6 tips for using pinch pleat draperies as window treatments for a mid century home

window treatments for a mid century modern living roomI’m following up on yesterday’s story about Dave and Kris’ lovely mid-century modern living room with this post that specifically applauds their window treatments. These are beautifully executed and give me the jumping-off to spotlight six tips for this style of window treatments for a mid century modern interior:

pinch pleat curtains over sheer panels

  • Pinch-pleat draperies: Rock the Casbah. I am the world’s #1 fan of pinch pleats. They are tidy, yet warm and welcoming. They are harder to find than panels … because they are harder to make, but not THAT much harder… as you will recall, Gavin and I even got in a hissy fit one time over whether they require more fabric than panels. I think the determining factor is how full you make either. Where to get pinch pleat draperies? I tend to favor finding someone local who can make them to fit your windows perfectly. This is what Cindy did, for example. Other sources: For off-the-shelf, readers seem to like J.C. Penney’s Supreme line, including their prices; there are othe pinch pleat options on the JCP site, use the Search box. Vintage — you may be able to find pinch pleats vintage, too, and these can also be adapted (made smaller) or pieced together to make wider widths.
  • Stack back: This is a term you must conquer if you are to use pinch pleats. Basically, it means: You need to think about how much space the pinch pleats will take up when they are open… and plan this into your calculations for how wide to buy your pinch pleats. For example, Dave and Kris’ drapes look to have about a 12″ stackback (on each side). If they have a 40″ window… with 4″ trim on each side… a 4″ overlap at center… and 4″ returns (the fabric needed to wrap the traverse rod 90-degrees to hug the wall)  they would order a pair of panels that span approximately 76″ combined. When closed, this would allow enough fabric to cover the entire window (from return to the center, overlapped)… and when the drapes are open, the stackback would begin at the edge of the glass (covering the trim.) I hope to heck I got this right, and I am sure that if not, Gavin will correct me. There are places like Smith & Noble that have calculators — seek them out. Really, it’s not that hard. If you are having someone make the drapes — give them super careful measurements of your window and they will do the calculation.
  • Sheer panels underneath: I love how Dave and Kris have put sheer panels underneath the pinch pleat. This makes the room all glowy — let’s in the light, but maintain privacy, if that’s required. However, if you like to open the windows wide during the day, the sheer are going to be a pain. Alternatively, you can opt for sheers on pinch pleats — that is, two layers of pinch pleats. The downside to this, is that your draperies are going to extend farther into the room. Sheer panels can be tucked right behind the single traverse rod holding your solid pinch pleats; you’re gonna have a 4″ or so protrusion into the room. If you have two traverse rods, one stacked on the other, I think you’re talking 6″ miniminum protrusion, because their needs to be enough space for the bottom set of sheers to open and close. I was in England this summer and in the humongous drapery section of John Lewis, I noted that the brits seem to use kind of “pin-tucked” (I think that’s the word) sheers on traverse rods, under their pinch pleats. The pin-tuck design is flatter — so I think the protrusion is minimized. Sorry, I am sure that this is really hard to understand.
  • Position of top of draperies: Note how D&K’s draperies start at the top of the wall where it meets the ceiling. But look at the light — the window starts much lower. They have installed the draperies floor-to-ceiling to fool your eye into believing the windows are larger and also, to accentuate the height of the wall. With the sheers in place, in particular, this works magnificently. Lesson: First consider whether you can take the drapes all the way to the ceiling — especially if the window is already vertical (rather than horizontal) in its orientation; no need to think that your drapes “must” start right above the window — which would, in this case, have broken up the lovely overall lines of the room.
  • Position of bottom of draperies: For mid-century interiors, I am also a fan of draperies that just barely brush the ground. Tidy. Linear. Also, easier to open and close, and to keep clean.
  • Traverse rod: Paint it! You can also paint your traverse rod to blend in with the wall color or in this case, the color of the sheers behind it. I just laid out my traverse rod to the correct (installed width) and put two thin layers of spray paint on it. My traverse’s sit on top of ivory colored grasscloth, and spray painted almond, are barely noticeable.

Do you have a fear of pinch pleat drapes… of traverse rods… of making homemade pie crusts? YOU CAN DO IT, and you will be a better person for the effort!

And remember, all my stories about window treatments for mid century homes are located in the Category: Retro Accents / Window Treatments.

  1. Susan says:

    I have two pair of matching jcpenny custom pinch pleat drapes from my previous house that were in my living room and formal dining room. I want to use them in my living room in my new house. My issue is that the old house had two windows next to each other and my new house has three windows next to each other with an arched window above the middle window. I am not sure if I should get 1 left opening traverse rod, one right opening traverse rod and one center opening traverse rod. ( I basically have 4 curtain panels to work with) The curtains coordinate with my furniture so I would still like to use them, just not sure how to hang them.

  2. Donna says:

    about the post above one of the windows in my kitchen is a corner window a over the sink any ideas how to handle that with pinch pleated valance. the other window is a large window in the breakfast area and a sliding glass door. thanks

  3. Donna says:

    I just purchased ivory sheer pinch pleated window valances at a thrift store. I love these valances but don’t know how to hang them so they look updated. I mainly want to use them in the kitchen and maybe over a large sliding glass door in the living room. I live in south fl so I don’t want heavy drapes. Any suggestions would be appreciated. thanks

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