Fabric options for curtains

Tania Naudé
Written by Tania Naudé
Russells Consultant
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When it’s time for new curtains, our in-home style consultant will bring over 3000 fabric samples to your door. That’s a lot of choice! So many textures, colours and patterns. It’s easy to make a choice based on these elements of the fabric, but perhaps the first thing you should decide is which type of fabric material you want.

Each type has it’s own benefits and best uses based on its weight, texture, light blocking or exposing qualities, durability and sun-fade resistance.

The most common types of curtain fabric are cotton, silk, linen, polyester, velvet, acrylic, rayon, brocade, lace and voile.


Cotton is a versatile fabric used to achieve a range of styles. It offers a crisp, clean feel that suits traditional or modern styles. As it can be a very light fabric, cotton curtains do need to be properly lined so they hang and fall as desired. If you’re looking to block sunlight in a bright room, choose cotton with a tight weave or have them well lined.


If silk doesn’t say ‘luxury’ nothing does. Be warned though, silk is best chosen for its aesthetic appeal than functionality. Silk is a heavy-ish fabric so it drapes well; it looks fabulously romantic in bedrooms or formal dining rooms. But it’s not the most practical.

Silk is dry clean only, and very susceptible to sun damage. If the room has a lot of natural light you may want to protect them by using a roller blind underneath or a lighter coloured panel for lining. You could opt for a silk-look polyester fabric for more durability.


This is a very common choice. Polyester is durable, affordable, easy to care for, and doesn’t really wrinkle, stretch or shrink. Choose polyester for bedroom and living areas, but avoid it in the kitchen as it’s flammable, doesn’t allow good airflow and absorbs odours.


Linen is a natural fibre. Its billowy look creates an airy, casual, relaxed environment. If you like the look of curtains that pool on the floor, linen is a great choice to achieve it. Linen won’t block the sun, and like silk they’re dry clean only.

Learn what to consider in picking the right curtains for your home



Made of either natural or synthetic fibres, if you want glamour and richness in a room, pick velvet. It’s thick and heavy making it great for blocking out cold air, light and sound. And it drapes well, giving rooms a regal look.


With a similar texture to wool, arylic is a lightweight fabric that drapes beautifully and provides great insulation. Acrylic curtains attract and disperse moisture effortlessly, they’re hypoallergenic and resistant to mold and mildew.


Rayon can be woven with natural fibres to achieve a variety of textures. It’s soft, strong and breathable.


This is an elaborately woven fabric that can be used to create a sophisticated tone.


Lace curtains are very traditional and romantic, best used to provide privacy and diffuse natural light. Most often they come in neutral shades, easily coordinated with other colours in the room. Check to see if they’re dry clean only, or a little more sturdy and can handle a machine wash.


Voile is a crisp, open weave fabric that is best utilised for sheers. It gathers and drapes wonderfully, creating a light, airy ambience while maintaining a high level of privacy.

More on our sheer curtain range

Don’t worry if this seems a bit overwhelming right now. Our in-home style consultants know the different types of fabrics really well and can help you make the best decision to achieve style and functionality in the different rooms of your home.


Hold the fabric sample up to a window to see how it filters light.

If the sample is big enough, pleat it at the top and see how it drapes. Consider the mood of the room; is it formal, casual, comfortable, quiet? This will influence the fabric type you go for. Once you’ve decided on the type of fabric, now you can choose the colour and pattern. Maybe go for a darker colour for high traffic areas so as it doesn’t get too noticeably dirty.

Rooms that get a lot of light probably need a lighter colour as a darker one will fade. Plain fabrics can be dressed up with decorative rods. And think about pattern repeat; if you choose a large pattern, ensure it’s for a large window for good effect.

Learn what to consider in picking the right curtains for your home

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