ARCHITECTURALLY, windows are perhaps the most important style feature of a house.
They connote the three greatest home essentials—light, heat and air; they give the home, to a great extent,its basic and original expression. It is, however, the dressing and treatment of those windows which finally expresses the individuality and character of the house and its inmates. If they are treated incorrectly and with bad taste any beauty and usefulness that they may have will be lost.
In a small western town a friend of mine acquired a new neighbor. Several weeks had passed, and my friend had not yet made her acquaintance.
“Aren’t you going to call on the new residents?” I asked her.
“Yes. I suppose I must, but the truth is that I am not awfully keen on making her acquaintance.”
“Well, I have purposely waited until she got up her curtains to see what manner of woman she was. They are most inappropriate, very badly hung, and shockingly dirty. I am really not anxious to know much more about her.”
Curtains should, without a doubt, enter into and more or less complete a scheme of decoration by “tying up” the colors of material and other furnishings of a room. But they must do more than that. The real purpose of curtains is to regulate and soften the light, keep out the drafts, form a frame for the outside view and a focusing spot of interest and beauty from the outside, and ensure privacy. Unless curtains are doing all these things they are not fulfilling their mission.
The matter of exposure enters into the lighting problem. A room facing south, particularly for summer use, needs curtains that temper the light, while a northern exposure, naturally lacking in brightness, should be treated with curtains that admit all the light possible, and add some warmth of color. To soften the glare of bright sun and turn it into a soft glow by the use of curtains is one thing, but to darken or to gloom a room by the use of heavy drapery is another to be avoided. Yet, at the same time, a bed-room window should be so curtained that no direct shaft of light can fall on the sleeper’s eyes in the morning, and the long French window should be protected from the cold blasts of winter air.
During recent years curtains often are used without regard to their original purpose. Curtains of the Middle Ages, on the other hand, were simply draped,
unpretentious hangings not made for decoration at all, but only to meet the practical needs of the inmates of the house—such as shutting out the drafts, and regulating and tempering the light. In the finest rooms of the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries the shutters and embrasures were decorated too finely to hide with curtains. Of course, curtains were used during this time, but they were regarded more or less as an extra evil to be used as sun blinds and window shades.
While curtains must be designed with reference to the inside of the rooms they decorate the outside effect must be considered. Too many types of curtains make a house restless and spotty, and to avoid this the same general character should be maintained as far as possible with outside curtains.
Window curtains usually consist of two component parts, the thin material placed against the glass known as glass curtains or under curtains, and the heavier ones known as inside hangings or overdraperies.
Perhaps the chief feature of successful curtaining is to keep them simple. Another thing to be regarded is that the windows may be opened and closed without difficulty. For this reason different arrangements must be used on different windows.
The under curtains for French windows should be attached directly to the sash, stretched between top and bottom rods of light material.
The side edges should be hemmed to keep them from stretching out of shape. Where the windows are very tall the top panes may be left uncovered to admit more light.
If the windows open inward the curtains may hang freely from the top instead of being stretched,
but if they open out this should never be done, as they blow about and soon become dirty.
The over draperies for this type of window may be of several kinds. But in all cases they should harmonize with the door hangings, if there should be any. Heavy materials may be used but these should be lined since both sides may be seen. If the curtains are to be drawn tight, the vallance, if any, must be hung on a separate rod. Care ought also to be taken to have the rods sufficiently strong to support them.
If the windows should open inward they will, in all probability, catch in the vallance. As a rule straight curtains at each side hung from a pole above the casing and arranged with cords to be drawn at night are the kind for this type of window.
Casement windows opening in are perhaps the most difficult to treat, unless there is a hinge or stop which prevents it from turning back flat against the trim so that there is sufficient space for a curtain to lie behind it when it is open. If this is the case, then casement windows both opening in and opening out may be treated in the same way, so far as under curtains go. The thin curtains may be attached either to the sash or to the trim. If they open out, a favorite method is to place the curtains on the base of the trim close to the over draperies particularly if the windows are in groups. It is best to hang them with rings and rods, so that they may be easily disposed of when the windows are open.
When they open in, however, the thin curtains would be better hung on the sash, but if the embrasure is deep enough they may be hung on its face, and so pushed aside when the window is open.
Over draperies for casements may be of the same height as used for French windows, but they should be shorter, hanging clear of the sill unless a special effect of height isffiesired.
The sliding window offers difficulty, too—especially in fixing the under curtains. If they are hung from the top of the window they are sucked out and flop against the sides of the house, and become dirty. If, on the other hand, they are stretched, it is difficult for the air to get through. In a bedroom it is a
good idea to have curtains on the lower sash only, with a light-colored shade in place of the upper curtains. For living rooms, however, this is not effective, and long curtains are more becoming. They should be hung with rings and rods and, for their own preservation, pushed aside when the windows are open. Where windows are in groups curtains may be hung so as to frame each one—treating ! the curtains as a single unit. The choice will depend a great deal on the space between them, the form of the trim, and the proportion of the openings.
The usual allowance of material for under curtains is about 1 times the j width of the window. It is just as well, however, to make ample allowance for I hems, shrinkage in washing and shirring and gathering. A wide hem adds to the effect of sheer materials like gauze. In order to hold these down neatly small leaden weights may be slipped in to make them hang well.
Where different materials are used • various finishes may be chosen. If not, hemmed organdy and other sheer curtains are made attractive if they are hemstitched. Georgette curtains are particularly pretty if picoted on the edge, either in a straight line, or in scallops or points. Thin, gauzy curtains are effective with a narrow-colored binding of perhaps the same shade as in the over curtains. Fringes are used to a great extent with cotton and heavier stuff such as casement cloth or pongee. If, however, one is striving for a simple effect in an under curtain perhaps a plain linen sponge bath with a plain, tailored hem is most desirable.
Where the over curtains are concerned the first thing to decide is the texture— whether cotton or silk, light or heavy, colored or plain, curtains are the most appropriate. In order to know this the walls and furniture, carpets and other things that go in the room will also have to be decided upon.
One of the safest methods in decorating a room is to make the curtains all one color. If this scheme is followed out colors of one tone will seldom clash with another, but on the other hand there is nothing quite as monotonous as a mono1 tone room. Chintz or striped materials prevent an opportunity for getting away from this uninteresting habit, but care must be taken in selecting the designs and colors. To do this successfully, cover the important pieces of furniture with the curtain material, and accent the other colors in pillows, in lamp shades, or in rugs. The same thing may be said about striped curtains, but care should be taken not to use too much of any striped material. If their color contrast is strong they may cut up the wall space too much. The figured materials are to be preferred, and if a more quiet or less exuberant effect is desired a plain material with perhaps a contrasting border, to do away with monotony, should he used.
Under all conditions the color of the curtains should harmonize with that of the walls, and when several rooms are arranged so as to be seen together their color schemes should harmonize.
For bedrooms in summer homes, chintz is an ideal material for draperies, for its gay coloring and pleasing designs give the outdoor effect needed.
The old-fashioned method of making curtains was to line them with some heavy material, but the modern idea is the opposite, as the chief aim is to keep the natural texture of the material. Some materials, however, require lining, particularly printed linens, velours, and other heavy materials where considerable body is necessary. This lining also preserves the fabric from fading. Chintzes are better unlined as the effect of the light shining through them shows them at, their best and brings out their effect of lightness and gayety. Where lining is used it should start from the bottom of the heading, and end an inch or so above the bottom of the curtains.
Curtains may hangstraight orbe looped hack, hut the latter, too, is more or less of an old-fashioned idea, and it is recognized now that the straight lines are more restful, and harmonize better with the general lines of a room.
Most window curtains are enhanced by a vallance for the reason that it gives a connecting line across the top between the over curtains. It is useful, too, to conceal the rod on which the curtains are hung, and to conceal the window
blinds which, when rolled up, are never beautiful. In addition, its long, horizontal lines make a room look lower, while straight curtains without a balance make it look higher.
Many types of vallances are possible. They may be straight or shaped, plain or ruffled, fitted, gathered, box-pleated, or French-headed in regular folds. Many of them are made of the same material as the curtains, but sometimes a contrast is desirable. For example, a plain vallance in damask or brocade curtains may be used effectively. Such a combination should, however, be used with caution. Then, again, figured curtains may be used with a plain vallance, provided that the ground color in the curtains is the same.
Fringes, once very popular, now are used much more sparingly. On heavy silk or velvet curtains, however, they may be used, but it is best to confine them to the bottom only, with the side edges left plain or finished with a simple guimpe of similar colors.
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