtains

Once you’ve selected the perfect lighter curtain color, the next step is choosing a style. Here are some top curtain options that work beautifully with lighter fabric colors:

Curtain Style Features Best For
Sheer Curtains – Lightweight, gauze-like fabric
– Subtly filters light
– Provides privacy
– Smaller windows
– Bedrooms
– Living rooms
Rod Pocket Curtains – Casual style
– Relaxed draping
– Variety of fabrics
– Bedrooms
– Family rooms
– Kitchens
Back Tab Curtains – Crisp, uniform look
– Linen, cotton, faux silk options
– Tailored style
– Dining rooms
– Living rooms
– Offices
Pencil Pleat Curtains – Classic tailored style
– Crisp folds and pleats
– Formal look
– Formal living rooms
– Dining rooms
– Entryways

Sheers, rod pockets, back tabs and pleated curtains all look beautiful in light, airy fabrics. Consider the level of formality you want, window size, and room function when choosing an appropriate curtain style.

Examples of Lighter Curtains with Darker Walls

To give you some visual inspiration, here are a few examples of rooms with effectively styled lighter curtains against darker walls:

Sage Green Curtains on Charcoal Gray Walls

This elegant living room uses soft sage curtains to lighten up the dramatic gray walls. The green tones pick up on the accents while still contrasting with the walls. The result is relaxing and chic.

Sage green curtains on charcoal gray walls
Image result for sage green curtains on charcoal gray walls

White Sheer Curtains on Navy Blue Walls

Crisp white sheers hung on a rod pocket curtain rod create an airy, beachy vibe against navy walls in this bedroom. The dark walls make the white pop.

White sheer curtains on navy blue walls
Image result for white sheer curtains on navy blue walls

Light Gray Curtains on Deep Red Walls

The bold, moody red walls in this dining room are alleviated by the light gray curtains. Ties on the rod pocket curtains add some tailored detail. The gray nicely bridges the red walls and floor.

Light gray curtains on deep red walls
Image result for light gray curtains on deep red walls

These are just a few examples of how effective using lighter colored curtains can be for brightening up a space and creating an airy, welcoming atmosphere against darker walls.

Tips for Hanging Lighter Curtains

Aside from color and style, proper hanging technique is crucial for making your curtains look their best. Here are some professional tips for hanging curtains:

  • Mount high and wide – Install rods at least 4-6 inches above the window frame and 2-3 inches wider than the window itself. This creates an ample amount for the curtains to stack back.
  • Perfect length – For proper draping, curtains should break 1/4 inch above the floor for a formal look or puddle slightly for a romantic vibe.
  • Add lining – Lining your curtains (especially sheers) with a coordinating fabric gives them more body and improves light filtering.
  • Consider ready-made lengths – Many manufacturers offer pre-determined lengths for easier installation.
  • Iron first – Give curtains a quick pass with an iron to remove any creases before hanging.

Taking the time to hang your curtains properly makes a big difference in how they look once they’re up. Following these basic tips will give you professional looking results.


Hanging lighter colored curtains in front of darker walls can transform the look and feel of a room. Choosing curtain colors two to three shades lighter than your walls will brighten up the space, add visual interest, and give you a soft, welcoming atmosphere. With the variety of curtain styles and fabrics available, the options are endless for creating the perfect light and airy look against your darker wall color. Just keep in mind the undertones and overall color scheme. With proper hanging techniques and some thoughtful color combinations, you can easily pull off this popular decor look in any room.