Draperies are finally getting their curtain call


By Stacy Downs

The Kansas City Star

Windows for years were unadorned, except for subtle shades or wooden blinds. Now, the fabric is back, even in minimalist interiors.

“Draperies add elegance while softening the room, making it cozier,” said interior designer Sherry Worth of Overland Park, Kan. “They also hide ugly views and create privacy. I think people have come to realize bare is boring, and when windows are naked, they’re truly naked.”

The main reason Worth appreciates draperies: For $300 or so, they can transform a room.

“That’s the least expensive thing you can do besides paint,” she said. “It’s certainly less expensive than remodeling or moving into a new home.”

However, Worth can see how others feel scared of window treatments. Many of us are still experiencing flashbacks of draperies with heavy valances and yards of fabric mounding at the floor.

But the majority of today’s styles are timeless side panels that merely frame the window. Gone is anything fussy.

“Customers want transitional, something that’s in between traditional and modern,” said interior designer Chrissy Roellchen, who works at the drapery showroom of One Stop Decorating in Overland Park. “They’re going for simple styles.”

Form and function

Although panels typically are used for enhancing the mood of a room, draperies can be used to solve problems. Hanging in front of windows, they can keep a room warm or cool, insulating us from the outside temperatures. They also can darken a room from blinding sunlight in the morning.

For those issues, Roellchen recommends lining draperies with special felt-like fabrics. Lined draperies also are fuller and tend to hang better.

Draperies can disguise architectural flaws, too. For example, strategically hung curtains can conceal the problem of a window installed off center in the room.

Dressy or casual?

Silk draperies typically go in dining rooms and sometimes master bedrooms, Roellchen said. Customers want casual draperies for family and hearth rooms.

“They’re going for bolder but casual looks in lower levels and rec rooms,” she said. “They’re taking more risks, with bigger, more playful prints in basements.”

Color and pattern

Worth cautions clients about being too trendy with draperies, because the price tag can add up.

“You don’t necessarily want the latest color or pattern, because you don’t want to change them out every three years,” she said. “Stick with classics, maybe even solid colors, unless you can sew. If you do want something trendy, buy a pillow or candle in the hot color.”

How about height?

Worth says to hang a drapery rod at least 4 to 6 inches above the window trim – ideally just below the ceiling trim – to make a room appear grander yet create a cocoon-like coziness.

Roellchen thinks the bottom of drapery panels should skim the floor or come just above it.

“You definitely don’t want yards and yards of puddling,” she said. “That would be a throwback.”

What’s hot?

Fabrics: Bigger prints, especially geometrics such as diamond patterns. There’s a lot of banding, where one fabric (often a solid color) is outlined with another fabric (sometimes prints).

Trims: Wooden beading, capiz shells and brushed fringe.

Styles: Side panels. For top treatments, spare cornices – not valances. Grommets at the top give the drapes a casual feel. French pleats add some fullness to panels.

Hardware: Streamlined, industrial rods. Silver-colored and oil-rubbed bronze finishes are popular. Mixing metals lends a warmer, more lived-in look.

Tiebacks: Metal holdbacks are more popular than traditional fabric ties or tassels, though for a sleek and casual appearance, panels usually hang without tiebacks.

Drapery shopping: the 5 essentials

1. Fabric samples such as a furniture arm cover.

2. Paint swatches of the wall colors.

3. Photos of the room, especially the windows.

4. Pictures from design publications showing drapery looks you like.

5. Measurements if you’re buying ready-made draperies.


Ready-made ($20 to $100 per panel): Selection of panel colors and patterns, styles and sizes vary from store to store.

Semi-custom ($100 to $150 per panel): Hundreds of fabrics and styles to choose from but limited sizes.

Custom (typically $250 and up per panel): Designed to be as tall, lined and pleated as you want and in any fabric.


Ballard Designs, 800-536-7551, www.ballarddesigns.com

Pottery Barn, www.potterybarn.com

The Silk Trading Co., Los Angeles, 323-954-9280, www.silktrading.com

West Elm, 1-888-922-4119, www.westelm.com

Z Gallerie, www.zgallerie.com