There are a variety of curtain styles that contribute to the feeling and décor of a room, from casual to formal, classic to trendy. The style of a curtain, combined with color, pattern and texture, sets a mood and makes a statement about your unique decorative style.

Grommet, Rod Pocket or Back Tab Curtains?

Grommet, rod pocket and back tab curtains are three simple formats for hanging curtains. Each gives a different look and can be adapted to give a personalized touch to drapery. Here's the lowdown on these three popular styles of curtain headers.

Rod Pocket Curtains

colorful purplish curtains with circular colored shapes

Rod pocket curtains, also called pole top or casement curtains, are a classic, and classy, way to hang drapery. A casing sewn onto the back of the curtain panel at the top allows the rod to slip through unseen. Panels bunch in gathers on the rod for a soft look with clean lines. No hardware is required to fix the curtain to the rod. A small portion of the rod will show at each end when the curtain is closed.

Rod pocket curtains work well with layered window coverings. Valences hung above the curtain hide the rod even when the curtain is open. Sheers can be mounted under the main panels. Casement curtains are often used on French doors and sidelights. Rods slip through casements at the top and bottom of the panels so that the curtains can be secured to the top and bottom of a window. Sheers are often used for this window treatment, providing privacy while allowing light to come through.

You can select finials, the end caps of the curtain rod, that complement the color, pattern or style of the curtain. If you want to minimize the appearance of the hardware, try finials in materials such as glass, crystal or acrylic that reflect light rather than draw the eye to the end cap.

To customize rod pocket curtains, attach curtain rings or pin hooks to the back of the panel along the pocket. Draperies are suspended from the rings, which are spaced evenly so that they don't affecting the gathers and fall of the material. Rod pocket curtains are more difficult to open and close because the material doesn't slide easily along the rod. Rings or pin hooks make adjusting curtains easier. If you use pins or rings, make sure they are strong enough to support the weight of the curtain. 

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Back Tab Curtains

white voile curtains by art on white wall

If you like a tailored look without the fuss of clips or pins, try back tab curtains. Back tab curtains, also called hidden tab curtains, have tabs or loops sewn onto the back of the curtain header. The rod slips through the tab so that neither is visible from the front. This gives the illusion of the curtain floating in space and creates an elegant, clean line. The curtains form pleats over the rod at each tab without using any hardware. The top of the curtain rises above the rod, giving a crisp edge to the top of the drapery.

Back tab curtains are suitable if you don't want to open and close the drapes very often. Because the fabric rests directly on the rod, it may be difficult to slide the tabs over the pole. To help keep the tabs and pleats straight, try flat rods instead of round ones. The tabs lie flush against a flat rod, resulting in a more graceful fall and crisp pleats.

Like rod pocket curtains, you can add clips or rings over the tabs if you want to enhance the look. Rings also add length. If you need a few extra inches, attach rings to the top of the curtain to lower the panel to the length you want. This technique allows you to use standard curtain lengths without the need for alteration. It also enhances puddling, or the pooling of the fabric on the floor.

Hidden tab curtains support and distribute the weight of heavier fabrics without sagging. Back tab headers can also be used with lighter-weight fabrics. However, the rod may show through sheer fabrics, which affects the illusion of the curtain suspended in space. Back tabs work well with curtains with lace or other decorative trim because the full header is displayed. In contrast, rings and clips may conceal or pinch part of the trim.

Grommet Top Curtains

beautiful checkered pattern curtains by small art, white wall, green pattern white voile curtains

If your style is modern or trendy, grommet top curtains will complement your décor. Grommet curtains, also called eyelet curtains, use rings embedded in the header to serve as the guide for the curtain pole. The rigidity of the grommet helps form well-defined, even pleats. Stiff materials work better with grommet top curtains, giving a crisp look to the fall of the fabric. The finish of the grommet rings lets the panels slide easily over the rod. Grommets also add strength to the curtain as you handle the material over time.

Grommets are made of several materials and contribute to the look of the curtain. Metallic finishes, such as brass, nickel, bronze and silver, are popular. Plastic grommets come in many colors and designs. You can match grommet colors to the curtain fabric or be creative with multicolor and patterned grommets for a fun design. Grommet openings vary from as small as 3/8-inch up to 1 9/16-inches, so you can play with grommet size as well as color to come up with a unique look.

Unlike casement and back tab curtains that don't show the rod, the rod is visible in grommet drapery headers. As you select the curtains, be sure to pair them with stylish rods that contribute to the overall look of the window treatment. Wood, brass and acrylic are just a few of the many rod materials that complement grommet top curtains. Contrasting rod width with the size of grommet openings plays on the variations of shape.

As you shop for curtains, consider how the overall effect of the window treatments will enhance the room. The heaviness of the curtain fabric, color, pattern and fullness of panels work together. Keep in mind how the different header styles contribute to mood and atmosphere. Pair your selections of panels with complementary rods, finials and other curtain hardware to create a look that reflects your decorative individuality.

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October 13, 2020 — Jun Yang