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Roman blind
Full length curtains

More ways to treat a window

Buy it dinner, take it to the theatre . . . sorry I just couldn’t resist.

Last month we looked in some depth at curtains and various related treatments, so this month I thought we’d look at blinds. There are many types of blind available today, all of which have their various merits. Perhaps the most widely used and versatile is the roman blind. I don’t know where the name came from, as I’ve been to Rome a few times but never seen one. Mind you, I’ve also been to Venice and not seen any venetian blinds, and Austria . . . I think you know where I’m going with this.

A roman blind can look great as a stand alone treatment. It looks smart and crisp in a contemporary setting, whether in a plain or patterned fabric, or particularly a stripe. It also looks just as at home in a traditional room, perhaps made from a heavy woven fabric, or even a figured velvet. You can choose to site it inside or outside the window recess. The only drawback of putting it inside the recess is that unless you raise it so tightly as to be scrunched up, you will lose up to a third of the drop of the window, therefore restricting the incoming light. I prefer to site roman blinds outside the recess, usually 6 or 7 centimetres out each side, and up to 35 centimetres above the window. This makes the window look bigger and more significant, as well as keeping all the available light. If you do choose to position your roman blind above the window, a relatively modest pelmet, say 15 centimetres deep, makes a lovely finishing touch. This can be in the same fabric as the blind, or something a little more dramatic. The usual principle applies here; the smaller any trim or accent is, the stronger it can, and indeed needs to be.

While some companies will still offer the old fashioned ways of making a roman blind, with ugly lines of stitching across the face of the blind where each baton is situated, make sure you go for a hand sewn finish using a concealed stitching method, so that there are no visible stitching lines on the front of the blind at all. It will cost a little more, but the overall effect will definitely be worth it. And while we’re on the subject of the finish, the cost of chain operated track systems has come down so much over the last couple of years that you no longer need put up with nasty, tangly cords that you wrap round a cleat at the side of the window. In fact, if you fancy taking it to the next level, motorised roman blinds are now available with a battery pack, so there’s no need to worry about unsightly wires. The batteries last around a year, assuming that the blind is operated twice a day, and are really easy to replace. These systems are great for windows that are not easily accessible, such as some landings, or if you simply fancy opening your bedroom blinds in the morning without even getting out of bed ! Some would say decadent, I say indulge yourself.

Venetian blinds in all their various guises are still extremely popular, and can really add style as well as functionality to a room. While the 25mm slat option is still the most widely used, they are available with slats from 16mm to 70mm wide, each having something different to offer. Blinds with 50mm slats (that’s the old 2” to those of us who remember them the first time round) give a retro feel to a room, especially when specified with tapes instead of strings. The 70mm slat width is a relatively recent addition, but when placed in the right, super-crisp, modern location looks soooooooooo smart. Wooden venetian blinds also bring bags of character to a room, and can give more of a warm feel than their metal cousins.

Duette and plisse blinds aren’t particularly well known, but are two of my personal favourites. They go up and down like venetians, and have either a single layer of pleated fabric in the case of plisse blinds, or a double layer honeycomb effect in the case of duettes. They are available in various opacities, from delicate sheers giving privacy without loss of light to pretty much complete blackouts. Duette blinds are especially useful in areas such as conservatories, because the honeycomb design, which has won several awards, traps a layer of air, therefore keeping the room warm in winter and cool in summer. One of the main reasons I like to use them though is because when they are raised the stack is really neat and compact, so you don’t lose any light at all, even if the blind is sited inside the window recess.

While we’re on the subject of blinds, let’s not dismiss the humble roller blind. It’s still incredibly useful for providing privacy, as well as being crisp and smart to look at. The sheer version is a massive improvement on the old net curtains. And I suppose I really ought to mention vertical blinds. There, I’ve mentioned them. Not a personal favourite of mine, as I think they look far too officey and stark in all but the most uber-modern of homes.

When I was rattling on about curtains last month I didn’t get round to mentioning a point that to me is absolutely crucial. In pretty much all cases, curtains should be full length. No ifs or buts. No “but I’ll lose all the heat from my radiator” (which by the way you won’t if you’ve got double glazing). For the overall look of the room, and for any kind of balance they HAVE to be full length. Excuse me for a moment while I just get down from my soap box, but it’s something I feel passionate about. However, if you just can’t bring yourself to cover your radiator (that some thoughtless architect decreed should be sited under the window to frustrate and annoy designers), that’s where a blind can really come to the rescue. Why not go for full length dress curtains, with a functioning blind in the recess. There, job done and everybody happy.

John Biddell, John Charles Interiors

Live 24 7 magazine editorial - August 2013