Saturday, October 8, 2011

Is your drapery fabric outdated?

I remember falling in love with this classical floral when I saw it in the fabric store.  It was on a soft green background and had classical motifs or urns and scrolls and plenty of pink roses.  It would be the perfect fabric for my bungalow living room curtains.  A green onion ball fringe would trim the valance and I would use the color of the scrolls and urns in a check for the lining.  These window treatments were the inspiration for the room.  The year was 2005.  In only 6 years I have grown tired of this fabric, even though I still consider it pretty.  So why was I tired of it?  The answer is that the trend in home design on windows was less pattern and fuss at the windows.  Pattern was being used in smaller doses, and so the overall larger and bolder floral patterned curtains were wearing out their welcome.  Plainly, people were getting sick of them!  
Take a look at this display of custom treatments at Zimmans.  Zimmans is a local venue outside of Boston,  that sells fabrics, trims and custom draperies as well as decorator style furnishings.  Why do you think all of the treatments are made up in solids on their display?  For one reason, you can better determine the shape and the construction because there is no pattern to distract you.  The other reason is because you will less likely have a negative opinion of the treatment since it is done in a solid fabric.  These treatments will outlast any treatment done in a pattern.  Solids are going to be less tiresome over the long run.  Florals will be the most tiresome over the long haul~and in between are the geometrics.  Geometric patterns include stripes and checks and plaids.  The less bold the colors and contrast, the longer they will hold their appeal.  
This dining room has London shades done in a bold buffalo check of white, grey and black. I installed this over 5 years ago, and it still feels fresh. What makes this room keep current is the fabulous chandelier that is a little steampunk mixed with vintage details.  The dining room chairs should be changed out, but the window treatments are still great!
A reader sent me this image of a Traditional Home book featuring the bold yellow buffalo check draperies.  She has the opportunity to get these draperies and is worried that they might be dated.  So I got to pondering this interesting question from the view point of the consumer~the one who is going to shell out the money for custom made draperies and doesn't want it to be a bad investment.  The answer is that the room has to be current as well as the draperies.  Above, a frenchy chair done in a citrus yellow upholstery fabric elevates the room into "today" instead of "yesterday".  Some simple things to consider when it comes to custom draperies, is that in general terms there are things that are outdated:

  1. Large garden florals
  2. Draperies with tassels and fringes
  3. Elaborate top treatments, particularly swags and jabots
  4. Draperies that are puddled. Extra length is fine, but severe puddling is yesterday
Tips for keeping your draperies at the windows for the longest time:
  1. Natural fabrics like silk and linen
  2. Solids are best, or patterns with only 2 colors
  3. Classic style, such as stripes, checks, damask, toile or paisley patterns
  4. Lined and interlined is best for longevity
  5. Colors in the neutral zone, grey, beige, taupe, creme, ivory, and white
  6. Drapery style~floor length panels or roman shades.  
  7. Simpler trims like banding or cording. Heavy tassels are appropriate for certain styles.
It is easier to paint a wall and a lot cheaper, than to change out your draperies.  That is why you will see a lot of custom draperies done in neutral colors. Most of the work I do these days are classic panels or roman shades that fit the criteria above.  
This is a recent treatment I did with a classic motif done in two colors.  I did use a trim, but it was an updated style that had a lot  of personality.  I like using trims on roman shades because they are such a flat treatment.
This elaborate treatment broke almost of the guidelines above.  However there are exceptions to every rule. In this case, the client was quite determined to have draperies that were over the top and trimmed in an extravagant way.  We used yards and yards of peach and copper silk, gilded poles and crystal trims and organza beaded banding.  She was head over heels for her new curtains as they fulfilled her vision of  what she wanted for her home.
When I get sick of my overly patterned and colorful draperies I put them in my Etsy shop for someone else to enjoy.  These yellow chinoiserie Londons didn't last very long in my house.  They still sell this fabric at Calico Corners, and it might be right for someone. These were the result of an impulse buy~and now they are for sale.  This is the example of what you don't want to have happen when you do your own draperies. 
Personally I know I am going to make some floral chintz draperies for some room in my house. I also know that there is the chance I could probably retire them in less than 5 years. (I actually think chintz is going to come back, and in a big way!)  Do you have tired outdated draperies, or are you not quite sure?  You can send me a pic and ask for my opinion, and I will give it to you straight up!  So to my reader who asked what makes a curtain outdated, and should she go with the yellow check?  I say YES~ just make sure the other elements in the room feel current, and I think you will love the look!
To see some of my other custom window treatments, click here.


  1. Amy, thanks for sharing your knowledge and experiences concerning buying window treatments. I will be doing some type of window treatment in the near future so your advice is very helpful to me. I can understand why you chose the floral fabric, it is beautiful even if a little out dated. Good luck selling them. Someone will love them just as much as you did in the beginning.-----Shannon

  2. Hi Amy,
    I had the most fabulour yellow floral draperies made for my previous home. The fabric was by Thibault and it was around $90 per yard. I used it in my livingroom along with a cornice board covered in the same. I even used the coordinating wallpaper. It was very traditional and I loved it. I did bring the panels with me to this home but they just don't work. I still love them and will use them again some day. I just cannot stand to part with them because of the cost and their prettiness! LOL!

    Thanks for educating me on window treatments.


  3. I just got rid of some draperies {and arched balloon shades}, Amy, that I knew were outdated. They just screamed 90's and they were, of course, floral. I'm going with more subtle patterns when I go the pattern route now.

  4. You gave some great tips on draperies. I guess I'm following the trend with using plain solid colored drapes or those with tone on tone pattern in my rooms. I noticed that drapes were getting simpler a while back when neutrals were becoming popular again. One thing is for sure though, everything comes back again someday! Ha!

  5. Great post. I love the black buffalo check and the yellow ones, too. I guess that is why I love my red ones so much. I think the large check is a classic.

  6. Having lived in places that there was never enough light in the rooms, since we got our own home, I have always wanted the lightest, simplest window treatments I could do and still have the windows somewhat dressed. For my clients, I've noticed that most of them want a far less heavy look as well. I usually do solid fabrics for window treatments and then will use patterned fabrics in other areas of the room such as throw pillows, table cloths, bed linens, etc. These are usually much easier (and less expensive) to change out.

  7. My drapes are probably 40 years old! Too expensive to update tho. :(

  8. My drapes are tab panels in beige and are very boring. At the time I wanted a beige, fall color feel to my room. I have one wall that is burnt orange and I think of toning it down or leaving it and mixing it w/ blues instead of just beige, yellow, orange. One the sliding glass door I have 4 panels to cover the wall of glass and 2 panels on the smaller window with a simple ivory sheer that is window pane style underneath. I'll wait till Spring to redo things since there isn't money for this project now. I know one thing I want a new slipcover for my couch. The old beige one has fallen apart. lol

  9. Love drapes and get very excited and overwhelmed when thinking about window treatments, so many choices, so much money that once its done, you know you are not changing it for awhile:)
    Beautiful your buffalo check, so pretty. Have a wonderful Sunday!!

  10. Great lesson Amy, i soaked up every word. I find I always like the fabric with the big checks like the yellow and green ones above. And, i love a pretty chintz... it'll be interesting to see if it does come back in style soon. I'm still learning about design trends and what's classic and what's more of a fad...


  11. Good post. I just finally took down a treatment I had in my bedroom for about 8 years, a chintz-y looking fabric, pretty but a little tired and dated. I replaced it with linen panels I bought at Pottery Barn and sewed on my own tape with a greekey pattern, I could not believe how it transformed my room. Its such a big difference, it looks light and airy now. Your dining room is very pretty.

  12. You make some excellent points that will be so helpful to homeowners. It's important to consider the life span when you buy window treatments. I change mine way too often (hazard of the job !)

  13. We do not have draperies because they are dust collectors, and we have asthmatics in the house.....I love pretty draperies, though. I think yours are stunning. :D

  14. Hello Amy,

    So funny...I have most of these fabrics up in my studio! I buy remnant pieces for 50 cents from a local design shop. I use them for couture aprons..tote bags and pillows. I'm sitting in a chair I slipcovered the back cushion in the first photo fabric (mine is a cream background). The blue damask was used to slip a living room chair...I used to have B/W buffalo check valances in my home and now have the butter yellow ones on grey walls..and I think I have the last pillow fabric folded up somewhere in my workroom.

    Seems we have similar fabric tastes ;->

    Janet xox

  15. When we bought this last house I went with all neutral draperies/curtains-except in the little girls' room. I used a Ralph Lauren watered silk check in pink with cream and a touch of gold in it....and trimmed the edges with some pink crystal beading. I did it about 4 years ago and still love it every time I see it.

    You did a great job of advising here - xo Diana

  16. Fantastic post! I just started doing consults at a place that makes custom curtains. We are working on some display for the showroom and are doing a few prints - the idea of solids is a good one. I'm crazy about the black & white buffalo check shades. Those will always be right! Forwarding this post to the owner!

  17. Fabulous tips! Something I know but haven't really thought through. I'm doing everything on a very tight budget right now so using whatever I can get my hands on. Thankfully, I believe my new curtains have passed your test. yay!

  18. Why is there a trend in home decor ? Sigh...!
    Usually I don't follow trends, I just go with what I love. The draperies hanging on my patio door are of a bold colour and florals. I had this fabric for the past 9 years and never got tired of it. This spring a seamstress made draperies out of this fabric and they are now hanging in my kitchen. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think that it's better to use bold colours and florals in small doses. Because I have this floral in my kitchen, I wouldn't use another bold floral in my living room, and I didn't repeat this floral on the other windows of the kitchen.
    But it's true that we are more likely to get tired of florals than solid colours. I'll probably get tired of those draperies in 2 or 3 years.
    Have a nice week-end !

  19. I love the floral curtains at the top of the page. I guess I'm just old fashioned.

  20. Hello,

    I was wondering if you know the name and brand of the floral fabric in the first picture. I found some curtains made with this fabric this morning, but with a white background on EBay. I asked the seller if she could send me another picture, so I could see them at a distance (she had a picture of them hanging, but the flash washed out the entire picture). I waited and waited and she finally wrote me back AFTER she sold them. Now I’m in search of the name and brand of the fabric, so I can look out for them from here on out. That information will help tremendously! I am so disappointed, I guess I should’ve just bought them.

    Thank you!

    1. All I recall is that it was a Raymond Waites fabric line. I think maybe made by Kaufmann....but that was so long ago, and I am not sure. Good luck!

  21. Thank you so much, Amy! It was probably a once in a lifetime chance, but it won’t stop me from looking...��


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