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Design with Draperies
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

Window draperies add a certain point of view to any room fashion statement.

?My whole theory on drapes is that you should walk into a room, and the drapes should complement and enhance the room instead of overpower the room,? said Claire & Co. owner, Lisa Barfield. ?Every drape should, even if it doesn?t have a purpose, should look like it has a purpose.? Achieving such masterful looks, successfully, requires knowledge of lining and innerlining, pleat styles, hardware, and the technical aspect of dressing the window.

Technically, 99% of all draperies (except sheers) should have a lightweight felt innerlining between the decorative fabric or silk and the very back cotton lining. The innerlining adds weight and makes ordinary drapery material hang more luxuriantly. A heavier gauge innerlining, called bunt, can create a bouffant puff akin to the look in a wedding dress or ballroom gown. Or use a lighter weight, regular innerlining for less substance. Innerlining also helps protect decorative fabric from fading due to sunlight and, consequently, adds to the longevity of the drapery.

Choosing the right fabrics and innerlining depends as much on your style of living as your home design. For instance, do you need to block out all light? Or do you want some light coming in though the drapes to help wake up in the morning? One of the more popular rooms for soft window treatments, along with the dining and living room, is the bedroom, according to Barfield. For an elegant and sensuous bedroom, Barfield recalls a room with pale wheat color, raw silk upholstery put on the walls, the canopy bed, and into the draperies. Only on the draperies, she added a contrasting trim?flat French welp (? inch flat ruffle) in mustard silk chamois. This simple backdrop enhanced the architecture of the canopy bed, the crisp white linen sheets and fox throw, as well as the unbelievable view of the backyard.

It?s very important that drapes don?t impede any of the views, according to Barfield. On the other hand, curtains need to furnish some degree of privacy. So how can a homeowner get both?privacy without obstructing the view? The solution in one home was sheer lace caf? curtains put half way up the large bay windows on the front corner of the house. The caf? curtains filtered out the pedestrian street corner but allowed a semblance of the view to come in along with plenty of upper window light, all of which enlarged the perspective of a room with a ceiling height of 8?-feet.

?A lot of the older homes have 8 to 9 foot ceilings,? Barfield said. ?Usually, we take the rod as far up as we can go?right up under the crown molding because, if you have just the right panels, the drapery can lift the room, give the illusion that the room is taller than it is.?

?So, let?s do something that is classic and pretty basic that is your tastes and your style,? Barfield often says because she thinks the window treatment should be done only once?and done well?due to expense. Ideally, she recommends draperies form a ? to 1-inch break on the floor (like a pair of men?s pants) so they don?t look too short. ?It?s not a puddle, like the drapes that puddle on the floor. We do that for some people if they want it. But we really don?t recommend it because the draperies never look as good after we leave. If you have a little break on the floor, the drapes are easier to dress if you open and close them a lot. They look better when open, and they don?t have all this fabric on the floor.? Vacuuming and washing the floor is less of a problem, and the break prevents draperies from looking too short. In fact, drapes should be no higher than ? inch off the floor. ?We also put weights on the corners to keep the drapes in the same place.?

?Usually the master bedroom drape needs to function every single day, twice a day,? Barfield said. ?So, a lot of times we do double treatments?sheer with an over drape in front. And that requires some special knowledge of hardware.?

Drapes are hung on beautiful decorative rods with pretty finials and rings 99% of the time. Hidden behind, however, can be a smaller traverse rod with a secondary curtain if the homeowner wants.

?The pulley built system called the traverse rod is really ugly,? Barfield said. ?But it serves a very good function.? And traverse rods make sense on a sheer that?s opened and closed a lot. In a room with a 20-foot ceiling and 15-foot drapery span of linen fabric hanging on rings and rod, the process of pulling a drape open and close can be difficult. A heavy-duty pulley system, the custom estate rod, is one possible solution; but so is a wand.

?We have these little wands that we hook onto the leading edge ring,? Barfield said. ?You can grab the wand and pull the drape instead of using your hands.?

?I am so much into something working, something being pretty and beautiful, but easy to deal with,? Barfield said. Coming from an education in art history and fashion, Barfield tends to blend style and detail into her knowledge of fabrics and trends, such as the current emphasis in simple elegance permeating both fashion and home interiors.

And from these various sources, Barfield creates new lines of drapery fashion. Currently, she?s working on a line of hardware. Already established is a series of custom, ready-made panels, named after clients, friends, and interior designers, who inspired their design. For instance, the ?Jennifer,? after Jennifer Stallone, is a sand colored silk drape with a champagne ring cuff, hand sewn on the top of the panel and pulled out underneath from the back to give an Italian style treatment. ?Tavia,? for Tavia Hunt, has tiny cut silk rose buds and leaves hand sewn on every single drape ring at the top?a detail that may go unnoticed except under close inspection. The ?Muffin,? after Muffin Lemak, features scalloping along the leading edge and bottom of the drape, which makes an unexpected, very contemporary edge on a traditional drape. And the ?Charlotte,? after Charlotte Jones, has a triple inverted pleat on a very simple drape. The haute couture feature in her line of design is ?The Versailles Touch,? named after a curtain Barfield photographed in Versailles.

?They had a gorgeous decorative tape on a beautiful, double face, satin silk drape?like wedding dress material, only in beautiful blue color,? Barfield said. ?Inset about two inches on the leading edge and bottom of the drape all the way around was the trim. It?s such a subtle couture detail. Now, I?ve been doing that insetting on different draperies.?

Along with a team of seven employees, Barfield also works with the fabrics brought into the shop by the customers. In this way, Claire & Co. can add an inventive touch and continue developing new draperies and window designs.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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