Want Window Treatment Ideas? Learn the Lingo

Amanda Bell
Written by Amanda Bell
Updated September 26, 2016
windows with striped Roman shades
When lowered, the fabric panels of Roman shades lie flat. Variations on these popular window treatment ideas include knife-pleat Roman shades, which feature tailored seams across the front. (Photo courtesy of Blindsgalore)

Festoons? Roman shades? Raise your vocabulary before you go shopping for curtains and drapes.

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Window treatment ideas abound if you want to soften the look of or add more privacy to a room by adding new curtains or drapes. But between the many pleat variations and different types of valances and draperies, the vocabulary used to describe window treatment styles can get confusing! Keep these terms in mind when shopping for different types of window treatments or consulting with a design professional.

Curtains or drapes?

Curtains: Unlined window coverings with a more casual style.Drapes: Lined, pleated floor-length styles that evoke a more formal vibe.The terms frequently are used interchangeably.A valance is a short section of decorative drapery that spans the width of the window, concealing the curtain rod. 

Cornice / cornice box

A three-sided box, usually made of wood, which caps the top of a window to hide hardware or mask architectural flaws. A window cornice sometimes is upholstered with fabric to match the window treatment below it.


Folded drapery fabric that hangs in one or more curves from the top of a window for a decorative effect. Festoons generally don’t stand alone as elegant window treatments — they’re usually paired with a matching fabric panel.

French pleat / French pleat drapes

A loose, three-fold stitched pleat at the top of a drapery used to make a window treatment appear fuller. Also called pinch pleats, they’re often used with more traditional decor.

curtain holdback fixture with flowers
Metal holdbacks sweep curtains or drapes back from the window. (Photo by Katelin Kinney)

Holdbacks / tiebacks

Items that hold a curtain or drape back from a window, helping create the shape of the window treatment.Holdbacks: Metal fixtures that attach to the wall.Tiebacks: Fabric bands or cords, sometimes accented with tassels or other decorations.

Lambrequin window cornice

An elaborate type of cornice that extends all or part of the way down the sides of a window.

Rod pocket curtains

Curtain panels with a pocket stitched into the top to slide, or shir, a curtain rod through. Sometimes rod pocket curtains have a header — an extra panel above the pocket — meant to create a ruffle above the rod.

Roman shades

Fabric shades with wooden slats inserted horizontally at intervals down each shade’s length, raised and lowered with a pull cord. When lowered, Roman shade panels lie flat and cover the full length of the window glass.

patterned curtains with statuette
Knowing the stack back (the amount of space curtains take up when drawn back) is helpful when designing a window treatment. (Photo by Frank Espich)

Stack back

The amount of space a panel or drape occupies when fully drawn. Stack back is useful in determining how many inches your curtain rod should extend beyond the frame of your window. No set formula exists to determine a drapery’s stack back, but one third of the panel width is a good rule of thumb.

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