My first custom window treatments came after convincing my husband, who really believed those sticky-topped paper shades from the hardware store would suffice, that dressing our windows was the right, grown-up thing to do.
We needed some pizzazz—and some privacy—in our urban Colonial-style home. And although this was well before HOME, I knew enough to hire a professional. I did not, however, know enough to stop her from designing elaborately swagged and swooped, pinched and pulled custom-fit concoctions that cost
more than a small car. When it came time to sell the house and move to our beloved Central Virginia, sheepishly we wrote on the contract: “Window Treatments Convey.”
Live and learn: while some may prefer a one-of-a-kind custom fit, the free-flowing fabric panel is arguably the most classic, versatile option to dress a window. Elegant, adaptable, and indeed portable, the drapery panel is a failsafe method to add panache to any room. If I had gone this route, I would not
have had to leave behind umpteen custom valances and shades designed for non-standard windows. Whether relocating or staying put, consider dressing your windows with this design staple.
“Think of drapery panels as an investment,” says Moyanne Harding of Lynchburg’s Interiors by Moyanne. “That’s the beauty of them—you can take them with you, make them work anywhere,” she says—in another home, another room, or even amending them in their current spot for a new look
without starting from scratch. Hemming, lengthening with a band of velvet, adding trim…truly, the options for designing and redesigning panels are endless.
“Window treatments are so important because they add style and warmth to a room,” says Harding, noting how they can really make a room look “finished.” Harding likes to hang them in her clients’ homes in ways that let in as much light as possible, rather than blocking any light. “You want to enhance the room, not close it in,” she says. Panels can make a vast space seem cozy, or give height and depth to a small space, depending upon how they are hung. If privacy is what you seek, a simple soft shade, sheer panel or blind can be hung underneath.
Most experts agree that silk is the most popular choice of fabric for window panels. “Silk has a sheen and a shimmer that no other fabric has,” says Harding, noting how it “really plays with the light” and lends drama to a room. Silk also “partners beautifully” with wallpaper, she says. And silk isn’t just for the formal rooms that many of us don’t even have anymore. Clients are using silk for almost any room, in less formal applications. “Even some of the less expensive fabric lines are carrying silk,” says Haley Pavao, an in-store and inhome design consultant with James T. Davis in Lynchburg. Pavao says that “large scale prints” are also very popular with her clients, such as those made by Thibaut, a company noted for its unique patterns. Fabrics with such high-end looks are more accessible and affordable for today’s homeowners, Pavao explains.
“Green” fabrics, made with organic, minimally processed materials that produce little to no off-gassing, are also popular among Harding’s clients. Linen and cotton are always in style, and can be jazzed up with passementerie—embellishments that can add a pop of color, pattern and texture. Most experts agree that whatever fabric you choose, lining and interlining your drapery panels are the most critical components of the process. “You can take the most inexpensive face fabric and make it look like a million bucks if you line and interline it properly,” explains Harding. Pavao agrees, noting that lining not only helps the panels hang properly but also protects the fabric from fading and wear and tear. Harding urges her clients to use good quality lining, and suggests choosing an even prettier fabric for the lining—one with a sateen finish or richer color than standard, flat white.
Updating a classic panel is easy. “These are not your parents’ panels,” quips Harding. One of her favorite newer treatments is the “smocked top” panel—a large-scale version of the smocking on children’s clothes—that cinches tightly at the top and “flairs out like a ballgown” at the bottom. Another way enhance a panel is with a cuff at the top—maybe 14 to 16 inches wide—in either the same or a contrasting fabric.
The right pleat can make all the difference too, experts suggest. There are many kinds of pleats: goblet, Euro, tuxedo, inverted to name a few. You can embellish the pleat—a covered button at the base of the pleat, or a contrasting fabric inside of an inverted pleat, for example—to further distinguish your panels.
The hardware on which these crafted beauties hang is just as important as the curtains themselves, says Harding. “The fabric and the rod should work hand in hand with each other,” she says. Here, too, scale comes into play. A tiny rod with nondescript rings may not work with full, ceiling-height drapes, while a generous 3-inch rod might overwhelm a daintier application. This is where a professional can really help you strike the right balance.
Today’s hardware options are vast— Old World, modern, country French, traditional, and in a variety of sizes and finishes with various finials to finish things off—so it really depends upon the look you’re going for, says Harding. Pavao says that “anything antiqued” is popular with her clients. “Even if it’s gold, it’s a brushed, antique gold. Nothing is brassy anymore,” she says.
If you want your drapes to be functional—opening and closing them daily for privacy or light control—Pavao suggests adding a wand to operate your drapes with ease. Consider this need for function in your design as well; the right pleat will help your drapes look just as good open as they do closed, Pavao says. If this is too much fluffing and flouncing for you, consider a traverse rod. Today’s traverse rods can be more attractive than they used to be, with unsightly mechanics hidden behind a decorative rod. Measuring There’s much to consider when measuring for window treatments. If you can, let a professional help you get accurate measurements, which will assure the right amount of fabric and the look you ultimately want. For starters, however, it’s helpful to know some measuring basics. To achieve a look worthy of your window, Pavao recommends that panels should be at least one-and-a-half widths of your window to get a full, beautiful drape. So if your window is 35 inches wide, you’ll want each finished panel to measure at least 52 ½ inches wide. If you want more fullness, consider doubling the width of your window.
Length is a matter of personal preference, Pavao says. While all different lengths can look fashionable and current, some clients prefer a luxurious puddle of fabric, while others want the drape to stop just shy of the floor. Much of this depends upon the household (think toddlers, cats) and the room (kitchen nook versus reading room). Harding suggests that even just “a small break” in the fabric is a good option for a bit of flair.
If window treatments are on your spring to-do list, consider a classic drapery panel using advice from the experts. These delicious swathes of fabric will truly stand the test of time.