Choosing the right curtain header

There are a wide range of curtain header styles available, not only do they provide functional characteristics but they will also greatly impact the look and feel of the room; whether the space takes on a traditional or more modern sensibility.

Curtains can completely transform an interior space, adding impact, privacy and comfort. It’s an age old saying that a window unfurnished is a window unfinished. But when designing custom made curtains there are a lot of decisions to be made throughout the process. The first task is specifying the fabric, this specification needs to be based on aesthetic, performance and budget requirements.

As part of the specification process you need to resolve the appropriate heading style. This is how the fabric is sewn or pleated at the top of the curtain, and it will have a direct impact on the way in which the fabric will drape or hang as well functional characteristics such as stack back (the amount of space a curtain will occupy when fully drawn open).

There are a wide range of heading styles available, not only do they provide functional characteristics but they will also greatly impact the look and feel of the room; whether the space takes on a traditional or more modern sensibility. 

Below we discuss the 6 most popular heading styles across Australia and New Zealand as outlined by our clients and we summarise appropriate fabric choices for each. 

1) Box Pleat, also known as an Inverted Pleat

A classic curtain heading style that creates a tailored, elegant look. Deeply inverted pleats run across the top of the curtain to create a flat heading style that is designed to sit neatly under a curtain rod or on a track.

Creating uniformed folds, a box pleat is suited to most fabrics however consideration must be taken when using highly pattered designs, especially geometrics, as the pleating can disrupt the pattern match.

A great heading style when using a standard width fabric as joins can be hidden into the fold of the pleat thus minimising the appearance of unsightly seams.

Sloane is a beautiful 100% linen wide width sheer, photographed with a Box Pleat header. This image is wonderful illustration of how a Box Pleat can affect the pattern match at the top of the curtain, however given Sloane has a medium scale, soft damask motif this works beautifully, giving the curtain relaxed, softly disrupted look. Used continuously there is no vertical pattern matching required or seams. 

2) Wave header, also known as an S-Fold

Modern and contemporary, a Wave curtain heading style creates a simple clean line which is perfectly suited to most solid, patterned and sheer fabrics. Through the use of a structured bukram tape, secured to the rear of the header, the fabric is evenly distributed in a symmetrical Wave formation.

The use of wide width fabrics is an effective way to achieve a continuous line across a window with no joins or seams, leading to manufacturing efficiencies with less stitching required.

Synthetic fabrics particularly suit a Wave heading style by maintaining stable formation over large windows as opposed to some natural fibres that may fall in a more relaxed manner. 

3) Flat Panel 

A simple curtain heading style with very little fullness, thus creating a minimalist, contemporary aesthetic.

Perfect for solid and sheer fabrics as well as a wonderful option for patterned fabric as there are no pleats to interrupt the pattern repeat. A flat panel is also a great header style for a sheer behind a fully lined curtain on a double track as it sits neatly underneath, with very little stack-back. 

Given the relaxed look of this header style it lends itself well to high quality linens, for casual sophistication. 

flat panel

4) Pinch Pleat headers, including Single, Double and Triple Pinch Pleats

A Pinch pleat creates a classic look. The pleats are created through folded creases in the stiff buckram inserted within the header. Hooks are then inserted and the curtain can be hung on a track, or the more popular choice is hanging this header style from a rod. The three varieties of Pinch Pleat headers are distinguished by the number of folds/creases at the top (single, double or triple) as well as the fullness, the stack back and the overall look.   

1. Single Pinch Pleat, also known as the New York Pleat

Of the three Pinch Pleat varieties, the Single Pinch pleat curtain heading style offers a more modern aesthetic. An economical use of fabric, ideal for small spaces that stacks well and is suitable for a range of fabrics including sheers, solids and patterns. Particularly effective for heavier fabrics.

2. Double Pinch Pleat, also known as the Dutch Pleat

This curtain heading style is a versatile and often more traditional look that creates an even, consistent aesthetic with neat stackback. A contemporary feel, whilst maintaining fabric efficiency, the finished look is full, smart and elegant. The Double Pinch Pleat is easy to install and has great draping qualities. The soft structured look of this pleat makes it suitable for not only full-length curtains but to curtains that finish at dado level (bottom third of the wall, approximately, windowsill height).

3. Triple Pinch Pleat, also known as the French Pleat

This is often considered a very formal, traditional heading style that creates a sumptuous, full curtain. This decorative curtain heading style is best chosen for an expansive room, where it can be fully admired. It lends itself well to luxurious, opulent fabrics however it does require more fabric than the Single and Double Pinch Pleat curtain heading styles.  

Zia - A beautifully structured but soft handle standard fabric that is composed of Viscose/Linen. Perfectly suited to the even and consistent nature of a double pinch pleat that with a generous hem adds a sense of relaxed elegance to a room. 

Charlton offers an element of simplistic elegance and is a semi sheer plain weave construction that is 100% polyester. A wide with fabric that creates a simple yet modern classic style that suits a single pinch pleat curtain heading style. As featured with a puddled hem it creates elongated lines that add height to a room with a neat stack that creates an overall dramatic look. 

5) Pencil Pleat, also known as a Gathered header

Like its name suggests, this curtain heading style has small pencil sized pleats that create a tightly gathered header. It provides a simple option of heading due to the nature of the heading tape, this tape allows you to gather the fabric to your desired fullness. The fullness of the pencil pleat will vary on the amount you gather the pull cords. Due to the fullness that can be achieved by this heading style we recommend avoiding very heavy or bulky fabrics as these can disrupt the even distribution of the gathering.


Homegrown | Adam Cornish Design

People & Places

We speak to Adam Cornish of Adam Cornish Design from Melbourne.  As a multidisciplinary designer, Adam aims to create honest accessible products developed through research and by allowing products to find their natural expression. By combining strong, simple design solutions with a palette of natural tactile materials Adam strives to create individual products with visual and physical longevity.