Bay window drapes

Your bay window drapes need to look right because bay windows are often a focal point in the room. They can be dealt with in a number of ways.

The structure and position of the walls and windows has a greater influence on what sort of treatment you use than for standard windows.

So before you rush off to think about the position and design of drapes etc, here are some details you should consider.

Hardware options

Today there are many more hardware options available than in the past. Once you had to have separate tracks for each section, or use a single track which could be bent into the shape of the bay.

Now you can buy poles which have special support brackets. The rings are able to move freely over the angle sections.

So the initial project is to find out all your hardware options. Some track and pole manufacturers don't operate in all countries, so you'll need to find out what is available in your locality.

Are the hardware fittings suitable?

Because of how windows are situated in bays, it's often quite difficult to install standard fittings.

So when you've decided on the hardware you want to use, make sure it's possible to install the brackets and other fittings. Sometimes the holes for screws don't align with the wall or frame where you want to fit the brackets.

Many tracks have brackets which can be 'top fixed' to the ceiling or upper support, or 'face fixed' to the wall or frame. Check which would be best for your situation.

Sometimes the best solution is to fit mounting boards in the bay, which will then support both tracks and some form of top treatment for your bay window drapes such as a valance or cornice.

Pull cords?

If you want to use pull cords for your bay window drapes, you'll probably have to use a track which can be bent into position. Most of the alternatives such as metal rods or poles don't have a pull cord option.

The alternative is to have separate tracks in each window section, but that means having three or more sets of cords to pull.

Designs for bay window drapes

In order to illustrate the different ways of treating them, we'll look at a simple three section bay, with windows from the floor to the bay ceiling. You can adapt the principles for your own situation.

Bay Window

bay window

This is the type of bay window we'll use for the examples. The windows reach from floor to ceiling, which in this case is lower than the main ceiling.

Your first task with any bay window is to examine the structural features.

  • Is it easy to fit brackets to the frame, wall or ceiling?
  • Will the fittings be secure?
  • Do any of the windows or doors open, and if so, will the mechanisms such as handles and catches have to be taken into account?
  • Will it matter if the drapes cover some of the windows, or should they be left free for daylight to enter the room?

2 Drapes

2 drapes bay

This is the simplest way of arranging your bay window drapes. It's more successful if you have wall space where the drapes hang.

In this illustration because the windows go right to the wall the drapes cover a significant amount of the windows on either side. It helps to tie back the drapes. This allows more daylight through, and also keeps the drapes out of the way of any open windows.

Where there is very little room above the windows, it's usually best to fit an unobtrusive track to support the drapes.

4 Drapes

4 drapes bay

Another design which works well is to have more than one pair of drapes.

Because there isn't as much fabric in each drape, they don't take up as much room as in the previous example. The drapes also hide the vertical parts of the frames, which makes for a much softer window treatment.

Another advantage is that you can use straight tracks or poles in each section, because the drapes don't have to move from one section to another. On large bays with floor to ceiling drapes this makes it easier to open and close the drapes.

Cornice (Pelmet)

cornice in bay window

If you have a bay which has wall space above the windows, it's easy to install a cornice or other top treatment.

But many bays are of the type illustrated here, and because there isn't much room (if any!) above the windows, cornices aren't even considered.

Sometimes the track you have to use isn't very nice to look at, or the window frame is unattractive. In these situations a cornice can be a good solution. You'll sometimes have to make the depth less than the optimum size, but as long as you can get away with a decent depth it can be a nice feature of your bay window drapes.

Pole Outside

pole bay window

I'd recommend you keep your design simple, but there are some options for you if you want to make a real feature of your window.

One solution is to completely ignore the actual bay, and treat it as if it were just another window. So you'd fit a pole, track or top treatment and not bother with anything in the bay area itself.

Another alternative is to combine drapes inside and outside the bay. So inside you could have shades, drapes or sheers at the actual windows, and then use the outside treatment for the main effect.

In this illustration a pole has been fitted to support drapes which can be fully closed and shut out the bay area completely. There are also drapes inside the bay.

Instead of a pole you could have a valance or cornice. You could also use dress drapes on the outside of the bay. These would just be made of one or one and a half widths each, so there's enough fabric to make then look presentable, but they would be fixed in place, perhaps tied back for effect.


As you can see, there are many options for bay window drapes. But it's important to take the practical aspects into consideration as well as the fabrics and style you decide on.

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