How To Choose Curtains & Drapes


Curtains and drapes are an important part of a room’s aesthetics. They also contribute to a home’s comfort by providing privacy, regulating the amount of light coming in, insulating against cold temperatures, and buffering outside noise.

When you shop for window dressings, however, the aesthetics will be uppermost in your mind: What size curtains? What fabric? What color? It can be quite overwhelming. Here, we hope to help you sort through these elements to make the decision more manageable and the result more successful.

The first thing that you need to know for our “Curtains and Drapes 101” is the difference between the two. It will save you time shopping, and you will avoid convoluted conversations when a consultant is assisting you. Best for the two of you to be on the same page.

(We will use “curtain” here for both in most cases.)

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How Long Should Curtains and Drapes Be?

How Wide Should Curtains and Drapes Be?

How Do You Know Which Headers to Use?

A header is, simply, the top of the curtain, the part where curtain meets rod. The header can make a huge difference in the appearance of your curtains when hung. There are many kinds of headers; we are going to give you a quick overview of the most common.

Pleated Headers

There are many kinds of pleated headers, from pencil pleats to flat box pleats. Pleats give a more formal or classic look, for example:

Rod Pocket Headers

A channel across the top of the curtains holds the rod for a casual gathered effect. Choose for curtains that will not be opened and closed regularly. Or use tie-backs to keep the curtains open.

Grommet (Eyelet) Headers

The grommet header has a circular opening for the curtain rod to slide through. You can move the curtains easily along the rod. These curtains are modern and casual with the rod becoming part of the décor.

Tab Top Headers

Tab Top headers have flat loops (tabs) of material that the rod passes through. The look is casual with very little gathering. The curtains do not move easily over the rod and doing so frequently will result in worn out tabs.

Silver Gray Velvet Polyester Solid Blackout Thermal Pinch Pleat Single Curtain Panel
Charcoal Modern Cotton Blend Solid Room Darkening Rod Pocket Curtain Panel
Beige Polyester Solid Blackout Thermal Rod Pocket Curtains
Navy Polyester Solid Blackout Thermal Grommet Curtain Panels
Gray Polyester Striped Light Filtering Outdoor Tab Top Single Curtain Panel
Soft Blue Floral Polyester Semi Sheer Tab Top Single Curtain Panel

What Fabrics Are Best for Curtains and Drapes?

The type of material is essential to achieving the look you want, not only for the windows but also for the décor of the entire room.

Voile (or sheer) curtains let in the most natural daylight while providing privacy. They have an appealing soft, airy look.

The openwork of lace makes these curtains suitable as sheers. More often, they add vintage charm to small windows.

Cotton comes in a wide variety of finishes and thicknesses. It can be light enough for the sun room at the beach and weighty enough for a formal dining room. Most cotton fabric is easy to maintain, durable and colorfast.

Linen curtains, whether natural or synthetic blend, diffuse light beautifully through the textured weave. Natural linen adds an earthy note to your décor; dyed or embroidered linen is elegant.

Silk curtains are softly luminous with a richness of color. The silk may be be smooth, textured or embroidered. These curtains need to be protected from sunlight.

Traditionally made from silk, velvet is opulent. Drapes are heavy and, as such, keep out the sun, cold and noise. A fabric this grand needs a large window.

Do not make the mistake of downgrading synthetics. Many are high-quality fabrics, durable and permanent press. Some synthetic fabrics are able to block UV rays—especially important in areas where radiation reflects off of snow, sand or water. Very often, synthetics combine the best of the natural fabrics, for example, a cotton/linen/silk blend.

Silk Lace Black Solid Sheer Thermal Grommet Curtain Panels
Cotton Black White Plaid Rod Pocket Curtain Panels
Purity Linen Sheer Rod Pocket Single Curtain Panel
Silver Silk Solid Semi Sheer Grommet Curtain Panels
Ivory Synthetic Solid Sheer Grommet Single Curtain Panel
Shantung Aztec Gold Cotton Blend Rayon Solid Rod Pocket Single Curtain Panel

How Do I Choose the Color of Curtains and Drapes

Color is, without a doubt, a very personal decision, and there are various ways to get to the perfect color for you. We will provide some general “rules” as long as you promise to keep in mind that rules are made to be broken!

Light Colors

Beige Polyester Solid Blackout Thermal Grommet Curtain Panels
Pearl Polyester Solid Blackout Grommet Single Patio Curtain Panel
White Polyester Microfiber Solid Color Opaque Grommet Curtain Panels
Grey Polyester Flower Semi Sheer Grommet Single Curtain Panel
Vanilla Polyester Sateen Solid Blackout Thermal Grommet Single Curtain Panel
White Cotton Solid Semi Sheer Cotton Rod Pocket Curtain Panels

Dark Colors

Gray Purple Polyester Semi Sheer Rod Pocket Single Curtain Panel
Charcoal Polyester Geometric Blackout Thermal Grommet Single Curtain Panel
Navy Polyester Floral Room Darkening Thermal Rod Pocket Curtain Panels
Black Polyester Solid Blackout Thermal Grommet Window Panels
Polyester Green Floral Semi Sheer Outdoor Grommet Curtain Panels
Navy Polyester Room Darkening Rod Pocket Curtain Panels

Color also depends on how you visualize the curtains’ role in the décor.

In selecting a color from the existing décor, you can employ the 60-30-10 rule.

Scientists long ago determined that 60-30-10 is the Golden Ratio—a proportion universally appealing to the human eye. Interior decorators use it faithfully. Often, even when we are not conscious of the rule, the colors we choose for our surroundings work out that way. So look around the room and use one of these colors for your curtains:

Curtains inject personality into your décor, and you want that to be your personality. Sometimes you need to be willing to take that leap, as risky as it may seem. Just be sure your curtains are returnable in a reasonable amount of time!

The Game Plan

One last piece of advice: Buy the best that you can afford. Curtain are a long-term investment so, as much as you are able, choose quality and what you really love over cost and something that is “good enough.”