Drapery headers: Which style is right for your home?

In my former life as a professional interior designer, one of my favorite projects was helping clients add a splash of drama to their windows with drapery. We mixed and matched various hues, fabric textures, and playful patterns. But when it came to drapery header types (that is, how the top of the drapes are sewn and how they hang from the rod), many of my clients had no idea how many possibilities there are!

If you’re selecting drapes, know that some drapery headers are more functional, meant for frequent opening and closing. Others are mainly decorative, like a frame around a painting. Some look decidedly structured, and others, charmingly nonchalant. Here are some hints to help even the most design-challenged drapery shopper select the perfect header type:

Peak performers: drapes that will get a daily workout.

Do you see yourself opening and closing your drapes a few times a day? If so, then the best option is a more functional, pleated style header. This type glides across your window gracefully on a traditional traverse rod, which allows your panels to open and close across a window by using a draw cord, even if you choose a heavier fabric like velvet or a jacquard.

The very popular pinch pleat drape (also called French pleat or triple pleat) looks exactly like it sounds, with three folds of gathered and pinched fabric. If your home has a more formal, elegant motif, these will match that mood. For an ultra-opulent look, order the drapes a little long so that the extra fabric will puddle on the floor.

Pinch Pleat

With rings added, pleated drapery slides smoothly across decorative drapery rods manually. And there are a couple of different pleat styles to choose from:

Pinch Pleat w Rings

For a slightly less traditional feel, and more of a crisp, tailored look, you might want to go with inverted pleat drapery. I’ve found that lightweight fabrics are especially handsome in this style, where the crisp folds can be accentuated.

Inverted Pleat

Cool and casual: drapery for a laid-back look.

Breezy classic tab drapery (also known as tab top) is a good choice for stationary drapes. It hangs from fabric loops with a flat profile and can relax a space. Because the folds aren’t as crisp as they are in pleated drapery, classic tab drapes give off a moreunpretentious and casual vibe. These are low-maintenance, and probably the easiest to hang.

Classic Tab

If your aesthetic is more modern, grommet top drapery will definitely complement this look. Although grommet tops can be opened and closed manually, I would caution against it. Not only does that increase wear and tear on the rod, touching your fabric constantly will eventually soil the material.

Grommet Top

Super streamlined: fabrics that hide the hardware.   

Less casual, back tab drapery features clutter-free, clean lines. The tabs in back conceal the rod, making the drapes look like they’re almost suspended in midair, creating a streamlined, elegant look.

Back Tab

Just for looks: drapes as decoration.

Maybe you don’t plan on opening and closing your decorative drapery panels often. With rod pocket drapes (also called casement), fabric gathers in ruches over the rod, for clean lines and lots of versatility. Many people tie these drapes back to achieve a romantic, Tuscan, or country mood. Order them with a little extra length if you like the puddled look when they are tied back.

Rod Pocket

Do you have French doors or patio doors? The best application here is a sheer fabric with rod pocket top and rod pocket bottom drapery. This provides a bit of privacy from neighbors, but still allows light to gently filter in during the day.

Rod Pocket Top and Bottom

To explore an exclusive collection of elegant fabrics, including solids, prints, stripes, jacquards and sheers visit the Bali website. If you’re ready to dive-in and place an order, visit your local retailer at Home Depot, Lowe’s or JCPenney or buy online at Blinds.com.


2 thoughts on “Drapery headers: Which style is right for your home?

  1. Becca – I am sewing my own drapes and found your article extremely helpful in understanding the different types of drape headers and why I would choose one over another. The larger picture with the inserts were especially helpful. Thank you!

  2. Who knew there were different kinds of style of drapes dependent on what look you are going for in the room?! Thank you for the insight and pointers on what to get and why. Curtains can really bring life to a room if done properly, which makes it an important thing to get right. It’s the simple things that spice up a room. The choosing of curtains was time consuming but after seeking help from the professionals, I found the perfect ones!

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