5 Expert Tips To Choose Curtains & Drapes

If you're looking to give your home a refined, finished look, it's a good bet that carefully chosen curtains and drapes are a good place to start! Choose a good pair of curtains or drapes to add color to your space and some softness to the shapes in your home!

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What are the different types of curtains & drapes?

There are almost as many types of curtains and drapes as there are windows and rooms to display them in. You could easily get overwhelmed by the sheer number! We'll break it down for you.

The different types of curtains are described by the differing headers they have. Headers are the top two to three inches of the curtains or drapes, which help the curtain or drape adhere to the curtain rod.

Here are the six most common types of curtains & drapes (as distinguished by their headers) that you'll see:

  • Pinch pleat: Curtains with pleats sewn into the top of the curtain itself are known as pinch pleats. They have a lot of fullness, which can help add to the look of the room.
  • Box pleat: Box pleats are inverted, and have a box-looking shape (as opposed to the pinched look of the above pleats). These are best with heavier fabrics.
  • Eyelet or grommet: Grommet or eyelet curtains & drapes have large, metal-lined holes through which a curtain rod can easily go. These give off an industrial look that can be very modern.
  • Rod-pocket: The top inches of rod-pocket curtains and drapes are folded over and sewn down to create a pocket for the curtain rod. These have a seamless look for a curtain that truly melts into the background.
  • Tab-top: These curtains have loops sewn into the back for an easily gathered look. Choose a lighter fabric for this type of enclosure.
  • Pencil pleat: These  curtains have tiny pin-tuck pleats---about the size of pencils---in each of them. These have a refined look---best reserved for thin fabrics.
New Pink Polyester Grommet Curtain Panels
Gray Polyester Tab Top Single Curtain Panel
Gray Polyester Pencil Pleat Single Curtain Panel
Indigo Geometric Semi Sheer Grommet Panel Pair
Henna Polyester Rod Pocket Single Curtain Panel
Linen Pinch Pleat Single Curtain Panel
Cotton Rod Pocket Single Curtain Panel
Cream Polyester Rod Pocket Single Curtain Panel

Will light filter through my curtains and drapes?

Whether light will filter through your curtains and drapes depends on the type of material you choose. If you choose a lighter material, such as breezy cotton or near-transparent voile, then a lot of light will filter through.

However, if you choose a heavier duck canvas, pleated and layered linen, or velvet, then no light will filter through at all. The latter may be best in a bedroom, or in a room that you'd rather not get much sun (such as an entertainment room). Putting lighter curtains in living rooms can make the rooms feel larger and more full of movement.

Cocoa Max Blackout Thermal Grommet Single Curtain Panel
Chocolate Blackout Thermal Rod Pocket Single Curtain Panel
White Max Blackout Thermal Grommet Curtain Panels
Velvet Blackout Thermal Pinch Pleat Single Curtain Panel
Vanilla Sateen Room Darkening Single Curtain Panel
Cotton Semi Sheer Single Curtain Panel
Lavender Polyester Sheer Curtain Panels
Light Orange Polyester Sheer Single Curtain Panel

What materials are best for curtains and drapes?

The type of material you'll need depends on the effect you're going for with your curtains! Let's walk through this: If you're going for a…

  • Ethereal, Breezy Look: Choose lightweight curtains that will lift and scatter with an incoming breath of air! These will include voile, cotton, and gauze.
  • Formal and Classic Look: For a more traditional take on curtains that will, for the most part, stay put, you'll want to go with a velvet or heavy linen. This will make the room feel more stately and can be used to block light.
  • Light-Blocking Look: In a bedroom or other rooms which you're hoping can be dim in the evening to help provide a restful atmosphere, it may be a good idea to opt for a very thick fabric that will stay put and be dense enough to keep the rays of the sun outside. A good choice is a heavy canvas.

The more light and movement you want to have in your living room, the thinner fabric you should choose; the less light and motion you want, the thicker the fabric you should go. Voile, gauze, and cotton are the thinnest fabrics; velvet and canvas are the thickest and fabrics like linen are a good midpoint if you'd like to have flexibility as to how you can style the room.

Aqua Polyester Single Curtain Panel
Burgundy Velvet Single Curtain Panel
Chambray Linen Single Curtain Panel
Gold Cotton Blend Rayon Single Curtain Panel
Cotton Blend Semi Sheer Grommet Curtain Panels
Pink Linen Single Curtain Panel
Extra Wide Voile Light Filtration Curtain Panels
White Cotton Single Curtain Panel

How should I pick curtain colors to best match my interior?

With curtains, because they are so large, it can usually be a good idea to pick a neutral color so that the curtains recede into the background effectively. Especially if your room is busier or more colorful, selecting a white or cream color can help make the room feel less heavy.

However, on the other hand, if your room is mostly minimalistic and in lighter colors, selecting a curtain or drape in a bright jewel tone can create a dramatic focal point in your room. Consider a bright green or royal blue for a gorgeous statement piece.

Patterns can spice up your interior too. If there are no patterns currently in your decor, you can go with a bolder design to draw attention to your beautifully decorated window. If you already have patterns in your room, for example, a geometric or damask pattern on your cushions, try choosing something that will match the current style for a cohesive look.

Black Polyester Rod Pocket Curtain Panels
Navy Polyester Grommet Single Curtain Panel
Gray Yellow Polyester Single Curtain Panel
Winter White Polyester Single Curtain Panel
Light Beige Linen Single Curtain Panel
Green Silk Paisley Thermal Curtain Panels
Marine Polyester Single Curtain Panel
Gray Polyester Animal Print Curtain Panels

How should I measure and choose a good width for my curtains?

Curtains and drapes tend to come in specific sizes, geared to cover standard sizes of windows. Before you do anything else, you should think about the size you'd wish for them to cover. Grab a measuring tape and find out the exact width of the window or other space that you'd like to cover with a curtain.

Before you're done, consider three additional mitigating factors:

  • If you're working with a header, you should find a curtain that matches the exact width of the header---so go with that number, not the window measurement.
  • If you're going for a full, bunched-up look, you'll want to get curtains that are longer than your windows or headers by about a third to a half. (This should only be done with thinner, lighter curtains.)
  • Finally, if you're not using a header, consider adding perhaps a foot to either side of your window to cover with the curtain. This will create an optical illusion that makes your windows look bigger! If you're taking advantage of this trick, add 24-36" to the width of your window measurement.

When you're shopping for curtains, shop with your measurements in mind. If you find that your measurement is between standard sizes, always size up!

Jessica started out as an interior photographer, but her love of pretty settings took her to the field of interior design, where she can combine two of her greatest passions, creating and then capturing the beauty of homes.