Sarah Montgomery Design

Tuft and Tassel

The blog of Sarah Montgomery Design

How to Choose a Patterned Drapery Fabric


Let me take you down a little journey through my thought process on getting my living room drapery right. Hopefully it will give you valuable insight on ways to choose the right pattern for your drapery needs and what it might be like to live with someone who has to make this kind of decision. 

Here you can see how the drapery turned out. Let me first list off some of the challenges I faced in choosing the right pattern and color.

1. The chairs were staying so the color and scale of the drapery couldn't compete. 

2. I needed to find a long enough drapery rod to go with the hardware I already had.

3. Sheers or no sheers?

4. Do I pick out the rug or the drapery first?

We didn't necessarily need the drapery for privacy or to block light so the options were endless. We also moved in right as the trees were beginning to bloom in Chicago so seeing that through the large picture window was lovely and I wasn't in any real rush to put something up there.


After the trees were in full bloom, there was always a greenish cast to living room when the sun shone through. I already had a green couch so I knew I would want sheers to filter that light. I also knew I wanted to warm up the space and soften the room with my favorite thing, fabric!


I had these perfectly good tan linen drapes from my old place and lovely brass hardware, but no rod long enough for this window. Rods were only coming in 4' and 8' and I needed about 12', or 2 6' rods that I could connect with a center bracket. A little trip to Menards and I had two 6' dowels that I stained. Problem solved.

After seeing the tan drapes up, I was pretty sure I wanted to go with a darker color in here, but I also wanted it to be patterned. Succumbing to a solid felt like giving up. It turns out the scale of the fabric on the chair is a pretty perfect drapery scale, but like I said before, the patterns couldn't be similar in size because they would compete. Whatever pattern I chose needed to be smaller. It's a pretty big room and some smaller scale patterns read as textures from far away. This is sometimes to an advantage, but in this case if I was spending money on a patterned fabric, I wanted to see it!

In comes my boyfriend, Connor McShane, to the rescue. He is an amazing graphic designer and a whiz at Photoshop. He rendered a few rug and curtain contenders for me. 


Either of these would have been ok, but I wasn't in love. I could get Connor to render some coral curtains, but that's probably about it. With the teal, while I love this pattern, there would be too many shades of green going on. With the trees outside, to my plants, to the green couch, it felt like too much. Back to square one.

Rounds of samples came and went and eventually I decided on the right color- a dark slate blue with a hint of green. Then we happened to be at Ikea and in a moment of desperation I said yes to these Ikea curtains. Sad they were, but when I brought them home I knew the color was right. By this point Connor wanted it just to be over, so I started to think about how I could work with these by adding to them. 


Now I'm on a trimscapade, you can see some awesome ombre ball fringe here. Pretty cute, but not enough impact. 

By this time I knew I wanted to have sheers, let's talk about my reasoning behind this. A single panel width is about 50" give or take, and since we didn't need the privacy I didn't need to have two double width panels to cover the 10' window. Sheers would sit inside the panels on the same rod and be closed to filter the light or left open. The regular panels are single width, but do not need to move. If you wanted sheers for daytime privacy and panels that closed over those you would not want to have them on the same rod because the sheers would bunch up in the center if you closed the outside panels.

Example of too many sheers on one rod from  JC Penny

Example of too many sheers on one rod from JC Penny

Example of double bracket from  West Elm . Notice the wood and metal mix!

Example of double bracket from West Elm. Notice the wood and metal mix!

I am a fan of the Ikea Matilda Sheers because they are cotton, not shiny and have texture, and also remind me of an embroidered Swiss Dot fabric. I have these on my sliding patio doors in my bedroom and I love them. They come with a tab top, which I think looks a little Suzy Homemaker, so I cut them down and made a rod pocket. When I put them up in the living room, they were too bright white and gave a greenish glow to everything so I wondered if I needed a more Ivory or Neutral sheer?? Certainly not, wouldn't it look like this?

I went with an Ivory sheer, and guess what? They did not look like that!

After deciding a trim detail was not enough, I started thinking about color blocking, or adding another fabric to the top or bottom.  Whenever I have an idea and want an immediate visual I always turn to Pinterest, it is a search engine after all!

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Here is a closeup up of the fabric I ended up choosing. It was too good to go on the bottom, plus would be blocked by the chairs. Although it is a graphic embroidery, much like the chairs, it was different enough in color to complement. 


If you've made it this far, here it is again and thank you. 

Now, would I specify for a client an Ikea panel sewn to an expensive embroidery? No, but if you take anything away from this post know that as a thrifty and resourceful person, I attack a design dilemma from all angles: look, function, cost, impact, available resources and perceived value. Designers often use their own spaces as a testing ground and it can be a wild ride. Thanks for joining me on this one!