Level up my curtains!
December 28, 2014 6:27 PM   Subscribe

Target curtains aren't cutting it anymore, where do I go to take my curtains to the next level? Is it worth hiring a professional and getting custom made curtains?

Target curtains worked when we lived in apartments, but now that we have a house I'd like to get nice curtains that will last more than a few years. I have some specific colors and patterns in mind and haven't been able to find anything close at Target/Pottery Barn/World Market. Would my best option be to hire someone (if so, who?), or is there another curtain source I'm missing?

- I'm a beginning sewer and have a sewing machine, so with the right fabric and a tutorial I could make the curtains myself. However, I don't have a lot of time to put into making them.
- We need to get hardware fabric for most of windows in the house - living room, baby's room, bathroom, front door and window above the front door. Some of the rooms will be more trouble because of oddly shaped windows or built in cabinetry that sits very close to the windows.
- We received a few thousand dollars as a Christmas present from my mother that we will use for the curtains.
posted by peasandcarrots to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Oddly shaped windows might be a problem for anything non-custom, but before you decide to go custom for all your windows, have a look at overstock.com. Also, you can consider buying non-custom and altering.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:31 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

You should check The Shade Store. I haven't used them myself but I've seen them recommended on design blogs (like apartment therapy, decor8, etc..) over the years. They have tons of options and seem to have local measurer/installers in lots of places.
posted by grapesaresour at 6:45 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Decor fabrics are VERY expensive. Having custom draperies made is MORE expensive than buying them from catalogs. You do it because you are picky, picky, picky and have to have something specific. I did it in Nashville, and $1000 covered the living room. That's it. 4 windows (admittedly, very tall windows.)

My sister made draperies for our house in Atlanta, and the fabrics were about $300 (again, just for the living room.) She gave me the labor free.

There are books out there that will show you how to do it. It's not hard, it's tedious.

My recommendation is to go to the fabric store in the design center of your city. See if there are fabrics that you like. Joann Fabrics will have Waverly fabrics. If you like twee, that might work for you. The fabrics at Ikea are great for draperies (you'll need to line them) and very inexpensive, but the patterns tend towards modern or Scandinavian traditional.

Once you find the fabrics, price them out (buy 10% more than you think you need, more if there's a pattern on the fabric.) Price the notions, trim, lining, thread, price everything you'll need to do them correctly.

Other places to look are Wayfair.com.

I threw together some valances for the kitchen from $5 a yard Ikea fabric and some sewing tape. Took about an hour to do it. I'm very pleased.

Get the book, check the fabrics. If you see something you love, make them yourself. If not, look on the web.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:51 PM on December 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've sewn a few curtains. It's more ironing than sewing, and tedious work. As long as you don't have any fancy treatments in mind and the windows aren't huge, sewing the curtains yourself is a relatively easy project.

Custom window treatments are shockingly expensive.
posted by tealcake at 6:52 PM on December 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

With a sewing machine, you can make discount curtains look very custom. Adding trim is pretty easy. For the more formal rooms, I like the quality from Bed Bath and Beyond. Nice hardware and lined drapes in a pretty pattern works great. The drapery rings with hooks on the bottom are great for adding fullness and nice draping of the fabric.

For the hard to fit and oddly shaped, tension rods holding the drapes inside the frame looks good. With even beginner skills, you can cut the ready-made stuff to fit, usually just by sewing a couple of straight seams. I've done all my own drapes, MeMail me if you want some pics.
posted by raisingsand at 7:06 PM on December 28, 2014

+1 doing it yourself - treatments tend to be simpler and less formal these days, anyway. For my curtains (I just have one window to worry about, curtain-wise), I picked up designer fabric discounted to $18/yard from $65/yrd. It cost me ~$200 for the fabric, and I think another $20 for the bits and bobs, though it did take three weekends of hunting to find something I really liked.

I figure, it's the kind of thing you might only do once every few years, if that often, and you've got to look at them on a daily basis, so you might as well get something you'll enjoy - I think it makes a huge difference to the feeling of a room. If you can afford custom drapery, go for it. (I hated the ready-made curtains I found that were in my budget, so it was worth it for me.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:01 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Curtains are pretty easy, so start looking for really great deals on fabric. Fabric is very expensive. Take your time. Once in a while, I see great curtains, not that I can come up with a link right now. Ikea has curtains, and they can be a good way to buy fabric.
posted by theora55 at 10:08 PM on December 28, 2014

Best answer: I don't have the money for them myself, but I have seen custom curtains in action, and the right custom curtain is really, really worth it to make a space look exxtra nice. I actually have used someone elses cast-off (!) custom curtain fabric and attached it to a hardware store copper rod because the richness of the fabric just brings something special.

For a budget of a few thousand and several rooms, it might be a bit much - but what about taking an eclectic approach and not making one single all-or-nothing decision on the curtains? It's a lot more fun and informal and high/low tends to look better than all-one-thing. I'd say the most formal custom curtain in the living space/entryway, less expensive or handmade curtains in the baby's room (that room will change more quickly than others and will look cuter with handmade things anyway). If you would consider doing shades instead of curtains some spaces (perhaps the bathroom), you can get nice custom wood blinds for about 150-175 per window, which could be less than a curtain that looks equivalently fancy. I'd consider what the room's use is/how much it is used/how public it is and how many windows are in a room (so total cost - a room with only one window might be worth going custom even if it's a private office or bathroom) when deciding which option to go with.
posted by decathexis at 10:08 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Curtains are a beginner friendly sewing project, though larger curtains can take a long time and it can be useful to have a second pair of hands. I suggest making the curtains for the baby room and bedroom yourself, and then see whether you want to make the living room ones yourself.

Oh, buy good quality curtain tracks. And check the thickness of the lining. There's a huge difference between lined and full blockout.
posted by kjs4 at 12:42 AM on December 29, 2014

For commercial places, I have actually hired JCPenney. Then, I tried them for a room in my home. In all cases, designers came with a van full of fabric books (based on a pre-visit phone conversation to relay my thoughts and the feel of the room). I've been delighted with service, quality and design ideas presented. If you go with a JCP designer or any other, you could set up a plan that lets you set, say, a 2 year program to address each room. To give you an idea of $, I paid $1500 for super heavy silk-blend fabric pleated draw drapes for an 8' doorwal. The bottom and sides have a solid band of contrasting fabric = extra work and cost. Price included hardware and double-lining as this window gets beat up by the sun, and installation. And they frequently have sales (ie., 25% off).
posted by Lornalulu at 4:52 AM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I do have a suggestion for bedrooms. Sheets are an excellent bargain for fabrics, and the bonus is that you can get them to match your bedding.

Some of them are no-sew. Just pick open the seams on the folded over edge of a flat sheet and slide your rod in.

My sister took sheets, lined them, and combined with coordinating fabrics as trim. They came out very luxe looking and were about $40 per room to do.

I suggest that you start looking at Pinterest boards for ideas. If you have bedding, buy some sheet sets and see what kinds of curtains you can make from them. It's a low cost and easy way to make curtains and if you line and trim them, they really do look fantastic.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:27 AM on December 29, 2014

As other posters have said, curtains are super easy to sew but do take time--lots of ironing, pinning, fiddly tricks, and likely a good deal of basting. Decorator fabric is expensive, so watch for coupons and sales.

Also, as Lornalulu mentioned, JC Penney is an excellent alternative. We did the dining room (basically two walls) with heavy silk pleated draws and the study (one wall) in pleated twill, both with full blackout lining, for under $1000. We watched for a sale, there was nothing custom but the measurements, and we did the installation ourselves.
posted by mimi at 6:16 AM on December 29, 2014

Speaking as someone who bought very nice curtains for my baby's room I can tell you that toddlers have no respect for fancy curtains. I would skip custom curtains in your baby's room and go with some decent quality light blocking curtains you can throw into the washer until they're old enough to understand that curtains aren't long cloth napkins and do not need crayon embellishments.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 7:05 AM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Country Curtains is another reasonable, non-custom place to check. Don't let the name scare you off. It's not all lacy grandma chickens. Unless you're into that. Because they do sell lacy grandma chickens.

If you are a sewer and not quite up to custom work, remember you can try your hand at shortening stock curtains. Or maybe try a valance over a fancy fabric/wood shade.
posted by Gable Oak at 7:36 AM on December 29, 2014

Bed, Bath, and Beyond is a particularly great place to look for off-the-shelf curtains, if you decide to go that route, since most styles they carry also come in 95" vs. the standard 84".

Please don't spend a huge amount of money on curtains and make your windows look small and sad! Hang as high and as wide as you can accommodate in your space. Your house will look gracious and stylish as a result. Check out this image to see a comparison: http://www.elementsofstyleblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/319704_10150724099104865_67386559864_9548869_575753985_n.jpg

I have a 9 ft lower floor and 8 ft upper. Both downstairs and upstairs, I use 95" curtains. Upstairs they are hung all the way up to the ceiling (with a 3 inch unnoticeable turndown), and downstairs they are at 95' with about a foot of clearance above the drapes. They look great. (...Couldn't get full length 9' curtains without going uber expensive and custom.) Good luck!
posted by mirabelle at 1:14 PM on December 29, 2014

Response by poster: (Additional information: the curtains in the living room will need to be at least 102" tall. If anyone knows a good place to get really tall curtains that would be great!

The baby's room has a built in bookshelf around the window with 2" between the edge of the window and the edge of the bookshelf. There are already wooden blinds in this window. Maybe we tension rod this one? Do they make 72" wide tension rods?

The window above the door is a half circle on top of a rectangle. I have to idea where to even start with that one unless we just treat the whole thing as a rectangle.)
posted by peasandcarrots at 2:09 PM on December 29, 2014

Best answer: I had a Mezzaluna and my custom draperies were made to accommodate it. Here's a google search that can give you some ideas. We made a wooden arch using plywood and a jigsaw and upholstered the draperies on it. Then swagged them back. It was gorgeous.

Please don't do a fan in the window, it's the opposite of elegant.

Look at pinterest, check out books and look at decor magazines at the library to give you ideas.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:55 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

At the level you describe, the word you want is drapes, or draperies, not “curtains."
posted by megatherium at 7:56 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

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