Should you choose drapes or blinds? We asked interior designers which window treatment is best

Do you love drapes or blinds – or perhaps both? We look at the pros and cons

Three pictures of curtains
(Image credit: George Spencer Design/Sims Hilditch/Anna Stathaki)

One of the most commonly asked questions in interior design is which work best – drapes or curtains? The answer is both can work equally as well but it does depend on the space and what you're after with your window treatment ideas

'We love that drapes showcase the beauty and craftsmanship of a fabric by how they drape, and good-quality designs with an interesting pattern can really elevate a scheme,' says Tim Walter, managing director of George Spencer Designs. 

Whereas Caroline Milns, head of design at Zulufish likes blinds for certain spaces, 'Providing a sleek and crisp feel, blinds are the perfect option for a more contemporary and modern feel within a home.'

With the help of interior design experts we consider drapes vs blinds and look at the pros and cons of both (and have a look at using the two together) so you can decide which option suits your home best.

Why choose drapes?

Full drapes with pattern can be a key design feature

living room with grey window frames, botanical leafy drapes, coral couch, stripe armchair, green footstool, grey rug, floor lamp

(Image credit: George Spencer Design)

Drapes can be an integral part of your space if you want them to be, or, they can be plain and a secondary element that's more practical than stand out. In this texture and pattern filled maximalist living room they are a focal point that brings the whole scheme together and enhances the beautiful window too.

'Choosing a lively pattern for your drapes, such as a fun floral or bold stripe, is a great way to bring personality to a room. Selecting drapes in a complimentary, but different, color to your furniture perfectly ties a scheme together and adds depth and interest,' says Tim Walter, managing director, George Spencer Designs. 

headshot of Tim Walter
Tim Walter

Having previously worked for several leading names in the interiors industry, including Osborne & Little and French fabric house Nobilis, Tim Walters became managing director of George Spencer Designs in 2014. As well as focusing on operations in the UK, Tim is also responsible for growing George Spencer Designs’ presence internationally.  

They can be light and airy

drapes vs blinds dining room with retro feel, wood dining table, black dining chairs, modern couch and footstool, artwork, rug, glass globe pendant, pale grey voile drapes

(Image credit: Zulufish)

If you want your drapes to enhance rather than be eye-catching then choose a neutral color in a fabric that suits your needs – in the summer a lightweight cotton or voile is ideal, and in the winter a midweight linen or velvet will do the trick.

Caroline Milns, head of design at Zulufish says it's important to be cohesive, 'Drapes can be inspired by the color palette of the room – pick out a specific color that may be woven throughout the interior, but also look to bring different patterns and textures into play to create a layered effect within the room by adding weight and drama. From a practical perspective, drapes also diffuse sound a lot more than blinds.'

Caroline Milns
Caroline Milns

Caroline has over 25 years of experience at the cutting edge of design and interiors. She began her career as a textile designer for Monkwell fabrics, before progressing to manage a team of designers for the John Lewis home design studio. In 2007, Caroline retrained as an interior designer, working for Helen Green and McVitty Interior Consultants on both residential and commercial projects, before launching the interiors arm of Zulufish in 2013, promising to ‘strive to create timeless design & inspiring interiors' globally. 

Cafe drapes add charm in a kitchen

drapes vs blinds, cream vintage style kitchen with butler sink, lace cafe curtain at window, marble countertop, shiplap walls, brass faucet

(Image credit: deVOL Kitchens)

So how do you use drapes in a kitchen? We love this option adopted by Pearl Lowe in her charming vintage kitchen

Helen Parker, creative director at deVOL Kitchens says a cafe curtain is the prettiest option – we agree! 'It is actually a very useful and authentic method of sectioning off a room, hiding a view or creating privacy. Find a window, find a delicate piece of sheer wispy fabric, and attach one of our brass rails to create a vignette of beauty.'

Lace is an ideal choice if you love the cafecore trend, it offers a touch of privacy and allows the light to come through making it a good choice for a kitchen that needs brightening up. 

Helen Parker portrait
Helen Parker

Helen Parker is deVOL's creative director. Joining in 2004 as a kitchen designer, by 2011 she had become responsible for deVOL's style, creating one-of-a-kind showrooms, sourcing antiques and gifts and designing new pieces of furniture and accessories. Over the years, she has developed deVOL's look and voice, styling all their beautiful imagery, writing for their brochures and website, and is often featured in national and international press.

Drapes can be used in a bathroom

drapes vs blinds, green bathroom with round window, green drapes, green wallpaper, teal shiplap/wainscotting, green painted roll top bath

(Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

Drapes and bathrooms aren't necessarily something you may think go hand in hand – however, get it right and they will look fabulous and elegant. 

Sometimes, a bathroom window in a space might not be suitable for a blind, and the only option might be drapes. We also love the use of symmetry and you get that more with drapes due to the length than with a blind in this instance.

Chloe Cutts, designer at Sims Hilditch explains, 'Drapes have numerous advantages. They serve as a great foundation for any design scheme and offer ample opportunities for customization, from fabric and pelmets to tassels and trims. With an endless array of fabrics, patterns, and styles, they are incredibly versatile and can complement almost any interior which ultimately allows for a more bespoke finish to a space.'

Elongate a ceiling with floor length drapes

drapes vs blinds, gray bedroom with large bay window, grey floor to ceiling drapes, pair of armchairs in window, rug, bed to the right

(Image credit: Brad Ramsey / Paige Rumore)

As well as being practical and decorative, drapes are also great for tricking the eye when it comes to low ceilings. 

Hang the rail as close to the ceiling as you can and ensure the drapes either touch the floor or slightly 'puddle'. The length will draw the eye up and make the room feel more spacious. 

In this elegant bedroom, blinds wouldn't have the same effect, Brad Ramsey, principal and founder of Brad Ramsey Interiors says, 'In general, I think the most popular way to treat a window for both aesthetics and function is with drapery.  There are lots of ways to layer a window, but nothing brings as much softness and individuality to a space as drapery does.'

Brad Ramsey
Brad Ramsey

Brad Ramsey launched Brad Ramsey Interiors in 2013 after starting his design career in 2008 at a Nashville interior design studio. Since its formation, the BRI team has built and reimagined homes and commercial spaces around the country with their intuitive approach to design and creativity. 

Hang both winter and summer drapes

drapes vs curtains, modern retro living room with leather chair, rug, sneakers, oversized photo, floor lamp, yellow and blue drapes

(Image credit: Ramdane Touhami for Fischbacher 1819)

Drapes offer options in that you can hang both a heavyweight and thinner pair together, not only will they create interest, but also can be practical. 

Ramdane Touhami, designer of The Drei Berge Collection for Fischbacher 1819, explains, 'Me, I hate to change drapes. I don’t like it, so I had the idea to have this winter-y thing, you push it to the side, and you have the summer one. This is the concept. I don’t know if it’s going to work, no one’s done it like that, but the idea is to have the winter and the summer on top of each other. And it’s beautiful. In the winter, you want cover, but you still want to have the light because there’s not so much light. In the summer, you really want dark. It’s the idea of playing with the light.'

You can also hang two different colors together which is a great idea for a modern living room

Why choose blinds?

They take up less space

drapes vs blinds, blue and cream bedroom with blue textured wallpaper, neutral patterned upholstered headboard,, rug, linen blind, side table

(Image credit: Living with Lolo / Life Created)

More economical in terms of fabric usage – only one width instead of two per window – blinds definitely offer a different aesthetic when used alone. There's no touching the floor and the way they can be pulled up when not in use gives them a cleaner more minimalist look. 

'Drapery panels are still amongst the most popular window coverings, although Roman shades are also a great alternative,' says Lauren Lerner, CEO and founder of Living with Lolo.

'Window covering styles can often depend on the location. For example, we like adding Roman shades to master bathrooms as opposed to drapery panels so they are not sitting near the floor where water can reach them.' 

Lauren Lerner
Lauren Lerner

Lauren Lerner is the principal designer and founder of Living with Lolo, the interior design firm based in Scottsdale, AZ, since 2017. Fueled by her love for clean lines, mixed metals, colors, and timeless pieces, Lerner thrives on bringing a client’s home to life from the very beginning.

Blinds can be discreet

drapes vs blinds, minimalist living room with curved desk in left corner, mocha couches on right, hardwood floor, cream Roman blinds

(Image credit: Veida Sadri Design)

When you want your window treatments to take a back seat there's nothing more discreet than a blind as it will fit neatly with the frame. 

A neutral color will make the blind recede visually too – in this minimalist living room, the blinds add a hint of warmth to the scheme. Note your eye doesn't get drawn down like it would if there were drapes. They allow light to flood into the space but offer some privacy. 

Use both drapes and blinds in one space

drapes vs blinds, small dining room space with blind on one window and drapes on another, mahogany table and chairs, plant

(Image credit: Megan Warren Design / Vivian Johnson)

The versatility of both blinds and drapes means they can be used separately, but together in the same space. 

It works well when some windows are smaller than others, or if you want to add curtains to a door that leads out to the backyard. 

And you don't need to match up the fabric types says Megan Warren, founder and principal designer at Megan Warren Design, 'We used Roman shades and drapes for the breakfast room. Even though the materials were completely different because the colors coordinated it worked really well. The drapes are a Kravet Fabric with a small neutral pattern and the Roman shades are a natural woven material from Hartmann & Forbes.'

Megan Warren
Megan Warren

Based in Northern California, Megan Warren is the creative force behind Megan Warren Design. Megan's approach to interior design is deeply informed by her appreciation for art and sustainability. Her studio specializes in crafting beautiful, livable interiors that blend functionality with aesthetic appeal.

Or use them together

drapes vs blinds, snug with blinds and drapes, mocha walls, rattan blinds, dark gray drapes, chaise longue, side table

(Image credit: Yen Collective / Jessica Brydson)

Perhaps one of the most popular window treatment trends is to combine both blinds and drapes together. It certainly gives you the best of both worlds. 

'I love to work drapes into a bedroom, living room or family room. Drapes add so much to a space. Functionally they provide privacy and insulation. Visually they add a layer of texture and verticality that makes any room feel so much more elevated and finished. My go-to is to layer drapes over blinds or shades to allow for different needs in terms of privacy and light filtering,' says Sandy Yen, founder of Yen Collective

What's great about using both is that you can really play with texture and pattern – we love the rattan blind here, it adds a tactile quality to this cozy space. 

Sandy Yen
Sandy Yen

Founded by Sandy Yen, Yen Collective is a boutique interior design firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area with a project portfolio spanning the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York and beyond. Sandy left a career in tech to pursue her creative talents. Today she pursues her passion for design by working with clients to create entertainment worthy spaces that reflect who they are and the life they want to live. Yen Collective is known for their thoughtful blend of contemporary and classic for an aesthetic that feels inviting, inspiring and approachable.

Both drapes and blinds have their merits and can be as striking as each other. They can be colorful, muted, tactile, and elegant and if you can't decide which to choose – why not use both together? 

Sophie Warren-Smith
Contributing Editor

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 20 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time, both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor for indie magazine, 91, she trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for modern weddings and events. For H&G, she writes features about interior design – and is known for having an eye for a beautiful room.