The curtain panel is the fundamental element of a drapery system. Hung from a rod mounted above the window, panels are usually floor-length, but can also end at the window sash. The variations in the type of fabric, the manner in which the cloth is attached to the rod, the kind of fold and cascade contribute to the aesthetic and functional design of the draperies.
Window curtains originally served a functional purpose-to moderate heat and light. In eighteenth-century Europe, draperies began to take on a decorative as well as functional character. By the end of the century, elaborate designs involving multiple layers of draperies, ornate valances and cornices and a profusion of trimmings were used not only at windows, but also around beds.
Today, such elaboration is often impractical, but both decorative and functional usage combines in the design of most window treatments. Draperies constitute an integral part of the interior design scheme for a room. The fabric and styles contribute to the ambience of the decor-formal, period, romantic, youthful or vintage, for example. The range of fabrics is extensive, including cottons, linen, velvet, man-made materials, barkcloth and many types of silk. Styles include tab-topped, eyelet or grommet, pleated and shirred.
Ready-made panels come in a variety of sizes, styles and materials, providing easy decorating solutions for most rooms and many types of windows. Standard lengths satisfy most installation needs, allowing the rod height to be adjusted above the window to suit personal taste. Extra-long lengths may be placed on tall windows, or be gracefully “puddled” on the floor. Rod-pocket sizes accommodate a number of standard pole diameters.
A wide selection of fabrics and styles, both lined and unlined, can be found to complement a range of decorative themes. For the minimalist, eyelet curtains mounted on a smoothed wooden pole with finials in a simple ball motif present an uncluttered look. For a modern romantic look, layers of thin, gauzy curtains, such as shirred lace casements behind gracefully draped organza embroidered curtain panels, let light through while maintaining privacy.
Custom-made panels ensure that fabrics, styles and sizes are specifically tailored to complement the scale, colors and patterns of décor. Full-length, light-colored pleated linen drapes installed on a simple brass rod lend a contemporary air to a period room. Simple window treatments provide fresh contrast to the ornate motifs of traditional furnishings such as those of the Louis XV style.
Particular types of curtains have specific functions and are constructed accordingly. Thermal curtain panels insulate from heat and cold either by an interlining inserted between the fabric and lining, or by special materials that have insulating properties.
Whether traditional, tailored, modern or vintage, curtain panels in both ready-made and custom made formats accommodate personal taste and a range of décor.