Drapery Mistakes

I think I’ve seen it all over the years; it’s amazing how creative homeowners can get when desperation for privacy and light control sets in.  I’ve seen butcher paper, sheets, towels, cardboard boxes and even black trash bags used for coverings.  Of course there’s a solution for every window so this problem is easily solved.  But when it comes to decorative drapery, things can go a little sideways as well and drapery mistakes abound. 

Drapery basically is either functioning (able to traverse back & forth for coverage) or stationary (meant to simply frame the window to add attraction). With all of the off-the-shelf products that are available, you would think that designing your own treatments would be a snap – well, maybe if you’re quite talented.  But for the majority some guidance is needed if you don’t want your treatment to actually detract from your window’s appearance.  Here are a few of the most common drapery mistakes to avoid:

1.      Too short draperies:  Drapes that stop halfway between the bottom of the sill and you floor are about as attractive as high-water pants on a growing kid – not so great.  Typically drapes should just graze the floor or only ½” above for ease of traversing.  Stationary drapes are commonly fabricated to be several inches longer than the needed length – 12” or more for dramatic puddling or allowing them to be swept back without take-up.

Tip: If you are purchasing drapes that are too short, add a block of contrasting or coordinating color at the bottom to lengthen and add interest.

​2.      Too narrow hardware:  I see this all the time.  You have an 84” wide window and you want to add some stationary panels at the sides.  So you run out and buy a rod that maxes out at 88 inches, hang it just above the window and slip on the panels.  Problem is, the panels now cover about 30” of your glass and you’re left with only what’s in the middle.  We live in Seattle – do you really want to give up that much light??  Not me – I’ll get a 120” rod (or 2 small separate rods) and move my fabric off the window to let in the glorious light that I crave. Unless they’re blackout lined, my fabric will look much better with a solid wall behind them than the sun coming through and washing out the color.  Besides, moving the panels out wider will make my window look larger – that’s a good thing.

Tip:  Opt for custom hardware in wider widths if you can’t find it off the shelf.

3.      Using panels for the wrong purpose:  This problem boils down to a lack of understanding of just what’s available in drapery and trying to make the wrong product fit.  Most common?  Using a rod-pocket, tab-top or grommetted panel for privacy.  Have you ever tried to scoot any of these types of panels open & shut on a daily basis?  It’s a pain!  Rod pocket drapery panels are meant to gather on the rod and stay stationary.  Same with tab tops & grommets.  Trying to move them means you’ll have to get on a step stool to reach the fabric at the top or else grabbing the fabric and yanking on it repeatedly in the center (oh, the horror!  We DON’T touch the fabric with our grubby hands). 

Tip:  If opting for any one of these styles of panels, use a blind underneath for privacy and light control.  Or instead, get pinch-pleated drapes with pins that will set into a traverse rod for easy gliding without touching the fabric.

4.      Flimsy drapery hardware:  It’s tempting – you can pick it up so cheap at the discount stores but is it worth it?  If you have a small bathroom or kitchen window and all you want to do is hang some lightweight little curtains or a valance then go for it – this kind of hardware may get you through.  But for drapery panels, especially traversing – something more substantial is needed.  Good drapery panels are lined and weighted at the bottom; they need a rod that can handle the width without bowing in the center or bending.  A narrow window may be okay for off-the-shelf rods, but wider windows should have a thicker diameter rod that doesn’t telescope.  Also, if you are using rings that will be moving back and forth on a wide rod, then special rings and brackets are necessary so that the rings can bypass the support brackets, allowing you to fully draw your drapes open & closed.  The kinds of rings that you’ll find on the shelf are typically small and have a little clip at the bottom to attach the drapery panel.  Unless you’re hanging a very lightweight sheer these types of rings aren’t enough for your panel and clipping a heavier panel to this type of ring could damage your fabric.

Tip:  Use custom drapery hardware.  Traversing rods come in standard metal (an inexpensive solution that can be hidden behind a cornice or valance), super-strong iron of all sizes and colors and wood with numerous decorative finials and rings. 

​5.      And finally – the sheet effect:  The problem?  Not enough fabric to cover too much window.  Here’s how our homeowner reasons:  “I have a 70” wide window.  I just need two of these panels that are 52” wide and that will be more than enough to cover the window.”  True – if you want to take that simple rod pocket panel and stretch it out until it’s flat on the window.  The look you’ve achieved?  Like you’ve hung a sheet in the window.  Panels should have fullness.  It may surprise you to know that it actually takes 4 widths of fabric that is 54” wide  (that’s equal to 216” of fabric) to adequately cover a 70” wide window.  Each custom drapery panel is pleated to 2.5 x fullness – that means one width of fabric roughly pleats to about 17” width. 

​Tip:  If using store-bought panels, opt for 2 panels for each side of the window and sew them together.  That way you’ll avoid the mistake of the sheet effect and create some fullness.