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Types of Draperies, Curtains & Window Coverings

Window coverings serve both a utilitarian and a decorative purpose in a room. The terms drapery and curtain have become synomous. However, some still use the following distinction between the two. A curtain is a lightweight, usually unlined, operable treatment to cover a window sash. A drapery, on the other hand, is a heavy fabric, lined, floor length and either fixed or operable. When operable, it is designed to block out light. However, it's chief role is usually decorative.

The utilitarian purpose of window coverings is to provide privacy, filter or block light, insulate sound and to reduce drafts. The decorative potential is what most people think of though. Certainly, the window coverings have the potential to make a very bold statement and to help set the tone for a room.

Curtains and Draperies:

Curtain styles are fairly simple and the fabric lightweight. They are usually both a decorative element and serve a purpose; typically providing privacy and light filtering. Curtain length often stops at the bottom of the window sill or apron, although they may go all the way to the floor.

Drapery styles are made from a heavier and lined fabric. Often draperies are fixed and only frame a window opening. Draperies are nearly always floor length. Draperies are ideal for making a bold statement in a room. The use of intense colors and patterns combined with their bulk make them a strong element in the decor of a room.

Curtain and Drapery Styles include:

  • Cafe - curtains that obscure only the bottom half of the window, affording privacy or obscuring an undesirable view from a window. Occasionally, may include an upper treatment of an arched or tapered valance.

  • Sheer - a translucent curtain which filters light and affords some privacy. Typically used in tandem with a heavier curtain or drapery.

  • Lace - similar to sheers except that lace fabric is used.

  • Gathered - curtains or drapes are pulled back roughly half way up their height and tied back.

  • Bishop Sleeve - a series of blousy sections arranged vertically down a panel created by cinching the material and allowing it to gather.

Top Treatments:

  • Tabbed Top - an informal look created by loops of fabric sewn to the top of the panel and then strung over a rod.

  • Shirred - tightly bunched fabric along the length of the drapery rod.

  • Pinch Pleat - usually three small pleats grouped together at regular intervals.

  • Pencil Pleat - a fold in the fabric in which it is gathered together tightly and narrowly spaced so that it resembles a row of pencils.

  • Goblet Pleat - similar to a pinch pleat except that a section of fabric is left ungathered and allowed to blouse outward, creating the appearance of a goblet. In order to maintain the shape, the fabric is typically stuffed with batting or stiff paper.

  • Box Pleat - the fabric is folded crisply with sections folded flat behind the pleat and fastened tightly to it backing material, usually a wooden board.

  • Grommet - large holes cut into the fabric, reinforced with fabric, metal or other material which are then threaded onto the drapery rod.

Decorative Treatments:

  • Swag - a piece of pleated fabric arranged in semi-circles, horizontally above a window. It may contain a single swag or it may repeat. Typically paired with a jabot or cascade.

  • Cascade - a pleated piece a fabric which creates a swag and then hangs down loosely on one side of a window. T

  • Jabot - a pleated panel of tapered length which hangs down either side of a window. It can also hang between sections of a treatment.

  • Scarf - A long piece of fabric, typically draped across the top of a window, and allowed to hang to the floor on either side.

  • Valance - a general term referring to any treatment which tops a window. It may be used to hide window hardware or simply as a decorative element.

Shades & Blinds

Shades and blinds typically fit inside the window frame. They can be combined with other window treatments but are often used alone. A large variety of options exist and are detailed below.

Types of Shades

  • Balloon - a series of vertical draw strings spaced across the width of the shade draw the material up gathering the fabric, while allowing billowy poufs to hang down between. Similar to an old fashioned stage curtain.

  • Cellular - a fabric shade made into a honeycomb. It has the appearance of crisp pleats and when drawn up folds neatly together. These shades had an added benefit of offering a certain amount of insulation resulting from pockets of air held in the honeycomb structure.

  • Festoon - or London Shade, similar to a balloon shade except that the left and right edges are not gathered, creating a tail rather than a semi-circle.

  • Roller - a simple flat shade which can be adjusted to any height. When pulled down and then with tension released rolls itself up to the roller at the top.

  • Roman - when closed, it creates a flat panel. As it is raised folds occur at regular spacing and overlap.

  • Blinds - metal, wood, plastic or fabric slats, suspended in a weave of string, allowing the slats to be adjusted to allow more or less light. Also, the entire treatment can be drawn up out of view.

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