An Interview with a Window Workroom

Custom window treatments are a bit of a mystery to most people so I thought it’d be fun for you to peek inside a custom workroom in this interview. You’ll be hearing from Peggy, who is hands down my favorite custom drapery workroom. Peg and her team are responsible for interpreting my beautiful designs and turning them into client-thrilling and beautiful reality, and I’ve been working with Peg for 15 years.

Donna:  What do you think customers would be most shocked to learn regarding custom treatments and their fabrication?

Peggy: How truly hard window treatments are to do and to do well! It takes a lot of time, a lot of skill and a lot of practice – I’ve been at this for a long time. The level of detail and length of time it takes to put something together would really surprise people. Every project, every treatment is so different each and every time – and each treatment has its own idiosyncrasies. People would also be surprised to learn that there’s a lot more hand stitching than they’d expect, and how physically demanding a job it is to build a window treatment. It’s heavy work! Bolts of fabric can weigh 40-50 lbs. We just received fabric for one of your projects last week, Donna that weighed 70 lbs. That’s a lot of weight to keep moving around. Another surprise for people might be that I have a lot of power tools! There’s a lot of building involved when making custom treatments. In fact, I have to go to Home Depot soon to buy wood for one of your projects, Donna.

A view of Peg’s workroom

Is there a fabric you dislike working with – if so – why?

I think the most challenging fabric to work with, and I know some workrooms won’t even work with it, is velvet. As you run it through the machine, the nap starts to shift back and forth – it has a mind of its own – very frustrating.

Is there a window treatment you’ve always wished you could do – but haven’t had the chance to do yet? (Other than any of my creative designs??!!) If yes – what and why?

(Laughing) Yes, of course we love to do your beautiful designs!! No, honestly, there’s nothing I haven’t built that I wish I could build. But, there are things I really enjoy working with – and that would include bump.(something used to line silk draperies). Bump requires a lot of hand stitching, a high level of detail – and the results are very beautiful.  Bump is a very thick interlining that originated in England, I believe. It’s almost 100% cotton – not fully cotton due to the cost of cotton. To give you some perspective, bump is 3-4x thicker than flannel. It’s used as an interlining for draperies to make them look more full and lush. This is the same purpose of any other interlining of course, but bump is a far more rich product.

You and I see a lot of work custom work by other workrooms. In your judgment, what are some of the greatest mistakes, faux pas, or just pure “bad judgment calls” you see other workrooms making?

I would say the worst and most common error is in fullness. That would be #1 I think, skimping on fullness to save a dollar. Very common and very bad. Also not going the extra mile to cover a dustboard (that piece at the top of a window treatment from which a window treatment hangs if it’s not on a rod). It’s all of the little inside details that make such a big difference in the overall finished product. Customers don’t see the difference when it all works as it should. But, they really notice the problems when workrooms try to cheat, thanks to downgraded fabrication. Anyone can see the difference and they’ll be sorry. Oh – and another problem I see is when patterns don’t match as they should.

Let’s talk budget.  We know that “ready made” window treatments cannot come close to the look of custom – or do for a room what custom window treatments can do. That said, if budget precludes a customer’s ability to go custom at their window, where at retail do you think she should look for the best possible ready mades? (I have my recommendations….but am curious about yours…)

For Romans – go to Smith and Noble. They turn around a decent product in short time, even though their fabrics are on the lower end. I’d also say Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel and JC Penny. (That is ready-mades for JC Penny – things like sheers – not recommending their custom work per say.)

Anything else you’d like to add?

Just that building window treatments is a fun job – though always challenging. We’ve also had our share of industrial accidents – Pat has chipped her tooth and cut her wrist! And last week, I was extracting a staple and it landed IN my lip! So far, I haven’t put the machine needle through my finger yet…knock on wood!!!

And so reader…thanks for stopping in. And as ever, if you have any questions about custom window designs, do send my way and we’ll be delighted to answer all for you – or help you create something wonderful in any room of your home!