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Drapes for your Home – a Guide and a Process

It’s funny to finally, after all these years, be buying drapes for a house. We have lived in some fantastic homes, mind you. But for some reason – whether it was the beauty of the window itself, the privacy already allotted by the location, or a modern sensibility that made them unnecessary, drapes for our home just never came up.

But – we’ve moved to a beautiful older home. It’s in a neighborhood where we see other houses and they can see in on us, and so the process began. The house already contained some well made drapes, albeit in a color I’d just as soon forget. But they were quality drapes, well fitted, lined to keep out the cold in winter, with good operating hardware. So, I can’t put it any other way than to say the bar had been set.


We initially got a reference on a drapery specialist from a designer friend. She came in, measured, took our fabric sample and gave us a bid. I was surprised, no – shocked, by the cost. After seeing it, we committed ourselves to finding a way to do this project at a fraction of the amount. I’m not going to compute the hours we have into this because if I were to place any value on our time, you all could quickly see the folly of our efforts. 
Nevertheless, we persisted. First thought – buy drapery panels and make them fit. My wife is a great seamstress and she was up to the task of joining them, lining them (if necessary), etc… to make them as closely similar to the real deal as possible. But wait a minute. Our 4 rather large windows were going to require 16 panels.  At even the low end of $150 per panel, we were approaching $2,600 with tax. OK, well that’s still quite a savings over our quote.  
We were looking to implement a “transitional” look to this old house. Imagining the rooms to assume the “upper East Side pre-war” look tailored in such a way as to fuse the traditional with some modern flair.  In our minds, this required something different than a “shabby chic” look that many of even the finest panel sellers displayed. In particular, all of the panels we saw were loosely finished on top. They looked great when open – where the drape was neatly arranged and bunched up to the side of the window. But we wanted the tight pleats on top for a straight clean look coming all the way down, and for a presentable look when the drapes were closed as well. Those pleats do serve a purpose – particularly when the drapes are closed. They give a uniform look to the fabric across the entire window. Otherwise you get what I’ll call the “sheet” effect (looks like you hung up a sheet!) Additionally, we wanted a slight break on the floor which seems to be the fashion these days. So, my wife began to explore the options to not only join the panels, but modify the tops for a “double-pinch pleat,” and adjust the length to establish that slight break we wanted… no easy task. 
Now many homeowners are happy to have drapes that stay open and merely add a decorative element to the window and the room. For that, these panels are the answer… even if some slight modifications are required. But for us, we were beginning to get the clear idea that this was turning into work. 
Next, we explored ordering finished drapes online. Give them the dimensions and they will custom manufacture. I’ll be the first to admit this redecorating project has gone over the top, but in this instance we just weren’t seeing fabrics comparable to the sample we originally chose. Furthermore, their prices were less, but not so much less that we didn’t go back to considering our original bid. 
After having spent months on this, we reached out again to the drapery specialist and just leveled with her. The price shocked us, but the alternatives were beginning to look like more work or involve more compromise that we could really live with. Could she help?  I guess you call this haggling, because she agreed to come off the price by 15% and the drapes are now on order… with the precise fabric we originally selected! 

Ignorance is not necessarily bliss. Turns out our drapery specialist had offered us a pretty square deal from the beginning. It just took us some time to get our hands around it.

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