In my previous post on renovating our new condo prior to renting it out, I did mention that while hiring a makeover contractor, I asked to exclude curtains (and a few other items) from his quotation. Being a rather experienced curtain buyer, it was very easy to spot that a quote of RM 1800 and RM2300 respectively from both the makeover contractors I surveyed, were expensive.
My condo have 1 balcony with sliding door and 3 bedrooms; with the master bedroom having 2 rather awkwardly-designed 2 feet x 6 feet windows which are not evenly positioned from the edges (the right window being very close to the edge, while the left one is not). I found out that the windows are designed as such, such that the bedhead is at the center between them. But most of the owners, including myself, didn’t position the bedhead in between the windows as the bed will directly face the toilet! I heard it is bad fengshui… I trusted my Chinese contractors and neighbours.
And oh hey, irregardless, I don’t think I liked the idea of having the bed directly facing the toilet anyway.
Anyway, my point is, the amount of curtains or blinds required simply wouldn’t be as expensive as was being quoted and I could source it cheaper.
A few ground rules I set to myself on what I would not skimp on on the curtain purchase:
1. Only use plain, light-colored blackout curtain.
There are cheaper fabric options out there but a curtain could make or break the look of a house.
Blackout means that it will block out sunlight when drawn close. Most are 100% blackout, though some suppliers may also claim as low as 70% blackout (meaning, some light may still pass through, like what the heck can that be called a ‘blackout’)
2. No DIY curtain-sewing, and do not ask mummy to sew them for me, no matter how temptingly cost-effective it may be
I couldn’t even lift a needle, so no DIY sewing for me. And thank you mum for the offer. (She’s gonna take forever to get it done lol)
So my option would be to outsource the sewing to the cheapest possible tailor.
3. Full-height curtain for the nicest look
For illusion of bigger rooms and more exclusive. I learnt it the hard way – for the house that we currently live in, I wished we didn’t splurge too much on the fabric and instead spend a tiny bit more money to make the curtain a full height instead of a 9 feet length..
4. I outsourced curtain track supplies and installation
I found out that curtain tracks from hardware stores could cost 100% cheaper than those sold in the curtain or fabric shops. However, my husband strongly doubted its reliability – he thinks those cheap tracks from the mom-and-pop hardware store will not fluidly pull the curtains. Like, it’s gonna jump or tug when we try to pull the curtains.. (Anyone has experience purchasing curtain tracks from these stores?)
And since I don’t want to trouble my husband to lug a ladder and install the curtain tracks, I called in somebody to supply the tracks and install for me. He is a sub-contractor with Nagoya, so he came and measured my windows, provided the measurements to Nagoya for tailoring, and later installed the tracks for me. He even installed the curtains for me, even though it wasn’t part of his service! 🙂
OK then.. Since we are on the topic of curtains, unless they are ready-made, there are a few ‘elements’ that make up the cost of purchasing and workmanship of a curtain:
- Fabric cost
- Sewing cost
- Curtain railing / tracks
- Accessories – hook, tie-backs etc
- Others – installation cost, transportation etc
Fabric cost usually make up the single largest cost of the curtain, while sewing and curtain railing could vary depending on the length of your windows and what are the quotation received by the vendors.
From my experience, for almost similar feel and material of a curtain fabric, the cost does not normally vary too much from one shop to another.
On the other hand, sewing cost does vary and it pays to shop around for quotes.
Same goes for curtain tracks.
This was how I saved for the curtains:
1. I went with one of the cheapest blackout fabric
These are my two go-to places to shop for fabric: Nilai 3 and Jalan TAR. No, I would not buy from home expos. From my calculation, they are usually quite expensive and usually cater to ‘premium’ market.
Blackout fabric for curtains typically cost anywhere between RM 15 to perhaps around RM 60 per metre. Some ‘premium’ shops could even sell it at even higher price.
I found the perfect colour and the cheapest price at Kamdar of Jalan TAR, which was awesome as it is only a GRAB ride away from office. Imagine my pleasant surprise to find out that it was discounted at RM 10 per metre. But unfortunately on my next visit to place the order, the sale has ended and it went to about RM 12! I rugi about rm 58 right there…
2. Calculate the bottom line or total price of the curtain required (and not just the unit price)
This can get pretty technical, which I don’t wanna go into. If you have ever been purchasing curtains, you will know that there are different fabric sizes, I think they called it ‘bolt’ or ‘bidang’, the most common are: ‘bidang 54’, ‘bidang 60’, ‘bidang 110’ or ‘bidang 126’.
Simply put, a RM 45/metre price for a ‘bidang 126’ curtain doesn’t necessarily mean it is more expensive than an RM 30/metre price for a ‘bidang 60’.
Or for certain length of the curtain, for example a full-height curtain, in most cases depending on your calculation, a ‘bidang 60’ is a more cost-effective option than a ‘bidang 126’.
Anyway, it will tremendously help if one has some knowledge on this area rather than depending on the supplier to calculate it for you. Which brings me to the next point…
3. I scrutinized the supplier’s calculation
At one time, I saw one of the vendors used a 2.5x formula instead of 2x formula. This formula is how much ‘gather’ or ‘kedut’ my curtain would be.
A 2.5x gather means that she was making me pay for more fabric.
It is not necessarily a wrong thing to do. A 2.5x formula or higher simply means that the curtain will be more ‘flowy’ but a 2x formula is good enough for the type of curtain (i.e. sewing style) that I wanted for a rental property
4. I chose french pleat as the curtain sewing style
Less fabric used than other style such as eyelet
5. Only one curtain layer instead of two
This I didn’t realize, until I talked to my makeover contractor. He said that, most tenants do not appreciate the sheer curtain. You know that 2nd layer of translucent curtain when you draw the first curtain out.
Thank you for saving my hundreds on the sheer curtain.
6. I shopped around for vendor with the lowest sewing charges
I think I asked close to 7-8 tailors on their sewing charges. Money wasn’t the sole factor in my decision-making though. I also had to consider the time factor (some tailors couldn’t commit to finishing my curtain in 1-2 weeks) and convenience factor. One tailor required me to send the fabric to him in Subang, and then pick it up at Sungai Buloh! No thanks.
You know..in my opinion, the whole curtain industry in Malaysia is convoluted. What I mean is, for any layperson who has zero knowledge in calculating curtain lengths and prices, it is quite hard to quickly compare prices around. When I first dipped my toe getting my own house a new set of curtains, I got turned away by many vendors when I asked them to teach me how to calculate. Not until my sweet, patient mama taught me.
Recall that I caught a vendor using 2.5x formula in the calculation, that is, after I got back home and doing a re-calculation. It was not obvious in her calculation.
For sewing charges, some vendors will use a quotation of RM xx per piece as their sewing charge. Some will price their tailoring charge in per meter or per foot basis. One shop charged in per square foot basis. Comparing between per piece and per meter or feet is rather hard and can be frustrating if you’re trying to compare many vendors.
I finally decided to get the tailoring done with Nagoya where I bought the fabric itself. While it was only the 2nd cheapest of the vendors I surveyed around, but the arrangement was rather OK; didn’t save me a heck of time, as I have to go to and fro to pay and pick the curtains up, but good enough.
7. I opted for a ‘Roman Blind’ style for master bedroom
The window arrangement of the master bedroom is mind-boggling. I mean, how the heck do you style two panes of windows that small??
I started with 3 options on how best to dress these windows:
Option 1: Full height curtains, at the entire length of the wall (the whole 17 feet of the wall from end to end!)
Option 2:Full height curtains, but covering only the span of the 2 windows
Option 3: Installing zebra blinds, such as below (photo taken from one of the showrooms available in the condo)
The approximate total cost for the entire unit for each option:
Option 1: ~RM 1160
Option 2: ~RM 900
Option 3: ~RM 250 (for master bedroom’s zebra blinds) + RM 700 (for curtains of other rooms – fabric cost only) = RM 950
While I very much prefer Option 1, I felt quite apprehensive. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out – would it make the room smaller? Darker? More fabric to maintain?
I wanted to use zebra blinds but unfortunately a few vendors I surveyed could not commit to delivering the blinds within 1-2 weeks time, so I opted for the slightly more expensive option: roman blinds
Option 4: Installing roman blinds : RM 300 (master bed’s roman blinds) + RM 700 = RM 1000
Still cheaper than installing the entire span of the wall with curtains.
The Total Damage
In total, not accounting to miscellaneous cost such as my GRAB rides and my time costs, I spent a grand total of RM 1092.90 on all the curtains cost.
That was wayyy cheaper than the quoted RM 1800 and RM 2300 respectively, at least 39% savings. Yayyy!!