12 March 2013

RITVA versus VIVAN, the showdown

I’ve got IKEA on the brain today, dear readers, for a few reasons. One, I got an email from an aunt (and blog reader!) who’d just visited IKEA for the first time in decades... and wanted to write and say she now understands why I love IKEA so much. Heck to the yes! I love any story that involves a new IKEA fan and immediate mental association of me with IKEA, my long-distance love.

Secondly, and speaking of long-distance, word on the street is that they are scouting an IKEA location... in St. Louis... A MILE FROM MY HOME. That is walking distance. To an IKEA. I just... I don’t... I am not sure that is a good idea? Or maybe... it is the best idea ever? I’m not going to choose because the chances that an IKEA will be built in my neighborhood are zip to zilch, but it’s definitely put IKEA on my mind.

So I thought today I’d revisit an IKEA-related subject and take it back to basics: my fondness for IKEA curtains. In our old house, it was all RITVAs, all the time (in the living room, dining room, and master suite). Here, we have a few RITVAs, but branched out into VIVAN panels as well (YHL’s favorite in their old house). Or, if you happened to shop at IKEA last summer, VIVIANs.

(They are not called VIVIAN. Please don’t look for those. It’s VIVAN, promise. I would not lead you astray!)

Anyway, my love for RITVA and VIVAN curtains is old news to regular readers, but what I haven’t really discussed is the difference between them... and which I prefer. Now that you can buy them online (yay!), I hope this can help you make a decision for which white curtains you’d love without having to trek to the nearest IKEA.

On the website, they look pretty similar, aside from the $15 price difference.

But that $15 difference is more obvious in real life. RITVAs got weight, yo.

Not so thick as to be near blackout curtains, but definitely a fabric with some heft to it. The crosshatch pattern in the fabric also adds fantastic texture (it’s nowhere near that obvious, though – I took the photo in a way that intentionally boosted contrast). RITVAs definitely look like they should be more than twice the cost in real life.

Compare that to the lightweight VIVANs:

Not exactly see-through, but definitely more sheer than the RITVA fabric. And the texture is very different; whereas the RITVA panels are 100% cotton, the VIVANs are a cotton-poly blend (70% poly, actually). I liken the RITVA texture to a super lightweight canvas dropcloth, whereas the VIVANs feel a bit more like, uhh... almost-see-through tuxedo pants. Forgive me for the terrible analogy, but it’s effective, right?

Another difference is the color. VIVANs are definitely more of a true white, and if you’re in a bright-white modern mood, they’d be more your jam than the slightly ivory RITVAs:

Can you tell the difference between the curtain and our white trim paint? I personally think the RITVAs are a “soft white” that works well with both white and ivory, but it might not work for everyone. (And of course, they each come in their own assortment of colors other than white, if you aren’t as white-curtain-obsessed as me.)

One thing that both RITVA and VIVAN panels have is a tab-top back. That’s my personal favorite style of curtain; it’s more tailored than rod pocket (which both curtain types also have, as an alternative) or the currently-popular grommet style, but more casual than pinch-pleat. Here’s what the VIVANs look like hung with the tab-top:

However, the heavier cotton RITVAs are more likely to keep the pleat for the length of the curtain. Here are the RITVAs in our bedroom, yet to be hemmed:

And here are the VIVANs in our living room, also not-yet hemmed:

Even after I hemmed them, they’re still more flowy than straight-pleats:

It’s an improvement, but just count the pleats – the one left of the fireplace has ten pleats at the top and four pleats at the bottom. I’m doing a little experiment with the guest bedroom VIVANs (the turquoise ones) to see if I can help that – I’ll keep you posted.

At the end of the day, which do I prefer? If they cost exactly the same, I’d buy all RITVAs, all the time. The cotton, the texture, the weight win me over for sure. But they don’t cost the same, and I can’t say that I love RITVAs enough to pay $25 per window if I can pay just $10 per window with VIVAN panels. I only needed three sets of RITVA panels in the old house because each room only had one giant window, but here, I could use three sets to dress the windows in just one room. Even when using curtains as inexpensive as these, that adds up.

So... I use both, happily. For our more mid-century-esque bedroom, I went with the tailored RITVAs, and in return, I skipped dressing the small dormered window and saved cash by only buying two pairs. For our living room, a casual vibe is just fine to dress those three windows, so I went with VIVANs. (I still need to get another set for the dormered window... next time!) And I appreciate that I can dress all the windows in the room for just thirty bucks!

Bottom line: RITVA and VIVAN panels are different enough for me to have a preference, and you probably shouldn’t try to mix and match in the same room. But they’re similar enough that they play nicely with each other in the same house, for sure. And no matter what, both RITVAs and VIVANs are a really great deal, so you can’t go wrong with either! Hope this helps!


Rachel C said...

You must have read my mind, Sarah! I'm heading to IKEA on Friday and my main purpose is to buy curtains for our living room. I've been desparately trying to decide if I want Ritvas or Vivan. I love the texture of the Ritvas, but since I'm new to the curtain game and now certai that I'll love them, Vivan seems SO much more practical (aka cheap). Hmm...you've helped me some, because I think I like the looser, flowy look of Vivan...but oh! Ritvas texture...

Janice said...

Love the tips on curtains. Had mini blinds on every window in the house. This past summer put in all new windows and now blinds don't fit. Time for an update anyway :) Curtains here I come, but the cost is... ouch. LOVE the idea of Ritvas but an enamored by the cost of the Vivans! Thanks for the tips. By the way, you can't tell in the pictures that yours are not hemmed yet ;)

Amy @ A Blossoming Life said...

Just stumbled upon your blog while researching the difference between the curtains! Thanks so much for sharing your insight! Plus, I am from the southern Illinois area and you just got me super excited about Ikea coming to St. Louis! Ahhh!

mindy0426 said...

thank you for the great information, can you comment on the Aina curtains compared to the Ritva's?

Sarah said...

@Amy, so glad it was helpful! I don't know if they're still planning a STL IKEA... but I'm pumped about the one opening in Kansas City next fall! It's only a weeee bit closer but it helps :)

@mindy, sorry, I've only ever tried the VIVANs and RITVAs! And I don't recall seeing the AINAs in store to compare...

Anonymous said...

Sadly IKEA doesn't have white Vivan right now because of some production issues. Which is why the price on amazon is up to $32.

Suzanne said...

The IKEA Ritva dimensions state 57 x 98" for the pair. I was wondering if the width is 57" per panel OR 57" total? I have a 76" wide window to cover (ugh).

Sarah said...

@Suzanne, I believe EACH panel is 57" wide, so you should be good to go with a pair! For perspective, here's a post in which I cut a single RITVA panel in half (to cover a small window), so each of the curtain panels you see is actually half of one panel: http://www.redheadedstepproject.com/2014/06/diy-stenciled-paisley-curtains-part-1.html

Anonymous said...

Any tips at making the Vivans look more polished? I have ironed and steamed and they still look stiff and well... Cheap. I didn't wash them before hanging them as I was afraid they wouldn't survive it, is this where I went wrong?

Sarah said...

@Anon, I'm afraid I don't have any good tips! The poly blend of the VIVANs means that they never hold a pleat as well as a cotton curtain - they will always be a bit more "breezy" (my preferred adjective to cheap, ha). I did iron before hanging but didn't wash them, and I did find that "pinning" the pleats into place for week or so with a bobby pin at several spots down the length of the curtain did help them hold pleats a bit (just a bit!). It's also possible if you bought them recently that they've changed their formula, as it were. I noticed they were sold out for a long time, and now they're back - they might make them differently now. I'm sorry you don't like yours! If you're willing to drop more cash, I think RITVAs are a nice choice...