Curtains & Drapery: Everything You Need to Know

By Lindsey Walta, November 25, 2008 | In interior decorating |

New drapery and curtains allow you to have a fresh look in your home, control the amount of light in your rooms and have a measure of privacy. Consider how much privacy you want or how much light you need to block out of the room. If you enjoy sleeping in and your bedroom windows face east, consider lined black-out curtains or perhaps blinds.

Rich-colored, heavier fabrics such as silk and velvet offer lustrous, sometimes structured folds and create a formal look for your window. More subtle colors or lighter weight fabrics lend a relaxed feeling and spaciousness to your room.

Layer your drapery to mix fabrics and textures: Use deep colors over lighter ones for a striking appearance, or similar colors for a toned look. Extra long drapes which puddle on the floor create a dramatic effect. Layered sheer curtains like polyester and voile lend a casual and breezy quality. Sheers layered under other drapery will add more dimension to a window.

Types of Curtains and Drapery

Drapery: Drapery can be used alone or with sheers underneath. For an unexpected look at a window, hang drapes over shades, slat-blinds, or shutters.

Pleated Drapery are hung from hooks onto small tabs attached to a bracketed rod, and drawn open/closed with pull-cords. Pleated drapery are a classic and timeless choice.

Rod Pocket (pole-pocket) Drapery are made with a casing at the top which slips over the curtain rod. Rings or drapery hooks are not needed.

Tab Top Drapery are favorites for a casual appearance in a room. Tab-tops are made with flat loops spaced along the edge of the curtains, and the rod is slipped through the tabs. They can easily be drawn open or closed without pull cords or other hardware.

Tie Top Drapery are similar to tab-tops, except they have fabric ties along the top, and may be tied directly to rings or drapery rods. This style creates a softer casual look in a room.

Ring Top Drapery are hung on decorative rings which are clipped at intervals across the top. The rings allow your beautiful drapery rod to be fully seen. Like tab top drapery, these do not need a pull cord to open and close.

Grommet Drapery are relatively new on the scene. The curtain rod is passed in and out through the large grommet rings at the top of the drape to create a broadly pleated look which is crisp and modern.

Insulated Thermal Drapery offer protection against the heat and cold, as well as serving as blackout drapes. Which an extra layer of insulating material, they are made like other drapery for a natural look and save money on energy costs.

Sheer Curtains

Sheers let the light into a room while maintaining the privacy that you want. Buy any curtains or sheer curtains to equal twice the width of your window, which allows for the standard fullness. For a more dramatic look, add one or even two more widths of curtains to each window.

Valances

A valance offers a different look to your window treatment. A valance is usually a shorter curtain that comes about 1/3 of the way down the window. It can be pleated or swagged or sometimes even folded like a roman shade.

Hardware for Curtains and Drapery

Every type of curtain and drapery needs some form of hardware. Make thoughtful choices when selecting your hardware. Make sure it complements the style of your home, the style of the curtain and that it is proportional. Some hardware is not seen, some is almost as much of a focal point as the actual window treatment.

Curtain Rods area traditional way of hanging curtains. Today’s curtain rods telescope in a wide range of lengths to suit your needs.

Finials come in many styles like scrolls, leaf shapes, fleur-de-lis, decorated oval and ball shapes, and finishes like brushed silver, copper, and poly resin. This finishing touch at the ends of your curtain rods completes the overall look of the window treatment and is definitely meant to be seen.

Curtain Rings are easily attached to your curtains or drapery. Unlike rod-pocket curtains which are stationary across a window, with curtain rings clipped at the top of them, you can pull them open or closed easily.

Holdback Hardware will add flair and opulence to your window treatment. In a formally decorated room, this option is a great touch and comes in a wide selection of styles to suit your furniture and home decorating wishes.

Tiebacks are the soft loops of cord or chain or other material which hold back drapery or a window curtain.

How to Measure For Curtains and Drapery

Standard considerations for window curtains and drapery are 6 inches above a window frame, 3 inches beyond the sides and 3 inches below the bottom. This is not set in stone, however. Today’s window treatment choices allow for individual creativity.

1. Decide which kind of curtain you want to hang. Floor length and cafe curtains need different considerations when measuring.

2. Choose where you want to place your curtain rod. 6 inches above the window frame is standard, but it also looks great hung very close to the ceiling and this will add visual height to your room and create a more dramatic look.

3. Measure the window from outside the frame to outside the frame. Then add 3 to 6 inches on each side. This is the width of your curtain rod and also the horizontal curtain coverage you will need. Multiply this horizontal measurement by 2 for fullness (you can multiply by 3 or more for fuller, more dramatic curtains, but 2 times is standard). It is customary to have curtains and drapes hang beyond the sides of your windows. When they are drawn open, they don’t block any light from the window itself and the window appears larger than it really is.

4. Measure from the point where you want to hang the curtains above the window down to the point where you want them to stop. This is the vertical measurement for the curtains you will purchase.

5. For cafe curtains, the top rod is made to be positioned inside the window recess. The lower rod is put halfway down the window or at the height of a glazing bar. Measure down from the lower rod placement to the bottom edge of the window opening; this is the length of the larger curtain piece. Measure the window from side to side and multiply by 2 for fullness.

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