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Curtains or Drapes – Which is it?

Window Treatments, Drapery, Valance

Window Treatment


Dear Design Diva,

I am decorating my new home and I am thoroughly confused when it comes to my windows. Why do some people say I need window treatments, others say I need curtains, and still others say I need drapes! What is the difference?

Window Challenged

Dear WD,

I guess it would seem confusing to an amateur decorator, but any interior designer worth her fee is sure to know the differences. “Window treatments” is the broad term used to refer to anything you use to cover or accent your windows. This includes curtains, blinds, drapes, shades, cornice boards, valances, wood blinds, or plantation shutters.

curtains, valance

Curtains with Valance

A curtain or curtain panel is a length of fabric that has a rod-pocket along the top which gets gathered on the rod informally. It is usually unlined, and can be either floor length, to the window sill, orĀ  a half-window height referred to as “cafe curtains”, often seen in kitchens and bathrooms.

Curtains are usually a more casual option, and are great for summer when you want a light, breezy look at the windows. You can also find outdoor curtains that are made from durable, weather resistant fabrics and are popular for privacy and softness around decking, arbors, and gazebos.

A drape, or drapery panel is a length of fabric that has an attached lining and buckram at the top for stiffened pleats. The pleats can be various styles, such as pinch-pleat, goblet, inverted, or cartridge pleat. Draperies are hung with hooks on either traverse rods or rods with rings.

Drapes, Skirted Drapes

Drapes with Accent Banding on Top and Bottom

Drapes are usually reserved for more formal or traditional decors. Drapery fabrics are usually more expensive than those used for curtains, and the labor to construct them is higher, and the hardware is more expensive, so the entire project will end up costing you more.

I hope I have cleared up your confusion. Thanks for writing!

The Design Diva

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Barbara Green is The Design Diva and owner of Sensibly Chic Interior Design. Follow her on Twitter @thedesigndiva.