The roles of curtains have changed. At one time they were used to retain heat, block cold air, control sunlight and provide privacy. They still perform these roles, but with the many advancements in window glass and window design technology, they are often much more decorative than functional. Decorators can be much more creative in their window treatments with this shift to the decorative usage.
For many people, there is a distinction between the terms curtains and drapes. Drapes are usually floor length, lined and suspended from a traverse rod with hooks that will allow them to be opened and closed by pulling a cord. Draperies are usually very formal looking. Curtains are less formal. They are usually those fabric window treatments that are suspended by hooks or rings from a rod and opened and closed by grasping the edge and pulling the fabric panel into position. Often they are tied back to the window casing and are not opened or closed at all. In these situations, they are frequently used in conjunction with shades, or blinds which can be closed to block sunlight or provide privacy.
Types of curtains
There are three basic types of curtains. These are the panel, the cafe and tiered. Panel are simply plain panels of fabric that are hemmed at the top and at the bottom. They are suspended from the top of the window by rings or hooks and hang in natural folds, giving the window a less formal appearance. These are often used in bedrooms and dining rooms and maybe used in combination with shades, blinds or sheers. Cafe curtains are generally hung from the center of the window, leaving the upper part of the window bare or exposed. Sometimes the cafe styles will be hung one fourth or one third of the way down from the top of the window, giving the window a much different look. Either way, they are tied back. Cafe curtains are often used in kitchens and in informal dining areas. The third kind is the tiered. These are multiple panels with one or two panels hanging over the top of the two base panels. The base panels usually cover the bottom half of the window and the outer panels cover the top half of the window and hang down to overlap the base panels.
There are three basic lengths as well. The sill length is either suspended from either the halfway point or the top of the window. The bottom hem is not quite touching the windowsill. The below the sill style is cut so the bottom hem hangs just below the apron or trim board running across the bottom of the window. The floor length style is cut so the bottom hem is just above the floor.
There are also be lined or unlined styles, depending upon the amount of natural light that is to be admitted to the room. Similarly, there are interlined styles, with a third layer sandwiched between the panel and the lining. They are designed to provide protection from cold air that is conducted from the outside to the inside through the glass, or air seeping through cracks in the windowsill or between the sash and the window frame.