How To Get Your Curtains Just Right

I’m getting just SO excited to reveal this room to you guys because it’s officially complete on our end, however the One Room Challenge is still going on for a few more weeks (this is week 5 of 8) so I can’t show you everything just yet.

This week we got the curtains hung on the two large windows so that we can finally have some of our privacy back.

We also have the photographers coming this week to do the final photos.  Rooms with rich colours can be incredibly difficult to photograph and get just right so we’re leaving it to the pros!

This means that we won’t have the photos until the final reveal in a few weeks, however this week I’m going to walk through how to measure and install window coverings so that you get a perfect look every time.

And over the next couple of weeks I’ll also take you through how we laid out the room and styled it because I know you guys are always asking for that behind-the-scenes view.

So, let’s dive right in and talk curtains, shall we?

When doing projects for my own home and spaces I nearly always choose custom panels, however in this case our workrooms were closed and we were on the One Room Challenge deadline!

The stores we typically turn to when shopping retail for draperies also weren’t open…

So this meant that I had to get the drapes online.

To be honest, I don’t love doing this for a few reasons:

1. Photography is tricky and more often than not, the colour as shown on the website is different than it appears in real life.

2.  Sizes are extremely limited.  Our ceilings are more than 9′ high in this room and most panels come as 84″ or 96″ long.  Both would be way too short! 

3.  The way store bought drapes are packaged makes it impossible to get all of the wrinkles out.  So, as a concession I knew for certain we would have to be okay with some wrinkles and that we’d want to look for a fabric that won’t hold them as much.

I knew that we wanted pink for our draperies because we wanted to play off of the pink in my favourite stained glass window and from the hint of pink in the ceiling.


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Arched stained glass window in pink and aqua is the focal point for the living room in this Chatham Victorian home
Interior designer paints ceiling of Chatham home in Pink Booties by Dulux

So, the first thing I needed to do was measure for the perfect fit.

Here’s how to measure for curtain panels:

Step 1: Determine the height of the panels.

To get the heigh of the panels, we don’t want to measure the height to the top of the window.  Instead, we need to measure the ceiling height (or to the bottom of the crown molding if you have it).

Our room is 112″ from floor to where the crown molding begins.

Then, I subtract 4 from that number to get the height needed for our drapery.

112″ – 4 = 108″.

This means that our rod will be hung at 108″ high and I’ll need 108″ panels.

If you plan on using drapery rings, then you’ll need to adjust that for the size of the ring.  I knew in this case that I wanted a tab style rather than rings because they’re store bought and woudn’t have a pleat up top.

Step 2: Determine the width of the panels.

When in the open position, drapery panels should sit on walls, not on windows.

So, to determine where the drapery should sit, we want to measure the width of the window, then add 12″ to each side (24″ in total) to allow for wall space where the panels will stack when open.

Our windows are both 56″ wide.

So, the total width we will be covering with drapery is:

44″ + 24 = 68″

Now, we don’t want the curtains to sit flat like a sheet when they’re closed. Instead, we still want some fullness when pulled across.

So, we’re going to multiply the number we got by either 1.5, 2 or 2.5 (depending on how full you want them and how thick the fabric is).

A thin fabric like a linen, we’ll typically do 2-2.5 fullness.

However, if you’re using a very still fabric, then you might go to 1.5.

For our room, we’re doing a velvet which is thicker.  So we’ll multiply by a 1.5 fullness.

68 X 1.5 = 102″

Step 3: Determine how many panels you’ll need.

Most people will just go out and purchase 2 panels. However, for many windows 2 just doesn’t cut it and can really cheapen the look of a room.

In order to figure out how many panels you’ll need, take the panel width we calculated in step 2 and divide that number by the width of the panels.

Most store bought curtain panels are either 48″ wide or 54″ wide.

So, if we find 48″ panels that we like:

102 / 48 = 2.125 panels needed (Usually I round down it it’s less than .25 of a panel, and up if it’s more than that as a decimal).

And if we find 54″ panels, then we’d need:

102 / 54 = 1.889 (rounded up to 2 panels).

So, either way we’ll need 2 panels per window.

Step 4: Shop for your drapery panels.

Armed with the knowledge that I’d need 2 X 108″ panels, I also wanted to think of the other considerations for the drapes.

The first is lining.  Since one of these windows faces the front of the house it was very important to consider the lining.  A white lining is usually best (or a colour that matches your exterior trim).

For this room we don’t close the drapes often unless it’s at night, so I didn’t care if it was a blackout lining, a muslin lining, etc. since the panels will stack off of the window and not block daylight.

The other consideration is the fabric.  I mentioned earlier that we chose velvet.  If we were having them made I probably would have done linen in this room for a lighter effect, however pre-packaged linen panels are a disaster when it comes to wrinkles and velvet, being a heavy fabric, is a bit more forgiving.

After a lot of searching, I found these panels on Wayfair.

To be honest, I don’t love supporting Wayfair because of their business practices so they were a last resort.  But after scouring many (including Etsy which is a favourite for supporting smaller businesses with great quality work), Wayfair was the only place I could find something pre-made that fit the bill.

When they arrived they were definitely more of a rose gold colour than the fresh pink in the photo, but I didn’t mind that because I had looked at the customer photos in the Reviews section and expected it.

I will say that the majority of curtain panels I’ve ordered from Wayfair in the past have been very thin and flimsy.  But these were okay quality and, with a little effort I knew we could make them look good.

So, Kyle got to work hanging the drapes.  He carefully measured the 4″ down from the crown so that the panels would just skim the floor when hung.

We used a thicker rod for this project.  It’s. a 1.5″ thick rod with crystal finials on the end.

We were very lucky that our ceiling is an odd height and we didn’t have to hem the drapes.  I think this is the first time ever using store bought without having to hem them!  Usually if you have 9′ ceilings, you’d buy 108″ panels then hem them up 4″.  But our ceiling is exactly 4″ more than 9′ so it worked perfectly!

If you have to hem yours, I really recommend this iron-on hem tape.  You don’t have to sew anything and it makes a nice clean hem that holds up quite well without the risk of bunching your seam.

Once the drapes are up, you’ll want to train the drapes.  This is ESPECIALLY true when you use store bought panels.  It’s one of my tricks to help make them look better!

To do so, gather each pleat evenly near the top, middle and bottom and tie them together after being steamed and leave them for a week or two.

What this will do it train the pleats to open and close perfectly as you tied them.

Here’s what our drapes look like in training…

You can see from the panel on the right hand side of the picture that the pleats are flatening out and looking quite sloppy.  Tying them like this for a couple weeks really does make a huge difference!

So, now we wait for the drapes to fully train and for our photography to be ready. I’m seriously so excited to reveal this to you guys with crisp photos.  It’s been hard to get a good picture in this room without the colours going wonky and, since it’s my new favourite place to sit, I want you to really see the full experience of it!

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the other posts in this series to see the progression of how the idea has been coming together: