Drapery Panels – How Wide Should They Be?

 

Linda Merrill Interior design Boston townhouse living room Michael J Lee photography drapery watermarked

If you’ve ever asked yourself “How do I know how wide my drapery panels should be?” then this post will be for you! As a decorator, I take care of this for my clients, but if you’re doing it yourself, or just want something quick in the back spare bedroom, I have all the details to help you make the best decisions.

First, a little explanation of fabric widths. Decorator fabric most often comes 54″ wide as it rolls off the bolt. It can vary from 50″ up to 58″, and some fabrics, especially sheers, can some in double width at 108″ wide.  But the standard in the U.S. is 54″.  So, if you think about a regular size window which is 30″-36″ wide, one width of fabric is only 20 or so inches wider than the window.

 

How wide should drapery panels be width chart Linda Merrill 2023

 

Please note that the illustrations above don’t take seaming and side hems into account, which reduces all widths by several inches. For instance, standard store bought drapery panels are usually 48″ wide – which is a 54″ wide piece of fabric, less 2″ of seams on each side.

Merrill velvet chair 2 after reupholster

Here are some examples of various width panels that I’ve used in my design projects. The above and below photos show my own bedroom. My windows are fairly small at 34″ wide (including frame). In addition, the window on the left butts up against the side wall. So, without wanting to cover up too much of the window opening, I opted for single width panels, which have a finished width of 48″. Generally, designer quality drapery treatments are at least 1.5 widths per panel (72″ finished width) or 2 widths (98″ finished width). But for smaller windows and especially ones that butt against a wall, a single width is fine. These panels are also lined, which adds bulk to their shape. If they were unlined, they’d look very small on the window. For extra fullness, custom panels can also be interlined. I don’t draw my curtains closed and have the sheers layered underneath to soften the view of the street. There are also blinds for use at night.

Linda Merrill green bedroom window treatment width
Photo by Michael J. Lee

 

Linda Merrill Double width Window treatment 2

The custom panels I had made for the client above and below, we did 1.5 width panels in the dining area. There were two windows in the dining area of the space, and the longer bank of windows (below) in the living area. Oh, sorry about these photos, I’ve only taken iPhone pictures and didn’t do a great job, but they are fine for this illustration. This again shows windows that butt closely up agains the side walls, so we couldn’t mount them totally off the windows either. But, given the ceiling heights and scale of the room, single panels would be way too small. So, 1.5 width panels (72″ finished width at hem) worked well on the dining room windows. They are full and luxurious looking. For the larger window below, we didn’t want or need drapery to span the entire window, we just wanted side panels to soften things up. These are double width pinch pleat drapery panels which can be pushed aside or pulled to close off the two side windows, of wanted.

Linda Merrill double width drapery panels on wide window

For the client project below, there was also a mix of fabric widths. The single window features 1.5 width panels on the single window (which are lined and interlined because the fabric was silk) and the bay window had a mix of single width and 1.5 width panels. This level of customization is what comes with bespoke products.

Linda Merrill Interior design Boston townhouse living room Michael J Lee photography drapery watermarked

Below, I’ve created a series of illustrations of how the various widths look on standard single and double windows. Please note that these illustrate the concept for panels that are lined and interlined for fullness.

Drapery panel single width single window tall
These single width panels on a standard window are hung “wide” so that as much window as possible is showing. These panels would likely not meet in the middle when pulled closed and would be considered “decorative” non-functioning treatments.

 

Drapery panel single width double window tall
These single width panels on a double window are hung “wide” so that as much window as possible is showing. These panels are non-functioning as they would not cover the window when closed.

 

Drapery panel 1.5 width single window tall
These width-and-a-half 1.5x panels on a standard window are hung “wide” so that as much window as possible is showing. They would fully cover the window when closed, though they would lose much of their fullness.

 

Drapery panel 1.5 width doublr window tall
These width-and-a-half 1.5x panels on a double window are hung “wide” so that as much window as possible is showing. They would not fully cover the window when closed and would be considered “decorative” non-functioning panels.

 

Drapery panel double width single window tall
These double 2x panels on a standard window are hung “wide” so that as much window as possible is showing. They would fully cover the window when closed and retain a lovely fullness when closed.

 

Drapery panel double width double window tall
These double 2x panels on a double window are hung “wide” so that as much window as possible is showing. They would fully cover the window when closed though would lose a lot of fullness.

One of the points I wanted to make with the illustrations above is that the proper mounting of window treatments is to allow as much of the window to show so as not to block the light. The proper placement of the treatments will make a small window look much bigger and more in scale. Now, when it comes to pre-made panels, I again note that they are usually single width 48″ wide and are often unlined – though some better stores sell them lined. Lining not only protects the fabric from sunlight, it adds fullness and drape to the whole treatment. More recently I noticed that some ready made panels are only 30″ wide which should be avoided entirely.

Take a look at the images below. These are from a google search of “drapery panels”. Most are typical 48″ wide panels, some are wider, or they are ganged together so there are more than one panel per side. But in all cases, they are covering the windows. The styling makes these panels look nice and wide, but it only appears that way. If you pushed them to the side so you can actually see out the window – they will suddenly be very narrow.

Drapery panels how wide to purchse

Doubling up panels on each side is an excellent way of “bulking” up the look without going custom. The images below both show a attractive way to double up the side panels for a nice level of fullness and also a mixing of patterns for interest. There are other issues with store bought panels when it comes to matching clear patterns (as opposed to solid or striped fabrics). I offered some tips on this post on pattern matching which you might find helpful.

Improvements THERMALOGIC ALLEGRA GROMMET TOP INSULATED THERMAL CURTAIN PAIR
via Improvements

Get a similar look here, here and here.

Blue and white drapery panels chevron, navy blue white sheer
via JCPenney

These photos also are still styled to be covering up most of the windows. But they also show a more honest representation of the actual real-world widths of the individual panels. If you imagine how these panels would look if you removed two on each side, you’ll see just how narrow they really are.

 

Photo by Toa Heftiba via Unsplash

 

This image above is a pretty good representation of the actual width of single width drapery panels. It’s fine if you’re just looking for a a little splash of color, but this is a narrowly focused image. If we panned back and looked at the window straight on within the scale of the entire room, it would probably look pretty dinky.

Drapery panels add beauty and color to a space. They can make small windows appear larger or low windows appear higher (there will be a separate post about how high to hang drapery treatments coming soon!). They can block the sun and heat, keep out the cold and also frame a beautiful view. Not all panels are equal and the best results come from proper planning and understanding the various widths available. Obviously, unlined single-width panels are much more budget friendly than are 2.5 width lined and interlined drapery panels can be – but there is nothing like the finished look of a beautiful full drape.

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Your questions answered:

March 23, 2023 – Fish Hatchery Road asked: How do you decide how far out to place your rods? 34″ window, have two 50″ panels, plenty of room on either side to extend the rod. I think “more” is better, but obviously there is a point at which “more” is too much, but what point? My rod can be 66″ to 120″. Would 12″ of extra on either side be too much? I can’t find a straightforward answer anywhere, just “suggestions” of 4″-10″… Help!

Linda Merrill how wide drapery panels side by side

Hi! Thanks for your question. If your rod is 66″ wide then you would have 16″ on each side of a 34″ window. I’m showing above both a 58″ rod (34+12+12) and 66″ rod (34+16+16). (By the way – I am assuming your window measurement includes the trim not just the glass?) I think 12″ on each side would be somewhat better than 16″ because the drapery will be fuller both when pulled to the sides and when closed over the window. Two 50″ panels is 100″ of fabric. Ideally- drapery should be at least double the width of the window. But if your rod can only do 66″ then I think it’s still fine – slightly less full but not egregiously so as you can see in the illustrations. I hope this helps!

26 thoughts on “Drapery Panels – How Wide Should They Be?”

  1. Hi !
    I’m putting a single panel drapery on both sides of my door wall with a single rod on each side. Where should I mount the rods?

    Reply
  2. Thank you for such a detailed explanation of everything. I can’t decide if I should do a single width panel or a 1.5 width. My window is 38.75” in my dining room. My fabric is velvet and will have a pinch pleat. I don’t want it to look too skimpy but also don’t want to over whelm. I have art work on either side of the window. Would love your opinion. It is too big an investment to get it wrong!

    Reply
    • Hi Jordan – Are you needing to close them? If not and if it’s a lined velvet then I think single width is actually fine because of the thickness of the material. Your window isn’t that wide. If you want to open and close them then I would do the 1.5 because you will want to mount them farther apart to be able to keep them from covering too much of the window and still be able to open and close them. I hope that makes sense!

      Reply
  3. How do you decide how far out to place your rods? 34″ window, have two 50″ panels, plenty of room on either side to extend the rod. I think “more” is better, but obviously there is a point at which “more” is too much, but what point? My rod can be 66″ to 120″. Would 12″ of extra on either side be too much? I can’t find a straightforward answer anywhere, just “suggestions” of 4″-10″… Help!

    Reply
    • Hi! Thanks for your question. I’m going to add some illustrations to the bottom of this post to help answer your questions. If your rod is 66″ wide then you would have 16″ on each side of a 34″ window. I’m showing above both a 58″ rod (34+12+12) and 66″ rod (34+16+16). (By the way – I am assuming your window measurement includes the trim not just the glass?) I think 12″ on each side would be somewhat better than 16″ because the drapery will be fuller both when pulled to the sides and when closed over the window. Two 50″ panels is 100″ of fabric. Ideally- drapery should be at least double the width of the window. But if your rod can only do 66″ then I think it’s still fine – slightly less full but not egregiously so as you can see in the illustrations. I hope this helps!

      Reply
  4. Hello, I have two windows that are 71″ across with 7 inches of wall in between. I’m thinking I should put one panel on each end and maybe one in between? They wouldn’t need to close. Would you recommend 36 or 54 inch drapes?

    Reply
    • Hi Michelle – thanks for your question. I think your plan of the three panels around your windows is a great solution. I would definitely do the 54IN widths. 36IN is more like a scarf width – when pleated it would be very narrow especially when compared to the 71IN wide windows. I do have a followup question – is 54IN the actual width because that’s the standard full width of decorator fabric. Once sewn with side hems the standard single width drapery panel is more like 48IN wide.

      Reply
  5. such a helpful overview! Any advice for panel width when there are 2 drastically different window widths? One window is 6 feet wide (3 panes) and the other is only 30″ wide. Also on a tight budget, eek! Drapes do not need to be functional.

    Reply
  6. I need 108 inches width on each drape for my wide windows. Fabric is 54” wide. Where do i place the seams since i will need to seam 2 panels + 12 inches to get the 108” width.

    Reply
    • So, you will need 2-1/2 widths of fabric – 54+54+27 to accommodate 108 wide. Where the seam is depends on the pattern and its repeat. Generally with drapery panels it doesn’t matter where the seam is because it can be hidden in a fold of the pleating. But you, or your workroom, needs to match the pattern across the entire width of the panel and also to match all the panels in the room. I hope this helps!

      Reply
  7. Hi! Thanks so much for posting the pictures and information. Very helpful and easy to understand. Do you think that two fifty-inch wide panels will give enough fullness to a thirty six inch window? I plan to extend the rod about five inches out on each side. Thanks again.
    Patricia M.

    Reply
  8. I have windows that are 96” wide and 64” long. What size window panels should I get. The windows are 3 windows in 1.

    Reply
    • Hi Linda – honestly, it’s hard to say from your description. You say the windows are 64IN L – meaning just the window? As mentioned in the post, the length would be related to the ceiling height to floor. The width – you say are 96IN W – do you want them to fully close? If so, the panels on each side should be around 55-60IN W at the top (assuming pinch pleat) so you can mount wider than the actual window and fully close. If you just need decorative panels, 30IN W at the top would work well. Hope this helps!

      Reply
    • Hi France – normally the seam would be in the middle because you can hide it in the pleats/folds of the drapery. Just be sure to match any patterns across the seam. If it were visible – say on a wide roman shade, or bedspread – where it lays flat and the seams are much more obvious – then you would do the wide piece in the middle and narrower pieces on both sides for a nice symmetrical look.

      Reply
  9. This is so helpful!!! For the 36 inch wide window with 1.5 width drapes – how big is the curtain rod? I have two 36 inch windows in my dining room and like the fullness of 1.5 width drapes, but a 4 foot rod seems too small and a 6 foot rod seems too large. Is this a goldilocks situation??

    Reply
    • Hi Jenn – I’m so glad you found this helpful! I agree – a four ft rod would be a little too small and 6 foot too large. You could do an extendable rod for the exact width you want, or a custom rod that is cut to order. Wood rods can easily be cut down. A lot of retail places offer custom sizes – Restoration Hardware does for instance.

      Reply
  10. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain this concept! I am in the process of ordering curtains through Etsy and was debating single or 1.5 width. Your pictures and diagrams were just what I needed!

    Reply

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