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Drapes vs. curtains: What’s the difference?

Many people have no clue that there’s any difference between drapes and curtains, but there is. Even though the words are used as synonyms for one another, they’re genuinely two separate, entirely different kinds of window treatments.

If that’s true, then what precisely are these differences, you may ask?

Below, we’ll go over exactly what these distinctions are and how to figure out what types of curtains or drapes are right for you.

Curtains for the Bedroom
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Curtains versus drapes

You’ve got one in each hand, and you’re considering both. Drapes versus curtains. Hmmm. It’s all so confusing!

However, there’s no need to muddle through a decision. Here’s what you need to know.

Drapes are lined to block out more light than curtains. They’re made from thicker fabric and are generally longer (they can be from the ceiling to the floor, where they might be long enough to pool). They also have a more formal aesthetic and vibe to them.

Curtains, on the other hand, are usually installed over shades or blinds. They’re sold by the panel or in pairs, and they hang from curtain rods. They’re almost always much shorter than drapes and only go as far down as your windowsill or barely touch the floor. Additionally, curtains are made from a lighter fabric than drapes. However, they too can be designed to darken a room or block out the sun entirely.

Both are intended to complement your overall decorating style, help insulate it, and help control the light levels.

With that said, let’s look at drapes and curtains a bit more in-depth.


As noted above, you’ll most often find curtains sold in pairs. You can buy curtains in an incredibly wide range of patterns, fabrics, colors, lengths, and widths. They’re a common choice for virtually every room in the house.

Some of the more usual types of curtains you might be familiar with are café curtains. You’ll see these short, “see-through” curtains, which cover only half of a window over a kitchen sink, matched to a valance across the top of the window. You may use curtains to cover up shades or blinds in your bedroom to lend the room a bit more style.

Think about what kind of feel you want your room to have. Sheer, light-colored curtains can soften a space and can add a touch of femininity to it. Alternatively, you could add contrast and character to your room by using bright, colorful curtains.

No matter what type of curtains you might choose, they almost always hang from a rod. That curtain rod can be decorative, depending on the style of decor and feel of the room you’re going for. Another option might be to hide the curtain rod entirely or use one that’s plain so that attention is drawn to the curtains.

When hanging curtains on the rod, you have a few options, such as metal or fabric rings, a fabric sleeve, or metal grommets.

Curtains and Drapes are Different
Shutterstock/Lifestyle Travel Photo


Drapes are sold in pairs, just like curtains. They’re lined fabric panels and are usually made from much heavier fabric than curtains. In fact, the fabric of drapes may be so heavy that it’s able to block out all sunlight. Some people prefer drapes for use in the bedroom precisely for this reason.

Sometimes called draperies, drapes are almost always much longer than curtains. In fact, as noted above, they might be so long that they reach the floor and puddle under the window. Another big difference in the fabric of drapes as opposed to curtains is the fact that they’re often used in more luxurious settings. They might therefore be made of materials like silk, velvet, or damask.

Unlike curtains, drapes usually don’t have a lot of variety in terms of patterns. They have a more formal appearance, which lends itself to the luxury purposes mentioned above. Similar to curtains, drapes hang from rods using a fabric sleeve on the back of the panel or along the top. Sometimes drapes may also hang from the rod using grommets, rings, or hooks.

When drapes are used in the bedroom, one of the most commonly used is the blackout style. This type ensures that the room is kept dark enough to sleep at just about any time of day.

The final word

At the end of the day, no rule demands that you must adhere to the same themes, colors, or patterns from room to room when it comes to either curtains or drapes. Why not be creative?

In most homes, you’ll find that decorators have chosen different types of curtains for the kitchen and bathroom, just for instance. As for drapes, remember that you’ve got options when you feel they need to be accented with something interesting. For example, you purchase unique curtain ties, matching valances, or sweeping swags to enhance the appearance of your drapes.

As you would with any of your decorating endeavors, have fun when picking out the curtains or drapes that are right for your personal taste!

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