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Fabrics for Window Treatments - Large Pattern vs Small Pattern

By Sandy Powell

Window treatments can be one of the most significant design elements in a room making the design process a bit overwhelming. Window treatments can become the focal point of the room if you choose color, contrast, large fabric patterns, layers of fabric, or large-scale fabric treatments. So the choice of a fabric pattern can impact the final outcome of the room.

As a comparison, drapery panels that have little pattern and match the wall color will fade into the background. These draperies will appear muted and not provide much contrast. This effect is desired if you already have strong design elements in the room or desire a "calm" effect.

Drapery panels with a large pattern and contrasting colors will become a stronger design element. Using large fabric patterns requires special considerations; do you have competing fabric patterns already in use in the room (upholstery, bedding, etc.)? Large fabric patterns work best with smaller, coordinating patterns. As an example, using a large 20" traditional pattern for the draperies will coordinate nicely with stripes, solids, smaller diamond patterns, or small 1" patterns. Some of the smaller 1" patterns available on the market today have been designed to coordinate well with other patterns. They appear to be a two-tone solid from a distance while adding a texture-effect to the room.

Larger patterns work well on drapery panels since the panels are large in size. Comparatively, larger patterns do not always work as well on smaller top treatments. Also large fabric patterns are more pronounced on flat treatments (flat valances) in contrast to drapery panels that offer a "peek-a-boo" effect with the pleated fabric. Larger fabric patterns that have low-contrast colors will have a more muted effect.

Working with a design-professional who has abundant experience with fabric patterns can offer practical guidance. Please take a look at my portfolio on my website to see some different window treatments and different fabrics:

Sandy Powell is the owner of Signature Draperies & Design in Los Altos, CA.


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Comment by Marilyn Jackson on November 12, 2009 at 10:58am
I have thick dark-gold draperies, from Pier 1 of all places, for my "winter" drapes in my living room -- a three-window bay window facing the street. When I took these off for the summer, and put up some pure-white cotton fluttery things, what a difference! The walls are off-white, and the whole business looked 'way too white! So after a few weeks of enduring this too-white scene, I dug out the heavy-cotton drape/curtain fabric I'd bought a few years ago, and decided it was time to make these.
The fabric wasn't long enough to reach the floor. It was a stripe-effect print of a giraffe and a zebra (OK, not as kiddy-like as this sounds) with yellow and white, and the animals, place here and there on the fabric, had black, gold, a little red and green for accents. Since I had taken all the fabric that was left on the bolt, I decided just to divide it into three panels. Pulled back, they would each frame one-half of their window. Fine for summer.

But the length! I auditioned several yellow and subtle yellow print cottons (regular weight -- I was not going to go out and buy something else) and finally, after a few days of these things hanging on the ironing board, chose one -- looks yellow-gold from a distance, but has a subtle pattern. These, I sewed onto the three cut panels as a "border," but a border of about 16 inches deep.

Not wanting to spend any more time on this than needed, I simply hemmed each panel on all four sides, and used my trusty drapery rings things, that you can find in hardware stores, 5 & 10s, and some fabric stores. You just clip them on.

I enjoyed these curtains for about 2 months, and finally in mid-October, bowing to the cold, I took them down, to put away and use next year. They have a much lighter look because of the brighter yellow and some white. Now, the lovely gold, more formal, definitely warmer ones are back up -- probably until next May or June. Their color is much better for the room and the dark-red chairs and beige-cream couch. But I love the animal ones! And you don't see they are animals until you go close up.


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