How to choose window treatments
Updated: Nov 13, 2021
This week I got a chance to chat with Tracey Davis the owner of Althorp Interiors, based in Northamptonshire.
Tracey has a Diploma in Professional Curtain Making and Soft Furnishings after training with Victoria Hammond and set up Althorp Interiors three years ago. She specialises in curtain, blinds, and soft furnishings all made in her dedicated home studio.
Althorp Interiors made the window treats for My Claybrick Home main bedroom and living room. Tracey and I spent some time looking through her sample books and I settled on ILIV Tahiti in Kiwi for my living room and ILIV Monkeying Around in Cranberry for the bedroom. Tracey then took charge - organising for the curtain track and pole to be fitted, final measurements, the making of the curtains and the fitting and hanging. All I had to do was choose the fabric I wanted and look at the options for headers to work with the space I have.
So, let’s get into the questions.
What got you started in Soft Furnishings?
I have a passion for fabric and became frustrated at not being able to find quality window treatments for my home. I live in an original bakehouse in a small village and all the windows are different sizes. Buying ready made curtains always left me disappointed as they never quite worked on my odd shaped windows, or pattern matched acorss adjoining windows.
I have made my own clothes for a long time and always enjoyed working with fabric. When open, you can often find me rummaging fabric stores.
What has been your most memorable client?
I had a track handmade for a client to fit a bay window which had several complex angles. I worked with a business to make the track and then a professional fitter to put the pole up. I then made full length curtains for the space, with some matching cushions and a lampshade.
Tell me about how you work with clients
A lot of my work comes through recommendations from previous clients. When a customer gets in touch, I typically visit their home to see what they are looking for, and how it needs to complement existing fixtures and fittings in the space. I also take note of other décor pieces to understand the clients like’s and style.
After an initial consultation I provide a curated set of fabric samples, by curating the samples I find it stops the client feeling overwhelmed with choice. From any selected I provide larger samples of any favourites to make a final decision. With patterned fabric you often need a larger piece to be able to see the full pattern. At this stage I provide a full quote.
If a new pole or track is needed, I arrange for fitting, and then take final accurate measurements before I start making the window treatments. Once the curtains are made, I then arrange a final visit to fit the curtains.
Talking curtains – what is the most common header?
Single pleat and French pleat (triple) and the two most common header types that I find clients want but it really does depend on a couple of factors – the size of the stack back and the budget.
For your My Claybrick Home living room curtains we opted for a wave track and header as the front window had no stack back on one side - the window went all the way to the exterior wall. This meant that the stack back did not restrict too much of the window, and natural light.
What are your top tips for getting a curtain look right?
There are 5 main considerations for getting curtains right;
1) The fabric pattern – choose a pattern that works with the look and feel of the room.
2) The size of the stack – if you have a large stack (the width taken up when a curtain is open) and it restricts your window you’ll lose natural light and risk making a room feel dark and gloomy.
3) The heading type – consider it alongside the pattern fabric. Too complex a header on a heavily patterned fabric will most likely mean loosing the pattern definition.
4) Using lining and interlining – these both give curtains more body and help them hang better, plus interlining provides more warmth in a space, but you do not want the curtains to be too bulky. If you do not line curtains the fabric will fade in the sun over time.
5) If you have 2 windows side by side make sure the curtains both pattern match within a pair, and across the 2 windows.
What should you consider when buying fabric for curtains?
First think about the purpose of the curtains – are you looking to make an investment or are they something that you might want to change on a regular basis. Remember if you can clean curtains, its typically dry clean only, most curtains can only take a light vaccum.
Make sure you buy enough fabric – consider the pattern repeats and how many curtains the fabric is being made into.
Ensure the fabric is fit for purpose – consider which room is it being used in. Is there a high level of moisture?
The composition of fabrics will impact on how a window treatment will hang.
Check that the fabric is straight on the grain. (often you can find cheaper fabrics but beware it may not be straight, or have flaws). If its not and you have selected a patterned fabric then the pattern will not hang right.
And finally stick to your budget. Its easy to get carried away with expensive fabrics. There are plenty of cheaper options available.
When do you opt for full length versus sill length?
I would always recommend full length curtains as they provide the drama in a room but often in newer homes the radiator sits under the window and therefore sill curtains are advisable. To get round this if a client wants the drama of full length curtains, I advise a roman blind for the window and then dress curtains either side. The curtains are not designed to be closed.
For a grand look opt for full length with a puddle of fabric on the floor.
What are your top tips for poles and tracks?
The most important factor for poles and tracks is to ensure it can take the weight of the fabric. I use a professional to hang all the tracks I recommend to clients as they ensure that the right fittings are used with each pole.
With bi-fold doors becoming popular in homes I recommend a wave curtain track as the stack back takes up less space. If you are having bi folds fitted consider talking to your builder/contractor about hiding the track within the plasterwork.
Talking blinds – when should you use blinds?
Traditionally blinds where made from Dutch linen and their purpose was to protect curtains fading in the sunlight. From a practical level blinds can be very compact and don’t block natural light.
They are great for kitchens and bathrooms when made with moisture resistant material or treated fabric whilst blackout blinds are ideas for children’s bedrooms.
I like to mix blinds with curtains to create a complete window look.
We finished with a quick-fire round.
Curtains or Blinds?
Curtains 😊 – doesn’t require so much stab stitching
Machine or Hand Stitching?
Always hand stitch - I only use a machine for large widths of fabric
Lined or unlined?
Always lined and prefer to also interline.
Pole Finial – simple or ornate?
I prefer the simple and more elegant finial on a thicker pole.
A huge thanks to Tracey for giving up her time for the third post this Ask an Expert series. If you are thinking about a changing your soft furnishings, please consider Althorp Interiors.
You can find Tracey on Facebook at Althorp Interiors and on Instagram @althorp_interiors
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