Functional Draperies

Updated: Jul 16

There are two types of draperies, functional and stationary. Both are decorative elements yet they have differing requirements for installation. I'm focusing on functional draperies in this post.

My Professional Installer

Unlike the stationary panels, draperies that open and close will need strong support, access to an operating wand or cord, and planning for the movement of the panels along the rod and floor.


Several decisions will need to be made to create the custom drapery details you desire. They are:

  • Length - drapery touching the floor, puddling on the floor, sitting above the floor (typically an inch), is baseboard heat an obstacle?

  • Rod Location - at the ceiling, just above the window trim, or perhaps between a transom and slider?

  • Rod Style, Size & Material - metal or wood, rod diameter, rings or no rings?

  • Width - is there room to stack the panels back from the windows or doors, will the stacks be located in front of or beyond the windows and doors, can you stack on each side, or does the stack need to be on one side?

  • Operation - by hand: wand or traverse; or motorized?

  • Top Treatment - pinch pleat, flat panel, or ripplefold?

  • Light Control - room darkening or light filtering?

  • Design Details - desired embellishments such as decorative lead edge, or two fabrics?


Everyone has different styles and needs when creating functional draperies. Let's take a look at real life examples to examine the details so you can best decide what is best for your taste and space.


This installation has panels that puddle on the floor, which my client loves. I have other clients that despise it. So to each their own.

The details.

  • The rod had to be installed between the transom and the half-round window due to the shape of the ceiling. If room darkening was the goal the half-round would have been treated separately.

  • Drapery stack on the left and right beyond the windows was possible because there was enough wall space.

  • Metal rod with C-Rings and wands to open and close the panels.

  • Pinch pleating provides fullness when the draperies are closed, but they do create a wider stack due to the amount of fabric needed for pinch pleating.

  • A wand is used to open and close the panels by hand.




This is a room-darkening drapery panel with a pinch pleat and accent band, and it also puddles on the floor.

The details.

  • The rod is installed below the crown molding. It is recommended to install the rod at dimensions of thirds between the trim top and the ceiling or crown molding;1/3 above the trim, or 1/3 down from the ceiling or crown molding. Avoid placing the rod in the center between the trim and the ceiling.

  • Metal rod with C-Rings and wands to open and close the panels.

  • A two-finger pleat provides fullness but requires less fabric than traditional three-finger pleat.

  • The split stack does cover the side windows.

  • A wand is used to open and close the panels by hand.




In this example room darkening draperies were desired.

The details.

  • The rod is installed above the trim.

  • Panels just touch the floor.

  • A traverse rod was chosen to easily open and close using a continuous cord at one side.

  • A traditional three-finger pinch pleat and room darkening liner creates a lot of bulk; the stack covers a lot of the side windows.

  • The rings on the traverse rod are decorative; also available without the rings.

  • An accent fabric is added to the lead edge of each panel for a bit of contrast.




An example of a room darkening ripplefold drapery on a simple metal track.


The details.

  • The rod is installed at the highest point possible on the wall to clear the arch window.

  • A left-hand draw and stack chosen for simplicity.

  • Room darkening is not always100% possible; light gaps do occur.

  • A privacy shade is installed on the window for daytime privacy and when the drapery is not drawn.

  • Length is about a 1/2" above the carpet for ease of opening and to minimize the light cap.



Photos of the commonly used drapery hardware. Most popular are the rod and C-rings. C-rings are almost always needed for functioning drapery unless when the width is less than 72 inches. People seem to like the casual nature of hand drawing the drapery panels. It gets a little challenging for tall panel to get the torque needed for momentum. That is where the traverse rod operated by a continuous cord or retractable cord are very good for tall, wide, and heavy drapery.



Top treatments offer different levels of fullness to the panels. The names I use are from left to right:

tailored flat pleat, single flat pleat, three-finger euro pleat, goblet pleat, two-finger euro pleat, and traditional pinch pleat.



As you can see, there is are many elements and details of custom drapery, many more that I haven't even mentioned here. Most importantly is to have a professional installation of the rod to withstand the force of operating the drapery.


When designing custom window coverings I like to start with hand-sketches to help my clients visualize. You can do this too if you want to play around with shades and styles.



For inspiration on window covering ideas please visit my window treatments portfolio page.


If you would like custom draperies or window treatments for your NH home I am available to design, fabricate, and install. Please get in touch.





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