Window treatments are often categorized into curtains, drapes, shades, and blinds. Depending on your intended purpose and design preferences, you will most likely be using two or more types of window treatments when you go from room to room. This makes the process of choosing the right window treatments seem a bit daunting. However, when you hit that right spot, even the most affordable curtains and drapes can match the effect of opulent, designer window treatments.
Here’s a quick guide on window treatments to help you choose.
People usually think that curtains and drapes are the same thing, but industry experts often make a distinction between the two. Simply put, curtains are usually made of lightweight materials, as opposed to drapes, which are typically made with heavier fabrics. What’s more, curtains come in variety of lengths, from very short tiered curtains (or cafe curtains, which are often used in kitchens) to floor-grazing panels that give the illusion of height. Drapes, on the other hand, extend from the top of the window, sometimes even the ceiling, to the floor.
These two primary differences make curtains very versatile. You can practically use them in every room in your home—even the bathroom! Polyester and cotton work best for living rooms and bedrooms as these materials are easier to care for and can withstand more wear and tear compared to other fabrics. Linen and lace are more elegant choices, although depending on the construction, these curtains may need specific care. Meanwhile, cotton may be the best choice for kitchen and bathroom valances, as these are breathable and don’t trap odor.
Because they’re usually made of thin, sometimes sheer fabrics, curtains don’t block too much light, making them ideal for living rooms, breakfast nooks, and other areas in the home that see the most use during the daytime. However, it’s wrong to think that curtains can’t provide privacy just because they still allow light to stream in; it’s just a matter of choosing the right material. Thicker cotton, linen, or polyester curtains in solid colors or patterns work best in these cases.
Apart from the above-mentioned differences, drapes are also different from curtains in that they are often lined with fabrics that can partially or completely block out all outside light. Thicker linings may even be able to block or muffle noise. This makes drapes ideal for the bedroom, as they not only provide privacy but also make the space more conducive to sleeping.
If you’re going for a luxurious, elegant look, drapes are also the perfect choice, with velvet and silk among the most preferred materials. Drapes are also typically manufactured in solid colors, but when manufacturers do use patterns, these are usually understated.
While curtains and drapes can be hung in similar ways (using grommets, rods, metal rings, fabric tabs, and more), the hardware used for drapes must be strong enough to support the weight of the fabric. Drapes also usually have pleated tops, which add to their more formal, classic appearance. The different types of pleats include the pinch (or French), finger, butterfly, bell, cartridge, inverted, and accordion pleats.
Similar to drapes and curtains, shades and blinds are sometimes referred to interchangeably, but the main difference is that shades don’t have the slats or louvers of blinds. Instead, they are made of a large, continuous piece of fabric that can be pulled up or down through a simple pulley mechanism. Shades are also made to fit within the window frame, unlike curtains or drapes that may hang well below bottom of your windows.
Depending on the style, window shades can also match your design preferences. They can be simple, utilitarian, casual, or even formal. Roller shades are among the most inexpensive and easiest to maintain of all window treatments. Depending on the material used, they can either reduce or completely block out glare, and they are also very easy to clean with even just a wet cloth.
Another popular style is the Roman shade, which pulls up into multiple folds. Again, depending on the materials used, they can also be used to block out the sun and other light sources. There are also pleated shades, which pull up into multiple, smaller pleats. Finally, there are also what are known as honeycomb or cellular shades. They are named after the honeycomb-patterned pockets between their front and back panels, which act as air traps that reduce heat loss in the winter, even as they cool down a room in the summer.
Blinds are often made of plastic, vinyl, aluminum, or wooden slats or louvers, although more modern variants may even use leather or composite materials. The slats can be tilted open or close at different angles, depending on the amount of light you want to let in. Similar to shades, they are also made to fit within the window frame.
Style-wise, blinds are rather simple and rigid in appearance. However, this actually makes them easier to dress up using valances, sheer curtains, and other complementary design elements. They may come in various colors and tones as well. If you’re searching for a more sophisticated look, opting for wood or faux wood blinds may be the best choice. Faux wood, in particular, are easier to clean and can come in a wide range of tones, from dark red mahogany to a light pickled oak shade.
The most common style of blinds are those with horizontal louvers. However, for taller windows or patio doors, there are also vertical blinds available in the market. These are commonly made of vinyl, though you may also find vertical blinds made of heavy fabric.
When choosing your window treatments, knowing is just half the battle. With a wide variety of options available today, it’s best to visit a design shop or browse for designs online to find a style you truly want. You can even ask for fabric swatches and material samples so you can check if it matches your design plans. Coupled with your honest assessment on where and how you’re going to use your window treatments, you might be pleasantly surprised at how the finished product would look like!