All About Curtains

For years I have saved clippings of my favourite looks in curtains or drapes and have carried them around in a binder in my car so that it’s easy to show clients what I’m designing when it comes time to discuss curtains.  I love drapery, they instantly add softness and vertical height to a room, not to mention changes the feeling. I mentioned it here when my living room curtains went up. It’s hard to convey in a post though, it’s something you instantly feel when you are in the space.

I have wanted to post my favourite headers and treatments for a while. This way they are virtual and even easier to view on-line. Please forgive the lack of sources on some, they are clippings I’ve had forever, also I photographed them because I haven’t figured out how to work my scanner so they’re not perfect.  I’m starting with a header I specify a lot, it’s called a pasha pleat or ‘top-pinched pleat’.

A regular ‘pinched pleat’ is usually 4” (below), pinching it at the top (see the one on the right between the bracket and the finial?  That’s exactly what it looks like) makes it look more contemporary. These drapes come with hooks from the work-room and they are hung on rings similar to this one:

By the way if you have ‘off the shelf’ curtains hung up, make sure you have one ring in between the finial and the bracket like in the above image. When you hang them yourself it’s not as obvious that you should have one on the outside of the bracket.
Interior by Samantha Pynn
Here is the traditional 4” pinched pleat.  It’s the most common pleat and you’re usually guaranteed to find it underneath a valance. If you have tall windows and a large room, a 6” pinched pleat works well. Also silk looks best in this traditional header, I would not use a top pinched pleat with it.

You can start to see why so much fabric is required.  If you measure your window (don’t forget to add length for stacking so you don’t cover up the window with fabric) you then multiply that figure by 2 1/2 or 3 divided by 54 inches (fabric width) and that is how you determine how many panels you need for any given window.  One is usually too skimpy and that’s when the curtains really scream IKEA.

Fullness is very important.  Custom drapery is not inexpensive, however it really transforms the look and feel of a room.

I have always loved this treatment with the sheers covering the window on top of what appears to be a window seat. Notice the hem is 6” instead of 4”. Since the hem is at eye level it’s more visually appealing.

This is an inverted pleat. Notice the effect is quite flat at the top, not suitable for just any window but here it looks terrific with the sheer roman shades. Also these drapes are stationary and used strictly for decoration.

This photo I’ve had for a long time as well, I love the soft effect of this simple roman shade with the 4” band sewn all the way around it.  Notice it’s hanging on a slim rod as well.

This is a grommet curtain. Here is the same look with grommet curtains from IKEA. I love this treatment, it’s contemporary and doesn’t require as much fullness as regular pinched pleats although the labour costs a little more because each grommet needs to be attached to the panel.

Make sure you specify the right colour so that they match the rod you choose.

These drapes are clearly custom made with 2” banding framing each panel however they are sewn flat and hung on the rod with rings and clips (below).


This is an easier look to achieve when sewing your own curtains because you can simply clip them on but keep in mind they are better as decorative, stationary side panels as they are hard to draw back and forth if you need them for privacy and light control.

This is one style of a goblet pleat, there are a few but I like this one because it’s more contemporary and different from the 4” pinched pleat.

Here is a closer look. I specified this header with these drapes in this loft that I designed. See how the panel on the left side is wider than the other two?  You can see if you look above the drapery that its actually covering the wall next to the window, but because the wall is covered with drapery it gives the illusion of a bigger window.  So if you have a small window, dressing it with panels on both sides makes it look larger in addition to adding scale and balancing other items in the room.

Interior by Maria Killam
I also specified them for this client (below) in their dining room and library. I love horizontal stripes, you can see the colour better and it’s more European.
Interior by Maria Killam
In this living room (below) I specified mock roman shades because we covered the windows with motorized sheer weave roller shades for light control which are underneath each one.
Interior by Maria Killam


You can see the roller shades here (below). A mock roman valance is also a great, clean, contemporary look and a less expensive alternative to a full roman shade.
Interior by Maria Killam
Another valance treatment I really like is this one (below). It’s called a boxed pleat valance and its also great over top of kitchen windows, without panels of drapery.
Here it’s shown with full drapery panels and it’s curved, which is unusual.

This is the home of Larry King, decorated by his wife’s sister. I took this image from an Architectural Digest years ago. This is a simple treatment (okay I know this image doesn’t look simple) because you can just take a panel of fabric even if it’s unfinished and staple it up on the wall if you really wanted to. Here they are hung on tie backs, a very traditional look.

I have always wanted to do this for a clients space. Such a great idea to simply dress the wall with curtain fabric to achieve the effect of a window.

This is Sarah Richardson’s home (from a few years ago). It’s kind of hard to see but look at this simple pooling sheer which runs all the way along a track attached to the ceiling across the large windows in this living room.

Here’s a closer view, sorry about the writing. . .
How about this floor to ceiling rough linen shower curtain?  Is this fabulous or what?
This is the closest to tab top drapery that I would consider for any window and these are still probably custom made. It’s a great, beachy, casual look.
The reason I don’t like tab tops (above) is because they are sold everywhere ‘off-the-shelf’ and scream IKEA in my opinion. They are better than nothing though, so if they are the right colour for you and they are a price you can afford, snap them up quick! Just be sure you hang the rod high enough above the window so you don’t see the casing or heaven forbid the window through the tabs.  Not a great look 🙂
Romantic Bedroom Curtains
The one good thing about the 80’s was that we just wrapped drapery fabric over top of rods and tracks to achieve this kind of look:
When I was married, many moons ago, we had a large bedroom with lots of windows, so I had my mom sew up some sheers to hang in front of the windows and then draped fabric over the rod just like this image above that I had found in a magazine.  Very old, but I loved it at the time!
Here is a ruched, rod pocket, also a lovely romantic effect and probably not so hard to achieve on your own.
Another kind of ruching it looks like. This one I’ve never had made, but it’s pretty.
When you first start out designing curtains for clients, a good workroom is an absolute necessity as well as a great installer.  I have worked with the same installer for 7 years and he has saved my butt so many times because there are so many different ways to hang curtains and window treatments, it takes a lot of experience to get it right because there is always a certain amount of tweaking that goes on in the clients home.
When I was at High Point last year I was having a conversation with another designer about the difference between drapery in the East vs. the West.  We are way more casual here in the Westcoast, my blogger friend Kimberley Grigg from Knotting Hill Interiors in Myrtle Beach frequently designs elaborate treatments like this one in this fabulous dining room below.  It’s no wonder her blog is called It’s so Fabulous.  It really is.
Interior by Kimberley Grigg

If you don’t have curtains in your home yet and can’t afford custom, I would suggest buying the drapes first because there are so few options ‘off-the-shelf’ it’s best to find the ones that work best for your space and then buy other pieces to coordinate.  If you need custom drapery, contact me.

Which look is your favourite?

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

Related posts:

Easy way to Create Drama with Drapery
How to Measure for a Curtain Rod
Managing Client Expectations

New to this Blog? Click here ; Follow me on Facebook and Twitter; Become a True Colour Expert

While you’re here, subscribe to this feed so you don’t miss out!
Shares 367


leave aREPLY

  1. MD Interior Design

    Well, it's autumn here in Australia so I've already stocked up on woollen and cashmere socks, a beautiful german designed pair of suede boots, and some fur lined slippers (Which my husband loves…not!) I'm a spring colour palette but all the clothes here are autumn colours at the moment – browns and khaki's (not my colours)so I'm struggling to buy anything new, which is a shame because I love, love, love clothes!

  2. Maria, Thank you for this interesting post. I grew up in a contemporary in the woods, with lots of big windows and almost no curtains, and thus have always had a strained relationship with them. In my own home, I struggle to find curtains that I like – they generally feel so 'traditional' to me – so many rooms have gone without… and I know they'd look better with. You have some great photos in here, so thank you for sharing.

  3. Great stuff Maria! I featured this one in my project curtains post today too – have a lovely weekend!

  4. I really enjoyed the information contained in your site. I need help. I ordered custom sheers from a reputable drapery dealer and they were over 1 1/2 inches off the floor. Isn’t that too short? I thought they looked awful. She raised the pins on the sheers and that dropped them to the appropriate length, but I want to add draperies now, and she doesn’t know how to hide the dropped pin line at the ceiling (9 ft walls). She suggested cornice boards, but I don’t care for that look. Can you help with some suggestions? The sheers are a light taupish/gold, but the white tracks show at the ceiling line. Is that correct? Please help. I’m out a lot of money.

    • It’s their mistake and they should correct it. It’s what I would do if I made that kind of mistake. The only way to fix it is to perhaps add a 3″ band of contrasting colour all along the hem and along the inside panels of the sheers. That might be pretty. Maria

  5. Hi Maria
    Lovely post.
    I’m just wondering if you know where I can purchase the grommets themselves in bulk? I have to make 10 curtains! Places like Lincraft sell them but they don’t seem to have ‘backs’ which is confusing.
    Any help would be much appreciated.
    Kind regards

    • Any place that sells drapery rods to the trade will usually sell grommets but I don’t know of a place on-line, sorry. Maria

  6. I recently had some drapes cleaned. My husband tried to rehang them with the original wooden rings, but it appears there is more fabric needing hooks than we’re there before. The drapes were here when we bought the home over a year ago. Is there a recommended spacing of hooks for long drapes?

  7. Thank you so much for the invaluable information. I have been sewing my own window treatments and other home decor essentials for years. Recently, I have branched out and started sewing for others. Learning new tricks/tips to save time or enhance your projects is an ongoing process!