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Curtains vs. Drapes

Room with white walls and brown fabric curtains.

What are the Main Differences?

You’ve probably heard the terms drapes and curtains used interchangeably, and while both are fabric panels, they’re not exactly the same type of window treatment.

Whether you should opt for curtains or drapes all depends on the look you’re going for, as well as the amount of privacy and natural light you want.

To help you make the best decision for your needs, check out this overview of the main differences between the two.

Fabric type. Material is probably the biggest differentiator between drapes and curtains. Drapes are constructed from thicker fabrics, such as silk or velvet, and are often lined, which helps block glare as well as adds insulation at the window. In addition, the thicker fabrics lend a more formal feel to a room.

Curtains are often made from sheer fabrics, like cotton or polyester. Because they’re sheer, they allow more light into a space, as well as give a room a more casual look, making them ideal for kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms.

Fabric length. Drapes are usually floor-length or longer, so that they puddle slightly on the floor. Curtains, on the other hand, generally fall to the windowsill or just a few inches below it.

Benefits. If you desire the flexibility of privacy and light control, drapes are your better option. Their heavier fabric combined with their length helps block light—as well as helps absorb sound. If your room’s aesthetics call for an airy window treatment that lets in lots of natural light, and privacy isn’t a concern, then curtains would be good option.

Installation requirements. While you can hang both drapes and curtains on a rod, you’ll need a sturdier rod to support drapes than you would with curtains, simply because they’re heavier. You can also hang curtains from tension rods, which you can’t do with drapery.

Cleaning. Drapes are generally more high maintenance than curtains because they often require professional cleaning. Curtains are usually machine-washable (on a gentle cycle in cool water).

Gray and white fabrics.
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