Inspiration & Information

Pinch Pleat Curtains

What exactly is a pinch pleat curtain?  I find that everyone uses a slightly different terminology when it comes to drapery pleat styles.  With that in mind, pictures are worth a thousand words, so let’s take a look at different ways to make a pinch pleat.

Pinch pleat curtains can be styled to fit your design personality

Traditional Pinch Pleat Curtains

Pinch pleat curtains, often called French pleat curtains or draperies are traditionally made up of three “fingers” per pleat. A small tack at the bottom holds these fingers together.  In this case, the client’s home was French country making the pleat style the perfect choice.  The banding adds a special detail that really elevates the design.

Photo of a pinch pleat curtains in white linen with a wide blue band
Katie Porter of KP Design Studio designed these gorgeous drapes for her Rancho Santa Fe client. This close up photo really shows off the intricate blue banding from Kravet
pinch pleat curtains in a living room framing a view to the courtyard outside.
The style and details of of these pinch pleat draperies is perfect for this French country home designed by KP Design Studio.

Sometimes less is more, so I often pare the pleat down to just two fingers like the photo below. I recommend this style for a more casual look or when a tighter stack-back is needed. Stack-back refers to the space a drapery takes up when it’s pushed back from the window.  It’s especially helpful if there isn’t much room on either side of the window.

A close of a pinch pleat drapery with orange and pick embroidered on a brushed nickel drapery rod.
A pared down version of pinch pleat curtains has just two fingers of fabric in each pleat.
embroidered floral fabric pleated into draperies with brown velvet button and matching band
Delicately embroidered flowers and vines on a linen ground allow the button and ribbon accents to really stand out.

Details, details!

My client and I got very creative with the details for the dining room drapes in the photo above.  This is another version of the two finger pinch pleat, but the addition of tiny velvet buttons and matching ribbon banding add a charming detail.  That’s the beauty of custom made draperies, the sky is the limit and almost anything we can dream up, we can create!

Contemporary Pinch Pleat Curtains

I’m amazed at how many variations we create that start out with the simple pinch pleat.  The purpose of the pleat is to maintain even fullness when they are pulled.  Below are a few of my projects showing the various ways we’ve adapted the pinch pleat to suit the homeowner’s personal style. Each has a different design aesthetic but there’s no right or wrong, just what’s right for each of my clients.

cream pinch pleat drapes and iron curtain rod paired down to just one finger per pleat
This simple version of a pinch pleat drape contains just one finger of fabric. I call this a knife pleat. It is best known for its very small stacking space.

Below, we used a beautiful fabric from Stroheim to create these cartridge pleat drapes.  French pleats starts out like this, but then the “fingers” get folded in to create a set of three. With this style, we leave the fingers out and stuff Dacron into the opening to retain the round shape of each pleat.

sheer drapery panels on a contemporary rod with metal art in the foreground
This stunning fabric from Stroheim was used in a design project I worked on with Dana from the The Dana Touch design firm.
Close up of sequined draperies with a cartridge pleat style
This close up gives you a better view of that gorgeous sequined fabric as well as the pretty pleat styling.
Close up of cream and brown linen drapes overlaid with a slight metallic sheen.
Inverted pleats can read more contemporary than a French pleat. I designed this cream and brown drape with a small beaded welt dividing the two colors. We used the client’s vintage brass and acrylic hardware for a stunning look in her dining room.

I love these brown and cream draperies. I’ve shown this picture in other blogs, but it’s a perfect example of a more contemporary version of a pinch pleat curtain.  Essentially, it is what a French pleat looks like on the reverse side.  As a designer, I love to get creative with fabrics and design details, but sometimes I wish I knew exactly how a new pleat style came to be. They all seem so obvious once you’ve seen them, but wouldn’t it be cool to invent a new pleat?  The examples above are just a few variations that allow us to create the right drapery look for every style. If YOU have an idea about creating something you have never seen before, or, if you saw something you like in the photos above, I would love to be part of that collaboration.


Reader Interactions


  1. Victoria Addington says

    It helped when you mentioned that pinch pleat curtains add a special detail that really enhance the design. My friend wants to add pinch pleat curtains to their home. I should advise her to go for it to achieve her desired style.

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Meet Myrna

Myrna Everett is the founder and lead designer of San Diego-based Home Vogue Interiors, a provider of custom window fashions and designer soft goods. She is known for her fresh yet timeless design perspective and her commitment to opening her clients’ eyes to the endless possibilities available for window fashions and other finishing touches in their homes.

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