A curtain is a window treatment that hangs from a rod above a window. Curtains come in various materials, often fabrics of varying density and weight. You can install curtains to block or mute light, help control a room’s temperature, or add accents of color or pattern to an interior space. Some curtains are functional (blackout curtains block exterior light), while others are mainly decorative. Curtains are typically a combination of function and design and can shape your home decor’s aesthetics and comfort level.
Curtains come in different styles to fit the needs of interior designers and home decorators. Some of the most common curtain styles include:
Panel pair: A panel pair of curtains hang from a single bar above the window. The two panels cover the entire length of the window and often reach down to just above the floor. The curtains pull together to meet in the middle to block exterior light and can be drawn to each side of the window to let light in.
Single-panel: The single-panel curtain is a singular piece of material that hangs from the curtain rod. You can draw the single panel to one side or the other, which gives the space a modern, asymmetrical look. Single panels can work well in living rooms or bedrooms.
Valance: A valence is a narrow strip of material covering only the very upper portion of a window. Valances typically feature a pleated swag that creates a half-circle shape atop the window. You can pair a valance with other curtains or use it solely as a decorative accent.
Window curtain set: A complete curtain set typically includes two panels, a valence, rods, and tiebacks. Sets come with pre-coordinated colors and textures, making it more of a simple, one-stop-shop option.
Window tier: These curtains cover the lower portion of a window frame. Window tiers allow for some privacy while still allowing light to enter the room. Cafe curtains are an excellent example of a classic type of window tier.
Window scarf: A window scarf is typically a single piece of lightweight material that drapes across the curtain rod, falling to either side of the window. Window scarves do not obstruct the window view or light emission and are a good bridge between classic and contemporary styles.
Curtain liner: You can place a curtain liner behind a single or pair curtain to help with light and noise reduction, increase privacy, and assist with temperature regulation. Curtain liners are also helpful to hang behind shower curtains, as they can be waterproof.
Pleated curtains: Pleats are small folds sewn into the fabric of the curtain, creating a repeating visual pattern and providing some additional density. The pleating usually occurs at the top of the curtain and can be narrow and tubular, as in pencil pleats, or wide and flat, such as box pleats or pinch pleats. Curtains with a pinch at the bottom are goblet pleats.
Curtains come in a wide variety of different fabrics. Either natural or synthetic, curtain fabrics correspond to the specific aesthetic and functional requirements of the designer or homeowner. Standard fabrics for window coverings include:
Cotton: Cotton is soft, relatively lightweight, and comes in many different colors, designs, and textures. Cotton curtains can be sheer or heavily woven to dampen light and noise.
Linen: Linen is a natural fiber like cotton, although it is more heavyweight and more textured. Linen curtains offer somewhat more privacy than cotton, but their rougher texture means that they take more effort to keep clean.
Velvet: Velvet is a heavy, dense fabric. It has a distinctive texture with a plush, light-catching sheen, and it is an excellent choice for keeping light and sound to a minimum. This opacity also means that velvet is perfect for maximum privacy. One drawback is that you must get velvet curtains professionally cleaned.
Silk: Silk curtains also require professional cleaning, but unlike velvet, they are almost sheer, allowing much more light to pass through. Their highly recognizable sheen makes them a popular choice for adding luxury to the decor of a room.
Lace: Lace is a sheer fabric, meaning it allows ample light to pass through. Sheer curtains are for decorative purposes, as the privacy and light-reducing effects are minimal. You can pair lace curtains with other fabrics, adding to the decorative possibilities in your window dressing.
Polyester: Polyester is a synthetic fabric that’s inexpensive and highly versatile. While it can imitate the properties of natural fibers, from heavyweight to semi-sheer, it isn’t as high-quality. Polyester is also flammable and can absorb odors.
Acrylic: This higher-quality synthetic fiber offers durability and sound insulation. It’s also hypoallergenic, resists fading, and can be dyed and designed in a wide variety of colors. Acrylic’s versatility and durability make it a good choice for rooms that get a lot of use, such as living rooms.
Tips for Choosing the Right Curtains
When you’re shopping for curtains, consider aesthetics and functionally.
Determine the number of panels. Which windows are you going to put your curtains on? Are you doing the whole house or apartment, or are you starting simple with one room?
Choose your style. Your curtain choice is one element of the overall look and feel of the space you’re decorating, and because of curtains’ eye-level prominence and proximity to windows, the decision can be a decisive one. Consider the room design and paint colors. Are you going for a modern or classic look? Does symmetry matter? Are you seeking a lush, romantic aesthetic or a sleek, airy one?
Think about function. The control of light is an essential element of interior design. Heavy curtains, such as those made from velvet, can completely block outside light. Lace, on the other end of the spectrum, blocks almost no light. Is privacy paramount? Or is it critical that you keep the space light-filled?