Until recently, most of the window-treatment hardware readily available to consumers was manufactured by just a few companies and consisted of a limited selection of rods, rings, and finials. For more interesting―and much costlier―hardware, you had to order through a decorator or find a shop specializing in brass or other metalwork.

Now choices abound, thanks to an explosion of interest in home decorating. You'll find all kinds of appealing, useful, and affordable items in fabric stores, linen and bedding shops, home furnishing stores, mass-merchandise outlets, and mail-order catalogs. Where you might once have seen a preponderance of strictly functional hardware that was meant to be concealed, today decorative items rule the racks.

The following are the main types of rods and accessories you'll encounter.

Stationary rods

These include decorative models for hand-pulled curtains attached by tabs, ties, rings, hooks, or clips, as well as concealed types for fixed panels, such as sash curtains, rod-pocket curtains, and valances.

Decorative rods. In the past, most of the widely sold metal rods were café models: narrow-diameter, round or fluted brass rods with understated finials. The café rods are still around, but in colorful painted finishes as well as brass. The metal-rod category has grown to include rods of assorted diameters and finishes, including bright or antiqued brass, wrought iron, verdigris, brushed nickel, and pewter. Some rods adjust to various lengths, while others come in fixed lengths to accommodate a number of window widths.

Rather than resting immobile in brackets, some decorative metal rods are hinged so you can swing the rod with its curtain away from the open window or door. You move the swing rod back toward the window when you want the glass covered.

Wooden poles are sold plain or fluted in a choice of diameters (typically 13⁄8 and 2 inches) and various lengths (most commonly 4, 6, or 8 feet), which can be cut to fit. You can get poles unfinished, stained, or painted in solid colors as well as distressed, crackled, or otherwise "antiqued."

The many types of metal rods and wood poles are supported by brackets that you attach to the wall or window frame. If a rod is longer than about 5 feet, you'll need a center support, which is usually in a loop shape. Though some rods and poles incorporate finials, many accept screw-in finials of your choice. These end pieces can give your window treatment a lot of extra appeal.

Pole sets, which have a wood or metal finish but are actually constructed of rolled steel, usually come complete with pole, finials, and decorative brackets. The poles are adjustable in length.

Wire rods are newcomers to the decorative-rod category. The rod is sold with a length of wire, special brackets, and a center support. You attach the curtain (lightweight fabrics are recommended) to the wire with decorative clips.

 

Concealed rods. The most familiar type is the adjustable white metal lock-seam rod, though other, more stylish choices in various metallic finishes are available -- and with those, you won't mind if some of the hardware is visible. With a standard lock-seam rod, you insert one piece into another, then snap the ends onto brackets that you affix to the wall or window frame. Single flat rods are made with projections (the distance they stick out from the bracket) ranging from about 11⁄4 to 6 inches. Those with deeper projections, allowing them to clear other treatments beneath them, are sometimes called valance rods. Double and triple rods accommodate layered treatments.

Other common concealed options are the sash rod, which holds sash or hourglass curtains neatly against French doors and casement windows, and the tension rod, which has a spring mechanism to keep the plastic- or rubber-tipped ends snugly within the window frame.

Yet another type is the wide-pocket rod, available in widths up to 41⁄2 inches. Inserting the rod into a heading on an abbreviated panel is a quick, easy way to make a shirred valance. An optional foam fascia that snaps onto the rod can be covered with fabric for an instant cornice. Special corner brackets allow you to use wide-pocket rods in bay windows.

Other concealed rods include flat types hinged to fit corner and bay windows, and custom-bent and flexible rods to follow curves on arched windows. Purely functional swing rods are also available.

Traverse rods

These adjustable rods are used for draperies that open and close with a cord or a wand. The rod contains sliding holders, called carriers, into which you slip the drapery hooks. When the draperies are closed, the rod is hidden; when they are open, the rod is visible unless cloaked by a top treatment.

A two-way traverse rod, which moves the panels from the center to the ends and back, is standard. A one-way traverse rod, which moves only one panel in one direction, is used over sliding patio doors or where two windows meet at a corner. Custom traverse rods for bay or other odd-shaped windows can be special-ordered from drapery suppliers. On all types, you need a center support, which fits over the rod and screws into the wall, for rods wider than about 41⁄2 feet.

Decorative traverse rods work the same way as conventional types, but they're designed to be seen whether the treatment is open or closed. The draperies are attached to rings that slide on a concealed track. Many people prefer a decorative stationary rod and rings to which they attach curtain hooks or clips. The greater choices in stationary rods makes up for having to move the fabric panels by hand.

 

Accessories

The strictly functional accessories stocked by stores carrying curtain rods include items such as weights for drapery hems, extension plates for mounting brackets beyond the window frame without putting holes in the wall, and stackable shims to build out blind and shade brackets to clear window trim or handles. Various gizmos designed to help you create no-sew top treatments, such as plastic valance pleaters, are also sold.

Additionally, you'll find lots of useful but highly decorative items, including finials, ornamental brackets, holders for swags and scarves, and holdbacks. All offer many opportunities to be creative with window treatments.

Finials. These end pieces add a lot of character and charm to a window treatment. You'll find an intriguing selection in a wide range of sizes, motifs, and finishes including various metals, wood, glass, ceramic, rattan, and molded resin. Finials come in innumerable shapes, including spears, arrows, balls, leaves, pineapples, moons, stars, suns, scrolls, birdcages, flowers, and seashells.

Brackets. Once strictly utilitarian or unimaginative in design, these supports, which you affix to the top outer edges of the window frame or to the wall, now come in an extensive array of motifs.

Types sold for supporting a rod or pole range from subtly decorative to highly ornate, and they come in the same materials as rods and finials. With some, you set the rod or pole in a depression in the bracket; others have a loop that you place the rod through. A center bracket, typically in a loop shape, is usually recommended for rods longer than 5 feet.

Many products labeled as "sconces" or "scarf holders" are ornate brackets with a hole in the middle (it is visible only from the side) that you can use to support a rod or thread a swag or scarf through -- or you can use the same brackets to serve both functions.

Generally quite large and sculptural, these brackets are often made of resin molded into shapes such as animal and human figures, grape clusters, flowers, and leaves.

Holdbacks. These include various types of decorative hardware for holding draperies and curtains, or even tailed swags and scarves, to the sides of a window. Some styles can be mounted at the tops of windows and used in the same way as brackets to anchor swags and scarves; others are inappropriate for that use.

Holdbacks come in various sizes, designs, and finishes, just as brackets do. Most consist of a plate that you attach to the wall or window frame, a stem that juts out several inches, and a decorative front piece. If the decorative piece is hooked, you tuck the fabric into the hook; otherwise, you secure it behind the front piece. You can also attach tassels and other tiebacks to this type of hardware.

Rings, clips, and hooks. These once-simple items for attaching curtains and draperies to rods have acquired some flair over the years. Today's options include wrought-iron rings in various finishes, sleekly twisted hooks, and clips hidden behind decorative faces shaped like leaves, stars, and other objects.

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