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Don't sell your (drapery) short

Crate and Barrel drapery Anthropologie drapery

Drapery can do more than filter or block light. Well designed drapery can add another layer to a room. For whatever reason, most retailers that sell drapery recommend installing a drapery rod right above your window (see the examples to the right and left). However, if you follow any interior designers, look through design magazines, etc., you will never see this look, rather, the drapery will be hung close to the ceiling. If you're going to buy retail drapery, there are a few tricks to give them a more customized look. We will take a look at how after going through a few examples of custom drapery by designers.

Martyn Lawrence Bullard's West Hollywood home

Here is an example of a designers own residence. Not only does he have the drapery hung as close to the ceiling as possible, he used the opportunity to use a black and white stripe to balance out the striking black and white patterned wallpaper on the ceiling.

Lucas designed Beverly Hills residence Cheviot Hills residence by The Silver Lining

For modern interiors, recessing the drapery hardware into a ceiling pocket is a great way to achieve a clean, uninterrupted line. This can only be achieved during new construction or a major remodel.

Interiors by Jean Louis Deniot

The example above left, shows custom roman shades that are hung from the ceiling. You can see from the shadows, that there is around 12-18" above the window that is being covered by the shades. In the example above right, Deniot took the drapers all the way to a double height living space for an ultra dramatic look.

To achieve similar looks using retail sources, here are some tricks.

  1. Most retailers have multiple length options (84", 96" and 108") and have a rod pocket top, meaning the rod is inserted through the top of the drapery. Some drapery brackets require that you mount them up to 3 or 4" below the ceiling line - find out what type you're going for prior to selecting the panels. If you have a ceiling height that is 96-98", you have 2 options: 1. Buy the 96" length and have it hemmed at your local dry cleaner. 2. Buy the 84" length and add rings with clips like these which will add overall length. Or like these which require a drapery pin that goes through the back of the rod pocket.

  2. To determine how many panels you'll need, you need the width of the window/door and the casing around it. In very traditional drapery, you would take the width and multiply by 3. If your window and casing were 48" X 3 = 144" width. I typically use what's referred to as 2X's fullness, meaning you take 48" x 2 = 96" width. For retail drapery I recommend multiplying by 1.5X's fullness. 48' X 1.5 = 72 If you divide that by 2, it will tell you how wide each panel needs to be. Typically, retailer panels are 48" wide which makes it easy for a standard window. Where this needs to be looked at is the case of long slider doors. If your slider is 8' (or 96") wide X 1.5 = 144. 144 divided by 2 = 72". If you're using 48" wide panels, you would need a total of 4 panels to make it full enough.

Example of 96" wide sliders with (4) retail panels

There are so many other things to consider when buying retail vs custom drapery, but I hope this gives you a starting point. Thanks for reading my design tips and I hope you found them useful! If there are other topics you’re interested in learning about, or if you’d like more information and a personalized interior design consultation, please contact me at or view my services online.


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