Everyone wants to dress up the windows in their home with pretty curtains, drapes, and shades. Different types of curtains add color and style to your windows while making it more private and preventing rays of direct sunlight from streaming into your room and heating it up.
If you think about it, different types of curtains play a huge role in enhancing your interior decoration style by their fabrics, texture, patterns, colors, and styles. Curtains are a critical element to add an aesthetic look and beauty to your windows or doors. Their primary function is to block out the light, and the secondary function is to add small decorative accents to your room. You can buy curtains in sets, pairs, or single panels that you can then sew, install, or hang them in several ways to get different effects.
You have different materials, depths, prints, shapes, and colors with the various types of curtains, and they can help you set the style and tone for your room. When it comes to curtains, you don’t have to worry about choosing between style and function either, because there are dozens of types of curtains for your home that combine stunning aesthetics with function. If you’re curious and wondering what types of curtains exist and how well they’d work into your decor style, read on.
Important Curtain Buying Criteria
When you start looking at types of curtains to buy, you’ll notice that there are several things you want to list out and keep in mind. Do you want something that is more decorative, or are you looking for traditional window curtains? Do you want valances, drapery panels, or something that goes over the top of your current curtains or do you want to replace them entirely? Most choices are either curtains or drapes, so you want to have a clear idea on what you want before you start to shop. Also, consider the function or look you want.
Make sure you keep in mind where and how you plan to hang the curtains when you get them home. Do you want to use a traditional curtain rail, or do you need to buy a curtain pole? If you already have a curtain pole, do you need curtain rings? If not, you’ll need an eyelet curtain or grommet curtain to thread over the pole when you’re ready to shop. The more you know going into the shopping experience, the less trouble you’ll run into down the line.
Picking Types of Curtains Based on Opacity
First up, what look do you have for your room? Do you have big bay windows that you want to have sheer curtains on to create an open and airy look? Maybe you have floor-to-ceiling windows and you want a heavier type of curtain to block out the heat or cold drafts. This is where the curtains’ opacity comes in.
Opacity is one huge consideration to keep in mind when you start looking at different types of curtains because it can help narrow your choices down right out of the gate. How much privacy do you want? Do you want the curtains to allow some or no sunlight in when you close them? Should your curtain provide an additional feature other than decorative? These questions will help you determine the perfect opacity level.
1. Sheer Curtain Styles
Most sheer curtains feature semi-transparent and very thin fabric. They allow for the most sunlight to enter a room when you draw them closed. Sheer curtains also give you the lowest privacy levels, and they don’t serve much purpose beyond being very decorative. It’s very popular to have these curtains in dining rooms or living rooms.
If you want to increase the privacy levels without giving up the sheer curtains, you can add a light liner to the back of the curtain. Doing so will help increase the privacy levels without completely blocking out the sunlight.
2. Semi-Transparent Curtain Styles
Semi-transparent or semi-opaque types of curtains are a middle layer between blackout curtains and sheer curtains. When they’re open, they allow some daylight to filter into the room through your hurricane proof windows. They give you more privacy than sheer curtains have, and they’re a very popular pick for any room in the house. As a bonus, you can combine them with other curtains to increase the opacity levels by hanging them on a double curtain rod and putting another curtain behind it.
3. Blackout Curtain Styles
The final opacity levels are blackout-style types of curtains. This curtain lets the least amount of light flow through it when you close them. You’ll find heavier materials in the makeup of these curtains, and they usually come with linings built in. You get the most privacy when using these curtains, and they have additional features attached to them that go beyond decorative purposes. Typically, you’d put this type of curtain up in dens, bedrooms, or theatres. You can also hang them behind a sheer curtain to give it a more polished look and feel.
Choosing Curtains Based on Panels and Hanging Style
Once you decide on an opacity level, you have to decide which hanging style and panels you want. There are several options available, and the more you narrow them down, the easier time you’ll have when it actually comes time to make your final choice.
A valance is a short type of curtain that usually hangs on top of your curtains. This is an optional addition to your window treatment that is purely ornamental. It’s a very nice way to create a finished look in your laundry room or kitchen. You can purchase curtain sets that include a valance, or you can buy it separately and add it to an existing setup. You can also use it alone without curtains if you have blinds in place. If you don’t like the idea of having full curtains, a valance is a nice compromise that can bring a nice flair to your windows.
2. Single Panels
Just like you’d get from the name, a single panel curtain has a larger panel that covers your whole window. You can then pull the curtain panel to either side when you want to open it, or you can tie it back to create a pretty asymmetrical, modern look. With this option, you get a timeless style that looks fantastic in a range of decorative settings. They can add a dramatic touch to the clean lines of modern decor.
3. Curtain Liners
Adding liners to curtains is one way to dress up your window coverings, and liners are a very popular way to give your curtains more versatility. For example, it’s not uncommon for people to pair sheer-style curtains with liners in the back to help increase the privacy levels. This also gives them the choice of how much light they want to allow through. Curtain liners also give your curtains additional features, including thermally insulating them or reducing the amount of ambient noise.
4. Double Panels
When you purchase double panels, you’ll get two separate panels in each purchase. This type of curtain is very popular with people who have temporary or classic styles in their living room or small bedroom. When you choose this style, you put a curtain on either side of your window. You pull the panels together so they meet in the middle of the curtain to close them. You also typically tie them back when you want to open them with one on each side of the window to create a nice symmetrical look.
5. Window Treatments
If you purchase a window treatment set, you get everything you need to create a full window treatment. Most of these sets usually come with one or two curtains paired with a valance. You may also get more extensive sets that have accessories included in the purchase like a curtain rod, tiebacks, or a pelmet.
6. Window Scarf Curtains
A window scarf looks and acts very similar to a valance. You get a longer, thinner piece of fabric that you suspend from the top of your window. This will add a very dramatic look with an elegant appearance in any room you put it in. You can set up the curtain rod before hanging your window scarf up over it. You can also hang the scarf between two wall brackets and have it hang down.
7. Window Tier Curtains
Finally, we have window tier curtains. You’ll find these in kitchens or in any window where you want to allow light in without sacrificing all of your privacy. They work to cover the lower part of the window, but they leave the upper portion uncovered and open.
Selecting Types of Curtains Based on Materials
Different types of curtains feature different materials. You should note that the material the curtain uses serves more purposes than being purely decorative. For example, thinner materials work to create semi-sheer or sheer curtains while thicker materials make blackout or semi-opaque curtains. Depending on which material the curtain features in the design, the curtains can come with additional features outside of framing in your clean windows.
1. Burlap Curtains
Burlap has a very similar texture and look than you’ll get with linen, but it’s a much heavier weight. Burlap is typically very plain and casual in appearance, and it gives you a great privacy level while only allowing for a small amount of light or no light at all to pass through the curtains when you draw them closed. It looks nice in casual decor styles, and it’s very easy to clean when the need arises.
2. Cotton Curtains
Cotton curtains are one of the most popular types of curtains available on the current market, and it’s a semi-sheer material that allows for a lot of light to come through without sacrificing all of your privacy. You do get moderate privacy levels with it. It’s common to layer cotton curtains with other types of fabric to get a full window treatment. These types of curtains come in a range of different styles, and it’s a solid choice for virtually any room in your home. Since cotton is so easy to clean, it’s very versatile.
3. Linen Curtains
Linen is like cotton, but it has a bit more weight to it. You still get the casual, easy look and feel when you use this type of curtain. They give you slightly more privacy and allow for a moderate amount of light to filter through. However, linen can be slightly more difficult to clean when it gets dirty. You may want to avoid using it in dusty environments because the rougher texture on these curtains can attract and lock dust in to the point that it’s difficult to get back out with vacuums.
4. Lace Curtains
Lace is a very sheer fabric type, and this is a good pick if you want to allow light in with an airy and bright window treatment and you’re not too worried about privacy. Lace is extremely popular to have in living rooms, kitchens, or in any area where you want to have a large amount of light come through. If you like the look of lace but you want more privacy, you can always pair it with different types of curtains to create a more versatile look and function.
5. Silk Curtains
Silk is a very luxurious and pretty type of curtain, and you can find a huge range of silk curtains available. Depending on the thickness of the silk, it can be a semi-sheer look and let in a large amount of light, or you can go with thicker options to block more light while increasing your privacy levels. It’s popular in contemporary and classic curtain types. However, silk is usually very difficult to clean. Usually, you’ll have to bring it in and have professionals clean it for you. Also, it’s important to note that many “silk” curtains are actually a fake silk material. It’s important to consider the upkeep before you purchase this type of curtain.
6. Synthetic Curtains
Synthetic materials are very popular for a huge range of types of curtains. They’re usually much more cost-effective to produce on a large scale than natural fiber, and they’re typically very quick and easy to clean. So, if you’re someone who is on a tighter budget, the low price point could sell you on this curtain material. You can also pop them into the washing machine whenever they get dirty without worrying about wrecking them.
7. Velvet Curtains
Finally, velvet is a popular type of curtain to have in your home. It’s a great choice if you want to get as much privacy as you possibly can. It’s a heavier material that also works to keep the drafts out and ambient noise. Velvet is popular in bedrooms where people who are sensitive to light sleep. You can use it to create a very dramatic effect on your windows too. It’s difficult to clean, so you will have to call in professional cleaning when they get dirty. However, they lend a very luxurious look and feel to any room you hang them up in.
Consider Curtain Style
The overall style of the room you want to add curtains to will also play into the final type of curtain you pick out. Along with the style choices we’re going to dive into below, you also have to consider the pleat style of each curtain. Goblet pleats, pencil pleats, pinch pleats, and tailored pleats are all common. Each of these pleat styles will dictate how the curtain hangs and how each fabric fold gets sewn together.
1. Modern Curtain Style
Generally speaking, modern curtains will reflect a more modern interior design style. This means that these curtains are often very minimalistic, and they have eco-friendly materials with metal incorporated. Solid colors are very popular with this type of curtain, but you will also find a large market for abstract elements, clean lines, and bold patterns. Depending on your room’s style, you can use this curtain to create a very powerful and eye-catching statement.
2. Classic Curtain Style
The classic curtain style is popular in virtually any room in your house from the laundry room to the bedroom and everything in between. You’ll typically find classic curtains used with additional accessories or valances to create a full window treatment. You get a very timeless, classic look and feel that looks right at home in country, classical, or bohemian design styles.
3. Casual Curtain Styles
You’ll find casual curtains hanging in bathrooms, bedrooms, and kitchens. They come with a very laid-back and easy feel that makes them more welcoming. You’ll often find that they have eyelet or grommet or tab top attachments on them. Also, you usually won’t put a valance on them.
4. Contemporary Curtain Style
The contemporary type of curtain comes with a new twist on classic styles. You’ll typically be able to purchase them easiest in earthy tones or shades of grey that are nature-inspired. Sometimes, bolder or brighter colors get used to give you a welcome pop of color in a more neutral space. It’s common to see very rich textures that lend a sophisticated feel without being pretentious or overly styled.
Know the Attachment Style for Your Type of Curtain
How does the curtain attach to the rod? Depending on the look you’re trying to get, different attachment styles will work better. This is critical if you’re someone who doesn’t plan on hiding the attachment point with a valence.
1. Grommet and Eyelet Curtains
These types of curtains have larger eyelets on the top of the fabric, and the manufacturers reinforce this area using grommets so it’s less likely to tear, just like you see on privacy screens. It’s a very popular type of curtain when it comes to modern or contemporary styles. They also allow you to add a small flourish on the top of the curtain instead of a traditional valence.
2. Hidden Tab Curtains
This curtain is a cross between a tab and a rod pocket curtain. When you have this style, it usually has the tabs where you hang the curtain out of your direct view. There is another piece of fabric in front of them, and it’s usually very decorative. The fabric over the hidden tab portion of the curtain usually has a pinch pleating to lend it more style. You can use this curtain with or without a valence. They’re very popular in contemporary, country, or traditional styles.
3. Rod Pocket Curtains
This curtain has a pocket that gets sewn into your curtain’s top portion. When you go to hang these curtains, you slowly feed the curtain rod through your curtain and guide it out the other side of the pocket. Usually, you’ll have a valence with these curtains. You can get a more casual look if you don’t use one. They typically work best with linen or cotton-type fabrics. You can also find these curtain types with decorative additions like ruching or embroidery.
4. Tab Top Curtains
When you have tab top-style curtains, you’ll get loops of fabric sewn into the curtain’s top. The curtain rod then goes through these fabric loops. You can find these curtains with decorative touches on them like buttons. They’re the most popular with more casual styles, but you can also easily use them in contemporary country styles without anything clashing.
Picking a Curtain Length and Width
The curtain length is a great way to get different styles, and your window size will help determine which length you need. Not every curtain length will work for all applications. The width is something else that you want to consider. Just like you’ll find standard lengths, there are several widths available. Usually, you’ll want your curtain to be twice as wide as the window you want to put it on. If you want a more heavily bunched, dramatic look, you may even want to go three or four times wider than your window.
An apron length curtain can trick your eye into elongating your windows. You can use them in smaller windows in bathrooms, kitchens, or in some bedrooms. You’ll typically hang the rod higher than the actual window, and you want the curtain to go several inches below the sill of your window. When you close these curtains, they make your window area look much bigger than it is.
Any floor-length curtains fit well in sliding doors or floor-to-ceiling windows. They usually stop just above the floor, and you’ll get less than an inch of space. You can also use them in smaller windows that you rarely or never open to give the illusion that you have a floor-to-ceiling window in that space.
A puddle-length curtain is just an extra-long floor-length curtain. Instead of stopping an inch above the floor, they go several inches longer than the window’s size before breaking dramatically on the floor. You can compare it to a wedding dress’s train. It’s very popular if you want a romantic or dramatic window treatment.
Finally, sill-length types of curtains are good for windows that you open a lot. It’s a nice choice for bathrooms, kitchens, and smaller windows in your home. These style curtains hang so that your curtain ends either just above the window sill or even with it.
Curtains Features to Consider
Finally, depending on the material type you have for your curtain, they can offer you additional features. These features can improve how well they function.
Fabrics with heavier weights to them like velvet, burlap, and synthetics give you another insulation layer for your windows. It works well if you have drafty windows, or if you live in an area that gets very hot or cold during the year. Having these types of curtains in your dining room, bedroom, or any room with draft windows can help save on heating or cooling costs. A thermal curtain can pay for itself when you get it by saving you up to 25% on your cooling or heating costs.
In addition to picking out fabrics that insulate naturally, you can go for other insulating curtain types. They come with a very pretty and decorative exterior fabric that goes over the thermal layer that features mylar or foam to help seal out the cold in cooler months and block the heat during the summer. Many insulating curtains also double as blackout curtains due to their thicker design.
2. Noise Reduction
Any fabric that can reduce outside noise can be a must-have in busy urban environments if you’re a light sleeper. They’re very popular to hang in bedrooms or any room where you need it quieter. There are laboratories that specialize in creating new fabrics that come with sound-blocking properties. Annette Douglas worked with an independent laboratory that created a fabric that was capable of absorbing around 80% of all exterior noise. Another option is to buy regular types of curtains and add a curtain liner behind them to help reduce the noise levels.
Outdoor curtains usually have very heavy, weather and water-resistant materials. You can also get sheer options if you want to limit the amount of bugs that get into your patio or pergola but you’re not worried about increasing your privacy levels. They can be a beautiful addition to your porch as well, or you can easily hang them in any outdoor area where insects or weather are a problem.
These 29 types of curtains can help you increase your privacy levels, block noise, or dress up your space quickly and easily. We outlined several nice options for you, and you can sort through them to find the one that is going to work best for your wants and needs. Once you get them put up, you may be surprised at how well they help dress up the room or complete your look.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.