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Is There A Difference Between Curtains & Drapes?

sunlight on curtains near window

How To Make The Best Choice For Your Window Dressings

If you’re like me, you probably always thought curtains & drapes were the same thing.

Well they kind of are in the sense they’re both used as window dressings & often both terms are used interchangeably.

But there's a difference between curtains & drapes which can be handy to know when it comes to choosing window décor, as well as the cleaning & maintenance of window furnishings.

So what's difference between curtains & drapes? The short answer is that curtains are generally made from lighter & even sheer fabrics & come in a wide variety of colours, shades & patterns. Drapes, on the other hand, aren’t normally as heavily patterned & are usually made from more luxurious materials & will be heavier & often lined to block out light.

Are There Advantages To Choosing One Over The Other?

There can be, depending on what purpose you want them to serve.

So let’s dive in a bit deeper into these 2 styles of window dressings.

What Are Curtains?

grey curtains against white sheer curtains

The word itself seems to have derived from the French "curtine", the Greek "cortina" & the Latin "cortem".

All pretty much describing the same thing, a piece of cloth to cover a window, bed etc to provide privacy & keep out the light.

Curtains do have some different characteristics to drapes though.

1. More Widely Used For Home Décor

Curtains are readily available in many colours, fabrics, patterns & textures.

Whatever your décor, it won’t be a problem finding curtains to match.

2. Variety of Sizes

Curtains come in a variety of sizes to fit any window & can be custom made as well.

Because curtains come in various sizes, it’s easy to find the right match for your window size & height.

Curtains are more suited to being shorter in length if you don’t want them all the way to the floor.

3. More Practical

Very functional & practical for any room.

A heavier curtain matched with window blinds is a great combination for the bedroom, as you can let light in during the day & keep it darker for those weekend mornings when you want to sleep in.

This is also a good combination for living rooms to shut out light if you want to watch telly or have more privacy in the evening.

Lighter or sheer curtains are great for allowing the light in & keeping your privacy during the day.

What Are Drapes?

gold & silver luxurious window drapes

Originally, the word drape meant "to decorate with cloth hangings".

To drape means to "cover or adorn with cloth".

But nowadays when we're talking about window dressings, we understand what drapes are.

So how are they different to curtains?

Like curtains, they are sold in pairs.

But drapes have a few minor differences.

1. More Formal

That’s why you’ll see drapes in high end restaurants & hotels.

A more formal window dressing may suit some room décor, but in other circumstances can look out of place or overbearing.

2. Heavier

Drapes are made from heavier fabrics & are often lined.

If you really want a room to be dark, then depending how well they fit to the window, drapes will block out all outside light.

Because they hang heavier & have a backing, they tend to hold their structure & don’t easily blow around in a breeze.

3. Hang To The Floor

Curtains can also, but drapes are made to hang right to the floor, sometimes even creating a puddling effect.

Again, this gives a more luxurious look, but may not always be practical in some circumstances.

4. Pleated

Unlike curtains, drapes are generally pleated with a variety of pleated patterns available.

5. Not Always As Suitable

Providing the windows are a similar size, curtains can be switched to different rooms.

This isn’t generally possible with drapes, as often they are custom made.

Also, due to their different aesthetics, they may not match the décor of another room.

Are Curtains Easier To Hang Than Drapes?

two women hanging curtains

There are differences between hanging curtains & drapes.

Although drapes aren’t difficult to hang, curtains are definitely quicker & simpler.

How To Hang Curtains

Because curtains are lighter, generally all you need is a standard curtain rod & screws to attach it to the wall or window frame.

There are various styles of curtain rods to achieve different looks, as well as different hanging methods.

5 Ways To Hang Curtains

1. Eyelets

There’s the more popular eyelet system, all you need to do is feed the curtains through the rod.

2. Tracks

You can also run the curtains on a track system which can completely hide the track itself.

3. Pocket

Sheer curtains are sometimes hung using a rod or pole pocket.

The curtain is turned back on itself to make a pocket for the rod to slip through.

4. Rings

Curtain rings are another simple hanging method.

Curtains will be specifically made with the attachments sewn in.

5. Loops

There's also tab top curtains, where loops are made so as to be able to slide through the rod.

Modern sheer curtains often come in this style.

Because curtains are lighter, there's even ways to hang them without rods & the need to drill holes in the wall.

How To Hang Drapes

Drapes can also be hung using the above mentioned methods.

But bear in mind they can be weightier than curtains, especially really thick drapes with lining.

But they're not as easy to swap out as curtains & often require slightly heftier hanging methods.

So you'll need to take this into consideration, more so if you're mounting the rod onto drywall or somewhere that won’t accommodate heftier screws.

Drapes are often hung with valances, or pelmets, depending which part of the world you're in.

This can create an even more luxurious feel & finished look.

But they also creates a bit more work.


Related Article:


Are Drapes More Expensive Than Curtains?

woman holding money in front of blue drapes

It’s difficult to say if one's more expensive than the other, as there's a few variables to consider.

1. There’s cheap curtains, made from cheaper materials & mass produced.

2. There’s also more expensive curtains made from quality fabrics & hanging hardware.

3. Curtains can also be custom made which can be pricier.

But all of the above applies to drapes too.

At the end of the day, curtains & drapes aren’t that dissimilar a product.

Custom made drapes with quality rods & hanging hardware, paired with valances or pelmets, will definitely be pricier than a set of typical curtains.

But whichever you decide on, shopping around will determine which is going to suit your budget & décor.

Do Drapes Last Longer Than Curtains?

lady shopping for curtains

As far as which will last the longest, cheaper curtain fabrics without lining aren’t going to weather the sun as well as better fabrics with lining, such as blackout curtains.

By their nature, drapes are made with heavier fabrics & most often lined. This means they can last longer & generally have a longer warranty.

I had a look around at some curtain manufacturers & they tend to offer a 3 to 5 year warranty.

The numbers are:

  • Sheer Curtains - 3 Years

  • Glass Fibre Curtains - 3 Years

  • Drapes Unlined - 4 Years

  • Drapes Lined - 5 Years

To be honest, I think it depends on whether you have tinted windows & just how much direct sun comes through.

I’ve had cheapish curtains from Target for at least 8 years & they still look fine & I live in sunny Western Australia!

Curtains are going to be easier & cheaper to clean though, as most times you can wash them yourself.


Related Article:


Drapes may need to be professionally cleaned, which is more expensive.

Curtains & drapes naturally attract dust & absorb odours, so it’s recommended to clean them every 3 to 6 months.

Unless there’s a smoker in the house, I find this could be too frequent for most people.

But then I’m a guy! What do I know about cleaning?

But regular vacuuming, dusting & wiping down will keep the need for more serious cleaning at bay.

Final Thoughts

Maybe you’ve heard that saying “ same same but different “.

Curtains & drapes probably fall into that category.

But knowing the difference between the 2 will help you decide which style of window dressing is going to suit your needs.

Please feel free to share this article, always appreciated.


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