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.
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.