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.
Please note that the illustrations above don’t take seaming into account, which reduces all widths by a few inches. And when we’re thinking about drapery panels, you also have to take the side seams into account, which reduces the widths even more.
So, for instance, standard store bought single width drapery panels are usually 48″ wide – which is a 54″ wide piece of fabric, less 2″ of seams on each side. So, a 48″ panel, the standard width size for store bought panels, isn’t much wider than a standard single window. And that’s pulled straight, which isn’t very pretty.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 48″ wide (single width) and are usually unlined, though some better stores sell them with linings. Lining not only protects the fabric from sunlight, it adds fullness and drape to the whole treatment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I hope you’ve found this post helpful. As mentioned, I have a post coming on panel lengths and how to high hang them. Feel free to let me know if there are any other topics you would like me to cover in this Design Details series.