Drapes are making a comeback as window treatments after a few decades of being pushed aside for mini-blinds and vertical blinds.

And while the vast options in colors, patterns and fabrics afforded by drapes are attractive, the choices also can be overwhelming. There are definitely more questions involved than the height, width and color (white or alabaster) that confronts most mini-blind shoppers.

"Right now, stores like Target and JC Penney have very nice draperies," says Tucson interior designer Lourdes Mendoza. "And they may even have pillows that match that drapery, also some bedding, already made. Target sometimes features a collection for a while, with accessories."

Medrano says those accessories are important because they play to the strength of draperies as window coverings - "You can tie a room together with the fabric. They add a little bit of color. If you have a very tall ceiling and you want to accent that window, you can take it from the ceiling, or near the ceiling, down to the floor. Make it look tall. It gives you way more flexibility. Most of the time (those other) window treatments can only be the size of the window."

Also, she says, "Draperies can add privacy and light control. And it helps with the heating and cooling."

While some department stores are offering a wider range of drapes and mounting hardware than in the past, it's nothing like what is available to interior designers through custom drapery makers.

"When you go to a designer, there are so many more styles," Medrano says. "Nice fabrics. Do pillows, a bench cover. You can have it on the headboard. You can coordinate the whole room. It makes the whole room more unique. And it also reflects the personality of the client."

Custom drapery maker Eddie Chavez Jr. says drapes have far more to offer than just a change of pace from ubiquitous, dust-catching mini-blinds and verticals.

At the top of the list is fabric's ability to serve as an integral part of a room's design - tying a room together by matching patterns and colors much more closely than blinds can, says Chavez.

Chavez and his father, Eddie Chavez Sr., have been working as Chavez Since '67. They now work out of a crowded shop at 2519 N. Campbell Ave. As the shop upholsters and makes other decorating components, including padded headboards and valences. And unlike most Tucson custom drapery makers, who deal only with designers, Chavez upholstery will sell directly to homeowners.

Chavez admits the choices can be overwhelming, and that might be why most Tucson custom drapery makers don't operate retail store fronts. Chavez says he and his father do both and encourage customers to take advantage of their offer of a home visit. Chavez says they can be of more help in narrowing down the list of possible choices after seeing the room's windows, wall colors, flooring and furnishings. They'll also take measurements. One visit and "I can start pulling fabrics," Chavez says.

"As far as the fabrics, whatever you can visualize, we can create," Chavez says. There are literally thousands of fabric patterns and colors available. "It's all custom-done. It coordinates better with what you have" than off-the-rack draperies.

Deciding the role of the draperies in a room's design is just one of the choices facing a customer or interior designer. Chavez says drapes can use identical colors and patterns of other fabrics in the room, work more subtly as accent colors or "the draperies can be the focal point."

There's also the matter of linings, which let light into a room in a range from bright to blackout dark.

Chavez says there are basically three levels of linings: Sussex, the trade term for a light lining; thermal lining, intended to reduce heat gain and loss; and hotel room-style blackout linings that pass almost no light.

Although he says modern fabrics are more resistant to fading and deteriorating in the potent Arizona sun than traditional fabrics, linings are still important for protecting the drapery fabric and, more important, insulating the room from heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer.

"That's a key advantage to draperies," Chavez says, "they will insulate - heat and cold - substantially better than blinds."

Then there's the matter of hanging the drapes and hardware.

The curtain rods can be a part of the design, from large-diameter carved wooden or wrought-iron rods with decorative "finials" (ends) to rods that are hidden behind custom valences that cover the top of the drapes and the supports.

Digitize it

Whether shopping in a department store or a custom drapery shop, bring in photos of your windows and the entire room where they'll be hung, as well as snapshots of the fabrics, flooring and furniture in the room.


Chavez Since '67

Architectural Touch

Dan Sorenson can be reached at dan.sorenson@pobox.com