Different Curtain & Drapery Styles + The Pros & Cons of Each

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Images via H&M & The Shade Store

I recently heard someone compare furniture to makeup, and how the curtains are like the mascara…the finishing touch that makes everything look complete. And it couldn’t be any more true!

But before we can apply the mascara…aka the curtains… there are so many different options to consider. I’m sure that’s why you’re reading this in the first place, right?

So, let’s simplify things and get into the types of curtains and drapes. Now, to be fair, we’re talking about floor length curtains, and truly, the only differentiating factor is the top portion of the curtain, called the heading. So let’s get into the five types of curtains and drapes.

The 5 Main Types of Curtains & Drapes (tops & headings)

  1. Tap top
  2. Rod/ Pole pocket
  3. Pleated (tailored pleat, pinch pleat, inverted pleat, box pleat)
  4. Grommet
  5. Ripplefold 

They each have their pros and cons, and so let’s break down each style and figure out which one will be best to fit your needs!

Images via Wayfair & The Grit & Polish

1. Tab Top Curtains

These tab top curtains are as simple and basic as it gets! They have a very informal and casual feel, and in my opinion, they should be reserved for those casual rooms… like a kids room or nursery.

PROS:

Easy to slide across the rod, readily available, lots of options, and inexpensive

CONS:

Dated-looking, too casual for most rooms.

Images via Ikea & West Elm

2. Pole & Rod Pocket Curtains

Rod pocket curtains has a slot at the top (or backside, depending on the style) for the rod to slide into. These styles are almost impossible to open and close, so avoid them at all costs unless it’s for decorative purposes only.

On the other hand, some high-end curtains have loops sewn on the back, so you can hang them with clips and rings. The metal rings will make sliding the curtains across the rod sooo much easier!

PROS:

Readily available, inexpensive.

CONS:

Can have a weird ruffle-looking top, can be hard to open and close.

SHOP POLE & ROD POCKET CURTAINS

Images via Restoration Hardware & Prêt À Vivre

3. Pleated Curtains

Pleated curtains come and go as the trends do, but as of late I’m seeing this look become more and more popular. This style has a very classic and slightly formal feel to it, giving it a timeless essence. But….these pleated curtains can tend come at a hefty price.

If you like this style then it’s worth noting that there are a handful of different types of pleats out there. Some are simple looking, like the pinch pleat pictured above, and others are more intricate, like the goblet pleat, pencil pleat, cartridge pleat, box pleats, and a few others.

PROS

Classic style, looks expensive and custom, lots of pleat styles to choose from.

CONS

Usually on the expensive side, and can be hard to find.

Images via Pottery Barn & AD

4. Grommet Curtains

Grommet curtains have large metal rings punched through the top of the panel, and that’s where the rod fits through. This look was popular starting in the early 2000s, and I sorta think it should stay there! But, before I shame this style…I will say that they are easy to slide across the rod and they do have a beautifully consistent zig zag shape. But other than that, they aren’t my favorite choice.

PROS:

Easy to use and find, easy to move on the rod

CONS:

Looks like a shower curtain, dated

SHOP GROMMET CURTAINS

Images via Spiffy Spools & JWS Interiors

5. Ripplefold Curtains & Drapery

I’m saving the best for last here, because this one happens to be one of my personal favorites! It’s just so simple and clean looking! You can’t see the bulky hardware of the curtain rod, and it just looks effortless…staying in a perfect zig-zag shape. This is the perfect alternative to the grommet curtains because they looks similar but they aren’t as bulky and don’t give me a shower curtain vibe.

These drapes are usually custom, and it mostly has to do with a special track and hardware to perfectly space the ripples.

PROS:

Simple and modern looking, very easy to slide across the track.

CONS:

Special hardware and tape is necessary, can be expensive.

I hope this post helped you figure out some of the different pros and cons of each curtain style! There are so many options out there, but in my opinion, only a couple of them will give you that designer-look and that’s pleated curtains or ripple-fold drapery. I’m working on perfecting that ripple-fold look for less, so stay tuned for a blog post in the next couple of months. Until then, what other questions do you have about curtains and drapes? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers!

  1. Sofia says:

    Good afternoon. Thanks for the helpful information on choosing curtains. Now I have definitely decided what type of curtains to hang in the living room)))

  2. Natalie Clement says:

    The ripple fold which I assume is what I know as wave curtains can you use that heading for lined/interlined curtains

  3. Yana says:

    Hi. What do you think is the best curtain drapes for curtain coves? Thanks!

  4. I like the plated curtains as they look neat but they are expensive as said. My other choice would be Ripple fold curtains as they look quite stylish.

  5. You’ve chosen lovely lovely curtains. I think curtains add warmth and charm, especially in simple, pared back homes like yours. The pink for the hall would be lovely, with a nice thick interlining.
    I’m making curtains for our new house, but as the roof isn’t finished and the house is gutted on the inside, I’ve got quite a wait. Meanwhile my lovely curtains (second-hand linen curtains from eBay, unpicked and washed with bleach to fade the print!) are stuck in a box in a garage, waiting to see the light of day. Your house gets lovelier every day

  6. Jaan says:

    My Aunt and my Mom had a drapery business in the 80s. The ripple was the most popular with those who had more modern decor. Simple and classy. And yes the hardware was pricey but so worth it. Your work is beautiful.

  7. Maggie says:

    Are ring drapes modern?
    Are rings old fashion?
    Thanks

  8. Hi Terra,

    Love this blog so much I’ve signed up to your Newsletter,

  9. Michelle says:

    Oh my god this post was EVERYTHING I was searching for. New home owner looking for curtains and thought it would be such an easy task… wow was I wrong, so many variations and styles I felt so lost until I found this post. Thank you for sharing. I now know exactly what I’m looking for.

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