Drapery 101: The Ultimate Guide to Curtains

Windows are quite the paradox. When hunting for real estate, big windows that let the light pour in should be at the top of the checklist. But, come moving day, covering those big windows becomes a tricky task. To help navigate us this curtain conundrum, our resident interior design expert and editor-at-large Estee Stanley gave us some valuable advice. The biggest decision is the first: Drapes or shades? "I like drapes," says Stanley. "I feel like they make a room look more finished. They're more luxurious." Although her preference is clear, Stanley suggests roman shades for smaller windows, bay windows, or by a bed. To master the art of the drape, though, follow these guidelines: _1 There are myriad ways to finish the top and bottom of a drape, and Stanley suggests going French for both. "I like a French pleat. It just makes drapes a little fuller." Also called a pinch pleat, this is a way of gathering the fabric at the top of the drape so it looks as though it has been evenly pinched together. "But, I'm more traditional. So if it's a modern house it should just be a flat drape with no pleat." And for the bottom of the drape Stanley says, "I like a French seam at the hem so there is no visible stitching."
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 Belgian Textured Linen Drapery French Pleat, From $210, Restoration Hardware Pinch Pleat Drapery, From $153, Smith + Noble   Thai Silk French Pleat, From $379, Restoration Hardware
_2 When it comes to hanging your drapes, Stanley suggests going "as high as you possibly can." Doing so will give the illusion your windows are larger and your ceilings higher. "I usually do it an inch or two from the ceiling," she says. And although hemming your drapes to be longer and puddle on the floor can feel luxurious, "I like it to just kiss," she says.
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 Linen Cotton Grommet Curtain, From $59, West Elm  Riviera Stripe Drape, From $99, Pottery Barn Garment-Dyed Linen Curtain, From $128, Anthropologie 
_3 A drape is only as beautiful as it is functional. Stanley suggests using curtain hooks that attach the back of the pleat to the curtain rod. But, if you're a pleat-less modernist, a metal grommet can be used. For opening and closing she says, "I like to do a ball bearing chain, so there isn't a string hanging down."
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Bombay Tassel Tieback, $38, Anthropologie Mid-Century Wooden Rod, From $89, West Elm Lucite and Brass Curtain Rod, Price Upon Request, Gretchen Everett
_4 The kind of material used for a drape can dictate how formal a room is. A silk drape, for example, will make a room feel much fancier than a linen drape. In general, "I think linens and wools are nice," she says. If the window gets a lot of light, line the drapes with a sun-safe material to prevent sun rot and fading. Stanley suggests blackout-lining your drapes if you "need to sleep and feel like you're in a Vegas hotel. But, if not, than don't waste the money."
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 Studded Wool Curtain, $40, West Elm  Linen Balsas Curtain, From $128, Anthropologie Blackout Curtain, From $29, West Elm 
_5 When it comes to pattern, Stanley steers clear. "I think people have so many windows in their houses, you want to accentuate them in a way that almost makes them go away." Patterned drapes can make a big statement, but Stanley says keeping the pattern on drapes simple "makes them a beautiful backdrop for a room."
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Kendal Laurel Curtain Panels, From $90, Crate & Barrel  Olive Chambray Grommet Curtain Panels, From $80, Crate & Barrel Gilded Waves Curtain, From $188, Anthropologie
Photography: 1. Lorenzo Castillo (designer and source), 2. Estee Stanley Design photographed by Nick Johnson, 3. Nate Berkus (designer and source), 4. Jeffrey Alan Marks (designer and source), 5. Prue Ruscoe for Vogue Living, 6. Jeffrey Alan Marks (designer and source), 7. Redmond Aldrich Design (designer and source), 8. Prue Ruscoe for Vogue Living, 9. Roger Davies for Elle Decor, 10. Nate Berkus (designer and source), 11. Jay Jeffers (designer and source), 12. Martyn Lawrence Bullard (designer and source), 13. Prue Ruscoe (photographer and source), 14. Estee Stanley Design via Rip +Tan, 15. Martyn Lawrence Bullard (designer and source)