It occurred to me the other day that I have very rarely, almost never, talked about window dressings. Or, for the sake of this post, curtains. That’s partly, actually mostly, because I don’t have any, so it’s not something I think about and partly because when I started this blog – way back in 2012, which is like last century in internet terms, we were in the full throes of everything Scandi and pared back minimal interiors.
So I have blinds on every window and that is that. But the times are they are changing – as they tend to do. And while I will never have curtains in my bay window because I need the space at the sides for furniture – and a big heavy pair of curtains taking up valuable living space is not the right solution for that room – I am starting to look at the bedrooms and wonder if a curtain mightn’t be a rather lovely cosy idea.
It’s partly a fashion change I’ll admit. Ten years ago it was about seeing the structure of the window and creating a more architectural look, but as the Scandinavian minimalism gives way to a more cosy maximalist style, it feels right to revisit the idea of curtains again.
As I said at the top, it’s tricky if you have a bay window as curtains take up so much space at the sides when they are pulled back. You can either buy an expensive bending pole that allows them to pull fully back from the window and bend round onto the wall (assuming you don’t need that space for furniture as I do) or you will have to have them slightly over the side windows where they will cut the light.
But in a bedroom it can be a lovely warm addition to a room as well as a way of keeping out draughts and adding an extra layer of colour and pattern.
Now I’m going to work on the principle that if you are having curtains made to measure – as you will often need to do for non-standard sizes – that your chosen curtain maker will advise on size and style before you buy. But if you are just mulling over the idea and/or are fairly convinced that you can make it work with ready made curtains, then here are few tips to get you started.
First up you really should try and hang your curtains as high above the window as you can. This will make everything look taller and longer, particularly when they are closed. If you think that might be strange when they are open then you can add a box pelmet over the top of the window which will hide the fact that the curtains are much higher than the window by making the whole window look taller.
When I say box pelmet I mean one that is very plain. The swags and dips of the 80s will be back but we’re not there yet and it won’t be for everyone. I also think, although this is a matter of personal taste, that a flamboyantly patterned curtain looks better when it hangs in a straight column with an ultra simple box pelmet above. The material is fancy enough so keep the shapes simple. And by that I also mean no tie-backs. For what it’s worth a plain velvet curtain also looks great when it drops heavily to the ground.
Which means we should talk about puddling. For some having an extra long curtain puddling on the floor at the bottom is a design crime. For others it’s a sign of cosy luxury. I’m loath to call it a crime but I think it can be a dust collector and a time stealer as you will have to “repuddle” it every morning. Also I feel there is something rather classic and expensive looking about a curtain that drops dead straight to exactly the right length – about a centimetre above the floor so they draw easily – and stops there.
So we’ve worked out the height – note in all these pictures by professional interior designers the curtains are full length from ceiling to floor – and the length what about the width? Well, when it comes to ready made curtains there’s obviously not a lot you can do about that but Sophie said in a podcast ages ago that if you have wide windows then you can buy an extra pair and sew two together. This will still be cheaper than going bespoke.
If you don’t have a sewing machine then your local dry cleaner might be able to do this for you and alter the length as well if that needs doing. I want to say you can also look for a local seamstress but it might be a man and I don’t know the word for that but you know – google “person who does alterations in my area”.
Now a final point is the type of hanging. Last time I had curtains – which is about 18 years ago, those metal eyelets set into the top of the curtain were all the range and you slid them along a pole. Another option is the tab top which tends to come on the top of lightweight curtains but they often don’t slide easily. Or there are the wooden or metal rings that match the pole. The other option, which is common in ready-mades, is that the top has simply been folded over and hemmed to create a tube that you slide along the pole. But if you don’t have, or don’t want, a pole then you can fix a curtain track and hang the curtains on the hooks so that all the fixings are completely invisible. You can see lots of different options on these pictures.
Once again, if you have a local sewing person you have options. You can cut off any tabs or eyelets and sew a length of curtain tape along the top instead. It’s a straight line so it’s not too complicated. In that I have done it! Sew the tape along the top of the curtain and then you pull the cord so that the curtain reduces in width to what you want it to be when it’s closed – ie half a window. Then you insert the hooks at regular intervals and hang them on your curtain track. Remember this will make the curtain shorter so check your lengths before you start this.
If you are having curtains made then you can have all sorts of chats about the pattern of your pleats which I won’t get into here but the basic rule of thumb is the more complicated the pleating the more expensive the job.
So there you have it. A ready made guide to ready made curtains. Now all you have to do is choose the ones you like. There are lots of ready made velvets on the high street and, as I said, above, you can always ask your local dry cleaner or seamstress to alter them to fit.
These images were provided by members of the Interior Design Collective, a group of interior designers based all over the country to help you find someone in your area. These are all bespoke but you can buy ready mades all over the high street: try M&S, H&M, John Lewis, Westelm and Ikea.