Communicating Successful Drapery Design |

The famous acronym GIGO is from the computer world and stands for: Garbage In – Garbage Out. GIGO has never been more appropriate then in my world of custom drapery design and fabrication. I am referring to receiving little or no instructions in the form of a work order, purchase order or specification and being expected to fabricate what is in the mind of the architect/designer (A/D) and consequently communicated to the client.I have owned and run a drapery and upholstery workroom for the past 20 years. What I have seen over and over again is poor design planning, where the A/D hustles through the details of the drapery project leaving potential problem areas unaddressed. The architectural and interior design firms that I work for are fortunately rescued from this doom because of my direct involvement; others I surmise are not and the results are very costly mistakes.In this article (and in my course I offer as an AIA Provider) I will address what I consider to be the necessary ways to Communicate Successful Drapery Design. I have broken them down into a two step process of Design and Documentation, with the ultimate goal of having a better grasp on how to communicate effectively what the client’s expectations are and then matching them up with what is ultimately fabricated and installed. This is done by allowing the A/D to be able to identify the critical areas with careful planning in order to avoid surprises and to feel comfortable in specifying hardware, mechanisms, structural pockets and fabrics. For the A/D the two areas of Design and Documentation all need to be addressed in the planning stage.DesignIn the book by Erik Larson: The Devil in the White City, there is a quote by the famous architect Daniel Burnham where he offers a more forceful point then the original often quoted statement of “Form Follows Function”. To emphasize his argument on the design of the 1892 Chicago World’s Fair he demanded that “Function Dictates Form”.This is so true when it comes to commercial drapery and window coverings. Where as in residential treatments, many times function is overlooked in exchange for form or design. In commercial applications the treatment must function successfully over and over again depending upon its tasks. Even before form or style is considered, function must be determined. The A/D will identify in consultation with the client the function requirements of the window coverings by addressing such needs as: light control, privacy issues, stack-backs, mechanisms, mounting and then finally style selections.DocumentationAfter the design decisions are completed they must be documented in the specifications so all parties can understand them. These parties are: The A/D, the Client, the General Contractor and the Drapery Consultant. This entails providing the information necessary to fabricate the finished product in the form of clear specifications and detailed drawings. Included would be the type of construction of the treatment, the hardware and control mechanisms, the structural pockets and stack-backs, the desired fullness, the lining selections, installation instructions and care and maintenance information. I will now go into detail on each of these items.Six Elements of Successful Drapery DesignSuccessful Drapery Design is achieved by understanding the Six Elements that are part of the details of the Design and Documentation that I described above. To complete the required information for documentation the A/D will need to address these Six Elements:1) Function & Design2) Hardware & Mechanism3) Pockets and Stack-Backs4) Fabrics & Linings5) Installation Instructions6) Care & MaintenanceFunction & DesignBefore deciding upon the style or type of treatment the A/D must analyze what the needs of the window covering are. First and foremost the selection of a treatment needs to meet design requirements without sacrificing practical day to day function. Remember that “Function dictates Form”.I will be using two types of treatments for the purpose of demonstration. Two of the best treatments that meet the requirements of function and form are Roman Shades and Snap Pleat Draperies.Roman ShadesRoman Shades are among the best horizontal stacking treatments. The Soft-Fold or Flat Roman is considered “constructed” due to the fiberglass rods or stays that are inserted at horizontal intervals. The constructed version gives these shades dependable function raising and lowering in neat folds.For light control Roman Shades can be lined with a translucent or blackout lining. It is recommended that for the purpose of blackout, that the Soft-Fold Roman is specified because the folds of the shade will cover the pin-holes of light that are unavoidable when the needle passes through the blackout lining.Snap Pleat DraperyThe Snap Pleat Drapery is created by a fabric tape with snaps sewn to the top edge of the drapery panel. When these snaps are attached to the carriers on the rod, this creates an “S” shape design. The fullness of this treatment is measured in the range of 80% – 100% – 120%. The weight of the fabric and the function will determine the appropriate fullness. This treatment is one of the best functioning vertical stacking treatments.A few of the attributes are:· Soft flowing appearance· Suitable for Commercial and Residential· Panels can be pressed flat· No Hooks or Pins needed· Low track profile· Smaller Stack-back then pleated drapery· Looks good from front or back.Hardware & MechanismDeciding upon the hardware and control mechanisms depends on the desired function of the treatment. Are the controls accessible or are they out of reach? If so, they may require motorization. If the treatment is heavy to lift, you may want to specify a clutch lifting system. I will explain the hardware and mechanism options for Roman Shades and Snap Pleat Drapery.Roman ShadesRoman Shades are mounted on boards, so there are no hardware decisions to be made. However, some decisions can determine a certain size of the board depth. There are choices however in the lifting mechanisms.· Cord Lift
The cord lift is pulled up by a series of cords that can either have a cord lock or a cleat to secure the shade at the desired height. This is good for smaller sizes and only needs a
1 ½” board to mount to.· Clutch
The clutch mechanism works well on larger and heavier shades. The physics of the clutch makes the heavier shade lighter to lift and the lifting chain is continuous, which means the chain never gets any longer or shorter.· Motorized
Roman shades are easily automated. They can be hardwired or simply plugged in and operate with a hand-held remote or wall switch.Snap Pleat· Cord Pull
The Snap Pleat Traverse rod works like other traverse rods. You can choose from a center split or one-way draws. Also, you can specify curved tracks.· Wand Pull
Some situations will call for a Wand Pull. This is common in Hotels and Health Care facilities where the cords are eliminated because of maintenance and/or safety concerns.· Motorized
The Snap Pleat rod can be motorized with a Plug n’ Play system or hardwired and operate with a hand-held remote or wall switch.Pockets & Stack-backsThe purpose of the pocket for a window treatment is to conceal the hardware or the treatment itself. The stack-back detail relates to the drapery where the concern is pulling the stacked fabrics off the glass. Both the Pocket and Stack-back details must be planned for with the Drapery Consultant.Roman ShadesIf a pocket needs to be created for a Roman Shade it needs to be quite deep. The Roman Shade’s fold stack upon each other and require more room into the depth of the pocket then other treatments. A Flat Roman will have a smaller stack then a Soft-Fold Roman because of the amount of fabric used. The stack will also depend on the weight of the fabric and lining. It is recommended to meet with your Drapery Consultant to determine the stacking heights.Snap Pleat DraperyThe pocket for a Snap Pleat Drapery can be very shallow due to the low profile of the track and the lack of pleats on the drapery. The track can also be counter-sunk into a channel which creates a very simple tailored appearance.The Stack-back issue for Snap Pleat takes some planning. While the Stack-backs are smaller than other drapery treatments, the A/D needs to refer to the Stacking Chart supplied by the Drapery Consultant to determine what the overall width of the drapery needs to be to clear the desired opening.Fabrics & LiningsThe selection of suitable fabrics and linings are universal for most drapery and window covering treatments. All commercial and contract installations require fabrics that meet the local fire codes. While this has little to do with the type of treatment, it is good to be aware that the linings of these treatments need to be fire retardant as well.Fabrics come in two basic widths of either 54″ or 118″. The wide width of 118″ is turned and is used as its length. For the Snap Pleat Drapery this can create a seamless drapery. The wider width fabric can also be used on Roman Shades. Please be aware of the pattern direction as well as fabric width when specifying.Installation InstructionsInstructions for the Installer are of critical importance of a successful drapery treatment, yet it is rare when an A/D mentions it. The Installer needs to know a variety of specific items related to the treatment. Some of these are:· If the treatment is to be mounted inside or outside the frame of the window· Does the treatment need to be steamed· How is the drapery to be “dressed”· The type of mounting brackets· The desired overlap of the treatment· The clearance off the floor· Coordinating motorized treatments with the Electrician.It has been said that the installation makes the treatment. Why should the A/D ignore giving instructions on this significant part of the job?Care & MaintenanceThe A/D needs to document during the planning stage the required cleaning methods of the fabrics selected. Can they be dry cleaned or steamed cleaned? Can they be cleaned on-site or removed and cleaned and rehung? It will eliminate nuisance calls after the job is completed by providing this information which is easier to access during the planning stage.Typical repairs can also be explained and documented to avoid call backs. Here are some common repairs:Roman Shades· The shade goes up uneven. This can be due to the cord wrapped around one of the stays.· One of the cords or rings is broken. This can be repaired on-site.Snap Pleat Drapery· The drapery un-snaps from the carrier. This is easily snapped back on.· The rolls of the drapery come out of order. This is remedied by dressing the drapery rolls back in place.With proper planning and the assistance of a drapery consultant, the A/D can Communicate Successful Drapery Design. The challenge of most drapery designs is that the client never sees the final product until the day of installation, therefore the need for effective planning. This is one of the main reasons in calling for mock-ups. A mock-up can eliminate costly mistakes after the fabrication is installed. Perhaps the fabric is too stiff, the hems are too long, or the stacking is too much.The end result of careful planning, documentation and instructions results in Successful Drapery Design.The author Neil Gordon is the owner of Decorating with Fabric, a drapery and upholstery workroom in the New York Metro area. Neil is available for one on one consultation and as an AIA Provider who can offer a Lunch & Learn to your staff.