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How to choose the right drapes for every room

Drapes are a decorating investment. Unlike curtains, which are more interchangeable, drapes are not often switched out seasonally. They require more labor-intensive installation and usually a significantly larger financial investment than curtains. Having the right drapes as part of your decor can not only enhance the look of a room but can actually help reduce energy costs, too! 

So, if you’re not going to change your drapes often, here’s how to choose some you’ll really love!

What is the difference between curtains and drapes?

There are plenty of things that curtains and drapes have in common:

  • They are both used to decorate windows and to provide a level of privacy and light protection.
  • Both come in many different fabrics, colors, and styles to work with a variety of different decorating looks.
  • They both can finish off a room and perfectly coordinate with furnishings and upholstery. 

But, there are differences between drapes and curtains: differences that impact pricing, which room you’re likely to use them in, and more. 

Here’s how drapes are different from curtains:

  • Drapes are usually made from thicker fabrics and are typically lined to give them added structure.
  • Drapes tend to be more formal and are usually used in more formal rooms in the home, such as dining rooms and living rooms, rather than in family rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, or home offices.
  • Drapes are usually made in longer lengths, often flowing just a few inches above the floor.
  • Heavy drapes are sometimes used to provide added insulation to a room — keeping cold air from entering a room through drafty windows, and preventing cool, air-conditioning to escape in the warmer months.
  • Hanging drapes is usually more labor intensive due to their longer length and heavier fabric. Many times, hanging drapes requires hiring professionals rather than something that can be done by DIYers on the weekend.
  • With heavier fabrics and full linings, drapes usually require dry cleaning rather than machine washing.
  • Drapes are typically opened and closed via a pulley-system drawstring on one side of the window.
Petinov Sergey Mihilovich/Shutterstock

Choosing the perfect drapes for every room!

Now that you’ve decided on drapes over curtains, how do you select the perfect ones for your home? Start by which room they are going to be hung in.

For a formal living room or dining room with traditional decor:

  • Look for drapes in luxurious velvet, satin, or raw silk fabrics and pinch-pleated or Euro-pleat styles that are timelessly elegant and offer lots of lush folds and draping.
  • For maximum privacy and energy efficiency, choose lined styles.
  • Drapes should match or coordinate with paint colors and perfectly complement furnishings. For a true decorator look, go monochromatic in neutral shades of gray, beige, ivory, or white or for an ultra formal, traditional look opt for rich, deep tones of ruby, hunter green, or navy blue. 

For more contemporary rooms:

  • Designers and home decorators opt for the more modern appeal of grommet drapes. Drapery panels have a sewn-in round grommet of wood or metal that supports the curtains on the rod and gives the drapery more contemporary appeal.
  • Grommeted draperies look best in luxurious raw silk, elegant linen, or matte satin fabrics.
  • Grommet styles play up the beauty of not only the drapes themselves, but also the rods, so keep colors simple and classic so the focus remains on the drapes and not on the color.

In general, stay away from fads in color, pattern, and style, because quality draperies can be a significant investment purchase that should withstand decorating whims. With proper attention to style, quality, and care, you’ll enjoy the look and functionality of your draperies for many years to come. 

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