Curtain Calls

Of subtlety, function, and fun: what we learned about dressing a window from the pros at Workroom

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Can draperies be both understated and whimsical? They can in the hands of John Diekmann and Joel Klaff, whose backgrounds in fashion and theatre inform the creations that come out of their high-end custom window-treatment business, Workroom (1906 W. Belmont Ave., 773-472-2140).

While Klaff was away in New Orleans recently creating draperies for the set of Brad Pitt’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, we spoke with Diekmann about choosing the right treatment for your windows.

Joel Klaff and John Diekmann from Chicago's Workroom

Men of the Cloth
Joel Klaff (left) and John Diekmann emerge from behind some fabulous curtains at their Roscoe Villageatelier.

Consider function first. “Ask yourself, ‘Why am I putting drapes in this room-do I need privacy? Do I need light control?’ Function is primary, then you work the form around that,” Diekmann emphasizes. “A lot of times people just want stationary panels because the light is being filtered through solar screens or woven bamboo shades. The drapery layer really isn’t crucial for function, so you’d treat that a little differently than if you need them both lined and interlined for a bedroom to keep light out.”

Make draperies the backdrop, not the focal point. “People tend to pick fabrics that want to jump into the room,” says Diekmann, who loves luxe fabrics but favors them in solids or tonal patterns that blend with the colors of walls and furnishings. “Say you have a room that’s entirely white and not very big, and someone wants big red velvet drapes. When you step into that room, that’s all you see. Your drapery is part of the box-the exterior interior. You don’t want it sucking the air out of the room.”

Spend your money wisely. If you have a limited budget, Diekmann advises spending it on the functional layer first. “Say sun is an issue. Put up solar screens or shutters or woven wood shades first. Live with that, then when you have the money, do the decorative layer.” He also suggests putting your resources into public rooms and those where you spend a lot of time, such as the bedroom. “Spend it on rooms you entertain in, rooms that are important to you. Do the other rooms more simply; as time goes on, you can upgrade them.”

Go for the unnatural. Sunlight tends to burn natural fibers, so you’ll get more life out of your drapery if you choose natural-looking blends, such as linen-rayon or silk-poly. If you’re fussy about appearances, go for blends even if sun isn’t an issue; pure linen and silk wrinkle easily. Also, always use a lining, generally cotton-polyester, to protect fabric from yellowing and breaking down. (The only time you wouldn’t use a lining is with sheer panels.) Well-made lined drapes can be expected to last ten years or so.


Photograph: Katrina Wittkamp