Our ultimate curtain buying guide features the different curtain types and vast options you can choose from for any room in your home.
There are many types of curtains for the home because, frankly, millions of people use curtains! While their primary purpose is to block out light (with perhaps the exception of a shower curtain), they have other uses – namely in the form of adding decorative accents to a room.
They can be purely decorative, such as faux silk drapes or a translucent lace curtain – or they can be functional, as in the case of a blackout curtain designed specifically to block all light.
However, you don’t have to choose between function and style; there are plenty of different types of curtains for the home that combine functionality with gorgeous aesthetics. You just need to know what to look for.
That’s why the first thing you should do before going ahead and buying curtains is read up on all the different types. Check out our handy curtain buying guide below.
The Curtain Buyers Guide
A. Types Of Curtains
When it comes to browsing different types of curtains for purchase, there are many factors you’re going to need to consider. Do you want window curtains, or are you looking for something purely decorative, such as a drapery panel or a valance for the top of your current curtains, or even around the bed as a bed skirt? These do fall into the category of curtains and drapes – so it’s important to be clear what it is you are shopping for, and what look (or function) you are trying to achieve.
You also need to consider how (and where) you will be hanging your curtains. Will you be using a curtain rail, or do you need to purchase a curtain pole. Do you already have a curtain pole, but no curtain rings – in which case you might want a simple eyelet curtain or grommet curtain to hang on what you already have.
These are all important things to consider in order to make sure you choose the right curtains for your needs.
Let’s look at the different types so we can begin to narrow down which style of curtain will be best for you.
1. Panel Pair
Panel pair curtains feature two separate curtain panels. This type of curtain is popular in classic and contemporary styles. With a panel pair, you place a curtain on either side of the window. To close these curtains, you’d pull each curtain panel together. Panel pair curtains can be tied back to create a symmetrical look for your window treatment.
2. Single Panel
With a single panel curtain, one panel covers the entire window. The curtain panel can be pulled to either side to open, and it can be tied back to create a modern, asymmetrical look. These types are at once a modern curtain style and equally timeless style – making them great in most decorative settings.
3. Window Treatment Set
A window treatment set includes everything you’ll need to create a full window treatment. A window treatment set almost always includes one or two curtains and a valance. Some window kits also include accessories like tiebacks and a curtain rod, and in rare cases, they can even include a pelmet.
A valance is a short curtain that hangs at the top of your curtains. These are an optional decorative addition. Valances are a great way to complete a look. These curtains are available separately, or as part of a window treatment set.
You can use a valance without additional curtains in windows with blinds, or to add a decorative flair on windows where full curtains aren’t desired.
5. Window Tier
Window tiers are commonly used on kitchen windows or any window where you want privacy yet still allow light in. They conceal the lower portion of the window but the top part of the window is uncovered. Here’s an example.
6. Window Scarf
A window scarf is similar to a valance. It’s a long, thin piece of curtain fabric that is hung from the top of the window. Window scarfs are a great way to create a dramatic look with your window treatment.
Curtain liners are another optional add-on, and they’re used to provide an additional level of versatility to your curtain, effectively turning it into a lined curtain. Adding a liner to a sheer curtain is a popular option, as this gives them more privacy and durability, without detracting from the gorgeous curtain design. Curtain liners often have additional features as well, such as insulation and noise-blocking attributes.
Another major consideration is going to be the opacity of your new curtains. Different opacity curtains suit the needs of different rooms and applications. For example, you might not want light silk curtains or white curtain styles in the bedroom, where you will likely need to block out sunlight.
Opacity is definitely one of the major considerations when determining the right curtains for your needs. To determine which curtains you need, ask yourself some questions.
- Do you want the curtains to let through some sunlight when they’re drawn or none at all?
- How much privacy do you need your curtains to provide?
- Do you need your curtains to provide additional features, besides its decorative function?
- Can you be flexible? For example, could you combine wood blinds with a translucent curtain or to benefit from style while blocking light.
Thin, semi-transparent fabrics are the basis of sheer curtains. These curtains provide the most daylight in a room when the curtain is closed. Sheer curtains also provide the least amount of privacy, and they serve any additional purpose beyond being decorative. This kind of curtain is most popular in living rooms and dining rooms.
Some decorators add a liner to sheer curtains. In doing this, you’re able to enjoy the beauty of your sheer curtains while also being able to benefit from added privacy and additional features.
Semi-Opaque curtains are like a blend between sheer curtains and blackout curtains. They allow some daylight into the room when they’re closed. They also provide more privacy than sheer curtains. These curtains are a popular choice for any application and can be combined with other curtains for greater opacity – by hanging them on a double curtain rod (with another pair of curtains behind)
Blackout curtains allow the least amount of light to enter a room when they’re closed. These curtains are made of heavier weight materials and often have built-in linings. Blackout curtains provide the most privacy, and they often have additional features beyond their decorative purpose.
People often use blackout curtains in bedrooms, dens, theaters, or any other area where keeping out natural light is a concern. Sometimes, blackout curtains are used behind sheer curtains to provide additional features and a more polished look than what you can achieve with a simple curtain liner.
C. Attachment Style
You also may want to consider how the curtain attaches to the rod. Depending on the style you’re looking to achieve, certain attachment styles are going to be a better fit for you. This may be especially important to you if you don’t want to include a valance with your curtains.
1. Rod Pocket
Rod pocket curtains feature a pocket that’s sewn into the top of the curtain. To hang these curtains, you feed the curtain rod through the curtain and out the other side of the pocket. These curtains are popular with a valance. They’re also used without a valance to create a casual look. Usually, a rod pocket curtain will look best in fabrics like cotton or linen. The pocket sometimes features decorative embellishments like embroidery or ruching.
2. Grommet and Eyelet
Grommet and Eyelet curtains have large eyelets in the top of the fabric that is reinforced with grommets. This style of curtain is especially popular in contemporary or modern styles. Grommet and eyelet curtains allow you to add an additional flourish of style in place of a valance.
3. Tab Top
With tab top curtains, loops of fabric are sewn into the top of the curtain. The curtain rod hangs through the loops. Sometimes, these curtains feature decorative embellishments like buttons. Tab top curtains are most popular in casual styles, and they’re also used in more contemporary country styles as well.
4. Hidden Tab
Hidden tab curtains are like a cross between rod pocket and tab curtains. With this style, the tabs used to hang the curtain are kept out of view, behind an additional piece of fabric, that’s usually decorative. The fabric on top of a hidden tab curtain is often pinched pleated to add an additional level of style. You can use these curtains with or without a valance. Hidden tab curtains are popular in traditional, country or contemporary styles.
D. Curtain Style
The room you’re decorating and your overall style will help to indicate which types of curtains are going to be best for you.
Aside from the things we have listed below – another element to consider when choosing the right curtains for your needs is the curtain’s pleat style. There are a number of different styles of curtains – dictated by their pleats. Some of the more common pleated curtain varieties are:
- Pinch pleat curtains
- Pencil pleat curtains
- Goblet pleat curtains
- Tailored pleat curtains
Each of these has its own unique style according to how the folds of the fabric are sewn together and how they hang.
Casual curtains are a popular choice in bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens. Casual curtains will lend themselves to an easy, not-too-serious vibe. These curtains often feature grommet and eyelet or tab top attachments, and they’re rarely used with a valance.
Classic styles are universally popular in any room in the home. Classic curtains are often used with valances and additional accessories to create full window treatments. These curtains feature a classic, timeless appeal and are often seen in design styles like classical, country and bohemian styles.
Contemporary curtains provide a fresh interpretation of classic styles. They’re most commonly available in shades of grey and earthy tones that are inspired by nature. Sometimes, brighter and bolder colors are used to provide a pop of color in an otherwise subdued space. Contemporary curtains often feature rich textures and provide a sophisticated look that isn’t overly styled or pretentious.
Source: Bed Bath and Beyond
Modern curtains generally reflect modern design in general. Modern designs are usually minimal and often incorporate metal along with eco-friendly materials as well. While solid colors are ever popular with modern curtains, bold patterns with clean lines or abstract elements are also very popular. Depending on the style of the room, modern curtains can create a powerful design statement.
Another important factor when selecting curtains is the materials they’re constructed from. A curtains material serves several purposes beyond being decorative. Thinner materials are used to create sheer or semi-sheer materials while thicker materials are used in semi-opaque and blackout curtains. Depending on the materials, the curtains may also possess additional features as well.
Cotton is a popular choice for many different applications. Cotton is semi-sheer, so it lets in lots of light while still providing a moderate level of privacy. Cotton curtains are often layered with other fabrics to create a complete window treatment. You’ll see cotton curtains in many different styles, and it’s a viable choice for any room in the home. Cotton curtains are also easy to clean, which makes them even more versatile.
Linen curtains are a bit heavier than cotton, while still maintaining an easy, casual vibe. They let in a moderate level of light while providing an additional level of privacy. Linen can be a bit more difficult to clean than cotton. It’s probably not the best choice for dusty environments as the rough texture of linen can act as a magnet for dust.
Velvet curtains are another popular material. This material is best if you’re looking for the most privacy possible. The heavy material also keeps out drafts and reduces outside noise. Velvet is a popular choice for bedrooms with light-sensitive sleepers. It’s also a great fabric to use to create a more dramatic effect on your windows. Velvet is usually cleaned professionally, as it’s a difficult fabric to clean. So, if upkeep is a concern, you may want to steer clear of this fabric.
Source: Pottery Barn
Silk is a beautiful and luxurious fabric that is used to produce a broad range of different types of curtains. It’s semi-sheer and depending on how thick the silk is, it may let in lots of light, or a limited amount of light. Silk is a popular material in classic and contemporary curtain styles. Silk is difficult to clean, and usually, requires professional help for cleaning. So, you may want to consider the upkeep costs before investing in silk curtains.
FYI, many “silk” curtains are really faux silk.
Lace is a sheer fabric, which makes it the best choice if you’re looking to create a light, bright and airy window treatment. Lace provides the least amount of privacy of these materials while letting in the most light. Lace is most popular in kitchens, living rooms, or any other area of the home where you’d like to let in lots of light. Lace curtains can also be paired with heavier fabrics to create a more versatile window treatment.
Burlap has a similar look and texture to linen, but it’s a much heavier weight than linen is. This fabric is casual and plain, and it provides a great deal of privacy while allowing minimal light or no light at all when you close the curtains. Burlap is easy to clean and it looks great in casual applications.
Synthetic materials have become extraordinarily popular for curtain production. Synthetics are cheaper to produce than natural fibers, and they’re usually easy to clean as well. Synthetic fabrics can mirror the look and feel of any of the natural fabrics listed above. They’re usually a cheaper option than natural materials as well. So, if cost is a concern, or if you’re looking for an easy to clean option, synthetic curtains may be the best choice for you.
F. Curtain Pattern
We’re getting closer to drilling down the best curtains for your needs. The next thing you’ll want to consider is the pattern of the curtains.
Patterned curtains are popular in every style of window treatment. Patterns can be a great way to express your personality or achieve a specific look with your curtains. Patterned curtains are typically cotton, lace, or synthetic. But, you’ll also see some patterned curtains in linen or burlap varieties, or embossed velvet curtains as well.
There is a wide range of popular patterns for window treatments. In classic and contemporary curtains, you’re likely to see patterns like floral, stripes, checks and plaid, toile, and paisley.
Casual curtains often feature a more casual take on those classic patterns. They also sometimes employ patterns like chevron, dots, geometric or graphic prints.
Solid curtains are a great way to accent other colors or patterns in your window treatments. They also create a clean and modern look.
Solids are popular in all types of curtains, especially modern and casual styles.
G. Curtain Length
The length of your curtains can be a great way to achieve certain styles, and the size of your windows will help determine the curtain length you need. Keep in mind that not all curtain lengths are equally suited for all applications.
Sill length curtains are perfect for windows that you open all the time. This length is usually a great choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and smaller window sizes. Sill length curtains are hung so that the curtain ends even with the window sill, or just above it.
Apron length curtains are a great way to elongate the look of your windows. These curtains are used on smaller windows, like in kitchens, bathrooms, and some bedrooms. Usually, the rod is hung a bit higher than the actual window and the curtain extends several inches below the window sill. When closed, apron length curtains can make your window area appear larger than it is.
Floor-length curtains are great for floor to ceiling windows and sliding doors. Floor-length curtains traditionally break just above the floor, by less than an inch. Floor-length curtains are also popular for smaller windows that are rarely or never opened to create the illusion of a floor-to-ceiling window.
Puddle length curtains are extra-long floor-length curtains. They’re several inches longer than the size of the window and they break dramatically on the floor, similar to the train of a wedding dress. This style is especially popular if you’re looking to create a dramatic or romantic window treatment.
H. Curtain Width
In addition to the length of a curtain, the width is another small consideration to make. Just as there are standard curtain lengths, they’re also available in a variety of widths. Usually, you should choose a curtain width that’s twice as wide as your window. But, you may want to choose an even wider size if you’re looking to create a more dramatic, heavily bunched look.
I. Curtain Features
Depending on the type of material of the curtain, they can possess additional features that add an additional layer of functionality.
Heavier weight fabrics like burlap, velvet, and synthetics provide an additional layer of insulation for your windows. This feature comes in handy if your windows are drafty, or if you live in a particularly cold or warm environment. Insulating curtains are popular in bedrooms, dining rooms, or any room with drafty windows. Thermal curtains are considered the window treatment that pays for themselves since they can save you up to 25% of the heating or cooling costs for your home.
In addition to fabrics that are naturally insulating, there are other types of insulating curtains available. These curtains use a beautiful decorate exterior fabric to cover a thermal layer which is often made of foam or mylar and is designed to trap warmth in cold environments or keep in the cold in warmer conditions. Many popular insulating curtains are also blackout curtains, but that isn’t always the case. This guide will help you tell them apart.
2. Noise Reducing
Fabrics that can reduce outside noise can be a necessary feature in urban environments, or for anyone who’s a light sleeper. These curtains are popular in bedrooms, or any room you’d like to keep as quiet as possible, like a den, library or theater. The idea of a curtain being able to reduce exterior noise may seem a bit far-fetched, but you’d be surprised just how much noise will get trapped by the noise-reducing curtains. Laboratories are also working to engineer new fabrics with even better noise reduction properties. In fact, Swiss textile designer Annette Douglas has worked in conjunction with an independent laboratory to create curtains that can absorb up to 80% of exterior noise.
Besides curtains that are designed to absorb noise, you also have the option of purchasing regular curtains and adding a curtain liner behind them to increase their ability to reduce noise.
Manufacturers usually make outdoor curtains from heavyweight, water and weather-resistant materials. They also may be sheer if their purpose is only to limit bugs in an outdoor area. These curtains can be a beautiful addition to a patio area, as well as any area where weather or insects are a concern.
J. What’s more popular – blinds, curtains, shutters, or no window treatments?
Here are the chart results of our ongoing poll:
II. Frequently Asked Questions
Below are answers to commonly asked questions. read these and it’s sure to make purchasing and hanging curtains an absolute breeze!
How do you measure curtains?
It depends on the hanging method and type. Here’s an easy-to-follow infographic explaining how to measure curtains courtesy of HalfPriceDrapes.com.
What are all the different materials curtains can be made from?
Most curtains are fabric-based and are comprised of cotton and polyester. Cellulose (wood and bamboo) or plastic panels are also used. Color varies by fiber and fabric weave, a tight weave making the curtain more resistant to pass-through light. Lining, backing, or color may be added to make the curtained interior of a room “darker,” obscuring interior figures and objects without dimming ambient light.
How long do curtains last?
Curtains, depending on their specific application, have various life expectancies. Sunlight, particularly the ultraviolet component, causes accelerated aging in curtain material, whether fabric or plastic or cellulose.
Curtains hung in front of windows age faster than curtains hung in other interior spaces. Heat registers or radiators often placed near windows cause aging effects, confounding UV-related deterioration.
Open windows allow rain and humidity to penetrate curtains and interior spaces. Bugs enter via windows or other openings to the outside of buildings. Although modern fabrics resist insects, plant-based fibers are susceptible to destruction. ANSI has suggested reasonable life expectancies for curtains and draperies ranging from three to five years. A simple drapery lining improves life expectancy by 25%.
Are curtains sold in pairs?
The short answer is not always. CUrtains are often sold in pairs but it is possible to buy single curtains. It is important to note that curtains are constructed in “panels” and a given panel may be narrow or broad – meaning one panel may be enough to cover a window, without the need for a pair.
The reason for choosing a single panel or multiple panels may relate more to the visual appeal than the size of window opening or space being camouflaged by a curtain. Oversized panels may disguise a narrow opening as a wide opening.
Are curtains included in the sale of a house?
A house’s attached components are generally considered part of the real estate being transferred in a sale. So this means anything that is fixed, which curtains generally aren’t!
Are curtains supposed to touch the floor?
No two homes are ever the same. “Identical” rooms still come with distinct heights, lengths, and widths. Dimensions may be disguised by drapery pattern, color, or fabrics. Panel widths vary. Length to floor may be dictated by aesthetics and not by specific window or object opening.
In a nutshell, standardization does not exist for curtains, but certain lengths are readily available in “stock sizes” or by “style,” i.e., panels designed in lengths of 24, 36, 63, 84, 95, 108, 120 or up to 144 inches. Choice of length in the bedroom, living room, or recreation room may be at floor level or at an aesthetic distance above floor level. The homeowner decides.
Can curtains be recycled?
Curtains may be recycled (depending on their fabric/materials), but it is important to check whether it is possible in your specific area. Fabric fiber, regardless of specifics, is a valuable commodity and may be used in a variety of new products.
Local waste management companies welcome inquiries to manage the disposal of curtain material and Some local charities welcome donations of these kinds of articles for resale. Curtains may also go into a fiber recycling program that raises funds for the charity, so it’s always worth doing your research when you wish to recycle a pair of curtains.
Can curtains be dyed?
The short answer is yes, but it’s not recommended. Fibers and materials vary from curtain to curtain and the minimum expected lifespan of a curtain appears to be less than five years, so when we consider this – it seems that color alteration is not worth the effort.
Dying curtains can be harsh on the fabric, and the color does not always come out well as some colors, dyes and materials just don’t mix well. A darker hew will tend to cover a lighter one, but color management is not so simple.
Dyes are often fiber specific, working on natural fibers but failing on synthetic, or vice versa. Reading dye specifications before use should help – but in short, dying curtains is not always the best idea
Can curtains reduce noise?
Curtains can reduce noise by limiting the vibrations created by unwanted sounds. Curtains with high fiber content (e.g., more threads per square inch or multiple layers) or heavy reflective material (e.g., metal foils or threads) reduce ambient noise arising from exterior sources by absorbing or reflecting the sound vibrations.
Can curtains be shortened (hemmed)?
Curtains can be shortened. Shortening curtains using an actual hemming application is limited by curtain length, the hem width, the fold of material within the hem, determination of sewing line, the finesse of the tailor, and materials available, e.g., hem tape, thread, measurement tools, etc.
Can curtains be steam-cleaned?
Some, but not all, curtains are amenable to steam cleaning. (Some steamers may “burn” fabrics.) Curtain product label and manufacturer recommendations may reveal the best cleaning options. The application of steam to hanging draperies and curtains removes folds and creases.
Can curtains go in the washing machine?
Curtains can often go in the washing machine, but you must always read the label and check your washing machine settings. In short, check out the curtain label to fully understand what the cleaning options are.
Generally, the “delicate” cycle, cool water, and slow spin settings will be OK for light cleaning, however, dryers should be avoided.
Can curtains be repaired?
Yes, curtains can be repaired. You can do minor repairs yourself with simple sewing skills – as technical, and spacing issues are potentially repairable. Obviously, if a drape is soiled or stained, the obvious repair is a little strategically applied soap or stain remover. If mounting hardware needs adjustment, a screwdriver and a new screw in the appropriate place is the fix. Wear and tear on curtain rods can be remedied with new parts, sometimes even by replacing a frayed drawstring.
But what about the curtain itself? Compromised hems suffering from tears or loss of stitching require special attention, and in these cases it is best to enlist the help of a tailor or textile company specializing in alterations. That is unless you are an extremely competent sewer, with an industrial level sewing machine.
III. Where To Buy Curtains
You’ll be able to find the perfect curtains for your needs, either in a store near you or online. There are dedicated brick-and-mortar stores specializing in curtains and textiles, so it is a good idea to do a search of your local area to see if there are any independent businesses that can help fulfill your needs.
In addition to these options, shopping online is also a popular way to purchase curtains and window treatments. Shopping online will give you seemingly endless options to find the curtains that are perfect for your room. Here are some of the most popular online destinations to shop for curtains.
- World Market
- 3 Day Blinds
- Home Depot
- Pier 1 Imports
- Bed Bath and Beyond
IV. Additional Considerations
There are a few other things you may want to consider, as you complete the look of your window treatments. You’ll want to give some thought to how you’re going to hang your curtains, the rod you’re going to use to hang them, and whether or not any additional accessories are required to complete the look, you’re trying to achieve.
1. Curtain Rods & Hardware
Another way to add a personal touch to your window treatment is the curtain rod you choose. Depending on the style of curtain you choose, the curtain rod may not be an important consideration. For example, if you go for a rod pocket or hidden tab curtain, you won’t be able to see the curtain rod once you’ve hung your curtains. However, with eyelet and grommet or tab top curtains, the curtain rod will be partially exposed.
Curtain rods are available in various lengths and thicknesses. Typically curtain rods are made of metal, but there are also many popular wooden options. Depending on the style you’re looking to achieve, you should have no problem locating a finish that’s perfect for your style.
Some curtain rods feature finials, which are decorative flourishes located at the end of some curtain rods. In addition to their decorative purpose, finials prevent curtains from sliding off the curtain rod. Occasionally, curtains sell as a package with the rod included, but they’re usually purchased separately.
2.Hanging Your Curtains
Hanging curtains isn’t rocket science but it can be a little bit confusing if you don’t know what you’re doing. Once you’ve selected your curtains and the hardware necessary to hang them, one of the final things you’ll want to consider is where you’re hanging them. It may seem self-explanatory, but you’d be surprised how many people hang their curtains incorrectly.
The most popular height for your curtains is called trim height. Trim height refers to the height of the top of your window.
If you’re looking to create a more dramatic look, you may opt to hang your curtains at ceiling height. Ceiling height curtains are hung just below the ceiling of a room and create a very dramatic floor to ceiling effect for your window treatments. This style can help elongate the look of your windows. People usually use this look on windows that are nearly ceiling height, to begin with.
Tiebacks allow you to create an additional look with your curtains. Without tiebacks, you’re able to have the curtains either opened or closed. But, with tiebacks, you’re able to draw the curtain over to one side to create a different, partially open look. Tiebacks are a popular addition to any style of curtain, especially classic styles. Sometimes, they come with the purchase of your curtains.