I don’t know about you but I am legitimately mystified by what custom things in the design world really cost. Even me, a person who has actual access to most of the answers gets overwhelmed at just the idea of “the cost” when it comes to things like custom drapery, reupholstered furniture, CUSTOM furniture, etc. I am usually in a “there’s no way I could afford that” camp despite everything I want being nearly a bajillion dollars. I toyed A LOT with this issue during the design process of my Makeover Takeover (MOTO). I was having such a hard time finding what I wanted that I was ready to become my own personal product designer. Dramatic? Sure, because I ended up finding items I loved but I did need to design and have some pieces made by my very gracious and (free-labor) father.
I have started to tease my bedroom MOTO for a while and I am sorry to report that it’s nowhere near done. One reason there has been a holdup is that I need custom drapes to hide my very/too tall “closet.” My dad is a button sewing wizard but curtains are sadly a no go. If only I had paid more attention when my mom was sewing all of my middle school’s Dickens’ Carolers costumes maybe I could attempt it?
Now, I am also in a unique position that there may be a chance a company would be willing to work with me to gift drapes but there is never a guarantee on that front. Also, transparency is one of EHD’s most valued commodities so I wanted to know what this sort of service really cost outside of a very incredible potential job perk because if I’m curious, I bet a lot of you are, as well. That being said, welcome to our new “The Real Cost of…” series where we do the heavy lifting of asking the questions and getting the quotes so you’re armed with more information on the front end before embarking on your own “custom” project (or maybe even it’s more of an “oh, wow, I thought that would be more” scenario which is as nice as finding a crisp 20 in the pocket of a jacket you haven’t worn for a year).
In my first “investigative report,” I spoke with three of our current go-to custom drapery companies Decorview, Tonic Living and (most recently) Barn & Willow. Each has a slightly different approach to their custom drapery services and were gracious enough to answer all of my burning drapery questions.
But actually, before we get to the cold hard facts and professional tips, let’s talk about these three companies so you can get a better idea of where they are coming from and what they offer. Also just to be clear, this post is in no way sponsored. These are truly three companies we love and use and like I just said, were kind enough to answer my questions. Okay, here we go. 🙂
- Decorview takes care of literally everything, soup to nuts (as Arlyn would say). You basically don’t even need to know what drapery is because they will come to you to talk about your needs, show you samples, measure and even do final install. They also have a plethora of features (like automated options) to choose from. Needless to say, they aren’t the most budget option on the market but they are undeniably worth it. The service, quality and the insane amount of options they provide are incredible. EHD has used them a bunch (Portland project and mountain house, most recently) and can absolutely vouch for their beautiful work.
- Tonic Living is another EHD favorite that not only customizes drapery but also pillows and cushions! But in terms of their drapery (since that is the topic at hand), they have an incredible selection of patterned and solid fabrics and will work with you to create what you are looking for. They do offer in-home consultations but are located in Canada so luckily as long as you know your measurements, they will help via email AND they ship worldwide. Both Brady’s Roman shades in his bedroom and soon Julie’s bedroom shades are both through Tonic Living.
- Last but not least is Barn & Willow. In Bowser’s hunt for the perfect drapery for her bedroom and living room (stay tuned), she found Barn & Willow, a direct-to-consumer custom drapery company. They create beautiful neutral toned drapes and Roman shades that you can get customized to your exact measurements with their extremely user-friendly website. But if you need help deciding, they also offer design services. Bowser and EHD approved.
Alright, now let’s get to the goods…
The first thing I wanted to know (and I’m sure everyone reading this) was what a rough all-in, full-on window coverings budget should be before starting a project. Between the three companies, they said that $1,500 to 2,500 is a good place to start. That number sounds scary, right? Well, they reassured me that there are a bunch of ways that that number can go up or (thankfully) down depending on how many windows you need to cover. You also have to consider things like fabric choice, type of drapery (curtains, Roman shades, stationary side panels, etc.), size, lining, special features like type of pleating or even automation. SO much to think about but also that’s the beauty of customization right? It’s going to be exactly what you want. When I asked about the price point, Tonic Living said, “We often get clients who have ‘cheapened out’ on window treatments and regretted the decision.” That makes a lot of sense to me. Been there, done that.
Now I’m not suggesting to go ham and throw your drapery budget to the wind but much like anything custom, the point is that it’s an investment in quality and making reasonable financial choices to make sure you are going to love them for a veerrrry long time is ultimately the right call. It’s like ordering a burrito and skipping the guacamole. Is your wallet and maybe waistline pleased? Sure. But are your tastebuds sad? YES. You should just spend the $2….or in this case more like a few hundred. Tomayto, tomahto. 🙂
Starting Cost of a Standard Size Window
Next, I wanted to get a little more specific and see what a starting price of standard window-sized curtain and Roman shade would be. Again, there are a lot of variables but the base price for a pair of simple linen panels from Tonic Living and Barn & Willow is under $500 and a Roman shade is under $450. Yes, when you compare that to the cost of ready-made options, it might feel steep, but even some off-the-rack curtains can run several hundred dollars unless they’re truly budget picks. So, for high-quality custom window treatments made to your exact needs and specifications, it’s not a far jump budget-wise from standard retail.
But now let’s kick it up a notch and see what “add ons” you might want to consider. Privacy or blackout lining was recommended by all three of the companies for rooms that need it, like a bedroom (or a living room where you’re trying to block glare for TV viewing). Decorview said, “A blackout liner would be a couple hundred as an extra cost.” Tonic also echoed this sentiment saying that blackout lining is nearly double the cost of a muslin lining. Despite the sizable increase of cost, sunshine and sleep are not great together so that may be an add on you don’t want to skimp on where needed. Other things like top pleating, added fullness (more fabric), and type of hardware are other details that will increase your bill. The last thing that Tonic Living enlightened me on was pattern matching. “Large pattern repeats can greatly increase the amount of fabric required and therefore the price will increase. You will get more value with a solid or simple stripe.” Who knew?! Well, now we all do. 🙂
Speaking of fabric, Decorview said “when it comes to pricing, fabric makes a big difference. The more ornate the fabric, the more expensive.” When I asked Tonic Living if there was a big price difference between say linen and velvet fabrics, they noted that their “most popular Tuscany Linen fabric runs at $20.95 USD per yard while our Mason Velvets comes in at $43.95 USD. It’s important to note, many velvets cannot be made into drapery or may have limited options on the top pleat style. Double check the listings to see which is appropriate for window treatments.” Double the price…good to know! However, the great thing about Barn & Willow, who focuses on neutral and natural tones fabrics, is that there isn’t a big difference between the price points of their offerings. All in all, it really just depends on what you are looking for and then deciding if it can fit into your budget.
Avoiding Sun Damage
Custom drapery is an investment (is the dead horse beaten enough yet?) so protecting them and making sure they look great longterm is of the utmost importance. Enemy number #1 is the sun. To help with this nemesis, Barn & Willow says that “adding blackout lining and interlining will provide the most protection against the sun and elongate the lifespan of your drapery by creating a barrier between the harsh sun rays and the fabric.” Now, Decorview has a great rule of thumb when it comes to choosing fabrics and fade resistance, “man-made fabrics or synthetic fabrics are generally more color resistant due to either the color being ‘built-in’ to the fiber, or the ability to take stronger more caustic dyes. As with anything, the darker and more saturated the hue, the more prone to fading it is.” But as Tonic Living pointed out, even with the right lining, “all drapery fabric is susceptible to fading/damage over time.”
Ways to Save
Alright, let’s get into the insider tips on how to save. As we’ve already learned, fabric choice was number one. Lots of dollars can be saved by simply choosing a more budget-friendly option. However, Decorview says don’t skimp on the hardware. The last thing you want is to have put all of your budget into the drapery and then only have enough money for a poor quality rod that might sag or even break. Then according to Tonic Living, “a hidden back tab and grommet style are more expensive compared to pinch pleat or flat panel.”
Fullness (or less) is an easy way to cut costs because, well, there is less fabric. Going from a 2x to a 1.5x is a simple switch if you still like a full look. Also, another option is stationary side panels or a faux Roman shade. Yep, if you really just want that “wow moment” or decorative touch and don’t need the actual function of privacy then both those options will save money because again, less fabric is needed. Another tip is to choose a solid, neutral fabric or one that has a small pattern because according to Tonic Living, “choosing something classic and neutral will make the style more timeless and long lasting.” And as we learned earlier “a solid fabric or a fabric with a small pattern repeat saves on waste/fabric required to pattern match.” Lastly Barn & Willow makes the overall point that, “by purchasing quality window treatments, you’ll save a hefty amount not having to change out tattered and faded window treatments after a year or two.”
The last question I asked was if they had any final thoughts or advice for someone who is considering custom drapery. Here’s what they said:
- Decorview: “Be open to different possibilities because even with a more modest budget, there are lots of options.”
- Barn & Willow: “Quality hardware with sturdy brackets will withstand the bowing of heavy panels even after years of use, unlike the quality of off-the-shelf hardware which is thin and dents easily.”
- Tonic Living: Aside from being 100% worth it in terms of quality and function, they recommend getting professional installation for heavy drapery if you have the spare budget. “Seriously, save yourself the headache!”
Man, pulling back that custom curtain feels great (there’s my one pun, okay?). I hope, like me, you learned a lot and if you have been thinking about investing in some custom drapery that now you have a better idea of what that entails. Also, if you all are into it, we would love to make this a series and dive into other topics like reupholstery, custom furniture, built-ins, custom closets/shelving, etc. If you have any suggestions of what you would like us to dive into, let us know in the comments. And thank you again to Decorview, Tonic Living and Barn & Willow. There are truly wonderful companies that we can’t recommend enough if you are looking.
Love you, mean it.
For more on all things window coverings, here are more posts to dive into:
- Power Couples: How to Expertly Pair Curtains & Rugs (+ 30 Combos to Try)
- Are Your Hanging Curtains All Wrong?
- How to Dress Awkward Windows + Where to Shop for Readymade Options
- Design Agony: 3 Awkward Window Problems Solved + Shoppable Solutions