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What are short curtains called?

Short curtains, also known as café curtains or tier curtains, are a classic style of window treatment that hits at or just below the windowsill. Typically made of lightweight fabric, short curtains allow plenty of natural light into a room while also providing a layer of softness and privacy.What are short curtains called?

Characteristics of Short Curtains

Short curtains, as their name implies, are curtains that are relatively short in length compared to floor-length curtains or even standard window curtains. Here are some of the defining traits of this curtain style:

  • Length – Short curtains usually fall to the windowsill or just below it, with lengths ranging from 18 to 30 inches being common.
  • Fabric – These curtains are usually made from lightweight, breezy fabrics like cotton, linen, or voile. This allows them to move gently in a breeze when the window is open.
  • Style – Café curtains take their namesake from French-style café window coverings. They have a casual, relaxed look and are often decorated with trims and colorful patterns.
  • Purpose – While allowing light and fresh air in, short curtains provide a bit of privacy and softness at windows. They strike a nice balance between exposed windows and heavy drapery treatments.

Names for Short Curtains

Short curtains go by several popular alternative names, including:

  • Café curtains
  • Tier curtains
  • Window sill length curtains
  • Sill curtains
  • Apron curtains
  • Café-style curtains
  • French country curtains

The terms “café curtains” and “tier curtains” are most commonly used to refer to these shortened window treatments. The café moniker calls back to their use in bistros and cafés with large windows. Tier refers to their gently tiered look as the fabric gathers just below the rod.

Where to Use Short Curtains

With their casual, breezy look and ability to filter light, short curtains are well-suited to many areas of the home:

Kitchen – The practical fabric and length make short curtains perfect for kitchens. They allow sunlight in to make the space brighter.

Dining room – Relaxed tier curtains help create a welcoming atmosphere in dining spaces.

Bedrooms – Short curtains let in refreshing morning light but still offer darkness at night when drawn.

Kids’ rooms – Playful patterns and trims make café-style curtains a natural choice for children’s rooms.

Bathrooms – The humidity-resistant fabric holds up well in bathrooms with windows for ventilation and natural light.

Craft rooms – Sheer light-filtering curtains provide illumination for close work without glare.

Offices – Short curtains in offices keep rooms light and airy but prevent distractions.

They are also popular curtain options for vacation homes, rentals, dorms, cafés, and other casual settings.

Benefits of Short Café Curtains

There are many benefits that make short café-style curtains an enduring choice for windows:

Allow light – The abbreviated length and lightweight sheer or semi-sheer fabrics allow plentiful natural sunlight to filter into rooms.

Increased privacy – While not blackout curtains, short curtains provide noticeable increased privacy over exposed windows during daytime hours.

Softer aesthetic – Short ruffled curtains lend a softer, more inviting look than bare windows or blinds.

Visibility – The shortened length offers continued visibility out windows for improved safety, enjoying views, etc.

Easy to install – With their simple construction, short curtains are very fast and easy DIY window dressing projects.

Versatile – Fun patterns, fabrics and colors make it easy to match short curtains to a room’s existing style.

Mood boosting – Breezy, light-filtering curtains create pleasant, soothing environments to lift moods.

Popular Short Curtain Styles

Short curtains may share defining characteristics, but they vary widely when it comes to specific styles and designs:

Tiered – Tiered short curtains were the original café style. The ruffled tiers lend beautiful texture and movement.

Patterned – From polka dots to plaid, patterned short curtains infuse cheerful personality into rooms with their vibrant colors and prints.

Neutral – Linen or cotton short curtains in solids like white, ivory or beige embody the breezy, casual style while matching any décor.

Gingham – Classic gingham check prints offer an iconic, nostalgic cottage look. The medium-scale checks look especially pretty tiered.

Scalloped – Gentle scalloped hem edges provide a graceful, feminine detail.

Vintage – Vintage-inspired fabrics and trims, like lace and intricate trimwork, are trending modern takes on historical short curtain styles.

Tab top – For a relaxed look, tab-top café curtains have visible hanging tabs rather than concealed back rods.

Burlap – Rustic burlap short curtains complement farmhouse, cottage, and eclectic room styles.

Key Takeaways

  • Short curtains, around 18-30 inches long, offer an attractive and functional window dressing solution, lending breezy style, softness, and lighting control.
  • Also called café or tier curtains, they provide privacy and security while allowing outside views and healthy airflow when windows are open.
  • With easy installation, care, and pairing with all décor, it’s simple to employ short curtains to enhance the mood and functionality of kitchens, bedrooms, kids’ spaces, bathrooms, and other living areas.
  • Choosing the length, width, material, hanging method and design details that best suit your space results in short curtains that improve comfort and ambiance for all who enter.


With their origins in French cafés and their quintessentially cottage-chic look, short café curtains are a enduring choice to softly dress windows in high-traffic living spaces. The next time your windows could use some subtle filtering of light and fresh air along with cozy style, consider breezy tier curtains hitting attractively right at the window sill. With plenty of light and visibility preserved both inside and out, short curtains boost functionality, privacy and charm in kitchens, bedrooms and common areas throughout the home.


Q: What is the standard length for short curtains?
A: Short curtains typically range from about 18 to 30 inches long. Cafe curtains specifically describe tiered curtains that hit at the windowsill, which is usually 18 to 24 inches long.

Q: Should short curtains touch the window sill?
A: It’s generally recommended that café style curtains lightly brush or break just below the windowsill. If they are too short, gaps will be visible and detract from their softening effect.

Q: How wide should short curtains be?
A: Measure the width of your window frame and rods. For fullness, choose curtains that are about one-and-a-half to two times wider to allow attractive draping and gathering.

Q: Can you put short curtains on tiered curtain rods?
A: Yes, two-tiered café rods with a sheer upper layer and more opaque drapery layer are a great way to hang short curtains.

Q: Should I iron my new short curtains?
A: It’s often recommended to give cotton, linen or other fabric short curtains an initial gentle steam to remove creases from packaging and help them hang properly.

Q: How do I wash short curtains?
A: Check fabric care labels. Most often, machine washing on a gentle cycle and tumble drying on low is recommended. Avoid high heat to prevent shrinkage.

Q: What are common troubleshooting issues with short curtains?
A: Wrinkling, holding odors if not washed regularly, dragging on dusty window sills, gaps at edges if improperly measured, and fabric fading if exposed to excessive direct sunlight are some potential issues to address.

Q: Where can I buy good quality short curtains in-store and online?
A: Top retailers like Target, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Amazon, and Wayfair all carry short curtain panels and valances at affordable prices in almost any style imaginable. For custom looks, platforms like Etsy are great resources.

Q: What are common materials used to make cafe curtains?
A: Common materials used to make cafe curtains include cotton, linen, burlap, voile, lace, polyester, gingham, twill, denim, and lightweight jacquards. Cotton, linen, and lace are popular traditional choices, while polyester and voile offer durability and light airiness.

Q: Can I use cafe curtains outside?
A: Cafe curtains can certainly be used outside! When choosing fabrics focus on materials that can withstand sun exposure and moisture such as polyester blends and acrylic. Make sure to check labels for outdoor, weather resistant or UV protective features.

Q: How do I make my own cafe curtains?
A: Making DIY cafe curtains is an easy sewing project! Measure your windows, purchase fabric, such as cotton or linen, cut panels to size allowing for drape, sew hems or ruffles across the short sides for tiers. Finish by making rod pockets, sewing on decorative trim, or using back tabs to hang.

Q: What length are cafe curtains?
A: The typical length for most standard sized cafe curtains is 18 to 30 inches long. Cafe curtains are purposely short, designed to hung near or just slightly below the windowsill to allow light in while preserving some privacy.

Q: Can cafe curtains be professionally cleaned?
A: Yes, while most cafe curtains can be washed at home, they can also be taken to a dry cleaner for professional cleaning if they require more heavy duty stain treatment or if you want to preserve decorative details.

Q: Do I need a specialty rod for cafe curtains?
A: You do not necessarily need a unique rod, but two-tiered cafe curtain rods are popular since they allow hanging a valance and curtain panel together. Standard curtain rods installed just below the window frame work too.

Q: What are some typical cafe curtain patterns?
A: Some of the most classic cafe curtain patterns include gingham checks, floral prints, plaid, pinstripes, polka dots, lace and eyelet designs. Solid colors in light hues are also commonly used.

Q: What rooms are best to hang cafe curtains in?
A: Cafe curtains work especially well in kitchens, breakfast nook areas, bedrooms, bathroom, mudrooms, craft rooms, cottages, vacation homes and rental properties where their breezy style fits right in.

Q: How far past the window sill should cafe curtains extend?
A: Cafe curtains look best when they skim right at the windowsill or up to 5 inches below it. Avoid lengths more than a few inches below the sill or awkward gaps in coverage can occur.

Q: Can I iron my new cafe curtains before hanging?
A: It’s often recommended to give new cafe curtains a light ironing or steaming before hanging to remove creases from packaging and allow the tiers and length to hang properly. Be sure to check fabric care labels first.

Q: How wide across should my cafe curtains be?
A: For proper fullness when drawn, choose a width that is around 1.5 to 2 times the width of your window including rods. This allows attractive draping and gathering rather than pulled, strained sides.

Q: What are some tips for styling cafe curtains?
A: Decorate with pretty tiebacks, layer with blinds for adjustable lighting control, stagger multiple panels across a wide window, hang them high and wide for a romantic billowy look, or keep practical with neatly tucked sides secured by magnets or Velcro.

Q: Where did the name “cafe curtains” come from?
A: Cafe curtains get their name from early 20th century Parisian bistro’s signature style of short ruffled sill length curtains dressing their large windows. The charming yet functional style later spread globally to cafes and homes.

Q: What weights and textures work best for cafe curtains?
A: Light, breezy fabrics with some body like light cottons, linen, lace and voile are preferred for moveability and visibility. Very heavy, dense or dark opaque fabrics defeat their casual, airy purpose and view.

Q: Should I line my DIY cafe curtains?
A: Lining is optional for light-filtering cafe curtains depending on privacy needs. Unlined allows more light. A partial lining of just the lower half can add opacity while allowing upper visibility. Or fully line for most coverage.

Q: What are cafe curtains made of?
A: Cafe curtains today are commonly made of natural fabrics like cotton, linen, burlap as well as polyester blends. These fabrics provide the casual draping needed along with durability and easy care.

Q: Can I put blackout liners behind cafe curtains?
A: You can add separate blackout liner panels behind lightweight cafe curtains to block outside light as needed while preserving their appearance. Clip linen panels to rods when privacy is desired.

Q: Do I need to hem my DIY cafe curtains?
A: Yes, hemming the sides and lower edge of the curtain panels (or adding ribbon trim, lace etc) finishes DIY cafe curtains for a tidy, complete look that won’t fray over time.

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