The difference of Curtains vs. Drapes

Nothing adds pizzazz to a room faster than a stylish set of curtains. When you’re looking to spruce up your home, new window treatments are an easy and affordable way to make a big impact. There are lots of different choices when it comes to window decor, however, so you might be wondering just what the difference is between curtains and drapes. A few simple tips can help you make the right choice for any room.

Curtains vs. Drapes Defined

Most people use the terms curtains and drapes interchangeably, and both refer to window treatments, typically sold in pairs, that are placed over windows for style and often privacy. 

The wikipedia definition of a curtain is a piece of cloth intended to block or obscure light, or drafts, or (in the case of a shower curtain) water. A curtain is also the movable screen or drape in a theater that separates the stage from the auditorium or that serves as a backdrop.

The dictionary definition of a drape is a curtain or hanging of heavy fabric and usually considerable length, especially either of a pair for covering a window and drawn open and shut horizontally.  Either of a pair of similar curtains extending or draped at the sides of a window, French doors, or the like as decoration.

Similarities between Drapes and Curtains

Drapes and curtains are both available in a wide range of widths, lengths, colors, patterns, fabrics, styles and designs, and can be utilized with many different types of hardware depending on your style and decor preferences.

They are most often sold in pairs of two panels, and may or may not have ties to draw them back. Both can be hung in different ways too. Curtains and drapes can also be custom-ordered and made to your specific needs, and both can come in specialty measurements such as extra-wide or extra-long.

What makes Drapes different from Curtains?

While there are many similarities between the two, there are a few ways in which drapes differ from curtains. Curtains are often considered more casual, and may be designed whimsical patterns. The hanging style might also be more informal, such as tabs or grommets. Curtains are typically more lightweight than drapes, and may be made of fabrics such as cotton, linen or sheer fabrics.

Drapes, also referred to as drapery panels, are usually considered more formal in nature. Heavier, somewhat stiffer fabrics are the norm for drapes, including luxury materials like velvet, damask, silk or faux silks. Drapery may also come with embroidery or elegant, formal patterns or be most often solid rather than heavily patterned. The top of a drapery panel is often pleated, and these pleats, along with the heavy fabric, contribute to the formal appearance of this popular window treatment. Drapes are often lined and good choice for your bedroom.

Blackout window treatments that offer additional privacy and help conserve energy are also available in less formal curtain styles as well as heavier or more formal drapes, so you can have the option of additional privacy and energy savings no matter which style you prefer.

Deciding which window treatments to use

The type of window treatment you choose to use will depend on several factors, including:

  • Overall interior design style: Your overall interior design plays a large role in what you’ll choose – for example, if you have a very casual or eclectic style, curtains in vibrant colors or fun patterns might be the ideal choice. If you have a more formal home design, choosing lined silk curtains with designer embroidery could be perfect for you.
  • Type of room: Another aspect is which room you’ll be outfitting windows in. An area like a kitchen is perfect for a pretty set of lightweight sheers, while a formal dining room or living room will work beautifully with more substantial draperies.
  • Privacy or light needs: If there is a room that needs more light, light fabric curtains or sheers are a practical solution, but if you have a space such as a bedroom or another room that needs to have more privacy or light reduction, heavier blackout drapes could be the answer.
  • Personal style preference: The most important aspect in choosing your window treatments comes down to your personal sense of style. Choose colors, fabric weights and designs that appeal to you in order to get the look and feel you'd like in any room.

Understanding the differences between what are considered curtains and what are considered drapes can help you make the best choice for your living spaces, but don’t get bogged down in terminology. Look to window treatments that speak to your sense of style, and get ready to embrace a beautiful new look!

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