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A Look At the History of Curtains

These days, window treatments are quite diverse. We have all kinds of styles, shapes, sizes, and materials to choose from and all have purpose and merit.  In the beginning, though, windows didn’t even have glass and there was certainly no covering.  Obviously, this changed over time but the simplest Store Urbain window dressings—curtains—did not start to appear in homes until perhaps the late 16th century, in England.


Put simply, a curtain (sometimes called a drape, though mostly in the United States) is  piece of cloth hung to block or to obscure light.  We also use them to block water—as in a shower curtain—but that was not necessarily the original intention. We also use curtains in live theatre productions to obscure light or as a backdrop or to separate the performance space from the audience.


While the curtain—as we know it today—might have not appeared on the public market until the 1500s, some evidence suggests that ancient people might have also used similar technology as far back as the 2nd century.  Excavations in Olynthus, Herculaneum, and Pompeii have revealed what is suspected to be curtains suspended from rods that spanned those high arches of the early architecture.


Curtains do more than block light, though.  They can actually draw attention to a focal point—or be the focal point, alone.  Of course, you need to know which type of curtain to use to best achieve your desired aesthetic.   There are many types of curtains:

  • Flat Panel curtain—simple and versatile this is made of pieces of fabric hemmed on all four edges, and often pleated, with the final piece fashioned with rings or something else that can be hung from a rod.
  • Tab Top curtain—made with narrow straps that have loops or ties at the top for hanging from a pole or rod.
  • Grommet curtains—essentially a flat panel curtain that is hung by threading the rod through a hole in the top of the fabric. You can either cut this hole with finished edges or by stitching a row.
  • Sash curtains—basically just used to cover the lower sash area of the window
  • Rod Pocket curtains—have a sewn in channel along the top that allows you to pass the curtain rod through it
  • Thermal curtains—also known as “blackout curtains” these not only block out the light, but are intended to serve as either (or both) an acoustic dampener or a thermal dampener


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