Designer Trick : Specifying Window Treatments

Designer Trick : Specifying Window Treatments - roomfortuesday.comI’ve got a new Designer Trick post lined up for you today! I spent a few hours perusing the fabric store and chatting with my workroom this week, in an effort to nail down window treatments & upholstery for our little camper makeover. While in the fabric store, I was thinking this could make a helpful and interesting blog post. I talk about window treatments frequently here on the blog, as I believe they make a big difference in the look and functionality of a home. However, I’ve never really shared what goes into specifying window treatments from a designer’s point-of-view. Specifying window treatments actually used to be a big part of my job when I was working full-time as an interior designer. The firm I used to work for had our own studio workroom and seamstresses on staff to create whatever we could dream up with an array of designer fabrics. Whether you’re looking to go the custom route or would like tips on making budget-friendly readymade options look more customized, I hope this post sheds light on a variety of options for any style or budget. I’ve also included lots of helpful stylistic visuals. Click through for a fun post on window treatments from a design education perspective… I’m sharing numbers to know, tips, aesthetics, and more! 

Designer Trick : Specifying Window Treatments - roomfortuesday.comWhile I used to do a LOT of window treatment design plans for clients, I’ll admit- I feel like this part of interior design is more about math, measuring, and excellent planning skills… as opposed to pure creativity. It’s one of those areas where coloring outside the design lines won’t give you the best results. It’s also an area in design that requires a lot of basic knowledge: design rules, scale, functionality, etc. Ready to dive in? I crammed lots of info into this post!

Establish a Budget

The first thing to do before diving into ordering window treatments is to establish a budget. Whether the budget is for your own home or for a client, you’ll need to a solid idea of how much you’d like to spend. Why not wing it? Window treatments vary greatly in price. To be transparent, you can find $20 roman shades from Amazon installed throughout our home to $5k custom window treatments with designer fabric. I’m all about mixing, but having a budget to begin with will help save time, energy, and keep you on track with feasible options. Regardless of how much you want to spend- the process is the same for both readymade and high-end options…

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Measurements & Planning

I always begin with measurements. If you’re using a workroom- they may have their own printout and measurement chart for you to use. Another workroom note- they may or may not work with non-trade professionals. If you find a workroom that works with the public- keep in mind, they are there to produce your vision, not your design. If you’re looking for design help, try a retailer that has designers on staff- like Calico. If you’re using a workroom, you’ll be expected to submit items yourself… specs, measurements, fabric choices, etc. I just wanted to share that in case it wasn’t common knowledge. Hopefully you’ll understand all of that information and be equipped after reading this blog post.

Don’t forget to consider nearby items like doorways, millwork, or light switches. These items can be noted on the worksheet and might influence which direction the curtains open…. here’s an example: center draw curtain panels with the pull device on the left-hand side.

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The type of window treatment you are ordering will influence the type of hardware needed. There are lots of components to consider: curtain tracks, French rods, straight rods, drapery hooks, curtain rings & clips, automated & remote systems, the opening device- like a string pull or pole open, etc. If you’re taking the custom workroom route, you’ll also need to specify placement of some of these. For example- if you have a string pull opening device… you could say you want it hidden on the right-hand side of the window.

Another thing to consider during the hardware planning phase… is your window really long? If so, you’ll need to consider center brackets for added support. I’ve watched designers and colleagues order beautiful window treatments that have sagged or ripped the hardware from the wall because of their weight or size. Make sure to add additional support if you’re working with heavy fabric or an extra long drapery rod.

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Design & Aesthetic

Once you’ve selected your fabric or material, you’ll need to design the other drapery or shade elements. The top portion of your drapery panels- where the curtains meet the rod or hardware is called the heading style. When specifying drapery, that’s the first stylistic element I begin with. I pulled together a little drapery panel guide with photos of different pleat styles for you…

Designer Trick : Specifying Window Treatments - roomfortuesday.comSimilarly, with shades, you’ll also need to define what style you’d like. With roman shades, depending on your window style, you’ll either need to specify an inside mount (mounted inside the window trim) or an outside mount (mounted to the wall). My personal preference is always inside mount. I think it has a more tailored, customized look. Here is another stylistic visual I put together for you on roman shades…

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Custom Window Treatments

If you’re looking for custom window treatments, you have some options…

  1. Go through a workroom… you’re responsible for all the details.
  2. Find a local seamstress… you’re responsible for all the details.
  3. Make them yourself… you’re responsible for all the details & manufacturing.
  4. Go through a retailer like Calico… they have designers on staff to assist.
  5. Find semi-custom options on Etsy… the manufacturer can assist.
  6. Find semi-custom options online… retailers like Blindsgalore.

The path you choose will really depend on how much work & time you can invest, and your comfort level of design specifications.

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Readymade Window Treatments

I’m all about mixing high & low. As I previously mentioned, I have both custom and readymade window treatments installed throughout my home. It’s all about finding what fits the budget and making textiles feel intentional and more customized. I’ve got some easy tips for making readymade options feel more custom…

  1. Order the right size… or size them yourself- adjust the hem, etc.
  2. Modify as needed… add pleats, install an appliqué or border, dye the fabric, etc.
  3. Install as you would custom treatments… use things like pleating hooks, curtain rings, nice drapery hardware, or a valence or cornice to hide mechanical components.
  4. Don’t be afraid to DIY… take a stab at sewing, or if you can’t sew- try fusing a hem with hemming tape (which just requires an iron).

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At the design firm, we worked with the same professionals for installation… it was nice to see the same person for each installation because he eventually learned how I preferred my window treatments to look. For example, I prefer drapery panels to barely kiss the floor… meaning they hover ~1/2″ above the ground. That influences how high the drapery rod needs to be installed. Will there be curtain rings? How about drapery hooks? All of these added pieces of hardware need to be considered when figuring out the hanging height. You should also consider the weight of the drapery panels and the material used- because they can stretch, adding a bit of length. Quite a bit of math goes into this part of the process! My point here? Measure twice, drill once… and stick to your initial plan! Here are some quick basic tips:

  1. Hang your drapery panels high and wide to make your window look larger.
  2. Opt for inside mount roman shades, if possible.
  3. Always have your initial measurements and workroom order with you during installation.
  4. Keep a notepad and calculator on hand for quick math.
  5. Do visualize the window treatment prior to drilling… have someone hold them up for you.
  6. Float drapery panels just above the floor.
  7. Take into account the weight and material for stretching, which can add length.
  8. Do steam, train, and style your curtains once they’re installed for a clean look.

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Other tools that make installation a bit easier? I’ll drop them into a slider below… the laser level is a must!


If you missed any of the topics highlighted throughout the Designer Trick series, I’ll link them for you below. Are you still finding this series interesting and helpful? Let me know if there are specific topics you’d like me to cover next!

I hope this post was helpful! Here’s to hoping it wasn’t information overload. Be sure to save or pin this one for future reference, too!

Designer Trick : Specifying Window Treatments - roomfortuesday.comIf you’re curious about my camper makeover and where I landed on those window treatments- my plan is to modify some readymade cafe curtains to keep it low budget. Since I’m saving there, I decided to drop off our dinette cushions at the workroom to have those professionally reupholstered. I want to use vinyl for durability, and I’m not confident my little sewing machine can handle sewing through a heavy material like that. I hope you’re all having a good week so far! We’re nearing closer to that 3-day weekend, friends. Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below…

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  1. Good morning! I love meaty, instructional posts like this! I keep a google tab open for extra support. (French rod? Hobbled pleat?) Those style graphics rule! Now I’ll be on a design scavenger hunt! Goblet pleats? What? I always think we don’t have drapes in our house because they feel too formal for my aesthetic, but maybe the real reason is that all the details (and $$) just short-circuit my brain. Ha. To be honest, the scariest part is hanging them! I’m SO lazy about measuring, and trying to level makes my eyes twitch. Do you suppose a workroom would just let me hire someone for measuring and hanging? As always, you’ve got me noodling on possibilities! Heck, I’m still working on my summer fun list from Monday. I did order a bathing suit…for the non-deserted places I hope to be swimming!😂 I also stocked up on Negroni and margarita ingredients! Baby steps. Here’s to a lovely productive Wednesday! 💜

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed my graphics :) Those were fun to put together! Drapery can definitely be tricky (and costly). There is a lot to consider. I think it totally depends on the workroom! Yay for the summer fun list and for ordering a bathing suit! I hate swim suit shopping, so I usually just stick to my old tried & true option. Haha! We’ve been taking our scuba classes this week, which has been fun. Tomorrow I’m going to the liquor store for margarita and negroni ingredients. This heavy week certainly calls for a cocktail. Oof. I hope you’re having a good Thursday. xox

  2. Good morning! I’m going to jump right in-this one was stacked with amazing info- p.s. LOVE THAT!! What is a workroom? I have a variety of guesses, but I’ve never heard that term. I love the idea of custom draperies- I already know this is the route I’ll go for our front room. With the unique window shapes, sizes, and having stacked windows on a 30’ wall, the upper treatments will have to be motorized. I would love to try my hand at a diy cornice for the arches though! For now, we’ll be living with the aluminum blinds. How much do you typically account for stretching in your measurement? I know that’s highly dependent on the weight and type of fabric; let’s use linen as an example. When working with a company like Calico, will their designers be able to account for that? I’ll be going the semi-custom route for the window treatments in our primary bed/bath, and ready made for the kiddos. I love your graphics. I’m drawn to double and euro pinch pleats, and flat panel designs. I’m also in love with the relaxed and waterfall style shades. You’ve provided so much to consider…I’m definitely saving this for later! I’m excited as ever to see what you’ve selected for the camper- and I hope you have a happy Wednesday. Thanks for the education friend! Xoxo

    1. Hi Lauren! I’m so happy you liked this one. A workroom is basically just a custom textile studio. They specialize in drapery, but some workrooms also do upholstery, custom cushions, etc. They mostly work with trade professionals, but I know some workrooms that are open to the public as well. I think a DIY cornice sounds totally doable… and motorized window treatments will be an absolute dream come true. We’ve never had them in our home, but I’ve had very happy clients who have had them installed. As for stretching- that totally depends on your material type, the weight, and size. Natural materials, like linen and cotton, are notorious for stretching a little bit. If you work with a designer, they’ll be able to help you with that. The Calico staff will know how much stretch to account for, if you use them :) Euro and pinch pleats are always my go-to… or flat / ripple fold. I hope you’re hanging in there this week. Really glad this post was helpful! xox

  3. Perfect timing for this informational post! I need suggestions for sliding glass doors in a basement that need to be blackout (for movie viewing) but function easily (remote controlled?)? I have had 3 different companies come to measure and offer design ideas and all 3 suggested different blinds at wildly expensive price points. We are leaning towards a remote controlled shade, inside mount, blending in with the surrounding walls but with lots of texture (tone on tone, with “slubs”, like linen). Any ideas?

    1. So glad to hear that, Teri! Would you be able to mount blackout drapery panels on a track, that cover that entire wall or frame out the doors? That might make it look larger, taller, and softer (in a basement). Otherwise, I like your idea of insight mount… and I love the slub linen look :) I hope that helps!