Drapery 101

Posted March 29, 2018
by Gretchen

Function and style


When decorating the interior of your new home, be sure to consider the dramatic effect of window treatments.  More specifically, a carefully selected set of drapes can serve a functional and stylistic purpose that many homebuyers fail to recognize.  Drapes can be an easy and effective way to add warmth, style and function to any room.   Let’s consider a variety of factors that can determine the impact of drapes on your home.



To pleat or not to pleat!


First you must consider the purpose that your drapes will serve in any given room.  The lining of drape panels will allow you to control the temperature of the room as well as the amount of light that filters through. A basic cotton lining helps protect the drape fabric while still allowing some light to filter through, whereas a more insulating lining can help keep your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.  A blackout lining is ideal for bedrooms, as they do not allow light to filter through.  Double panels are a classic and can create symmetry, while single panels are great in smaller spaces.  Cotton, linen and silk drapes are a designer favorite, and lining them is always suggested. Also, consider the type of heading you like best. Pencil pleats, grommets, French pleats, and pole pockets are some of the most common, but there are other options out there as well. Who doesn’t love a French pleat?!



Color and pattern


Of course, you must consider the color and pattern of your drapes. Drapes may take up a large amount of visual space and will have a significant impact on the overall look of your room. They should first be compared against accessories, pillows, furniture, and walls.  If considering a strong-pattern, make sure there are no other “competing” patterns in the room.  If going with a bold color, make sure that same color ties are somewhere else in the room, or at least compliments the other accenting colors (vases, pictures, pillows, chairs, etc.).



Drapery rod placement


Once you have decided on the function, color and pattern, it is equally important that the drapes are hung properly.  The trickiest part of hanging drapes (and the question often asked) is where to put the drapery rod, and it differs based on a few factors – the style of the window, the type of window covering, and the height of the ceiling.  Here are some general rules to follow:


  • Rod Height:  For standard drapes that hang on either side of a window, the “typical” height is halfway between the top of the window casing and the ceiling. This applies if there are more than 12″ between the window trim and ceiling.  For cathedral ceilings, it’s advised to leave approximately 4-6 inches above the window trim as a guideline.  To create the illusion of height, feel free to mount the drapery rods closer to the ceiling. This is particularly important to do if the room has low ceilings (9’ or less).  No matter the ceiling height, the minimum distance from the top of the window casing to the curtain rod should be 4″.  Remember that these same rules apply when the windows are arched.


  • Rod Width:  The standard distance from the window casing to the end of the curtain rod (excluding finials) on each side of the window should be 4″ to 10″.  It is a good idea to go as wide as possible so that when the drapes are open, they cover the wall and not the window.  As a rule, you’ll want the drapes open during the day so make sure the curtain rod extends at least 4″ on each side of the window’s inside frame.  Make sure to use the support brackets if your rods come with one, so that it does not bow in the middle.


  • Drapery Length:  The ideal length for drapes is that they’re long enough to touch the floor. Obviously where you hang your curtain rod will have an impact. If you’re purchasing ready-made drapes from a store it will be a bit of a balancing act to determine what length to get and where to hang the rod. Please do not allow your drapes to hang above the floor.  When they stop a couple of inches above the floor it can make the ceilings look lower. If you’re buying store-bought panels (as opposed to having them custom made) it’s better to buy them too long and then have them hemmed as needed.


  • Drapery Width:  For drapes to look full, the panels should have a combined width of at least double the width of the window. So, if you have two panels, each one should equal the width of the window.  Keep in mind that some fabrics hang differently than others, so light fabrics may require more fullness, while heavy fabrics may require a little less. Many ready-made drapes come in widths of 50” and 100” wide.  If you do not want to open and close them and have them be “just for looks”, the 50” should be okay.


Rod Hardware:  The rods, rings, and finials should complement the drapery fabric. Heavier fabrics such as velvets and chenille’s should be on large rods, while light cottons, silk, and sheers can be mounted on lightweight or thinner rods.  The hardware should also compliment the rest of the room.  For instance, if you’ve got brushed nickel chandeliers or fans, you will want to go with brushed nickel rods.  If you have oil rubbed bronze hardware in the room, a similar curtain rod may be the best choice.  Golds and silvers mix well.  Also consider the finials at each end of the curtain rod. Finials are decorative accents that can have a surprisingly big impact on a room. If the finials are particularly large, their size should be accounted for when determining placement so that they don’t hit the walls or ceiling.





Now you’re ready to shop


After considering these factors and narrowing in on your window treatment selections, take your time to shop around for the perfect pair of drapes. Once you’ve narrowed your choices based on function, style, color, pattern, and the rod selections of the drapes you want, begin to research online or shop around in stores to see what’s available. You may find some great discounts out there.  Designers often purchase drapes either online or at outlet stores.  If you are unsure about something online, make sure the seller has a fair return policy.




Enjoy adding the finishing touches


The effect that a set of drapes can have on your new home can be not only functional, but aesthetically dramatic as well.  Drapes can add warmth, style and visual impact which can help to coordinate a room’s color and style.  There are many options in creating the perfect look.  Have fun with the creative opportunity and enjoy the process!



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