Why are people afraid of curtains and blinds? They improve the quality of our living space SO much; they keep out the cold in winter and shade the sun in summer. They cut the light in bedrooms and protect us from prying eyes – in terms of both privacy and security. They enhance our environment by absorbing sound and deadening echo, they can be used to compliment the decor and they add visual impact, but no-one wants to spend money on them!
Why is this? They work as hard for us as the bed or the sofas that we’re prepared to spend upward of a £1000 on. Perhaps curtains and blinds are seen as more of a fashionable item than a necessity? You only have to look around to see the number of homes that have had plantation shutters installed to realise that people like to play it safe when they install window treatments. But here’s the downside – plantation shutters don’t cut the light, reduce the echo or stop the drafts, if you want to feel tucked up on a winters evening, you will still need something made of fabric for that!
Curtains don’t need to be fussy or contrived. They can be very simple, streamlined and edgy, its all in the styling and the type of heading you go for. Blinds are the same and they are economical on fabric too. So let’s look at some options because to my way of thinking, curtains and blinds are like putting on mascara, they widen the window and frame the view.
When you start to think about window treatments, consider how much sun the room gets. Blackout lining is the way to go for bedrooms and living spaces because not only does it reduce the amount of light filtering through the curtain to almost zero, it protects the face cloth (the fabric your curtains and blinds are made of) too. This is a consideration in rooms that get large amounts of sun because some fabrics rot over time with sun exposure (like silk) and blackout lining acts as a barrier.
Often when a fabric is suspended, it doesn’t have a lot of body to it and looks limp instead of commanding. That’s when an interlining is called for. It comes in two weights and I prefer the lighter of the two called Domette. This gives a nice amount of body without adding too much bulk and allows your curtains and blinds to have a bit of substance; they hold their shape nicely and roman blinds pleat up well when being opened.
When you measure your windows, there are two different ways to approach it – a recess measurement or an opening measurement. The recess is the return of the wall to the window and is a tight measurement created by the recess from side to side and head to sill. In this situation a blind (usually) would be fitted to the window frame. The opening measurement is the measurement of the window opening flush to the wall. It is a less precise measurement and means that the intention is for the curtain or blind to be mounted on the wall that surrounds the window – as opposed to the window frame. This means that for curtains you can create the impression of a longer window or higher ceiling, by fixing the track or pole at a distance above the window frame. It also allows you to make room for things below the window, like radiators.
And a word about the positioning of radiators below windows. You aren’t sending the heat straight out the window by closing off the window with a curtain. It actually does the opposite – and creates a warm air barrier because hot air rises and draws the cold air in with it. This circulates the air inward – through the fabric – the same way that an air curtain does over an open door. If you really are worried about ‘heating the window’ add a layer of protection by installing a roller or roman blind that can be lowered as soon as the sun goes down and then close the curtains as the heating goes off. The curtain protects your room from drafts and the blind allows you maximum exposure to the radiator heat – neither option will do both!
Poles and tracks are conventional ways of suspending curtains, but of course the decision as to whether you want to see the mechanism is entirely over to how your home is built. Suspended ceilings allow for concealed curtain tracks and motorised systems make drawing the curtains the work of an instant – no more heaving yourself against the bulk of a curtain three times your body weight! If you want something a little less hi-tech, then a simple eyelet headed curtain and metal pole are stylish and give a column like appearance at each side of your window.
Whichever way you approach the window treatments to your home, getting the measurements right is vital to success, which is why I’m not a great fan of ready made curtains. (That’s not to say I haven’t used them as a temporary measure (ha ha) but you’ll have to get your sewing machine out and do some work to get the length right, for a start!) Window shapes and sizes vary from era to era, how can there be such a thing as a standard set of measurements? Do the generic curtain makers have a breakdown of the ‘standard window measurements’ from the Victorian era? From the Georgian era? From the ‘between the wars’ era? If they don’t have that information about your home, how can you hope to buy ready made curtains that will fit?
So this is my point, if you’re prepared to spend money on a pair of curtains or blinds that aren’t quite the right size, that you will have to try and fix to the wall yourself, that will never quite look as good as you thought they would, why would you not at least make the effort to get a quote to find out how much the relative costs would be to get something that does fit, you won’t have to fix yourself and will be exactly what you want ( because you get to chose the fabric that’s perfect.)? Yes, they will cost (a lot) more but there will be no hassle to yourself at all, no cold sweat that the drill holes aren’t in the right place and the pole isn’t quite level. These sorts of finishing touches are what makes your interior style complete. ‘The devil is in the detail’ and believe me (I have done this) its the absolute devil to notice every time you walk past something that its not quite right.
Oh, and the window blind I was moaning about a few weeks ago (Changing Rooms) arrived within about three days of being ordered! Totally brilliant service from Vale Blinds (http://valeblinds.com) who replied to my emailed photo and measurements with the make and the reference numbers that I needed to place an order. And it was easy to install… (says she who suggests ready made are less than acceptable!)