Types of Curtains & Their Uses

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You see the outside world through your windows, so your curtains and drapes affect how you experience it. They also establish a mood that can transcend the rest of the room. Curtains control the amount of light in your rooms and can ensure a certain level of privacy. For some basic information on types of curtains and their hardware, as well as some great design ideas for different curtain types, read on.

The DifferentTypes of Curtains

  • Rod-pocket drapes, also called pole-pocket drapes, are made with a casing at the top that slips over a curtain rod, removing the need for rings. Sheer fabric curtains are often made with two rod pockets at the top, so that you can slide the curtain rod through the lower pocket, and a soft ruffling effect is created by the unused top pocket. These are great for making the curtain feel as though it is integrated into the wall, because the rod is nearly invisible under the drapes.
  • Tab-top curtains are great for a casual ambience. They are made with flat loops spaced along the top edge of the curtain, through which the rod goes. These also do not require curtain rings. They can easily be drawn open or closed without pull cords.
  • Ring-top drapery is hung on decorative curtain rings that are attacked to the drapes at intervals across the top. The rings are ideal for showing off a design-centric curtain rod. Like tab-top drapes, these do not require a pull cord to open or clothes.
  • Grommet-top curtains are relatively new. A curtain rod passes through the large grommet rings (holes) at the top of the curtain, creating a broadly pleated look. This is great for a crisp, modern room, such as a lounge or a study.
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  • Thermal drapery or blackout drapery offers protection against heat and cold. They also act as blackout curtains, keeping out sun completely, due to the extra lining. They are made to look like all other drapery, with the only difference being an addition layer of material for insulation. These are great if you're looking to save money on energy costs. They also provide great privacy.
  • Sheer curtains let light into a room and still maintain a good level of privacy. They should be bought in excessive width, about double the width of your window, to appropriately fold to cover your window with the adequate amount of privacy. For a more dramatic look, some people add even more width to each window. These are great for plain or decorate curtain rods.
  • Window scarves are decorative additions to your already existing curtains. They drape over your other curtains, often sheers, to frame the window decoration. A window scarf can be made to match your curtains or out of drapery material.
  • Valances are a different kind of window treatment. They may be used as a window scarf that matches your drapery and is swagged across the top, or they may be constructed into a more boxy design that is mounted above the window to disguise or hide drapery rods. Some homeowners use valances even without existing curtains, just to add a decorative flair above their window. Most valances require brackets for hanging, although some need standard rods, like those used for curtains.

Types Of Curtain Hardware

  • Curtain rods are a very old curtain-hanging tradition. They come in many beautiful and durable designs, with a wide range of length options. Spacers in curtain rods extend outward from the wall for depth or to accommodate multiple rods. Both rod-pocket and tab-top curtains can be difficult to open or close on telescoping curtain rods. While hidden by many medium-weight and heavyweight materials, rods are visible through sheer curtains, and ring-top curtains often allow the rod to remain visible. Decorative rods may be best in these instances.
  • Finials are decorative ends of curtain rods. They come in many styles and finishes, with different shapes, such as scrolls, leaves, fleur-de-lis and decorated oval or balls. They are available in brushed silver, copper and poly-resin finish. Because they are often the part of your window treatment that are most seen beyond the curtain, it is good to have them stand out but also to have them complement or match your other room décor.
  • Curtain rings are attractive and easily attached to your curtains or drapes. They slide easily along a curtain rod without having to pull open a telescope rod, making it easier to open and close your drapes. Curtain rings are available in many sizes, shapes and qualities, so shop around for the style that best meets your design needs.
  • Tiebacks are soft loops of fabric, cord, chain or other material that holds back drapes. They tie around the drape itself, either centering it or pulling it off to the side and tying it to a vertical rod. This allows a bigger view outside and more natural light to enter the room. Tiebacks are extremely common in curtains and drapes that do not use rings, since those are hard to open.

Curtain Design Tips and Ideas

Depending on what your curtains are meant to do for your home, you may need a different type. 

Lightweight curtain fabric, such as lace, linen and sheer cotton, is a good choice if you're planning to sew or hem them yourself. If you are going for an antique or dressy décor, then delicate lace is a great choice. For more versatility or casual feel, cotton is more appropriate. Lightweight fabric also allows light to come into the house more plentifully, so it may not be suited well for bedroom windows. Rather, they are good for sitting rooms or kitchen, which often lack natural light and could do with additional warming. They add a relaxed, casual feeling to a room. Lightweight fabric can also be used to layer over heavier fabric to add style.

Patterned curtain fabric is a great choice for a creative look. With so many various decorative fabric prints to choose from, you can add a minimalist flair to your living room, bedroom or bathroom. Patterned fabrics come in a variety of floral, striped, plaid and animal prints, so you can suit the design to the aesthetic you want. For example, an animal print may be appropriate for a jungle-themed child's room, and vertical stripes are appropriate for curtains in a small bedroom. They make the ceiling feel higher and open the room up a little.

Medium-weight and heavyweight curtain fabric are a good choice if you need curtains that are highly functional, and are meant to keep out the cold and the light. These fabric weights are more versatile and practical than their lightweight counterparts, whether you want formal, contemporary, cottage, country or traditional styles. Medium-weight fabrics like cotton and canvas come in many varieties and will go with nearly any home décor style. Heavyweight fabrics like suede, denim, tapestry, tweed and velvet are great for commercial curtains in hotels and restaurants, and work extremely well as insulation during the winter and as blackout curtains during the day. Heavier fabrics with rich colors and textures, such as silk and velvet, give your windows a more formal look. Medium-weight and heavyweight fabrics add texture to a room, too, so they provide a great focal point in an otherwise plain room.

Last Updated: April 16, 2013
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About Emelie Battaglia Emelie Battagila is a contributing writer for Idealhomegarden.com

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