That’s curtains and blinds and privacy etc. This is an edited extract from the book as well as being one of the most common questions I am asked so while I would recommend you buy the book (well I would wouldn’t I) I hope this will also address some of the questions you might have around this issue.
1 What sort of blinds should I have?
Roller blinds are the cheapest and easiest style, but many people don’t like them in rooms other than kitchens and bathrooms. I have fixed roller blinds across the middle part of my sash windows, where they pretty much disappear until needed. But Hillarys do a pull up from the bottom blind in lots of different colours that you can also use.
Roman blinds are the wide slatted ones that pleat up when you raise and lower them. The heavier construction means you can choose velvet for a more luxurious feel, which makes them more appropriate for the living room and bedroom. However, as they fold up on themselves they can take up quite a lot of space at the top of the window and may cut the light. Cheaper mechanisms do have a tendency to go wrong, and then they look messy. If you want this style, then it’s best if you can hang them on the wall just above the window frame to avoid losing light.
I also love this version which is a little prettier and softer but have yet to discover the proper name for them. Someone suggested Relaxed Roman so I’m going with that for now. One day I will have this in the bedroom.
Venetian blinds are horizontal slats that can be pivoted to let in more or less light. Technically, a genuine Venetian blind is made from metal, and they can be a bit ‘office’. Also – they’re dust magnets.
Wooden blinds are like Venetians but, er, wooden. They can make a room a lot darker even when the slats are angled open. They can work in kitchens or bathrooms (watch out for grease attracting dust in the former) but aren’t really cosy enough for bedrooms and living rooms.
Pleated blinds are a sort of cross between a Roman and a roller. Imagine a very thin Roman blind that rolled right up. Some have a honeycomb shape, which is a great insulator. These are the ones that can be fitted to the bottom of a window and pulled up.
Vertical blinds are, as the name suggests, vertical. Like Venetian blinds, these are generally regarded as more office than domestic, although they can work in a 1960s or 1970s period house. I also once saw some made from linen in front of a large French window and the effect was much softer and prettier than the plasticky material they are most commonly made from.
Tie-up blinds are the ones that look like frilly knickers.Two or three cords hang down from the blind that, when pulled, raise the blind, creating a scalloped effect. Best left in the 1980s. Although, as we all know, what goes around comes around. And perhaps, with just a cord at each side this is the Relaxed Roman from above. A simple curve rather than a frilly knicker.
How Much Curtain Material Do I Need?
Curtains need to be wider than the window if you don’t want light to filter through the sides. And to pull properly and appear generous, you need to assume one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half times the width of the window. Decide which you want and multiply it by the length of the curtain pole. Divide the answer by the width of the fabric and round up to the nearest whole number. If your pattern is a large floral that requires matching when the curtains are closed, you’ll need more. Now read that again slowly so that it makes sense and stops your brain swirling.
You also need to decide what sort of pleating you want across the top. Pencil pleats are the simplest, but you can also have more elaborate pinch pleats. Eyelets are a little old fashioned and tab-tops even more so. Tab-tops can also be harder to pull across a wooden curtain pole, as they don’t slide smoothly.
Must I have Floor Length Curtains?
Once upon a time, all houses were draughty. If the window was on the other side of the room from the radiator, the hot air from the radiator would rise, while the cold air from the window would sink and move along the floor, creating a draught. Putting the radiator under the window pushed that cold air upwards where it was warmed by the heat from the radiator, ensuring that any draughts were warm not cold. This is less of a problem now with modern, double-glazed windows, but the question arises: what do you do if you want curtains, as long ones will block the heat from the radiator?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the draught (as it were). If you can’t move the radiators, and short curtains are stylistically wrong, then you need to have blinds that you can pull for privacy during the early part of the evening when the room is being warmed by the radiator. Leave the floor-length curtains open until the room is warm, then you can draw them. The blinds will give some extra insulation too.
Why You Should Consider The Linings Too
It’s a small point, but it is certainly one that’s worth considering. Rather than the standard dull beige lining, why not choose a lining in a colour that coordinates with your room or the curtain fabric? A friend of mine has double-sided curtains – one side floral, the other a stripe – on her huge French doors and they look pretty from the outside as well as the inside.
And What About Oddly-Shaped Windows?
The most common culprit is the bay window. Bay windows are big, so they need a lot of curtain. And when that curtain isn’t pulled shut it can take up a lot of space on the wall either side – and obscure the light altogether in the two angled side windows. Which is why many people – me included – opt for blinds.
green curtains by Kate Lovejoy Interiors Photo by Adam CarterYou can spend a lot of money on a rail that angles right back across the sides of the bay so the curtain goes back across the wall not the window. Bear in mind this will mean you can’t have a lamp or a chair in that corner as it will be full of curtain. You can buy curtain rails that fix to the ceiling in front of the window, but the same furnishing issue results. Or you can fix blinds to the windows and have small curtains at the sides that are for decoration only and are never meant to be pulled. It’s a compromise, but many things in houses are. If you live in a big house with lots of wall space and big square rooms, this won’t be an issue. If you live in a typically narrow Victorian terrace you need all the space you can get, and the curtains aren’t helping.
Another common problem is when the window goes right up to the ceiling and there isn’t room for a curtain pole. Usually you will have to cheat and fix it either side of the window frame. If that looks odd, add a pelmet. They’re not fashionable now, but then nor was grey paint 10 years ago.
British houses are full of oddly shaped windows, from circles to arches and skylights. Sometimes blinds really
are the only option.
The trickiest ones I have come across are curved 1930s windows that go around corners. Usually you have to square these off either with curtains or blinds. Alternatively, if you want to keep the shape (and why not – it’s a feature) you need to dump the curtain and frost the glass, either with stick-on window film, or something more permanent.
What Can I Use Instead of Net Curtains?
There are various options. You won’t like all of them. Pick the one that works for you. Window film comes in lots of cool patterns and means no one can see in. Unfortunately, you can’t see out either.
Voile is sheer material that is very pretty and less naff than nets. For now… But you can also have Roman blinds made from voile, which is a more modern alternative. Consider layering with curtains, as when it’s dark outside, people will be able to see in.
Bottom-up blinds do what they say, but you can choose how high you pull them up. This means you can have natural light coming in from the top half of the window, and maintain privacy at the bottom. An alternative to this – which I have done – is to fix a plain roller blind to the middle of the sash window that pulls down to the bottom.
Shutters often have slats that you can angle for privacy. I tend to think they make the room dark all the time but they are insanely popular – even for those who don’t live on a plantation.
I hope that has been helpful and, of course, there is more of this sort of thing in the new book Mad About The House 101 Interior Design Answers should you fancy. This is just five of the answers, there are 96 more.