Selecting new window coverings seems simple – after all, you’re just trying to put up something decorative that covers your windows, right? The wide variety of covering options, fabrics, materials, backings and more can all seem overwhelming once you start to look into making a decision. Fortunately, we’re here to help! We’ve compiled some of the most common questions in regards to draperies and curtains to help you understand the differences and why they matter.
And of course, if you have further questions, you’re always welcome to visit our showroom to see options in person, or schedule an in-home consultation with us where we’ll help you choose the best solutions for your tastes, lifestyle, light desires and of course, your budget.
What’s the difference between draperies and curtains?
This is a really common question, and definitely a valid one! Both are fabric window coverings, often in pairs (one on each side of the window/door), hung on a rod with rings, hooks, grommets or a fabric sleeve at the top. The main difference really is in the fabric itself.
Curtains are often light-weight fabrics in a variety of patterns, colors, textures and styles. Often they allow plenty of natural light to come through, and they may have added layers of other fabrics or liners to create backings for more light blocking and temperature permeation (keeping heat or cool air in/out).
Drapes (or draperies) also come in different colors, but they’re typically heavier fabrics that don’t necessarily require any additional layer to achieve light control or temperature permeation. Because of the weight and style of fabric (often damask, silk, velvet, etc.,) draperies often have a more formal appearance as well.
Both styles, when custom-made, are carefully chosen depending on the room they’re in and the problems you want to solve. For example, draperies are preferred for places like bedrooms where light control actually can affect your health and well-being directly, whereas curtains may be more than sufficient in areas you want light but also privacy, such as a dining room or bathroom. The rod they hang on is also selected not only for your personal style, but to ensure it properly holds the weight of the fabric, allows it to open to the edges of the window while still looking decorative, and even include functionality like automated opening and closing.
Draperies and curtains also lend well to layering styles. Sheer and semi-sheer curtains underneath heavier draperies gives a beautiful, finished look, and shades underneath curtain panels can fulfill the need for light control while maintaining the lighter or more casual fabric look. There are unique, treated fabrics designed to allow drapery in outdoor spaces as well, which truly makes patios magical.
Draperies and curtains can also be purely decorative while letting other options do the heavy lifting!
When choosing what works best for you, there are some additional factors that come into play. We help walk you through this process by seeing your home, hearing your pain points and desires, and coming up with a plan together.
Appearance of Fabric
We can pretend all day that functionality is the #1 goal when selecting window treatments, but that’s just not the case. After all if it were, we’d just put solid, insulated shutters over everything, wouldn’t we? Beauty in our homes is important! How your home is styled actually plays a factor in the emotions you experience while in a space, and even your mental health. With practically-endless options for fabric textures, patterns, colors and styles, there’s going to be something that matches your existing style or can help you work towards your end goal. Whether you’re going for modern and clean, romantic and luxurious, formal and no-frills, there’s a look for everyone, and every room.
For more on emotions in design, read our blog: Designing a Peaceful Home Atmosphere
This is actually a really big consideration when selecting window coverings! As we mentioned before, some rooms like kitchens and dining rooms are perfectly fine having natural light come through. A bedroom, on the other hand, really needs to have total or almost total light-blocking capabilities, since our natural circadian rhythms are dictated by light – but our schedules may not be. In a media room or family room, you may also want to have black-out options to prevent glare on screens as well.
Another factor in light control is privacy. While drapes can block light completely, if you want light you also then open up the window entirely and forgo privacy without another window covering layer underneath. We’ll cover privacy more…
Privacy Through the Windows
In lieu of frosted glass or no light in rooms where you want privacy, fabric can play a variety of roles. Like the example above, if you have heavy drapes to block light but then also want an option of light with and maintained privacy, an underlayer of sheer curtains is perfection. Shades and blinds are another wonderful choice underneath heavier drapes in this situation as well. Light-weight curtains that allow light to naturally pass through also grant privacy without additional layers, but there are other sacrifices made with that light fabric.
Yup, even sound matters! Thicker fabrics naturally insulate sound, so even if you have good-quality windows and well-insulated walls, thicker draperies may help reduce unwanted noise from outside. No more waking up to the loud garbage truck, maybe?
Temperature & Energy Efficiency
The United States Department of Energy states that 25-30% of residential heating and cooling use is making up for heat/cool air lost through the windows. That’s a massive amount of your electric bill literally going straight out the window! Obviously updating your windows goes a long way towards helping reduce this, but covering your windows with fabrics and materials help trap unwanted heat or cold air out, and keep your air conditioned or heated air in your home where it belongs.
If you have a particularly cold area in your home, chances are the windows (and maybe doors) are a large culprit. Especially in winter, most of us have sat by a window that felt significantly colder than the rest of the room. On the flip side, sunlight coming in through windows (known as heat gain) also plays a large factor – but it can do even more. Direct, unfiltered sunlight wears out fabrics over time unless they’re treated specifically for it. We’re not just talking about your curtains or draperies here either, but your sofa, rug, and even artwork. Sunlight causes damage and fades colors over time, so blocking direct light helps everything within your room from becoming lackluster.
Your Lifestyle & Family Members
Just like when choosing anything else for your home, who lives there and how you use a space always plays a factor. For a kitchen, for example, you’d want to make sure anything near stoves or other messy areas can be easily-cleaned. You wouldn’t make a backsplash out of dry clean-only fabric, and you wouldn’t want to put that same fabric on the windows in the same area either. Likewise, in a bathroom you need to consider humidity when selecting materials, as some are not nearly as forgiving of it as others may be. Not much sounds worse than mildewed curtains.
How often you’re home seems like a weird thing to think about, but it definitely matters! If you travel often, adding in automation to allow window control when you’re away can be a wonderful, additional privacy option.
How much care you want to go into cleaning is another factor that should take some thought. Some fabrics can simply be steam-cleaned while still hanging, while others may need to be removed entirely and professionally dry cleaned. In addition to choosing the right fabric for rooms based on how likely they are to get dirty, overall care that extends their lifespan needs to fit your lifestyle. You don’t want to have curtains or drapes that become a huge hassle and look dirty because it’s more than you wanted to care for years down the road.
If you have children or have them over as guests often, mess isn’t the only factor to consider. Specific pulls and cords are actually potential strangulation hazards and should be avoided anywhere that small children are likely to be. You also of course want fabrics or materials that can be easily-cleaned, and installed securely to make sure a little hand pulling up on them won’t create a disaster.
Pets also take unique consideration. Cords also basically are a no-no with pets too, for the same risk, but also, cats can’t resist a good dangling cord! When it comes to curtains and draperies specifically, puddled drapes also are really not the best idea. It’s essentially a pet bed that will gather fur or even get your furry family member tangled up. If you have kittens, they tend to climb like crazy until they learn better and your window coverings will be no exception. While Soft Paws and other claw caps are certainly an option, it’s something to consider. Blinds are notorious for having little cat heads shoved through them as well and broken. (If you have dogs, blinds and shutters take a LOT of extra consideration and are often victims.)
We hope that helped you understand the variety of options when choosing draperies and curtains!
If you still have questions, please feel free to reach out to us or visit our showroom. If you want our professional help in selecting, creating and installing your new curtains or drapes, just schedule a free in-home consultation! We’ll help you find the answers to all of these questions above and select the perfect solution unique to your home.