The drapes and the decor of the room determine the style of the rod.

How to Choose the Right Drapery Rod, Type & Color

by Linda Erlam

The drapery rod controls the function of your drapes. It must be workable for you and your family, blend into the design scheme of the room, complement the drapes and be the right color. While this may seem like a lot of things to keep in mind, if you make the choice following a decorator’s process, the process of elimination will lead you to the right rod for your drapes and for your family's needs.

Type and Function

The type of your drapery will determine the basic type of drapery rod you require. For example, if your drapes are pleated, they typically attach to the rod by a drapery pin, and the rod you choose must accommodate drapery pins. However, they may be a back-tab pleated drape, in which case a round rod runs through the channel formed by the back tabs. If your drapes are made to open either from the center or one way from either direction, they may operate on a cord-driven system or by hand. A cord-driven system that opens this way is called a traverse rod. If you require a rod that allows the drapes to move freely without impediment by the brackets, you require a rod that hangs from the brackets rather than resting in them. For example, you may need a hanging traverse rod for drapes that must be opened all the way without bracket interference and be operated by a cord system. Remember to arrange for the hanging cords to be secured above the reach of any child.


Drapery rods attach to the wall or window casing by brackets. The base of the bracket varies in length and width, depending on the style, function and maker of the rod. While it is preferable to install a rod into a stud, it may not be possible in your situation. Read the installation instructions of your chosen bracket for information about surface types. Look at the window wall and measure the amount of space available for bracket installation before completing the rod choice.


The style of your drapery will lead to your choice of the rod style. A formal drape requires a formal rod. For example, a cord-driven traversing system for a formal living room could include a wood rod with large wood finials, routed to conceal the track for the cord and rod components. It could be a metal top-hanging system with techno-styled finials for a modern room. A traditional-styled room could warrant crystal finials on a fluted wood pole. If you choose to have a valance over your drapery treatment, the rod will be concealed, and therefore its style is not important; in this case a less expensive, utilitarian rod may be acceptable.

Color and Finish

The color of your metal drapery rod typically matches the other metal finishes in the room. A painted wood rod can match the molding, baseboards, window trim or wall color, or be a high-contrast color, depending on the amount of attention you wish to draw to the rod itself. A stained wood rod should match another wood element in the room.

About the Author

Linda Erlam started writing educational manuals in 1979. She also writes a biweekly newspaper column, "Design Dilemmas," in the "Lakeshore News" and has been published in "Design and Drapery Pro" magazine. Erlam is a graduate of the Sheffield School of Interior Design and is a practicing interior decorator and drapery workroom operator.

Photo Credits

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