If there’s one drapery question we get more than any other, it’s this one: Are custom drapes really necessary? Aren’t off-the-shelf curtains basically the same?

We understand why customers would ask. The price tag that comes with custom drapes can be much higher than the price of off-the-shelf curtains, and that can be a deal breaker for a lot of people. However, the truth of the matter is that custom drapes are an investment. More cost upfront, but much higher-quality in terms of material and fit, and much, much longer-lasting. And, this is no small thing either — it makes an enormous difference in how the room turns out at the end of the design process.

custom drapes from Strickland's

That being said, we thought we’d take some time to really delve into the specifics of this debate. Why should you spring for custom drapes when you can buy ones off-the-shelf? And why, if you’re doing custom drapes, is it better to work with a designer than to go online and try to order them yourself?

Custom Drapes vs. Off-the-Shelf Curtains

There are three major things that custom drapes get you that off-the-shelf curtains don’t.

  • A Perfect Fit. Believe it or not, drapery is a science, and every home is different. The ideal drapes will start at the ceiling or crown molding (or a few inches underneath) and then barely skim the floor—unless you prefer puddled drapes, which add another level of complication. They will start to the side of the window and cover a portion of the wall; they shouldn’t be hung over the window. When side panels aren’t closed, they should be 2.5-3 times wider than the width of the wall they cover.

    For your home and your window, that measurement might be entirely different than the sizes available off-the-shelf, which are typically either 84 or 96 inches in length and 45 or 54 inches in width. That means that to get the right look, you need to buy multiple panels per side. This doesn’t look good or save money.

    Bonus tip: Do not try to save money by measuring the space yourself and inputting the information to buy drapes online! It’s super easy to get wrong, and when you get those drapes in the mail and they don’t pool, puddle, or hang just right, it’ll be much harder to fix. Leave it to the pros.

  • Wide Selection. How wide? Basically, it’s unlimited. Any fabric you so desire can be made just for you—and you might be the only person who has those curtains! With off-the-shelf curtains, you’re pretty much limited to what’s on that shelf. And there’s a good chance your neighbor has the same ones.

    Bonus tip: If you’re springing for custom drapes, consider a neutral color or pattern. They’re less likely to fade, and you won’t need to change them out with the seasons.

  • Weight. Off-the-shelf curtains are much thinner than custom drapes. This is because the companies will use cheap cotton with little-to-no lining. But the secret of good drapes is in the lining; that’s what makes them hang the way they do. It’s also a large part of what protects them from sun damage and keeps them looking nice years after off-the-shelf curtains fade.
  • custom drapes from Strickland's can make the room

    Convinced yet? If not, let’s try an experiment! Take a quick trip to your off-the-shelf curtain store of choice, look at the options available, then visit Strickland’s showroom and see our custom drapery samples for yourself. Our drapery expert will be happy to answer any questions you might still have.