Curtains and blinds in front of large windows in kitchen

Drapes Vs Curtains: What's The Difference?

Originally contributed by • last updated 4/6/2021

ducminh nguyen

Deciding on the perfect window coverings for your home can often be a difficult decision. Should you choose sheer curtains? Thicker drapes that block out more light? What about automatic shades that roll up and down on command? Or maybe you should go the classic route and pick Venetian blinds? 

As you can tell, there are so many options and it's not always clear what the difference is between them.

This is particularly true with curtains vs drapes. What is actually the difference between the two, or is it just different names for the same thing?

Check out our breakdown below to learn all about that, with bonus 101s on blinds and shades too.

What Are Curtains?

Voile White Panel
The Home Depot

Let's finally settle the highly debated dispute of curtains vs. drapes. What exactly is the difference?

Though exact definitions may vary by region, curtains tend to be lighter weight and more about privacy than blocking out light.

Curtains are unlined, meaning that even the darker, heavier fabrics will still let some light to peek through the weave. This is why they may not be the best choice for a bedroom, for example, where one might want to sleep past sunrise.

However, curtains are usually less expensive than drapes, so are more budget-friendly.

What Are Drapes?


As described above, the contention of curtains vs drapes can be boiled down to the thickness of each type of fabric and whether or not it is lined. Drapes are typically lined with an additional fabric that is heavy enough to filter out plenty of light that would otherwise seep through a window.

Because of the extra fabric layers, drapes don't just keep a room dark, but they're also great at improving the energy efficiency of your home. Keep them closed on a hot, sunny day and the room will stay cooler, longer.

For these reasons, drapes often make ideal window coverings all around the home, but they are especially popular in bedrooms, where their blackout capabilities really shine.

Often, drapes are pared with sheer curtains or blinds for extra privacy when you still want light.

Drapes are offered in a variety of different fabrics, but because of their lining, they tend to cost more than curtains. If money is tight, save the drapes for the bedroom and try more inexpensive options elsewhere in your home.

What Are Shades?

Bella View Legacy Roman Shade
American Blinds

Now let's say you wanna ditch curtains and drapes altogether. Maybe you're not a fan of the heavy draped fabric look or simply prefer to have your window coverings remain within the window frames.

With multiple styles to choose from, including roman, pleated, and cellular, shades are soft fabric window coverings that can be used in any room of the home. Instead of pulling the curtains closed from either side, shades roll or fold up and down within the frame.

Depending on the fabric and style you choose, shades can be sheer enough to provide privacy without sacrificing light, or they can blackout a bedroom for afternoon napping.

It is also important to note that some shade styles can improve the energy efficiency of your home, too. Cellular shades, for example, feature one to three layers of cells that mimic a honeycomb design. This traps air inside the pleated cells, creating an insulating effect.

Solar shades are also an option, though a costly one. They look and function much like roller shades, which disappear entirely when they are rolled up, but the solar shades have the ability to filter out harmful UV-rays through their woven, screen-like fabric.

What Are Blinds?

Cordless Faux Wood Blinds
Select Blinds

Blinds are offered in a range of styles, which include Venetian blinds, vertical blinds, panel tracks, and shutters. They differ from shades in that rather than a solid piece of fabric, blinds are made of multiple, narrow slats.

Though this limits many of the fabric and style options compared to shades, blinds have their own unique options in that they can be made of materials like wood or aluminum.

While shades simply raise and lower, blinds can also tilt their slats to have a finer control of how much light is let in, while maintaining privacy.

In addition, blinds are arguably the easiest of the window coverings to clean regularly and keep dust-free. They don't require professional cleaning, which can be an added cost that comes along with certain types of window shades and drapes.

Blinds are also one of the most budget-friendly options, especially Venetian blinds that can be purchased at any hardware store and cut to your custom size then and there.

What can be a disappointment to homeowners is that blinds are often less energy efficient than the other options. Another concern is that although there are cordless options available for some models, many blinds still come equipped with cords, which can be a danger to children and pets.