It can be hard to tell curtains and drapes apart. Both are used in pairs of panels, hung on windows for the control of light, among other things. The main differences in drapes and curtains are the different intentions or uses for them, and those result in structural differences.
Dimensionally, curtains will often cover approximately the area of the window. Sometimes they cover less than a whole window, like in the case of café curtains. Drapes are never so small, tending to reach the floor and sometimes the ceiling, having enough fabric that they may still lay in pleats or folds even when fully closed.
Find out more about how to know what’s on your windows:
Curtains and sheers, which are a type of curtain, are built from lightweight fabrics, and won’t filter out enough light to darken a room. They’re generally cheaper to buy than drapes, because they’re less expensive to produce. Unlike drapes, they’re not usually lined and tend to provide less privacy when used alone. They’re light enough to be paired with drapes, blinds, or shutters without making windows appear bulky, thereby adding privacy.
Blackout curtains are a lower-cost alternative to quality drapes. They’re made of either tightly woven, dense or layered fabric such as felt, velvet or suede. A blackout liner, which often is a component of blackout curtains, can be added to a regular curtain to create the same effect. The purpose is to keep light from streaming into the home where it isn’t wanted, but they also help insulate by blocking direct sunlight.
Drapes are much heavier than curtains, and can have thermal and/or room-darkening features.
Only heavy materials that are not made from sheer or see-through fabrics are considered drapes. They’re generally floor-length and designed to block out light and to seal out cold during winter months. Drapes cost more than traditional curtains, because they contain more fabric than their window counterparts; and are generally of a higher quality too. Good drapes help homeowners save on their heating bills throughout the year.
Really, all drapes are thermal insulators. Some are designated specifically as “thermal drapes” and their insulatory abilities have been further enhanced. Thermal drapes can significantly boost a home’s energy conservation.
Windows are one of the largest avenues of heat loss in a home. Glass is a poor insulator, and the seal of the window degrades over time. Even though thermal drapes also filter out unwanted natural light, their first job is to insulate the home. Thermal drapes are either double- or triple-layered heavy fabric with a thick backing of insulate material and often a polyester-film vapor barrier. Thermal drapes are often made of 100-percent cotton, wool or polyester, and coated on the window side with a layer of protection from ultraviolet damage. Because of the thick insulatory batting, they can act as a sound barrier too.
Curtains and Drapes: Which Do You Need?
If you want some affordable privacy, curtains are probably for you. If you want to make an investment in excellent light, sound, and temperature management, drapes are a safe way to go. To have your needs
Whatever style of home you have, windows are one of the first things a guest will notice. The way you treat your windows largely contributes to the ambiance in your home. Many people fail to consider the other important thing that window treatments affect: the heat and light that streams in from the sun.
They say a dose of sunshine is good for the soul. But too much sun shining in through your windows can create an uncomfortably warm environment. You can end up with unwanted glare on TV and computer screens and painful, strained eyes. Your belongings can even be bleached by the harsh light day after day.
When you have windows that receive direct sunlight, it becomes important to gain all the control over light entry that you can. Two options is not enough: wide open window coverings, with unobscured light or pitch darkness with black-out curtains or shutters.
The key is to build your window coverings in layers.
You can combine a sheer window covering for light filtering with heavier curtains that when used together block a large percentage of light. This gives you 4 light levels: full sun, filtered light with sheers, more light blocked with heavier curtains only, and maximum light blocked when both are used. This “layering” model is the way to create the most versatility possible for you.
Lined “blackout” curtains, or blinds in opaque materials like wood and metals are ideal for reducing light entry sharply. Alternatively, shutters can often block out light entirely. If true darkness during daylight hours is something you want, you’ll need to incorporate a layer of window covering from these categories.
When layering, you do need to consider space and how the window treatments will work together. It’s easy to have two styles of fabric covering, like sheer drapes and heavy curtains, on two different rods. But there are more choices than that! You can have inset-blinds or roll-shades within the window shape, and a shutter or curtain that sits outside the frame. There are many ways to incorporate different light filtering levels, you just have to be a little creative.
Understanding Your Home Light Level Layering Choices
Curtains: Curtains are among the most simple to make, operate, fit and maintain. You can choose fabrics with from almost completely sheer to more light blocking, although they’re unlined. It’s important to keep in mind, that although a curtain’s fabric may block heat and light well, because curtains don’t fit window frames closely, there will be entry of heat and light from the edges of the window treatment unless to take action to prevent that with a shutter, shade, or blind.
Blinds: When closed and lowered on a sunny window, reflective blinds (white or near white) are capable of reducing heat gain by 45 percent. And because they fit right into window frames, this is very efficient and effective.
Shutters: It’s worth pointing out that shutters can be both inside and outside. Shutters offer a classic, elegant look that privileges both function and style equally. Even sturdier than blinds, shutters can be expected to last up to 20 years! Shutters help to control incoming light, offer privacy when closed and help to insulate against heat, cold, and even sound. Shutters are impressively solid.
Shades: Shades, are “soft” treatments, made of fabric, that can be raised or lowered over the window. Although they do not allow for light-filtering adjustments like blinds, they come in varying levels of opacity. There are three main types of shades: roller, which pulls down from a valance tube like wrapping paper; Roman, which cascade in elegant folds like drapery panels; and cellular or “honeycomb” shades, which are made of pleated chambers that trap air and provide insulation. The more layers, the more energy efficiency.
Drapes: Drapes are heavier than curtains, and generally have a lining. With or without lining, they are highly light blocking and insulatory. They filter out the gaze of your nosey neighbor extremely well, and tent to extend far outside the natural window frame, truly keeping light and heat (or cold) out.
If you need help creating your plan to mix-and-match the right window treatments for your needs, contact Armand’s Drapery today. We would be happy to lend our expertise.