Images above courtesy of Luxaflex
Last month we looked in some depth at curtains and various related treatments, so this month I thought we’d talk about 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, a self-coloured stripe, or a sumptuous texture. It also looks just as at home in a traditional room, perhaps under a set of beautiful full-length curtains, and made from a heavy weave or even a figured velvet. You can choose to site it inside or outside the window recess. Wherever possible I like to see roman blinds outside the recess and well above the window, if there’s enough wall space. This makes the window look bigger and more significant, as well as keeping all the available light. The drawback of putting it inside the recess is that unless you raise it so tightly as to be scrunched up, it will take up around a third of the drop of the window, therefore restricting the incoming light. Whereas if situated a foot or so (sorry, 30 centimetres to all you young bucks) you can keep the top pleat flat, thus showing off the fabric to its fullest extent. If you do choose to position your roman blind above the window, a pelmet of between 15 and 25 centimetres deep will make a lovely finishing touch. This can be in the same fabric as the blind, or something more dramatic. The usual principle applies here; the smaller any trim or accent is, the stronger it can, and indeed craves 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.
Wood slat venetian blinds are still popular, particularly in the 50mm slat width. These are available in all manner of wood stains and paint colours, including the most beautiful gloss piano black. For a more colonial look there is now a 63mm slat width. Fabric tapes, as opposed to the standard strings, add a softer and more elegant touch. Metal venetians are less in vogue these days, however the relatively recent addition of a 70mm slat option when placed in the right, super-crisp, modern location looks soooooooooo smart.
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. The wide range of available fabrics certainly doesn’t limit their use to conservatories though, as they can look sharp as you like in a contemporary living room or bedroom. 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.
The blind industry was thrown into confusion some 18 months ago with the introduction of a new raft of child safety regulations. Just as in the 90s when there were a spate of fatal house fires involving people falling asleep on sofas with cigarettes in their hands we had the furniture fire retardancy regulations hurriedly put together, in response to a number of tragic accidents involving children being strangled by being caught up in blind cords the government issued stringent regulations concerning cord lengths and fixing methods for blinds of all types. In both circumstances there was a genuine and urgent need to be addressed, however also in both circumstances the subsequent regulations weren’t properly thought through, almost seeming like a knee-jerk reaction with some near unsolvable scenarios resulting. I won’t go into the minutiae here, but basically any blind cord now needs to be at least 150cms off the floor, and secured to the wall. There are 2 alternative solutions to this. Most roller blinds, and all good roman blinds will come with a break-away mechanism on the chain. The problem with this is that if you give the blind anything more than a gentle tug, the chain will come away from the headrail – not in itself a catastrophe, but pretty annoying if it happens on a regular basis. The better option is to have a motorised blind, thus dispensing with cords and chains altogether. And before you break out in a rash at the thought of the price tag, dear reader, you’ll be pleased to know that the cost of motorisation has dropped considerably over the last few years. In fact there are now some very reasonable battery operated blinds, which you plug in to charge just like your phone, only about once every twelve months instead of daily.
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.
Well there you are – a whistle-stop tour of the blind world. Oh, and then there are Facette blinds . . . and of course twist roller blinds . . . ah yes, and Silhouette blinds. . . etcetera, etcetera, etcetera as the King of Siam would have said. (I played him on stage last year you know, but that’s another story).
John Biddell, John Charles Interiors
Live 24 7 magazine editorial - July 2017