How to Make Budget Window Treatments Look Expensive

Please enjoy this post about how to make budget window treatments look custom.


Dear Laurel,

We recently moved to a 60s center hall colonial. And, yes, the previous owners had granny decor taste. Lots of ditzy flowers and ruffles and stained oak.  Incidentally, I laughed so hard when I read that post, I think I fractured a rib. No worries, it was probably just a little gas.

Fortunately, I don’t have a husband who turns into the incredible Hulk if you even mention painting the stained wood. He totally gets it and is on board.


Oh gosh, Laurel; sorry for the rambling.


You must have better things to do than listen to my whining. It’s just that we’re house poor and have 21 windows that are covered in paper shades.

So, I looked at some of your ultimate window treatment guide. And, from what I can ascertain, it would be thousands of dollars not including installation. Uh, like tens of thousands. I asked a friend who has a gorgeous, professionally decorated home. And yep. That’s what it is.


We just don’t have that kind of money to spend.


Well, anyway, the absolute most we can afford right now for all 21 windows is $5,000.

We need budget window treatments but with a custom look. Am I asking for the impossible?


Sade Roman




Thank you, Sade! Is it impossible to get budget window treatments to look like high-end custom ones?


Yes, it is.

Good night.

Oh, wait. Don’t go. I do have some tricks up my drapery rod. (Sorry, that sounds a little dirty but not intended.)


With a little ingenuity and some clever ideas (none of them are mine), ;] much can be achieved to make budget window treatments look pretty damned good.

Plus, I have found some fantastic lower-priced alternatives, some of them, today! You’ll find those later on in the post.

custom window treatments FabriHome on Etsy
But, here’s one, FabriHome on Etsy that makes custom window treatments that are quite reasonable and lovely, too!


Before I go on… I realize that several readers are professional designers and some fabulous window treatment workrooms are represented here. Okay, I can see the smoke blowing out of your ears.


I want to make it clear to consumers that if you can swing it, there is nothing like custom curtains, draperies, valances, shades, etc. That is because these are going to be crafted by hand. And, a great workroom is going to create your window treatments with love and pride in the work that they do. And so many details can be customized. There is a choice of lining, header, trim, and more…

These types of window treatments are super-labor-intensive. Thus you can expect to pay a lot more for that than something manufactured in China, in an automated process.


Custom drapes and shades are very expensive.


Therefore, if you can’t afford custom window treatments, please know that all is not hopeless. Therefore, if money is tight, we will go over some ways you can create the custom look for a fraction of the price.

Also, this is a good post for folks who are working with a custom workroom.


So, let’s get started, as I’m excited to share all of this with you!


A while back, Beverly, a very clever reader, sent me a photo of her beautiful bathroom.


Blue and White Chinoiserie bathroom - Roman Shade - Bed, Bath and Beyond - budget window treatments

Wow! That’s gorgeous.

But, get this. She told me the Roman shade was from Bed, Bath & Beyond! And no, it did not come trimmed like that; she added the trim. Now, I’m doubly impressed!

Here is a good tutorial that shows how one clever blogger added a flat trim to a similar Roman Shade.


I know. You want to know where the wallpaper is from.


After some research, I discovered that it’s Luzon by Thibaut.

***Before ordering wallpaper, I recommend reading this post to help you avoid making costly mistakes. Unfortunately, wallpaper is never returnable. That’s right; not even if it’s shrinkwrap sealed and unopened.


Okay, it’s time to share numerous ideas you may or may not have thought of to get budget window treatments that look custom.


This first idea to get a custom look for a budget window treatment is not for the plain tangerine curtains but for the plain white roller shade.


stenciled roller shade - budget window treatments


Yes, a talented designer, Darnetha, stenciled the roller shade!

But, not only do I love the stencil design, her use of color is fantastic and fun.

Please check out her beautiful blog, where she shares her tutorial for how she did the stenciling.

You can purchase the stencil here.


There’s also this darling idea where a woman took a plain roller shade and embellished it with iron-on tape to make a Greek Key design. I love this idea.


via What the Vita Blog - economical decorating ideas - adding tape to make a Greek Key design on a Roman Shade

What The Vita


I love this idea. The tutorial is in the link above.


A few years ago, I was considering this design (below) for my old bedroom.


roman shade with center greek key - great decorating adviceThe design is with ribbon trim.

Around that time, I showed a similar image to a client I was helping with her kitchen, and she found a source to have them made!


Virtual Kitchen Design - Benjamin Moore - Simply White - custom Roman Shades - By Harrington

The source*, you might already realize is By Harrington. And, they did a wonderful job. This was a new design then, and they should’ve made the bottom flap longer. Dianne, the owner of By Harrington, offered to fix it– no extra charge, but my client was fine with them the way they are.

*By Harrington, many of you have seen on the HOT SALES main page, is offering 20% off all shades and drapes– everything, only for Laurel Home readers. To get your 20%-off, use code SECRETSALE


Custom Window treatment by Harrington


And, please check out this post for another Greek Key design on a Roman shade.

I want this one for my living room– one day, I hope!


Okay, let’s move on to curtains and drapes for our next category for budget window treatments that look expensive.


This first idea is fairly common and that is to apply a trim to the fronts and sometimes the bottom of the drapes. We did this kind of applied trim dozens of times for clients. Sometimes plain and quite often my favorite Greek Key trim.


These kinds of trim are usually sewn on by hand.


greek-key-drapery-trim - LBI - custom window treatments

The above is from a job we did several years ago.


However, what if you don’t have a sewing machine? Or, you have six thumbs and four fingers?


Well, you don’t have to sew these days.


economical decorating ideas-via Ballard Design adding trim to drapes with Stitch Witchery - great decorating advice


Please check out this beauty. These ready-made curtains from Ballard Designs have a trim applied after purchase, and without sewing! Did they glue it on?


Tutorial via Ballard Designs

STITCH-Witchery-TapeNo-Sew-Hem-Tape-BLACK-OR-WHITE - great decorating advice for no-sew creatins

No, they used stitch witchery, an iron-on adhesive. I’ve seen tutorials that explain how to create all sorts of things, and NO SEWING INVOLVED!


How to trim drapes by Ballard Designs with a tutorial that requires no sewing whatsoever!


However, other products are on the market for no-sew curtains and other soft furnishings.


Please check reviews and other information. Also, if anyone has had great success using no-sew adhesives or tapes, please let us know what works and what doesn’t work as well.

Please click on any image for more information.



It has come to my attention from a kind reader that she prefers using Steam A Seam. She found that stitch witchery tended to bleed through the fabrics. What I would do is buy a few of these and then make some samples, following the directions. Then, let dry and see which one performs best. Below is a mini widget for some of the Steam-A-Seam Products.

But, here are some terrific sources for trim on Etsy!

You’ll also see some fantastic sources in the big widget later on.


cool draperies - Greek Key trim - Kelly Wearstler - Viceroy Hotel Palm Springs image - ish and chi - blog


The next idea I got years ago when I found this image on the ish and chi – blog from seven years ago!


The location of this window with the gorge drapery is the Viceroy Hotel in Palm Springs, CA.


However, this is the only image I had.

The design is by the darling Kelly Wearstler. Remember her? She’s the decorator who got arrested in Florida for practicing without a license.

I realize that sounds very clickbait-like, however, it’s true. My idol, Darryl Carter, and the legendary Juan Montoya were also arrested in Florida. WTF??? It’s a very entertaining post. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Well, I loved this trim so much (and still do) that I used it on at least four or five of the boards in the Laurel Home Paint & Palette Collection. But, I had no idea what the trim actually looked like, not folded.


pale avocado living room - LH Palette Collection

This is one of my favorite mood boards from the Laurel Home Paint and palette collection. There are 40 of these boards and 40 palettes. And, guess what my favorite part is? Yeah, the curtains with that awesome trim.

So, I had this crazy idea to reproduce the trim without seeing the full repeat.


I began doing searches for running Greek key trim.


I couldn’t find it anywhere.

Okay, so what did I do?  Well, I went on picmonkey and created a grid, and then I started recreating the parts I could see. I figured if I started with that, knowing it’s a meander, I might be able to reconstruct it.

original graphic Greek Key
Part one. I did a screenshot and saved it. And then I came back and added the screenshot to what you see above, only I turned it upside down.

custom key border copy 2OMG! That’s it! I was so excited.

custom key border
Then, I created the entire pattern including the top and bottom trim. The height of the trim is about 12″ – 14″. But, you could scale it a little bigger if needed. Kelly’s, actually, IS bigger. Or, at least, it is when it’s used as a valance.


A valance?

Yeah. I found it AFTER I had recreated it. Still, it was a great exercise and gratifying to solve the pattern puzzle.

The above, is from one of the hotel rooms at the Viceroy in Palm Springs designed by Kelly Wearstler. My design is more square and a little looser. Kelly’s is more rectangular and tighter.

creating on picmonkey - Greek Key border
This is a screenshot of my design on picmonkey. If you want what I think is a helpful tutorial on how to use picmonkey, click here. It’s not difficult and it’s a lot of fun. I’m completely self-taught. And, remember, I’m a (former) computerphobe.


So, now the question is, how do you make this design on the bottom of a plain linen or cotton curtain?


Thank you, that is a very good question. I’m afraid that my capabilities are more conceptual than actual. haha. This is why I rarely make anything. I lack patience or fine motor skills or something. It’s just not fun for me.


greek key trim diagram roman shade

original source unknown


Fortunately, Kristi from Addicted 2 Decorating loves doing this stuff and always does it well. In this post, she puts together a gorgeous drape with one of my favorite Greek Key corner trims. The one above isn’t hers. But, her design is very similar.

In addition, you can see other posts I’ve done on the blog, such as this one about all kinds of Roman shades and some great ideas to dress them up.


So, one way to create the Kelly Wearstler design is with tape as Kristi from Addicted to Decorating Did.


Another way would be to paint the design on. That would require a stencil and a tremendous amount of patience. But, it could be done.


But, I want to talk about another favorite way to make budget window treatments look amazing.


This idea is also my favorite remedy if your drapes are too short.


World Market ikat curtains - budget window treatments


These ikat curtains from World Market are super cheap. (and great reviews, too) However, they are also only 84″ long.

tsk, tsk… 84″ is so 1992. We no longer do 84″ curtains unless the ceiling height is only 7 feet or so. 84″ is too short for an 8-foot ceiling. The only choice is to mount the curtain rod on the window frame. (casing) These days, we are mounting the drapes much higher.


before and after contrast hem - budget window treatments - look expensive


The solution is to add a deep hem. We can also add a border to the front, but that isn’t essential. The fabric looks like it has a slight pattern because the ikat is showing through. I did that so that the folds would still show. But, usually, we do a solid pattern.

I adore this look! And, have done it for clients who possessed some curtains that were too short. That was a gratifying solution.


Now, we need to go over some things NOT to do when working with budget window treatments.


The hem is too deep. This is a ready-made, but if it was custom, this is a wonderful example of a low sill that is the perfect height for the contrast hem. The drapes should be longer as well and go up several inches above the window.

Usually, the hem is from 14″ – 18″. However, if your sill is at 20″, then it’s fine to follow that line.



If the ready-made curtains come with back tabs, please do not use them.


If there’s a rod pocket on a curtain, and it’s a stationary panel and gathered, I’m okay for a casual look to have the rod going through the pocket.


Pocket drape with a Kenney Turino rod and finial.


Otherwise, I feel that this curtain which looks glued to the rod instead of hanging from it is unprofessional and cheap-looking. If you feel otherwise, it’s okay. But, to my eye, it looks wrong.

We’ve been through this before, but I feel compelled to speak up as the marketplace is determined to impose this  21st-century abomination on us.


Here’s another wrong one. The panel is lovely, but the header looks stuck to the rod, not hanging from it.


What to do instead?


Always use rings with hooks. If you want more information about decorative curtain and drapery hardware, please check out one of my favorite posts.

And no clips, please, unless it’s a super casual room.


budget window treatments - EFF-Signature-Antique-Lace-French-Linen-Sheer-Curtain-Panel from overstock

The curtain above is hung properly, using hooks and rings, thus exposing the rod. Yes, the rings are an added expense, but curtains stuck to your rod will never hang right, and they will scream BUDGET WINDOW TREATMENTS!


For an extensive post about drapery hardware, please go here.


For good-looking and inexpensive window treatments another choice is bamboo blinds, below. They’re great alone, or layered with curtains.


budget window treatments - woven wood blind

Arlo Blinds


These are so cheap, I’m wondering if they are okay.


But the reviews are splendid. And they have many styles and sizes to choose from. (info in the link)

Please note that the bamboo shades above are NOT LINED. That means they are not private. They will make the room darker, but, folks can see through them at night.


Yes, Laurel made that mistake once for a client job.


Oy. Four bedroom windows. Fortunately, I was able to send them back and have them retrofitted with lining. But, it still cost me a few hundred dollars, plus shipping, to get them fixed.

These blinds are terrific alone or underneath your curtains or drapes. You can see an example in this post about a young woman who inherited her granny’s dated furniture.


For an extensive post about woven wood blinds, please go here.


And please enjoy more shades, curtains, trim, drapes, and hardware in the widget below.


(please click on the individual images for more info. Also, a few of these treatments are not cheap, but they are not expensive either. But, totally lovely, I think.)



I hope you enjoyed learning some of my tips and tricks about how to make budget window treatments look more custom.



PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES. Huge Easter weekend update!


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18 Responses

  1. —Great information blog. An extensive range of interior solutions to create workplaces that inspire and excite. A designer and dedicated project manager will be with you throughout the project.

  2. How I found out I was claustrophobic. I ordered lined bamboo shades for two windows. No more. All bamboo shades are now unlined. Also to make my curtains look lush, I store paper shopping bags that I need for recycling behind the curtains. Puffs them right out.

  3. Dear Laurel, Happy 11th Blogiversary! Thank you for the great examples of window coverings that won’t break the bank. You’ve given me some excellent ideas. Also, thank you for the links to purchase trim. I’m itching to put some Greek key trim on something (thanks to you)!!

  4. Very useful reading! I have Arlo shade above in several rooms and people always ask me where I got them. I think they look very nice and the price sure works for my window budget. I do most of my own curtains (I even made a Roman shade once) but hadn’t thought about adding trim. Now I’m going to shop around for some Greek Key designs. If you ever do another post about making inexpensive curtains look high end, I would like to read about how many rings per panel, how deep the hem should be, what kind of hem fabric selection, etc. It’s not easy information to find. Thanks for all of the ideas and links!

  5. I’ve used Stitch Witchery tape, but it was to tack up a hem—haven’t tried applying drapery trim.

    To (a fellow:) Elizabeth, who commented on the fullness of custom drapes vs ready-made, custom usually are lined *and* interlined (with bump, which is more substantial and helps with the fullness—but is probably not easily replicated). They are also typically 1 1/2 to 2 widths of fabric (or more, depending on the window width) while ready-mades are single width. When I’ve used ready-mades for larger windows I’ve typically ordered two panels per side and had them stitched together.

  6. This is about inexpensive curtain rods that are telescoped together rather than one solid rod. Another non-custom money saver many of us use in our homes. I’ve struggled with pulling my rings across the “bump” where the two rods come together. They always got stuck at that point. This gliding tape made all the difference in the world:
    Modtek curtain & rod glide tape.
    I highly recommend it. And congratulations on your blogiversary Laurel!

    1. Hi Shelley,

      Thanks so much! We always used a silicone spray. Or, if we didn’t have that a little bar soap or beeswax also works applied to the top of the rod. If using the silicone spray, it is best to apply it outside, by first spraying it on a rag and wiping it on. (a little goes a long way) It is verrry slippery, so can be a problem if it gets on the floor.

      If there’s a center support(s) and the rings need to pass it, that’s another matter. In that case, we used C-rings. There’s a link to some in the widget in the post.

  7. Congratulations on you blogaverssiary! Thank you for all this information! I just wish I had read your post on wallpaper BEFORE I ordered my wallpaper that I was terrified (I know, a bit dramatic) was going to be discontinued before my new build is finished. Fingers crossed that I purchased enough and that when hanging time comes, I can find someone competent to hang it!

  8. Congratulations Laurel on your blog anniversary. Thank you for the years of entertainment and education. Yes, DIY window treatments can be done. I even made a set of lined pinch pleat drapes back in the 90s despite not knowing the first thing about sewing. However, life is short and I’d rather be birding. In fact, I may rather stick a pin in my eye than sew. I’ve used your suggestion of budget panels with good rods and rings to great effect in my home. I took the panels to my local seamstress to be hemmed and trimmed. A inexpensive solution with no sewing involved. I do hang my own rods. I like that sort of thing.

  9. Can you write about window treatments for small, 8 foot ceiling mid century homes, limited budget, up/down shades or blinds? Prices are so high, what are options. Interior casings are white.

  10. Laurel, This post is wonderful. It has so many creative ideas, resources to help and methods to get the job done! I’ll refer back many times to this post.
    Thank you,

  11. I really dislike drapes that puddle on the floor (my dog would create a nest) or are on the floor by an inch or so. The pleats will need to be arranged every time they are drawn open or closed, will get dirty sooner and IMHO just look like they were mismeasured or installed incorrectly. Absolutely love the white drapes with black trim.

  12. Wayfair has nice, neutral, light-blocking and budget-priced panels, especially on sale. But they always come with the 3-way header that makes them hang weirdly, as Laurel says. For two of my wide and drafty windows I bought four panels and sewed two together for each side. This is the fussy part because the lining has to be tacked down by hand because it’s not as wide as the fabric. I ripped off the tabs on the header and restitched the edges. Then I used the instructions on Susan Woodcock’s homedecgirl workroom channel to make Euro pleats. She has a trick for hiding the tack that makes it super easy. The result is casual and chic-looking draperies for around $30 a panel! (Watch for sales!)

  13. Laurel, Ready-mades aren’t as full as custom drapes.

    I’ve added my own hidden layer with off-the-shelf blackout liner pinned to the back. It helps – but doesn’t entirely solve the problem.

    Any tips?

  14. Hi Laurel,
    Love your blog! My husband and I are moving in about a month to a house built in 1787. It has been renovated but fortunately was done to maintain the character and finishes of an old house. It has gorgeous original floors, lots of hand carved cabinetry and those beautiful deep window frames. My question is, what kind of window treatments work for a house of that age? There are some windows I would do nothing to, but bedroom and bathrooms definitely need some kind of privacy. I do sew a good bit, so making something myself is not out of the question. I just don’t want to compromise the style and flavor of this old girl!
    Thanks much!

  15. I’ll second Em’s recommendation of the Workroom channel by Susan Woodcock! I recently made five sets of drapes for my living room. Susan’s Workroom channel helped me all the way way through the long process. I wound up lining and interlining the drapes and hand sewing them. I spent a fraction of the price of even ready-made drapes.

  16. Dear Laurel, this may be the time to confess that I have vertical blinds – and a carpet! – in my sitting room (John having insisted on both). I hate vertical blinds, so I had to find a way to make them attractive. I bought the cheapest option online, with centre-opening header cassettes, and enough ‘Navajo’-design curtain fabric to make the main curtains and a cover for each blind slat. It was my first sewing project and it took months. And I mean months and months. It still cost well over a thousand pounds for the curtains and blinds. But getting them made up would have been prohibitive, maybe not even possible. The end result is the best compromise we’ve made in our house. He has his privacy option for the street-facing windows; I have the same fabric all the way round the room. And we’ve both caught the sewing bug. Thanks for a great post, Laurel. I hope people take you up on the invitation to DIY. It really is doable if you go slowly, even for ten-left-fingered people like me.

  17. It can be done!
    The Workroom Channel offers Susan Woodcock’s spectacular, reasonable, easy-to- follow class on how to make handcrafted curtains.
    I even used shamefully inexpensive Ikea cotton linen panels, ripped open all the seams and headers, and used the fabric to make lined/interlined/trimmed, europleated curtains for my dining room.
    To answer your question Laurel, I did—very carefully—use glue to apply my trim tape. It was Fringe Adhesive from Rowley… SUPER product!!!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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