Drapes vs. Curtains: How to Choose the Right Window Treatment for Your Room

Discover the difference between curtains and drapes, plus choose the window treatment that's best-suited for your space.

Drapes and curtains are two popular types of window treatments that add style and privacy to any room, as well as light and temperature control. While both window treatments serve the same basic purpose, they are not interchangeable. Each has its own unique features. Both come in multiple sizes, styles, patterns, colors, and materials to fit your needs, style, and budget. Knowing which one to choose will depend on many factors, including the amount of light filtration, privacy, and insulation you prefer.

pink and brown eclectic bedroom
Karyn Millet

6 Things to Consider When Deciding Between Curtains and Drapes

1. Fabric

One of the main differences between drapes and curtains is the type of material. Drapes are usually made from thicker fabrics, such as velvet, silk, or damask, and they are usually lined. These fabrics add a more formal, luxurious look and feel to a room, and the lining offers an extra layer of insulation and light-blocking. They lend a sense of quiet elegance in formal dining rooms, living rooms, or bedrooms. Fabric choices for drapes are limitless and can be pleated, solid, textured, or patterned.

Meanwhile, curtains tend to be made from sheer fabrics, such as cotton, linen, gauze, or polyester. These fabrics add a more casual, relaxed look to a room. They are ideal for kitchens, bathrooms, or family rooms, where more airflow and light are desired.

2. Length and Fullness

Another difference between drapes vs. curtains is their length and fullness. Drapes are typically floor-length or longer. They puddle on the floor to create an elegant, flowing look that blocks out light and provides greater insulation.

Curtains are normally made to cover windows just up to the sill or to extend a few inches below it. This shorter, less full look, gives a casual, breezy charm to the room and lets in more light and air. However, there is no standard length for curtains and they may also be floor length, if desired.

3. Functionality

The functionality of drapes and curtains can also differ. Drapes are considered the better option for privacy, blocking out light and noise, and providing adequate insulation. This is because the weight and length of drapes, as well as their lining, help them fall closer to the window so there are fewer gaps for light and air to enter. This makes them perfect for bedrooms or meeting rooms.

Curtains are ideal for use in rooms where the opposite is a priority. If natural light and a gentle breeze are what you want, the lighter fabric of curtains is what you need.

4. Hanging and Supports

Drapes and curtains have similar installation requirements. They are both made up of fabric panels that can be hung with rods and rings, grommets, valances, or fabric sleeves. However, drapes typically require more heavy-duty rods and brackets to support their length, weight, and fullness. If a formal, elegant look is desired, then more ornate, decorative designs may be used. On the other hand, curtains require less hardware. They can also be hung on lightweight cords or tension rods. The designs for curtain rods are often simple and informal.

5. Cleaning and Maintenance

The cleaning and maintenance required for drapes and curtains may differ. Due to the heavier fabric and lining, drapes are usually professionally cleaned or dry-cleaned. This makes drapes the more expensive and high-maintenance option. Even if you clean them at home, drapes are more difficult to remove from the rod. They also occupy a lot of space in a washer and dryer and, thus, use more soap, water, and energy.

When it comes to cleaning, curtains are easier to remove and make for a lighter laundry load than drapes. So, if you want to be more eco-friendly and to save on utilities, curtains are a better option.

6. Cost

The cost of curtains vs. drapes are another factor to consider. Drapes are normally more expensive than curtains. They tend to be made from higher-end fabrics and linings. To get their fuller, longer look, you also must purchase more quantities of the fabric.

Curtains require less elaborate fabrics and in lesser quantities, so they are generally cheaper. That said, the cost of either can vary widely depending on your choice of fabrics. With timing your purchase to a sale, you may be able to balance the costs.

neutral midcentury modern bedroom

Edmund Barr 

Blackout Curtains vs. Drapes

Since they are specifically designed to block out light and sound, blackout curtains cannot be categorized as regular curtains. They sound more like drapes, right? But there are some differences.

Blackout curtains are made from a thicker, heavier material with a simple, smooth surface design created to block out light and noise, while drapes can be made from a wide range of fabrics and designs with a more ornate appearance. In addition, blackout curtains are typically more expensive than regular curtains or drapes because of their specialized materials and function. In contrast, drapes vary in cost depending on the fabrics and design.

If you’re hoping to maximize style and coverage, drapes and curtains can be combined to add texture and depth to any room. With the drapes open, sheer curtains allow light to enter. With drapes closed, you can darken a room, add more privacy, reduce noise, and better control the temperature. With a touch of creativity, it is possible to get the best of both worlds.

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