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Types of Curtain Tops and Mistakes to Avoid

Although some homeowners have adopted the bare-window approach so that they can enjoy the spectacular views outside, it is more often the case that windows are used to infuse style and warmth, and add pattern and texture to a room. Not to mention our need for some more privacy and light filtration. In this case, we need our windows to blend beautifully with the rest of the décor and either become the point of focus in the room or highlight what we need to turn all attention to. Choosing curtains comes with an overwhelming array of option that usually confuse. Back-tab panel or tab-top? Swag or pinch pleat? Let's have a rundown of some basics regarding curtain types to help make choosing curtains to fit your space perfectly easier.

Curtain Tops Overview

These types of curtains help give a fuller look (pretty much like having a drapery) and are hung from pin hooks that pierce the header and the fabric at the top of the back of the curtain panel.

There are 6 types of curtain tops:

  1. Tab-Top – A series of tabs or loops made from fabric are sewn into the top hem. Curtains are hung from these loops or tabs, and you can see the curtain rod from between the tabs.
  2. Pinch Pleat – These types of curtains help give a fuller look (pretty much like having a drapery) and are hung from pin hooks that pierce the header and the fabric at the top of the back of the curtain panel. You can open pinch pleat curtains from the rings clipped to the top or a pulley.
  3. Back-Tab – Tabs are used to hang curtains. The curtain rod is completely hidden as the tabs are sewn to the backside of the hem at the top.
  4. Grommet – Specifically designed to help push open and pull closed curtains that have metal grommets along their top quite effortlessly. Ideal option if you have a beautiful decorative rod, and you want to showcase it.
  5. Rod Pocket – It is the most basic curtain style with a long and narrow sewn-in rod pocket at the top of each panel. The rod slides through the pocket, which makes the curtain more stationary.
  6. Tie-Top - Very much the same as tab-tops. Only, in this case, the curtain hangs from fabric ties instead of loops. The ties are either ties or knotted in bows onto the rod (stationary) and give a more laid-back, casual look.

Specifically designed to help push open and pull closed curtains that have metal grommets along their top quite effortlessly. Ideal option if you have a beautiful decorative rod, and you want to showcase it.

Curtains 101

1. Panels

Any kind of curtain that hangs in pairs from the curtain rod is called a panel, regardless of the finish of the top. You can find panels at an amazing plethora of patterns and kinds of fabrics. They are hung at various heights and can either be lined or unlined depending on the effect you are after. For example, lined panels with minimal pleating are ideal choices to match with a modern décor, and also meet your requirements from more insulation from cold and heat, as well as more privacy.

Unlined panels will help you achieve a more casual look. If you need more natural light showering the room, you can always add tie-backs. And, for a more sophisticated look, you can try let your curtains pool on the floor. The different-height panels give a more tailored look. You can let them gracefully pool on the floor and give a more romantic note to the room.

2. Valances

If privacy is not your number one requirement but definitely need a little something to cover your windows, a valance is a lovely option for you. A valance covers only the top 1/3 of the window and can be matched with panels or sheers with the use of a double rod if you are a fan of layering. Ideal options if you feel like bringing a splash of pattern and color to a room.

There are many different styles of valances, such as the balloon valances with the distinct scalloped bottom, and the pleat valances that add an interesting touch of color with a piece of contrasting fabric emerging from behind the pleat!

A valance covers only the top 1/3 of the window and can be matched with panels or sheers with the use of a double rod if you are a fan of layering.

3. Sheers

Sheers are usually finished with a rod pocket at the top and are used in combination with heavier panels as they do not provide any insulation or privacy themselves. These lightweight types of curtains filter the light and offer minimal protection against glare, which is why they are usually layered under thicker panels. However, if privacy and protection from the glaring sunlight are not a necessity, you can hang sheers alone and enjoy a more airy feel.

You can find sheers is all sorts of colors, although they are most often white. And, for those that love to play with texture and pattern, you can surely come across some fab sheers to please your taste.

4. Cafe Curtains

Most commonly used in dining nooks and kitchens, cafe curtains cover just half the window (the bottom half that is). You can decide when to let more natural light in the room and simply push them open. Some homeowners prefer to match them with valances that give a fuller window coverage. However, cafe curtains probably look better without any “add-ons”.

The great thing about cafe curtains is that you can make a pair of them yourself using a couple of kitchen towels. There are many no-sew or low-sew tutorials out there to help you make one on your own!

5. Swags

If you like valances but would love to have a somewhat shorter version of them, then swags will please you a great deal as they are shorter in the middle (semi-crescent shape). Need some inspiration? Try matching them with sheers or panels.

If you like valances but would love to have a somewhat shorter version of them, then swags will please you a great deal as they are shorter in the middle (semi-crescent shape).

6. Scarves

These are exactly what their name suggests. Window scarves are long and narrow pieces of fabric that drapes from the ends of a decorative curtain rod or over swag holders or a decorative holdback at the top of the window and hangs down the sides. You can use it as is or placed over panels or sheers. It is a super quick and easy way to update your décor.

Tip: There are many ways to finish off the top of the curtain styles mentioned above. What you decide at this point, though, dictates the type of curtain rod you use.

Now that you know the basics let's highlight some of the most common mistakes people do when choosing a curtain so that you can always be confident your room will speak of your unique, personal style the best possible way at all times!

Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing Curtains

1. Wrong Style

How you choose to finish your curtains at the top will have a direct impact on their functionality. For instance, if you have hung curtain at a window that will require you to close and open them regularly (for more privacy, light filtering or both), opting for a rod pocket that fits tightly is probably the wrong option as it will make your life more difficult. So, first decide on how you need your window treatments to operate and then pick the right style to finish them off at the top accordingly.

2. Wrong Timing

Many people finish a space and then start looking for the right curtain to hang and complete the look of the room. So, they choose the color they will paint the walls, the accent pieces (i.e. cushion pillows), and then the curtains. However, it is a bit more difficult to match the color of the wall to the color of the curtain than the other way around. So, it's best to pick the curtains first and then use the curtain's pattern as a guide to choosing the paint colors.

3. Wrong Measurements

The trick is to hang your panels as close to the ceiling as possible to make the room feel larger, and the curtains to look more graceful, especially when pooling on the floor.

A typical mistake many people make. They measure just the window to determine the length and height of the curtains. However, this will give them odd-fitting curtains that look out of place and are too bizarre, like they are being borrowed from a smaller window, to say the least. The trick is to hang your panels as close to the ceiling as possible to make the room feel larger, and the curtains to look more graceful, especially when pooling on the floor. The only case when you don't hang the selected window treatment from that high is when you have valances, which are meant to cover the window.

Here are some key-pointers to help you take the right measurements before ordering your curtains.

  • Measure from a few inches below the ceiling and all the way down to the floor. That is the ideal length of your window treatment.
  • When determining the width of your curtains, measure the width of the window and double that number to ensure you get much-desired fullness. For valances, though, which come with a more tailored look, the width should be closer to the width of the window (if you wish for a gathered appearance).

Tip: If you curtains have ended up shorter than expected, you can add a specialty trim to the bottom to make them longer. Ideally, they should skim the floor. Alternatively, you could try adding a contrasting strip of fabric.

4. Wrong Hardware

So, you got your new curtains and are ready to hang them. What hardware did you choose? Picking the right, quality curtain hardware is also important and, to be frank, it will get you half-way towards achieving your goal (and desired style). Although most of the curtain rod and other hardware will probably be hidden by the curtain, cheaping out on them will make the window treatment seem like it's missing something to blend with the rest of the décor harmoniously.

Choosing the right hardware is half the job when choosing curtains

Here is what you need to know before selecting the right curtain hardware. Choose a curtain rod that is:

  • Sturdy enough to support the weight of the curtains. In any other case, you will notice an ugly sagging on your curtains, right in the middle.
  • Long enough so that you can open your curtain wide and not cover most of the window in doing so, blocking sunlight and giving a dungeon-like feel to the room.
  • Substantial-looking and aesthetically pleasing, rather than too skinny, especially if you are hanging grommeted panels or curtains with tab-top panels that allow the curtain rod to show.

5. No Ironing

Even though there are some curtains with a wrinkled pattern that don't require any ironing, for the majority of window treatments ironing is a necessity, so they are hung neatly and don't look sloppy. If you have invested your precious time and money in selecting the right window treatment, they should look their absolute best, right?