Curtain up !!!
This month I thought we would take a look at curtains. I just love curtains !!! For me they make or break a room. They can add colour, texture, drama, warmth (both metaphorically and literally), softness – the list goes on and on. I know a pair of well-made curtains in a fabulous fabric will undoubtedly set you back a good few quid, but believe me it’s so worth it !!
My heart sinks when a new client comes to us saying that the building work has gone over budget, and consequently they don’t have much left to spend on the curtains. It’s such a shame. The new heating system might be top notch, the technology bang up to date, so much so that you could run a bath at home while you’re on holiday in Crete, but a skimpy set of curtains at the window is going to absolutely ruin the impact of any room, and devalue the overall effect entirely. Not only that, but it’s going to tarnish the impression that any visitors will take with them. We always advise people in that situation to wait until they have the funds to give the windows the proper treatment the project deserves.
Just a few words about poles before we move on. The variety of poles available today is truly staggering, ranging from traditional wood, through all sorts of metal finishes, to clear acrylic and high gloss lacquer in more or less any colour. There are amazing finials (the bits that go on the end) incorporating leather, suede, hand blown glass, Swarovski crystal, and even ones that light up !!! For beautifully crafted traditional wood poles in an array of diameters up to 67mm, and finishes including antique silver and gilt, you can’t beat Byron & Byron, while for a fabulous range of the smartest contemporary poles, including some wrapped with soft faux suede or pearlescent faux leather, check out Walcott House. We have a splendid Walcott House display just inside our showroom which always proves an instant attraction to little folk who come in with their parents, what with its bright beads, fascinating glass and multi-coloured lacquers. Clear acrylic poles look stunning in a contemporary setting, but until recently the prices have been somewhat astronomical. But fear not, Byron & Byron to the rescue. They have launched a super range that is really well priced.
One more thing about poles; do please be thoughtful when choosing the diameter. Whilst a thin 19mm diameter pole looks fine above a set of floaty sheers, it looks totally lost and out of proportion supporting a pair of full length curtains. A 30mm diameter pole is the smallest I like to use, and even then only on narrow windows. For me, any pole over a couple of metres wide needs to be at least 40 or 50mm to be in proportion with the curtains. And as for windows of three metres and above . . . break out the 67mm poles – whe-hey !!! (Sorry, I do get carried away, but then again I did say I love curtains).
Of course, curtains hung from poles are not the only way to dress a window elegantly. Pelmets are still (and I think always will be) very much in vogue, and can add that extra bit of drama and style that some rooms really need. In a contemporary room the pelmet will probably be a straight band, or geometrically shaped, whereas in a traditional setting you can really go to town ! A sumptuous, scrolled and sweeping pelmet looks amazing, and gives the weight and importance that a large Georgian or Victorian window needs. Once again though, getting the proportion right is essential. Thin and weedy pelmets do nothing to balance a window, or indeed bring anything much to the party. A successful pelmet will be between one eighth and one sixth of the overall drop of the window. Sometimes a client will say that they don’t want it that deep, as it will take too much light from the room. In fact that’s not necessarily true. It’s worth remembering that the light line in a room is diagonally downwards. In other words, because it is set forward a 14” (sorry, that’s 35cms to all you young whippersnappers) pelmet will not take out any more light than a 10” (25cms) one. And if you still don’t believe me, the solution is to have a shaped pelmet, where the parts that cover the window are relatively shallow, while the ends that come over where the curtains stack are deep enough to restore the balance.
As technology is getting ever more important in the home, and the cost of it is coming down, we’re doing more motorised curtains than ever. This is most easily and cost effectively achieved on a straight run under a pelmet, but bays can also be accommodated. Motorised poles are now available too, however the price of these is not for the faint hearted. I have a cautionary tale though. About twenty years ago, when motorised tracks were in their infancy, a very good client of mine asked me to install three in his living room, connected to sensors that would automatically close his curtains at night and open them in the morning. Less than a month later he called me and asked me to remove the sensors as soon as possible. None of us had realised that when he wasn’t at home, as soon as the curtains closed they set off his house alarm, which automatically called the police, thus landing him with a bill for wasting police time !! The moral here is to make sure any automated curtains aren’t in the field of your alarm sensors.
The Full Monty of the curtain world of course, has always been swags and tails. Not only are they the Full Monty, but also the Marmite. Personally, I am a lover of both Marmite and swags and tails, although I have to admit that these days they are the sort of guilty pleasure you don’t talk much about when you do indulge – the swags and tails I mean. But trust me, on the right window they are not only a spectacular treatment, but a real visual treat !!!
John Biddell, John Charles Interiors
Live 24 7 magazine editorial - June 2016