Reams of embroidered silk; yards of thick nubbly linen; thick and heavy velvet, glossy with its silken weave… I could spend hours looking at fabrics for curtains, dreaming of windows I’ll never look out of, and fantasising about châteaux and villas I’ll never wake up in. But a good curtain can prolong the dream….
Curtains can be very expensive. Good fabric can cost a lot of money and curtains eat up the yards, meaning that you can spend thousands of dollars (or pounds) before you know it. So it definitely pays to get this one right.
My first recommendation is that if you are tempted by an outrageous fabric – save it for a cushion. You want to get at least ten years out of your curtains, so choose something relatively plain that you won’t tire of and that won’t date. If you know you always like outrageous things – then fair enough, go for it. I just tend to tire of pattern and strong colour after a while. It’s fine for clothes which you only wear for a day. But curtains are something you’ll see day in, day out.
The easiest way to get a curtain looking good is to choose a colour close to the wall colour. Just a shade or two lighter or darker makes the curtain blend into the room and gives a relaxing feel. The change in texture of the fabric will give enough interest.
If you want your windows to be the focal point, then pick a bold colour or a strong border to make them stand out.
Velvet is a luxurious, rich choice. it catched the light, muffles sound and looks sumptuous. Make sure you pick one using the newer technologies that give the depth of sheen seen above. Silk velvet is by far the nicest, linen velvet is the most durable, but most thread combinations are pretty good these days.
Damask is a fabric that can look slightly dated. It can be used to great effect to create a feeling of grandeur and timelessness. But use this one wisely as it can definitely look as though it was your grandma’s.
Stripes hung vertically will really emphasise the height of a room.
Horizontally is a harder one to pull off.
You have to get them matching exactly on all blinds and curtains, and it will create a sense of movement around the walls, which can be disconcerting.
Subtle embroidered patterns in the same colour as the background can work well. However larger patterns like chintz are more challenging. You won’t see the pattern properly on a curtain as it folds back on itself, and it can be overwhelming if there are lots of colours or a busy pattern.
If you like this, then you’re really committing to a certain look. (I’d have this as a cushion or a loose chair cover that I could change). Simpler chintzes – like the one below that consists of a single colour will be easier to live with.
Silk is one of the most beautiful fabrics for curtains. But it actually rots in sunlight. This hasn’t stopped me using it for blinds with some sumptuous Indian trim, as shown here. The secret is to line it so that the sunlight hits the lining not the silk itself. Six years later the blinds are showing some wear, but aren’t too bad.
Polyester and other man-made fabrics overcome this issue, but they never look quite as good as the real thing. Linen doesn’t have this issue at all and looks gorgeous at a window.
In terms of lining, the most common lining is a blackout fabric which blocks out all light (particularly useful in bedrooms where you need it dark). I prefer to use a lovely contrast as a lining if I don’t need total darkness. This makes a curtain look stunning and very luxurious.
I’ll also use layers of curtains, with muslin or something light behind a heavy ‘statement’ curtain. You can read more of that here.
In the next couple of weeks I’ll take you through making a curtain and a blind…. believe me – this is far easier than choosing the fabric.