How pillows and window treatments are priced are a mystery to many consumers. How can you get a pillow at Target for $20, but designer companies, like Eastern Accents and Lacefield Designs have the gall to charge $200 for one pillow!! Is that $200 pillow really 10x better than the $20 pillow?
Maybe. A lot depends on what your design and decorating goals are.
And window treatments… What’s the deal with those? Why should you spend thousands when you can get a perfectly good ready-made panel from discount sources for as low as $15 per panel?? Isn’t that just as good?
Probably not, but a lot depends on your project goals.
And why does it seem that interior designers always recommend custom first?
The simple answer is because they are CUSTOM, so no one else will have anything exactly like it! No retailer can pre-make the nearly limitless ideas a designer can create. And as far as creating a beautifully curated look, nothing can match custom! But are they really worth all the coin? And if so, are they the right choice for your project?
The answer is YES and YES! Let’s take a look behind the curtain [pun intended] at the differences between ready-made and custom pillows and window treatments!
Three Factors in Pricing
You guys know by now that QUALITY is my favorite word! I have spent several blog posts rambling on about the quality of sofas, dining tables, and even counter tops. I spend a lot of time studying what constitutes good quality in furniture and accessories.
When it comes to the difference between high cost and low cost pillows and window treatments, quality is a bit more complicated that you would guess. There are three basic factors at play here. Textile quality, quality of the liners and inserts, and quality of the construction. However, they all work together to give you the best product.
- Courtney Spa by Ballard Designs 2. White Hemp Embroidered Pillow by Lacefield Designs 3. Blue Dot Pillow by Lacefield Designs 4. Willow Blues by Kim Salmela 5. Myers Pillow by Ballard Designs 6. Navy Denim Velvet by Lacefield Designs 7. Signature Throw Pillow by Lexington 8. Latika 18×18 Pillow 9. Filly White Pillow by Eastern Accents 10. Signature Pillow by Lexington 11. Bouquet 20×20 Pillow .
Window Treatment & Pillow Textiles
There are a couple of things that make fabrics that designers use pretty special. First of all, we get the “firsts”, which means the fabric that we sell has to meet certain standards. The fabric that doesn’t meet those standard get sold to discount stores.
You can find these “seconds” at discount retailers like JoAnn Fabrics, Boca Bargoons, and Calico Corners. The pricing on these fabrics is comparable to the wholesale price that a designer or workroom might pay. Keep in mind that the fabrics will have flaws. You might also be able to order “firsts” from this type of retailer, but you will be paying retail pricing for firsts, even from a “discount” retailer.
You can purchase “seconds” from online discount retailers as well, but I don’t recommend this because you can’t touch and feel the fabric before purchase. Many of these online retailers offer samples, but you will probably have to pay for them and they may be very small samples.
The second thing is we have access to a larger variety of fabrics. We have thousands of fabric patterns at our fingertips, not to mention trimmings. We can use combinations of these fabrics and trimmings to create really unique pieces for your home. Mixing and match patterns between custom drapery, furnishings, and pillows will give your home that magazine-ready look you want.
Higher quality fabrics also have a better “hand.” This is how the fabric feels when you touch it. No one wants a stiff scratchy pillow.
Because the fabrics designers use are of the highest quality, they will look great for many years to come. Interior designer know which type of fabrics have better wear and tear. This is particularly important for custom window treatments because they are constantly exposed to the sun. We know which fabrics will retain their color and integrity after years of sun exposure.
Designers also know all of the other parts that make up high quality pillows and window treatments because it’s not all about the pretty fabrics. Which brings me to…
Window Treatments Liners & Pillow Inserts
The quality of the exposed, visible fabric isn’t the only consideration. Your window treatments and pillows will only be as good as the materials from which they are made. The pillow inserts will determine the shape and loft of the pillow. With window treatments, good materials are tantamount to how long they will last and how they hang or drape.
The best pillows have feather/down inserts. Period. You’ve all seen designers and stagers on TV do the quintessential karate chop pillow fluff. The distinctive deep groove and peaks wouldn’t be possible without feather and down. Different blends of feather and down – 90/10, 75/25, 50/50 – offer different weights and different “loftiness” in the pillow. The more down the pillow has, the lighter and fluffier it will feel.
Feather and down blend pillow inserts are more expensive that polyfil, which is what you will typically find at places like Target and About Home. Places like Home Goods and online discount retailers like Wayfair and Hayneedle are a mixed bag. Online, you can read the description of the pillow and it will tell you, but in person you will have to judge by feel.
Basically, if you can’t karate chop the pillow and create a deep “V”, then the pillow isn’t feather/down. Even the highest quality faux down will not give you this look.
However, the bigger issue is how long will the pillow look good and how easily will it regain its shape. Feather/down pillow inserts can look great for many years and can easily be “fluffed” back to their original shape. In fact, to extend the life of your feather/down pillows and cushions you should fluff them on a regular basis.
And by fluff, I don’t mean give them the Christina El-Moussa karate chop. Take out any pent-up aggression on that pillow and beat the heck out of it! When you do “fluff” a pillow on a regular basis you are shaking the down and feathers loose, which helps maintain the shape and loft over time.
Window Treatment Liners
The existence and quality of the liner is a huge difference between ready-made window treatments and custom window treatments. This is also where you will want to do the most research when buying a ready-made treatment or even when buying “custom” from a retailer.
The liner is the plain white or neutral colored piece of fabric that is sewn onto the back of the decorative fabric. Liners serve several purposes. Primarily, they help protect the fabric from sun damage. UV rays can cause the colors of the fabric to fade and can also corrode the fabric over time.
Another purpose for window treatment liners is light filtration. Depending on the type of liner, you can have drapes that allow some light to come through, which is important if you don’t have a lot of natural light in your home. Heavy liners and blackout liners will block more light from coming into the room, making a darker room. With custom window treatments, you get to choose how much light you want to come into your room because you get to customize the treatment to your specifications. More importantly, you will have professional, or two, to assist you in making the right selections!
A word on blackout: Getting a set of drapery panels or shades that have “black out” liner does not mean that no light will come in through the windows. If you want what my friend LuAnn Nigara calls “Vegas dark” you need multiple layers of window treatments and probably side tracks on the shades. I talk a little bit more about black out in another post, make sure to read it if you want to learn more.
Finally, the liner makes a difference in how the drapes and shades drape! The weight of the liner helps with the folds and creases in the drapes or shades and give them some weight so they look nice when hung. Ready made window treatments, especially very inexpensive ones, may not be lined properly and sometimes aren’t lined at all, which can make the treatment look cheap. More importantly, the way the liner is sewn onto the drapery panel makes a difference. Which leads me to construction…
- Terra Pom Pom Pillow by Ballard Designs 2. Linen Tassel Pillows by Ballard Designs 3. Green and Blue Pillow by Loloi 4. Trellis Embroidered Pillow by Ballard Designs 5. Zebra Pillow by Park and Main 6.Kenya Indigo by Lacefield Designs 7. Breeze Indigo Pillow by Eastern Accents 8.Floral Chinoiserie Pillow 9. Eliza Pom Pom Pillow 10. Chevron Dot Pillow
Pillow & Window Treatment Construction
As I hinted to above, HOW the pillows and window treatments are made plays a big role in how the finished product looks. Typically ready-made items are mass produced and while they may have human hands touching them in the process, they will not be given the same care and attention to detail that custom items are given.
Often, very inexpensive goods are made over seas using very cheap labor, which means there is little to no craftsmanship involved in their production. You will notice that patterns are not matched from the back to the front of pillows or between drapery panels (see image below) or they may not be centered on the pillow or panel.
Pattern match is something that work rooms go to great lengths to achieve. In fact, they make sure to order the proper amount fabric so that they can match the pattern in the most aesthetically pleasing way.
With drapes another important part of the construction is the header. The header is the top portion of the drapery panel and it is how the panel hangs from the rod. Custom drapes typically have pleated headers. The pleated header also gives the drapes a rich, tailored look that uniformly hands from the rod.
Aside from the way the pleated headers make the drapes look, the way that custom drapes interact with the rod is different than most ready-made drapes. Ready-made drapes tend to have one of three types of headers: rod pocket, tab top/tab back, or grommets. All three of these types of headers create a different drape and none really hang uniformly from the rod.
On the other hand, custom drapes attach to a traversing rod or a set of rings with drapery hooks. A traversing rod or rings allow the drapes to hang uniformly and allow you to open and close the drapes with ease. That’s not always the case with ready-made drapes. While grommet top drapes will move smoothly across the rod, rod pocket and tab top/tab back don’t move as easily…
Which leads me to customization…
Customization vs Ya’ Basic!
With custom drapery and pillows, the sky is the limit on pricing, really. You’re paying for the fabric, any trimming or accents that the designer may specify, the pillow form or insert, the workroom labor, and the designers time to specify and design them for you. Without any design fees custom pillows are a minimum $100 per pillow. Window treatments can be upwards of $1000 per window. Pricing depends on the type of fabric you select, how elaborate the design is, and how many layers there are.
Did you just say a minimum of $1000??? For CURTAINS??
Yes, even if you use a relatively inexpensive fabric custom drapes are expensive. Here’s why…
In most cases, ready-made drapes are not very wide and not meant to be functional. To make a window treatment wide enough to close and not create a flat piece of fabric, you need a minimum of 1.5 times the width of the window, but for a full and beautiful look you will want 2-3 times the width. This means that for a 6 foot wide window you need about width of 12 feet to go across the window. Which is around 3 widths of fabric.
But that doesn’t tell you how much yardage you need. To determine the total yardage, you need to consider the length of the drapes. Using a lower ceiling height of 8 feet, you would need a total of 18 yards of fabric… but only if it’s plain fabric, for prints you could need additional yardage depending on the size of the print so that the print lines up properly between fabric widths.
And that brings me to fabric selection…
I have to share a client story here. I was working with a client who wanted something pretty specific for window treatments, but she wanted ready made treatments and didn’t care if they were stationary. She wanted them for decoration, not light filtration. She really didn’t want to invest in custom. So, I went to the ends of the earth to find something that fit the bill. I spent several hours searching for just the right ready-made where I would have only spent a fraction of that time locating a fabric and going to the workroom to have the drapery panels made.
Let’s do some math on this…
One set of better quality ready-made drapes is about $120 per panel. Because the drapes needed to be a particular length, she needed to have them shortened slightly. The cost to have them altered about $50.00. The 3 or 4 hours I spent trying to find the right print would be $400-500. So that’s a total cost of about $600-700… And at that point she would have been “settling” and “making it work,” which is not really an outcome you want when you hire a designer.
Now, let’s look at a custom option for a set of stationary panels.
One hour spent sourcing the fabric is about $125, but that would probably be part of the overall sourcing for the project and not an exercise on it’s on. But to be fair, we’ll call it $125. A fair price for the type of fabric she wanted would have been about $60/yard. For the width and length of the panels she needed, we would have used about 11 yards of fabric. The fabrication cost would be $90 per panel. Total cost to make the custom drapes: $900-1000.
So, YES, $1000 is $300 more than $700, BUT how much headache could we have saved? She became frustrated AND she spent a lot of money AND still didn’t get exactly what she wanted!
The moral of the story, if no other reason, custom can get you exactly what you want and save you some headache in the end!
If that isn’t enough to convince you, then think about how many more options you have with custom. You can get an elaborate or as simple as you need. You can have the ability to go from full sunlight to complete darkness if you want. Can you imagine being able to say, “Alexa, make it dark.” With customization and automation, you can! You can create a beautiful focal point for your room that is the work of a local artisan.
Seriously. Well dressed windows are a work of art.
With so much variety out there if you don’t know what you’re looking for you might miss some of the differences. Can you make it work with ready-made? Sure. The questions you must ask yourself are:
- Do I want to just “make it work?” or Do I want what I want?
- Is what I really want available in ready-made? Or will I be settling?
- What’s more important to me?
- saving money
- getting what I want
- avoiding a “headache”
If you’re into avoiding headaches and getting what you want, then custom is the way to go! Don’t mess around with ready-made. Don’t waste your time or money when investing in custom can give you what you want!
If you want to learn more about quality and costs associated with decorating and remodeling, make sure you download our “Good Better Best Investment Workbook.”