What are Cafe Curtains?

Sheri Cyprus

Cafe curtains are cloth window coverings that have the distinction of being hung on a rod across the middle of the glass rather than at the top. Some cafe curtain types also have a top header section, or valance. Since the upper middle part of the window remains uncovered, the cafe curtain style offers only semi-privacy even when closed, or drawn. This curtain style can let in a lot of sunlight.

Dating back to 19th century Vienna, Austria, cafe curtains were used in many cafes and coffee shops.
Dating back to 19th century Vienna, Austria, cafe curtains were used in many cafes and coffee shops.

Thought to date back to 19th century Vienna, Austria, cafe curtains were used in many cafes and coffee shops before becoming popular in home kitchens. These short curtains tend to add style to an otherwise plain, large window. Cafe curtains can be closed or held open with tie-backs at each side of the window, just like other curtain varieties.

In addition to offering some privacy on the lower part of the window as well as the opportunity for sunlight to shine in through the upper section of the glass, the cafe curtain look can be very stylish in an informal way. The possible variations in plain, straight-edged cafe curtains are almost endless. The material for cafe curtains alone can range from sheer to opaque, solid to print and colorful to neutral.

White lace cafe curtain styles as well as dark velvet ones can look more formal than other types. Gingham or other checked cotton curtains have a rustic, country appearance. Whimsical casual styles of these curtains may feature colorful designs or motifs such as animals or fruits. Cafe curtain edges may be straight, ruffled, scalloped or trimmed. Lace and fringe are popular trims for cafe styles of curtains.

While many cafe curtain varieties are gathered at the top with the rest of the fabric hanging smoothly, others are pleated. Usually though, cafe curtains tend to have less formal or fussy details such as pleats or starched fabrics. More romantic cafe curtain types may have soft ruffles as their trim.

Cafe curtains may be ready-made or homemade. Generally, cafe curtains are quite easy to make, but the measurements must be accurate or they won't be the proper width for the window or the length needed from the middle of the glass to the edge of the sill. Although a curtain rack or bar is commonly mounted across the center of the window to hold most cafe curtain types, strong drapery cord is sometimes used instead.

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Discussion Comments


@rundocuri- That's a great idea, especially for a kitchen window. I also like to use cafe curtains in my dining room. They give it a just enough shade and privacy while still keeping the room bright and sunny.

I also think that cafe curtains look best when they aren't too frilly, but have an appropriate design for the room. My dining room cafe curtains have a floral pattern on them, which goes perfectly with the view of my flower garden in the yard.


I have a kitchen window that lets too much sun in the room in the afternoon. Since I didn't want to block the view completely, I put up cafe curtains to help keep some of the light out during peak hours. These unique curtains look great while still allowing sun in and access to the view outside.

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