Standard curtain panels can look more luxurious than they are.
Earlier this year I moved into a new apartment that’s comfortable enough to stay as long as I like. The windows are relatively large and needed curtains. In my former house I had custom draperies made to my specifications and professionally installed. For the rental it was practical to opt for ready-made linen curtain panels. Installation was a DIY project accomplished with the help of a carpenter friend.
I’m not the biggest fan of curtains and I had no experience with ready-made panels. In the past, I designed curtains, purchased material and had the workroom measure, make and install them. The curtains were wonderfully full and just grazed the floor for a luxurious, custom look.
The linen ready-made panels I liked were flat, un-pleated panels sold in set widths and lengths. So my challenge was to make them look as luxurious and custom as possible.
Basically, I had to figure out a curtain hack or risk having the curtains look skimpy.
The big differences between custom and ready-made are the amount of fabric used for each curtain panel, lengths of panels, and whether or not there are pleats — pleating adds fullness.
The panels I chose (at Crate & Barrel a longtime favorite source for quality and value) were un-pleated, lined linen panels with loops on the back for rod pocket (gathering them directly on the curtain rod) installation. The curtains come folded in plastic packages which also means they would need to be steamed out or steam-ironed before they could be hung (linen does not hang out well). I found that totally annoying.
As with most store-bought panels, the widths are standard and a pair of 50-inch wide panels were the best choice for my 42-1/2 inch wide windows. That left me with two choices on the length. I could either go with 84-inch long panels to be installed with clip-on rings, or buy 96-inch panels and shorten them myself. I have shortened unlined curtains but shortening a dozen lined curtain panels was not an option.
As a general rule, most curtain rods are installed 3 inches above the top of each window molding and they extend 3 inches beyond each side of the window molding.
The top of my window moldings to the finished floor measured 83-1/4 inches. Then I needed to add 3 inches to the center of the rod. That came to 87-inches. So the curtains could not be gathered on the rod or they would be 3-1/2 inches off the floor — way too short. I don’t even care for them 1-inch off the floor — as the C&B website shows [previous photo] — because that makes them hang flat against the wall.
Using rings with clips was clearly my best solution. Clip-on rings added 3-inches in length — 87-inches. Just the right height. But that still left me with a flat look when I held it all up in place.
So here’s the hack: I hung the rods 2-1/2-inches above the top of the window frame instead of 3-inches. Visually there was no difference at the top. However, that extra 1/2-inch in length allowed the curtains to break just a little harder on the floor. And my adding 3 extra rings to each panel (7 are standard) I could simulate pleating at the top.
While my curtains are less than perfect, in large part due to my less than expert ironing skills, they gave be the slightly billowy look I was after on all my windows with little extra expense.