Window Treatment Glossary of Terms
café curtain
cellular shade
crank casement windows
double hung windows
pleated shade
roll-up shade
roman shade

swag set
tab top
CAFE CURTAIN – A single pair of short panels, 1/2 the length of the window in which they are to be hung, which are installed on a suspension or cafe rod half way down the window leaving the top half open. CELLULAR SHADE – A cellular shade consists of two or more sheets of accordion-pleated reinforced fabric which is bonded together. From the front, this appears to be a standard pleated shade, but from the side you can see that the multi-layered construction creates a single, double, or even triple layer of honeycombed air spaces. Most manufacturers will tell you that this affects the ambience of the light that filters through them or that it affects the colors of the top layer, but the real benefit is less obvious. The honeycomb construction of cellular shades creates multiple air pockets within the shade which have an insulating effect. In other words, hang one of these puppies in a drafty window and you just might save on your heating bills in the winter.

CORNICE – A cornice is a three-sided box, usually made of wood, which caps the top of a window. It is upholstered with a fabric that matches the curtains or blinds beneath it and is often padded to soften the edges and prevent the upholstery from sagging or wrinkling. It serves the same function as a valance, but provides a more formal presentation. Works especially well with an oversized window or a wall of equal sized windows.

CRANK CASEMENT WINDOWS – A casement window is any window that opens on a hinge rather than sliding in a groove. There are two basic kinds of casement windows — standard and awning. A standard crank casement window is hinged on one side and opens from the opposite side, while an awning casement window is hinged at the top and opens from the bottom. Both feature screens on the inside of the window.

DOUBLE HUNG WINDOWS – This term describes windows that are raised and lowered rather than cranked open. “Double hung” refers to the system of counter weights on either side of the window housing which attach to the bottom pane and prevent it from closing when opened. Once discarded in favor of crank-opened casement windows, double hung windows (new varieties are much better insulated and energy efficient) are regaining popularity in today’s homes. Double hung windows feature screens on the outside.

DRAPE – These is the old-fashioned term for a heavyweight fabric panel. There are many ways to hang a drape, from simple rod-pockets to metal drapery hooks which insert into the pinch-pleats of more formal draperies. My grandmother would sooner have chewed off her own arm than hung drapes without a pair of polyester sheers beneath them and a set of matching tasseled tiebacks. These days, though, it’s not uncommon to find a pair of heavy velvet drapes hung in a bare window for a sleek, romantic look.

FESTOON – Similar to a valance. Rather than hanging straight down from a horizontal rod, however, it is draped from one corner to the opposite. Not really intended to be used on its own, try coupling with jabots or panels in a matching color to create the effect of a single piece of fabric which has been artfully arranged on a curtain rod.

FINIALS – Those decorative do-hickeys that adorn the ends of all of today’s trendiest curtain rods. Available in more styles and finishes than I could possibly describe, these are a great way to add interest to an otherwise spare window treatment or add drama to an elaborate one.

INSERT – A small panel which is used between a pair of swags or jabots.

JABOT – Pronounced zha-bow. This is a very impressive French term which means bird’s crop. I suggest that you use it often in conversation — people will find you very exciting and European. A jabot is a small panel, usually folded into deep pleats at the top and cut at an angle at the bottom. This causes it to fall into gentle waves at the bottom, exposing both the front and back of the fabric — a great opportunity to showcase complementary colors or patterns. A jabot is usually hung from the top of the window on either side. Since it does not extend across the width of a window, it is largely ineffective as a window treatment on its own and is commonly coupled with an insert or placed beneath a festoon or valance.

PANEL – A fairly generic term used to describe any four-sided window hanging. Tab-top or rod-pocket are the most common method of hanging.

PLEAT – A tailored fold in a piece of fabric.

PLEATED SHADE – More akin to a blind than a shade, this is made of accordion-pleated fabric (or sometimes even fibrous paper) which is raised and lowered with cords like a blind. Unlike a blind, though, it must be raised in order to see outside. See also Cellular Shade.

ROD-POCKET- A style of window dressing whose name makes reference to its method of hanging. Remember the seventy-two inch polyester sheers that your mother gave you? Yes, we’ve spoken about them already. Those are rod-pocket panels. They have a pocket stitched into them to slide a curtain rod through. Oh, and that extra panel above it? That’s called a “header,” and it’s meant to create a gentle ruffle that softens the top of the panel and draws attention away from the curtain rod. Ever jammed a curtain rod through the header of one panel by mistake and then wondered why your curtains were lopsided? Now you know.

ROLL-UP SHADE – Oh, come on. You know what this is. Remember the six-foot long sheets of vinyl that hung from a spring-wound tube at the top of the window? The ones that snapped up and scared the wits out of you when you least expected it? Those were roll-up shades. Now they are available in a variety of fabrics and translucencies, from sheers to total light blocking, and with a boatload of interesting hardware to choose from. And yes, they are still available in white vinyl.

ROMAN SHADE – Traditionally a fabric shade with wooden slats inserted horizontally at intervals down its entire length. It is raised and lowered via pull cord as with other blinds, but gathers soft folds as it does so. Newer variations of fabric roman shades include lighter fabrics and pleats without wooden slats, so the folds drape more dramatically when the shade is raised.

SCARF – A long piece of fabric, usually designed to drape across the top of a window and hang to the floor on either side, but easily customized for unique looks. It can be hung from hooks in the top corners of a window, draped across a curtain rod or suspended from other specialty hardware.

SHUTTER – Wooden hinged or solid panels that may be folded across a window to diffuse light and add privacy. Shutters for windows are also a great way to add architectural interest to a room and look great either painted or stained. Shutters with adjustable louvers function in much the same way as venetian blinds in that they may be opened to admit light and allow a partial view outside while maintaining a fair amount of privacy inside. Shutters with louvers that are over two inches wide are sometimes referred to as “Plantation Shutters.”

STACK-BACK – A great term to throw around when shopping for curtains — it really makes you sound like you know what you’re talking about. It refers to the amount of space a panel or drape will take up when pulled back to open the window. For example, a lightweight silk taffeta panel may only have two or three inches of stack-back, but a well-lined floor length velvet drape may have up to seven or eight inches. This is an important factor when determining how many inches your curtain rod should extend beyond the frame of your window.

SWAG – This term refers to a one-piece valance which is cut longer on either end so that it frames the entire top half of the window.

SWAG SET – A two piece swag. May also be combined with an insert — a short valance of complementary color or fabric which is hung between the two half-swags.

TAB TOP – A style of window treatment whose name makes reference to the method of hanging. A tab top panel is a panel with flat fabric loops at the top. These provide a great opportunity to make use of decorative curtain rods and finials. Be conscious of the fabric when choosing tab tops. A heavy twill will maintain a fairly rigid shape and give your windows a tidy, contemporary feel, while cotton gauze will have a pronounced drape and impart a light, airy feel to a room. A fabric that drapes more may also reveal the top of your window, so watch the height of your curtain rod.

TIERS – Tiered curtains impart a homey, country feel to a room. These generally consist of four short panels, each about the length of 1/2 the height of the window in which they are to be hung. One pair is hung at the top of the window and the other halfway down. The bottom pair may then be opened to admit fresh air or closed for privacy while the top is opened to let in sunlight. These are similar to and often interchangeable with Cafe Curtains.

VALANCE – Another one of those generic, overused terms that applies to a million different things. It describes any fabric treatment which tops a window and doesn’t extend beyond… oh, we’ll say a third of the length of the window. Let’s see now, there’s puffed valances, valance and panel sets, tapered valances, crescent valances, tabbed valances, scalloped valances, valance fricassee, valance gumbo, fried valances, valances with okra, valance casserole, valance and beans, valance and rice…