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Drapery vs. Side Panels

Living room featuring Carole Fabrics Drapery Regal Touch  Color: Cream

A quick look at the differences

Both drapery and side panels add drama and dimension to a room, acting like bookends for your windows—and playing an essential role in a room’s look and feel. These window treatments can make a small room appear larger; in larger spaces, they serve as focal points in the room. While drapery is moveable and covers the entire window when you close it, side panels (also called stationary drapery panels) do not close, and are primarily for adding a decorative “frame” to your windows. While those differences are clear-cut, you should also keep a handful of other pointers in mind before purchasing, starting with light control and privacy.

Light Control and Privacy

Do you want your window treatments to be purely decorative? Or are you looking for something that’s functional, providing flexible light control and privacy?

If functionality is key, then drapery is for you. Because you can close drapery, it’s a great option for controlling light and providing privacy. The type of drapery lining you choose also makes a difference in the amount of light flooding a room. A translucent liner, for example, will help filter light and reduce glare, while a room-darkening liner will, as the name implies, create a darker room. 

Now, if you want something purely decorative, and you have an awesome view or privacy isn’t a concern, side panels are the way to go.

Prefer side panels but also want the flexibility of light control and privacy? Add another layer to your window with a blind or shade. (Layering gives you an additional bonus from the side panels: they’ll block slivers of light that come through the gaps between the edge of the blind or shade and the window.) 

Temperature Control

Drapery, when closed, adds a layer of insulation at the window, helping to keep a room cooler during the day in summer or warm climates, so your A/C doesn’t have to work as hard. 

Drapery can also help with energy efficiency in the winter or cold climates, too. On sunny days, open drapery so that direct sunlight can warm up the room and then close them at night; on cloudy days, keep drapery closed to help keep warm air inside. 

Adding a liner to drapery panels can also help increase this window treatment’s energy efficiency.


When you open drapery, you’ll obviously have fabric that gathers on the sides of the window. The amount of space that the fabric takes up is called stackback. When considering drapery, keep the amount of space you have on either side of your window frame in mind (drapery typically stacks to about one-third of its full width). 

If you’re limited on space and won’t have enough to stack drapery where you want it, use side panels as an alternative. 


Side panels are usually more economical than drapery because they use less fabric.  Of course, if you plan to layer a shade or blind with side panels, then you’ll need to factor in those costs with your overall budget.


Window featuring Carole Fabrics Drapery Sheriff  Color: Powder Carole Fabrics Drapery Sheriff Color: Powder
Living room windows featuring Carole Fabrics Drapery Aiden  Color: Dusty Blue Carole Fabrics Drapery Aiden Color: Dusty Blue
Windows with Carole Fabrics Side Panels Gear Up  Color: Ming Carole Fabrics Side Panels Gear Up Color: Ming

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