The anatomy of curtains
As you may have gathered by now, I really do love curtains! They bring so much to a space in terms of practicality as well as aesthetics. Also, there are a lot of reasons to consider choosing curtains for your home and a lot of design decisions around the curtains themselves. Basically, there’s a lot that goes into curtains and I’ve broken that down to the following seven steps.
This is the most fun part of it all. I love textiles and all the various colors, the beautiful embroidery, the different materials and patterns. It’s a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of treasures!
In my humble opinion, the main curtain fabric needs to set the tone for the space. If it’s an understated look you’re going with, you might go a soft colour in a superior quality fabric and may add a gorgeous trim along the inner vertical border (some of my faves are from Schumacher see here ). If you want something a little bolder, then an incredible pattern may be just what’s needed (Thibault do some gorgeous prints, see them here ).
A bit of a technical point here, but when you’re considering a pattern, keep in mind that the bigger the pattern, the more wastage of fabric. This is because you need to sew vertical strips (these are called the drops) of fabric together and in doing so, you need to ensure the patterns all join up seamlessly. If you have a small pattern repeat, it’s so much easier to join up the pattern and you waste a lot less fabric. So, if you're on a bit of a tighter budget try and keep the pattern either small pattern, or a vertical stripe or go with a plain fabric.
Another great trick when you’re on a tighter budget I get plain fabrics that look and feel beautiful at a much cheaper price point and often I will do a border along the bottom or along the insides of the where the curtains close or I might do three bold stripes in the plain fabric. That will cost a little bit more on the manufacturing side but you're ordering a lot less fabric and it's a lot less cost per meter of the fabric. But it’s an economical way to have interesting curtains.
If you need privacy as well, you will need a sheer. The beautiful thing about sheers that it filters light beautifully and depending how thick the weave is, you can usually see a little of your view through the fabric. And again there are a myriad of choices. Plains in various colours, stripes, different material makeup (eg 100% linen, cotton, mix etc); printed sheers are a lovely option. Prices range from $20/m up to several hundreds a meter for sheer fabrics. I normally put the sheer closest to the window behind the main curtain, but in modern houses, it’s quite common to have them on S tracks in front of the lining.
A side note about the materials! If you’re looking at fabrics with a high percentage of natural fibers, you need to be aware that this can sometimes lead to the finished curtains changing size! How is that possible I hear you ask? Well, perhaps the best example is linen. If you choose a fabric that is 100% linen, you need to know that it is very likely that the curtains may stretch OR shrink! It comes down to humidity and the weight of the linen. It does not constitute a fault with the fabric, so if for eg, your curtains stretched and ended up with more fabric dragging along the floor, these could be taken up – BUT you should expect to be charged for this. So, if you are quite particular that you want the curtains to be approx. 5 or 10ml off the floor, you either need to be ready for this to change OR choose a fabric with a lot less natural linen in it. These days you can get polyester/linen mix that look and feel and fall beautifully and even some fully poly options that are fabulous!
2) THE HEADER
The header is the way the fabric is finished along the very top of the curtain. called the header. So, how do this works? Along the very top of the curtain. There are lots of options, but here are the most used here in Sydney:
· S-fold is a very contemporary style which looks great in modern houses. One thing I would say that S fold take up a fair bit of space from the window, which can be an issue if it’s a squishy room.
· Double or triple pinch pleat which are used in a more classic style home. It’s literally two pinches of the fabric at the top or three and it allows for a beautiful fullness of the curtain below. If the fabric is pretty thick, just stick to double.
· Inverted pleat. If you want a bit more of a modern you don't want the modern S-fold and you don't want the traditional pinch plate, you can use an inverted box pleat. It sits quite flat along the track (the pleat is behind, so you can’t really see it from the front). The only thing you need to be aware of with that style is that while they look amazing and they fall beautifully but they don't stack back very well or very easily. So, if you don't have a very wide window or you don't have much space on either side of the window so your fabric is going to cover more of the glass part of the window.
· Knife pleat. Often with the sheers I use a knife plate that is nice and flat, doesn't take up too much space, pulls beautifully, and stacks back pretty.
3) THE LINING
Point three is your lining. This is a step you do not want to skip for a few different reasons. One is it ensures the block-out capabilities of the curtain. It also is very important for thermal transfer (cutting down on the loss of heat in winter or stopping the heat coming in summer). You can get different colored linings but the most popular and probably in Australia the most practical are obviously the whites and ivories because it reflects heat
There are different linings that you can get and I recommend one of these three. The first one is the three-pass lining and that's basically a fabric that they spray three layers of a block out application. Another one is triple weave which are great if you need an interesting colour as a lining. A great example of this in use is if you want a sheer at the front and a solid colour at the back. You can get them in some amazing colors, they fall really beautifully, and they're pretty good at block out (not quite as effective for thermal insulation). And finally, there are the silicon-lined ones. These are great if you are in an area that gets a lot of rain or if humidity is a problem because they are mold resistant. They fall really beautifully and they are very practical.
So, they're the three types of linings that I would use depending on the project and the room, and the situation. The silicon lined ones are a little bit more expensive than the triple-pass and the triple weave fabrics range in pricing.
So, number four in the anatomy of curtains are the tracks. Now, this is very important too. The tracks are basically what the curtains run along. Now, these can be attractive rods, or they can be designed so that you don't really see them (eg they might be in a reveal). You can have glides on those or you can have the eyelets.
The tracks are very important obviously because without them the curtains don't open and close and I would recommend paying a little bit extra for them. You want them to be smooth to operate, you don't want them to break easily, you don't want them to be able to hold up the weight of the curtains (and this can be substantial). Part of this is to have enough brackets supporting the tracks and an experienced curtain supplier will know how many your particular project needs.
You can get hand-operated tracks or you can get motor and the motor ones can be either hardwired or they can be battery operated. With the battery-operated, you also can get ones that are solar-charged (how cool is that!).
Pro tips: if you're building a new house and you want to put motorized tracks in you're going to need to make sure you allow for that in your electrical plan, AND you need to have a generous amount of reveal. If you're doing a pelmet so it's all the tracking and everything is not seen it's all in the reveal so it's all you see is the fabric bit please check with the curtain supplier the depth of the reveal that you need. I say this with love but don't trust your builder. It's quite common that enough depth hasn’t been allowed to fit the tracks and fabrics – especially if you’re doing an S wave header (these always need extra space!).
Just a note here about beautiful tracks. They are out there and the more amazing, the more expensive. I’ve used custom brass tracks, custom coloured rods (orange in one room and pink in another), contemporary matt black ones amongst others. If you want something really unique this can be a really fun step!
5) DROPS & OPENINGS
Moving on to point number five which is just the general appearance of the curtains (excluding the fabrics!). For example, you can have centre opening curtains or have all the fabric draw to one side. I personally love symmetry, so love centre opening unless that won’t work such as sliding doors.
The other thing with that with the appearance thing is the drop and the drop is the verticality of the curtain. So, from the top of the track down to the floor. So, you need to decide do you want the curtain to be touching the floor, or do you want it to be just a little bit off? People with pets that shed often don't want curtains touching the floor because it drags the fur along and gathers and it can looks untidy. So, if you have it just above the floor it's a bit more forgiving. If you're like me, I’m a puddle girl. I love fabrics draping on the ground, I think it's super luxurious
6) MANUFACTURE & INSTALLATION
Number six is the manufacturer and the installation. They're probably two separate points but I’m going to put them in one point here. Regarding manufacturing, you need to have someone who can make curtains and know what the hell they're doing because they need to make allowances for the header, the tracks, the hems and they need to be able to pattern match as if their life just depended on it! They need to know how much fabric you need to order (and curtains require A LOT of fabric)! They need to know the tips and tricks like how to address the little holes that sometimes show in certain fabrics (this can be important if the client is super light sensitive). They need to know how the finished curtain should sit to look its best when installed.
Then there’s installation. So, there are people whose job in life is to install curtains and other window treatments and they are worth their weight in gold. Understanding what to use to anchor the brackets so that they will stay put for years and years is key. Getting the tracks level is vital. Understanding how to get the curtains’ drop just right is a super power! Experienced installers are gold.
7) FINISHING TOUCHES
The seventh and final point to the anatomy of curtains are the finishing touches and this can be the fun stuff. These may include tie backs, pelmets or valances and end caps.
Ties backs are the way you might literally hold the curtains back when they’re open. These are most common if its near a door way and you don’t want the curtains flapping in the wind (& tripping people up!). They’re also used for aesthetic reasons as some of them are gorgeous (I have brass bee tie backs for the curtains in my dining room!).
Pelmets and valances are fabric wrapped or attached to a timber structure with the aim to hide the tops of the tracks OR to add extra darkness OR just because they’re pretty!
End caps are the things that go on the end of the tracks to finish them off. You can have just simple end caps which are very sleek and modern and unfussy or you can have really fancy pants finials they might be crystal balls or brass coral-shaped end caps!
So, they’re the seven points that make up curtains~! If you’re after great inspiration, please see our Pinterest Board with hundreds of window treatment-related pins (I’m a bit of a curtain tragic, so there are heaps of pins!). If you’re in Sydney and need amazing curtains and décor, you know we can help! Just reach out on 0450 284 922 or see our list of services here!