Interior Decorating Information

How Curtains Can Change the Look of Your Home

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.

Tie back styles

The appearance of a window can be dramatically altered by the colour and fabric used. It can also be altered in the manner the curtains are hung. One popular and attractive arrangement is the tie back. Tie back options offer decorators tremendous choices in creating unique and very attractive windows.

The most popular tie back positions are the high tie, the middle tie, the low tie, the centre tie, the crisscrossed tie and the angled double tie.

1. The high tie is when one or two panels are hung in the window. The tie pulls the panel back above the centreline of the window.

2. The middle tie pulls the panel back at a point near the middle of the curtain. It looks best if it is not done at the exact centre, but either slightly above or slightly below the centre.

3. The low tie pulls the curtain back about three-fourths of the distance from the top to the floor.

4. The centre tie gathers one or two curtains and pulls them together in the vertical centre of the window, about two thirds or three fourths of the distance from the top to the bottom.

5. The crisscrossed tie starts with two overlapping panels hanging the full width of the window. The outer panel is pulled back to one side and the inner curtain is pulled back to the opposite side.

6. The angled tie uses either one or two curtains. The panel is pulled partially back in the high tie position and pulled back more closely to the window casing in the bottom tie position. The panel is tied back twice in such a way that it is hung in a pleasing, billowing angle from one top corner of the window to a point below the opposite side of the window.

Formal and informal styles

Curtains can be as varied as the individuals in whose homes they hang. Even with all of the variety in fabrics, colours, lengths and methods of hanging, all curtain styles can be classified as either formal or informal.

Formal window treatments are usually called draperies and hang in layers. They are most often found in formal parlors or sitting rooms, living rooms and formal dining rooms. The window treatment is usually done in two or three layers. The first layer is the sheer, which is often a single panel of sheer linen or lace that admits diffused light into the room. Sheers also tend to obscure visibility from the outside, especially if the lighting in the room is subdued. The second layer is usually the pleated floor length drapes. The drapes are suspended from traverse if they are intended to be opened and closed. Drapes are hung from above the window and cover the side casing and trim of the window as they fall toward the floor. The third layer is the curtain running across the window top and covers the top of the window casing, trim and the heading of the draperies. Draperies and valances are often lined. Draperies may be below sill length although they are often floor length.

Everything else is informal curtains, usually hung in one or two layers. They are seldom lined, and are used to diffuse light, not to block it out.

Curtains are decorative, but have other uses as well, aside from providing privacy. They are useful in room darkening to protect room contents from the adverse effects of the sun's UV rays. Sunlight can fade the colors in furniture and carpet fabrics. Lined curtains are especially good for protecting furniture and carpeting near windows facing either to the south or to the west.

Rob Carlton is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about window coverings and home decoration for his website

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