Understanding Different Curtain Rod Styles

Updated on May 22, 2019
lindacee profile image

Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.


A rod is key to hanging most types of standard curtains and draperies. Depending which style you choose curtains typically attach by way of rings, carriers, loops or pockets. Curtain rods run the gamut of styles and prices from inexpensive expansion rods to custom length decorative poles.

With the wide variety of options available there is certainly a rod style perfectly suited to your curtains. When it's time to update your home's decor select the right curtain rods to make an impact to set your room apart. Here are the most common styles of functional and decorative curtain rods.


The category of conventional curtain rods consists of wood or metal poles in varying diameters. Retailers offer conventional wooden poles in standard lengths as well as adjustable metal rods. You can purchase a single curtain rod or double rods that allow you to hang a layer of sheers beneath privacy curtains. Ready-made conventional rods often come as part of a set with matching wall brackets, finials and rings.

Specialty manufacturers make custom curtain rods based on the client’s exact specifications. Made-to-measure curtain rods cost considerably more than rods purchased off-the-shelf. Custom versions afford a homeowner the ability to design the exact finish and configuration.

Double curtain rods hang sheers beneath  decorative curtains to create privacy.
Double curtain rods hang sheers beneath decorative curtains to create privacy. | Source


Your grandmother’s traverse rod may be the modern solution for covering large window openings. The versatile traverse rod can be ceiling or wall mounted and spans vast window expanses with ease. These original plain rods are now quite stylish made from wood or metal that look exactly like drapery poles.

Commonly used with pinch-pleated curtains or sheers outfitted with drapery pins traverse rods consist of a metal track with carriers. The drapery hooks insert into a small hole at the bottom of each carrier. Traverse rods feature either one-way or two-way open and close with the pull of a cord or the click of a remote.

Traverse rods come in the original plain functional design and stylish decorative versions.
Traverse rods come in the original plain functional design and stylish decorative versions. | Source

Swing Arm

Swing arm rods work in certain applications where other styles of curtain rods won't. They are easily identifiable in that they attach to only one side of a window and operate on a hinge. The rod or arm slides into a bracket mounted to the wall.

The curtain swings back and forth over the window opening. A set of swing arm curtain rods dressed with sheers creates a stylish cover for French doors. Consider swing arm rods for door sidelights and narrow windows as well.

Swing arm rods are great for french doors or narrow windows.
Swing arm rods are great for french doors or narrow windows. | Source


Continental curtain rods are the unsung heroes of the curtain world. Use these expandable rods to hang rod pocket curtains and valances. Made from enamel-coated metal, the flat profile of the continental rod remains completely concealed beneath gathered and shirred curtain headers.

Continental rods range in width from 2 1/2 to 4 inches to accommodate a variety of rod pocket depths. Choose this rod style when looking for an economical method for curtain installation.

Continental rods are perfect for rod pocket curtains, valances and balloon shades
Continental rods are perfect for rod pocket curtains, valances and balloon shades | Source


Tension rods provide a quick and easy curtain hanging option. These rods remain in place thanks to a spring and twisting mechanism that creates pressure between the rod ends and wall.

Tension rods adjust in length giving them the ability to fit most average size window openings. Tension rods have no screws or mounting hardware leaving walls and window frames undamaged. The rubber tipped ends of the rod fit snugly inside a window frame or doorway.

You can use tension rods for cafe curtains and lightweight sheers.
You can use tension rods for cafe curtains and lightweight sheers. | Source

Curtain Rod Tips

  • It’s usually best to choose your curtains before you purchase curtain rods. Depending on the length, color, and weight of the curtains you might go with a thick rod, a thin rod or one with a particular color or finish.
  • For stationary curtain panels, sheers, or valances, use standard curtain rods, continental or tension rods.
  • Select a curtain rod that suits your room's personality.
  • For curtains that require drawing back and forth across a wide expanse of windows use traverse rods.
  • For a layered treatment you can install both standard curtain rods and traverse rods or a double rod configuration.
  • Get the right length curtain rod for your window.

Questions & Answers

  • I have new curtains hanging from rings but I want the curtains to slide easily on the rod. Would it be better to use a curtain track system to make it open and close easily?

    Curtain rods with rings are designed to hold up the curtains and act as a decorative feature. If the curtains are heavy it is difficult to move them back and forth along the rod to pull the fabric with your hands. Consider using the curtains onto a track. They are also known as traverse rods and the curtains or drapes easily move across the window. You pull on the cord to smoothly slide the curtains opened and closed.

© 2019 Linda Chechar

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    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 weeks ago from Arizona

      Cristy Daniels, it's best to order custom curtain rods. Do a search online for companies or find one at a local custom curtain hardware company.

    • profile image

      Cristy Daniels 

      7 weeks ago

      I’m building a house with 9 windows and a sliding door in my living room. I would like to purchase a curtain rod that will extend through out the windows and sliding door but don’t know where to buy it.

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      13 months ago from Arizona

      Liz--Glad this was useful. I like the little swing arms and tension rods. They're inexpensive and great for narrow and small windows, respectively.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      13 months ago from UK

      We inherited a range of curtain hangings when we bought our house. Some were old fashioned runners and others were on poles. Swing arms are new to me. This is a useful article. It gives me fresh ideas.


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