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  • Elle Decor

Drapes or Curtains? Why Choosing the Right Window Treatment Matters

Chances are you’ve heard and used the terms drapes and curtains interchangeably; a common misconception that can confuse even the most skilled designers. The reality is, there are several important differences between the two types of window treatments, all of which can completely change the function and feel of a room. Understanding these distinctions may feel superfluous at first, but choosing the wrong option can lead to an undesired look (with a high price tag). So, what are the differences between drapes and curtains? To help you make sense of it all, read below for everything you should know.


Drapes are fabric panels that are sold in pairs and usually come with a lining. The lining can be light or heavy, depending on the desired use (ex. blocking out light vs. letting in light). They typically extend from the top of the window to the floor, and can be purchased extra long to achieve a puddling effect beneath the window. They are pleated at the top of the drapery panel, and hang from a rod. From simple, sleek box-pleats to intricate and formal tuxedo pleats, every type of drape has its own aesthetic appeal. Unlike curtains, drapes are usually offered in stiffer, thicker fabrics, and are oftentimes sold custom-sized to fit your exact window dimensions. Due to their thicker construction and custom-design, drapes are considered more formal and luxurious than curtains.


Like drapes, curtains are also typically sold in pairs. They come in a variety of lengths and widths, and can be installed on their own or over blinds. Unlike drapes, curtains come in a wider range of colors, patterns, and fabrics, making them a popular choice for any room in the home. From simple, medium-weight grommet curtains to half-length sheer cafe curtains, there are endless options to choose from. Due to their sheerer nature, curtains are less effective at blocking out light, which is why people tend to pair them with blinds or shades, or use them in spaces that don't require a blackout effect. Just like drapes, curtains hang from a rod, which is installed above the window frame and can be either hidden or decorative.


To Block out Light:

If you’re looking to completely block out light, opt for thick-lined drapes. This is a popular choice for bedrooms or other private areas.

To Let in Light:

Curtains come in a variety of thicknesses, with sheer options that let in light. Choosing a sheer curtain in a warmer shade means that as the sun shines in, your home will be flooded with a beautiful light.

To Alternate Between the Two:

If you would like the ability to alternate between allowing light to shine through and completely blocking it out, curtains with blinds underneath work best, as the blinds can be lowered or raised to your liking.

To Block Out Noise/Insulate:

Drapes that extend from the top of the window to the floor and contain a thick lining are best for blocking out noise and insulating your home. Polyester is the most popular choice for noise-reducing and insulating drapes.

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