Photo: Elle Decor
If you decide on draperies, remember that their style will be set by the type of heading used which will also affect how both draperies and valances hang. Headings, most of which are now available ready-made (although there is nothing quite like the finish achieved by custom window treatments), include Pencil Pleats, French Pleats also known as Triple or Pinch Pleats, Tab Draperies, Goblet Pleats, Rod Pockets Pleats and Box Pleats all of which look very much like they sound.
Off-the- Ready-Made draperies today are a huge improvement on the old limp things. They are available with nicely casual Cased or Tabbed Headings, Scalloped and Eyelet Headings which can all be slung from a huge choice of wood, painted, iron, steel, gilded or silvered poles or rods of some sort. Other casual headings include leather or canvas loops or plain clips which will also produce a scalloped look. Again, you can’t compare a custom, full, lined with returns drapery with the ready made ones.
Unless you are dressing a large grand room in an old house with high ceilings, I would advise against elaborate swags and tassels, fringes and bows. Suitability is everything in decoration and grand draperies in an un-grand room are apt to look absurd, quite apart from the fact that the mood today is more for simplicity than elaboration. This does not mean that draperies should not make a statement, or be used to add pizzazz to a room, but rather that they should suit the proportions and purpose of the room and its geographical location and meld in well with your furniture and general decoration without costing as much as a small car. Neither, however, should they look skimpy and cheap. If you are going to curtain, curtain well. This is a very important investment to consider.
If you have decided against the use of the more casual rods or poles for your draperies to hang from, you will need some sort of cover-up to disguise unsightly tracks or fittings. If by chance you do have a grand room to curtain, the most formal cover-ups are Swags and tails which, although they look as if they are made from one beautifully draped length of fabric, usually consist of several pieces skillfully joined together. It is essential to get the proportions right: at the deepest part, the swag needs to be between one fifth and one sixth of the overall height of the window whilst the tails should fall at least half way down the window frame. Simple swags can also be used on their own or over blinds. The more elaborate are often trimmed with braid, piping, fringes or cord with contrast or patterned linings. As with draperies themselves, it is crucial not to skimp on fabric but neither should you overdo.
Valances are softer than pelmets and are never stiffened. They can be gathered or pleated by hand or with the help of appropriate commercial heading tapes, and designed with trims or edgings to contrast with, or match, the draperies. They can either be hung from a special valance track aligned to the main drapery track or they can be attached to a board which is either fixed above the drapery track or has the drapery track attached to the underside. These boards should be at least 4” longer either side than the track.
Attached or Integral Valances look much the same as conventional ones when the draperies are drawn, but are actually attached to the top of each drapery so that the two halves separate when the draperies are drawn back, This avoids blocking out daylight but they are best used with a pole rather than a track which would then be exposed in the gap.
Tips about Draperies
Short draperies are rarely successful except, perhaps, in small cottage windows or small windows in a deep embrasure or tied back at a kitchen window.
If windows have deep recesses, it is better to hang draperies outside the recess because this will let in the maximum amount of light during the day.
If windows have radiators below them and you want the softness of draperies but do not want heat loss, tie or loop them back permanently at either side of the window and use a shade of some sort or shutters at night.
Too short or long draperies are as bad as too short trousers. They should always generously touch the floor or slightly ‘puddle’ onto it. But neither should they be so long that you trip over them.
Always allow the most generous hem you can to withstand shrinkage when cleaned.
All draperies hang better if they are lined and interlined, unless they are meant to seem light and breezy. To make them look really professional and luxurious, pad each leading edge with an extra strip of interlining rolled lengthwise and invisibly hand-stitched inside the curtain lining.
Unless daylight is at a premium, most draperies look better tied or looped back during the day than left hanging straight unless they are of heavy material like velvet.
If you live in a city, or anywhere where there is a lot of pollution in the air, avoid using light colors and elaborate folds, so that the fabric does not need to be cleaned too often.
If windows face East or South in rather dark rooms, ensure that your chosen style will obscure as little of the light you get during the day as possible. These rules out tied-back curtains that meet in the middle, deep pelmets and elaborately draped styles.
If you have a beautiful view or lack of light but still would like to have draperies, stationary ones work best.
If windows face North or West, and you get a good deal of light and sun, avoid using fabrics that will fade or rot easily like silks and very bright colors. Consider filtering the light with translucent blinds or sheer curtains as well.
Now you can start thinking about your beautiful draperies you want to have in your home, to add style, color, and most important to finish your room the way you picture it.