Many decorators and their customers ask “why are custom draperies & window treatments so expensive?” A lot of times the client doesn’t understand what they are paying for. They find an exquisite fabric that is extremely expensive, and then can’t understand why the labor to fabricate the window treatment is in their eyes-over priced. This article should give you some insight to what really goes into turning that piece of fabric into beautiful fixtures in your home. It will give you detailed information about the thought that goes into drapery design, fabrication, and motorization that might help designers, and potential clients get a better handle on the costs of having custom window treatments made for the home.

One of the most time consuming parts of drapery making is the computations, design, and figuring of the fabrication. Unfortunately, there is no computer program that can estimate this type of information. In order to figure the quote for a project, every detail of the fabrication must be worked out. Why? Because everything that is done to a drape takes time, and time is the bulk of what you’re paying for. You also want to make sure you’ve chosen a decorator that has experience and a good reputation with the level of project the customer or home requires. Putting expensive fabrics in the hands of a workroom or seamstress that doesn’t have the experience and attention to detail needed, can be absolutely disastrous.

Drapery workrooms generally start a project with a preliminary measure and a walk through with the designer, customer, or sometimes both. On most high-end residential projects, it usually requires two people and many hours just to get measurements. In a lot of cases homes are still in the construction phase, and multiple trips to the home are required to get final details and measurements as the home approaches completion. Many hours are spent focusing on all of the many details: taking pages of notes, sketches, drawings, etc… It’s not uncommon to have 20 pages of notes and drawings- not including the computations. This also doesn’t include the many phone conversations between the workroom and the designers concerning preliminary designs, yardage estimates and motorization considerations.

The next step is to take all of the measurements, write them in a logical order and determine finished sizes of the drapes. After this is done, the workroom starts to look at the details to determine what hardware will be used: the diameter of rod that will be needed to cover the expanse without sagging, the number of brackets needed, the number of sheers potentially needed and the number of rings needed. After this step, questions regarding the installation process should be reviewed:

  • Will the drapes open and close if there are brackets in the way? Do they need to open and close, or should they just be stationary?
  • Will they have to have custom brackets made to accommodate this or will standard brackets work?
  • Is there going to be molding in the way of the legs on the brackets?
  • What is the pleat style so the number of rings can be figured?
  • Will they be hand sewn on or pinned?
  • How do the “eyes” of the rings need to be turned?
  • What type of fabric will you be using?
  • Will the weight of the fabric cause the rod to sag?
  • Will they be able to install into wood or sheet rock?
  • Are the rods too heavy for this? What finials are being used?
  • Is there enough space?
  • How many people will it take to hang a wide rod if required?
  • Can they do it on ladders, or will they need scaffolding?
  • Is it motorized?
  • How are you controlling the treatments?
  • Will it be tied into a home automation system?
  • Will you want a remote control?

After rod widths and hardware options are determined, the workroom then starts looking at the details and computations for the drapes.

  • What style?
  • If you are doing draperies, what kind of pleats?
  • Are they lined or interlined?
  • What kind of lining?
  • Will the weight of the lining work with the flow of the fabric?
  • What kind of fabric will be used?
  • How wide is the fabric?
  • Is it a print or a solid?
  • Is there a pattern repeat?
  • Do they need to consider the pattern placement in the design of the window treatment?
  • Will this affect the yardage quote?
  • Will they need to make a pleating sample if the fabric is a plaid to get the pattern to fall correctly in the pleat or hap-hazzard?
  • Is there a top treatment?
  • Is the window treatment functional or stationary?
  • How much fullness is needed?
  • Should they use crinoline, and if so..what kind?
  • How high does it need to mounted?
  • What kind of hems?
  • How deep?
  • Should they allow extra fabric for this?
  • Will it be weighty enough and hang properly?
  • Do they need to consider stack-back?
  • How much extra time is it going to take for the seamstresses to handle the weight of an extra long and wide panel?
  • Will it require 2 people to work on each panel to help with the weight?
  • Is the fabric thick or thin?
  • Can the pleats be machine tacked or will they have to be done by hand?

If you are wanting any extra detailing such as trim down the centers of the draperies, they have to determine if it must be sewn on by hand or if it can fit under their machines. Is it so thick that the machine would cause the fabric to pucker?

Or will the feet of the machine get caught on it and tear it apart? So, they might even have to sew it by hand, even if it’s thin enough to fit under the machine. Then, will they need to hand finish the edges of the fabric on the centers for the same reasons? They will then spend a lot of time calculating yardages for fabrics and trims that are not even being purchased from them in most cases, and be expected to provide the information accurately.

To ensure the electrical is done properly in homes that are using motorized draperies or window treatments, multiple meetings with builders, superintendents and electricians are required. Those trips are in addition to many phone calls verifying electrical information and dealing with any changes that might be made during the building process.

Everything mentioned above is all before any work is even started on the window treatments. These details must be considered on every single window in your home, and unfortunately there is no computer program or math formula to figure it-only experience. When you stop to consider all the time that is spent before the fabric is ever touched, you realize that the bulk of what you’re paying for when you choose to have custom window treatments made is time & experience.


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