Blackout, Room Darkening, Light-Filtering, And Sheer Curtains

Blinds are convenient, but curtains look better, with their multitude of patterns and colors. One thing that curtains can do that blinds can't is provide a completely dark environment. These blackout curtains are perfect for people trying to sleep during the day, and with the different curtain types available, you can find a level you like.

Blackout Curtains

Blackout curtains, when used correctly, should make a room completely dark. If you have electronic devices plugged in that have power-on indicator lights, you'll still see those, but sunlight will be shut out. A common error when using blackout curtains is not extending them far enough past the sides, top, and bottom of the window to prevent light leakage. In other words, light can still enter the room from the glow you see around the edges of the curtains. This is why it's so vital that you ensure the curtains cover a few inches of wall space (at the very least) on all sides of the window. Blackout curtains can be any color; the secret is in the thickness of the material and the very tight weave.

Room-Darkening Curtains

Room-darkening curtains sound like they should make a room totally dark, but they don't. These are middle-grade curtains in terms of blocking light; when these curtains are closed during the day, you'll still see some light through the curtains, but the room will not be light enough for anything more than grabbing an item off a shelf before going to another room. It's dark enough to take a nap if you don't need the room to be pitch black. The light generally isn't sufficient for reading or even cleaning. You can add a blackout liner behind these curtains to block more light.


Light-filtering curtains are sometimes considered a separate category from room-darkening and sheer, but other sources may treat them the same as either room-darkening or sheer. If you see brands where light-filtering curtains are in their own category, these will be fairly thin curtains that let a lot of light in during the day but that still reduce the amount of light in the room. They are excellent for blocking bright, direct light.


Sheer curtains are often used to provide a little privacy during daytime while blocking very little light. Bright, direct light is somewhat diffused, but the curtains don't make the room look darker. Sheer curtains tend to be gauzy (literally; think tutu tulle, but much, much softer) and often have lovely lacelike patterns. They're typically white, although they do come in other colors, and they are usually placed closest to the window with a heavier set of curtains between the sheer layer and the rest of the room. If you've ever watched British TV and seen window coverings that had thick drapes on the sides of the window and a gauzy layer in front of the window, you've seen sheer curtains.

When it's light out and you've got your interior lights off, people walking by outside won't be able to see a lot of detail if they look at your window. But if you have a light on, and it's dark outside, sheer curtains won't really block anyone's views inside your home. These are mainly daytime-use curtains.

You can combine curtains or go for one layer. What you choose will most likely vary according to the side of the house the window is on and the purpose of the curtain, an example being room darkening for a den but blackout for a bedroom. A company like Decoberry has more information on these curtains.