Which window treatments (curtains, blinds) are right for your room? Monday, Jan 10 2011 

striped curtains lining drapes window interiors

I just love curtains – great swags of silk and sumptuous velvet… the hush of drawn thick warm curtains on a winter’s night.  Billowing white muslin in a tropical villa.  Light filtering through summer sprigged linen.   Curtains and window treatments have the power to transform a room.  Or to wreck it.  Here are some hints to get you on the right track.

Firstly, assess your window.  If you have soaring sash windows and high ceilings, then you have no need of any advice.  You have the Kate Moss of windows.  You could dress them in a garbage bag (bin liner) and they’d still look great.

cream silk curtains interiors

If, like the rest of us mere mortals, you have low ceilings, windows that aren’t tall and graceful – then read on.  Just as careful dressing can make most of us look quite good, so can some skilful curtaining hide a multitude of sins.

roman blinds interiors

Aim for height above all else.  The eye responds to high ceilings and tall windows, so go for everything that will maximise height.  This means:

1, ALWAYS hang your curtains from the top of the wall (or the ceiling).  Never hang them just above the window.  Hanging them just about the window will make any window look squat, and most ceilings look low.

2. (Almost) ALWAYS hang them to the floor (if you have a little cottage that is hundreds of years old with tiny crooked windows – they will be swamped by this – so you will need small curtains).  But for most of us – hanging them to the floor is best. 

If you follow this advice, when your curtains are closed, they will form a panel from floor to ceiling, which also looks better than a fabric square in the middle of the wall.

If you are thinking of blinds rather than curtains – you can do the same.  Here you can see I have attached the blinds to the ceiling.  I have them hanging to cover the top of the (low and ugly) window – making you believe that I have tall windows that stretch to the ceiling. (tall windows, long legs… I wish).

Wonderful window-sills might make you want to hang you blind inside the window frame, so that it is framed like a picture.  Older buildings usually have high enough ceilings and interesting enough architraves for this to be a good option.

roman blind to cover window

When choosing between curtains and blinds – firstly consider how much room you have – curtains take up more space.  When open, they need room to spill onto the floor.


Then think about the look you’re going for.  Curtains can be more opulent, more cosy, more atmospheric.  Blinds are sparer, simple, often modern, clean lined.  Blinds are great in kitchens and bathrooms, where they are practical.  Curtains and drapes a lovely for bedrooms and livings rooms where you want to feel cocooned.

Finally a word on pelmets…

These are designed to hide the track.  I have to say I hate them!  They look so dated.  They are heavy above the window and usually create a strong oppressive horizontal line just where you want vertical lifting lines giving height.

Today’s tracks are either invisible, or beautiful in their own right (with lovely finials to complete them) so there is no reason to hide them.

Pop back in a couple of days and we can talk about which fabrics are best (and which actually rot in sunlight – and how to overcome that), and the colours that will work in your room before moving on to actually making the things yourself (surprisingly easy!)


Should you display your heirlooms and family gifts? Friday, Jan 7 2011 

Most of us have stuff that has been passed on by family members – whether still living or long departed.  At this time of year, some of us also have gifts from family and friends.  Vases, books, pictures…  Many of these are not things we would have chosen – so the question is always – what to do with them?

Firstly – if you have an abundance of these things, sort them out.  Any that you don’t like and don’t feel attached to – don’t keep!  I’m sure even your relative or friend would agree….  (not keeping the item doesn’t mean that you love that person any less)

Secondly take those that have sentimental meaning, but not much aesthetic value and find a treasure box in which to store them.  I have a large antique trunk that holds all sentimental items (including the man’s old rugby socks – for reasons best known to him – but better in the trunk than on the bedroom floor, I say).

Then you can have fun creating vignettes with those items remaining….

An old embossed leather case, studded with gold is rich with texture, history and memories.  And…

leather embossed case

opens to reveal a gold watch, engraved with family initials, nestling in ancient tissue.

engraved gold watch

An antique game of Boston Whist still contains its markers in mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell.

vintage whist set

A fabulous antique painting of an ancestor (on the man’s side – and yes – there is a family resemblance, although (thankfully) no similar beard).

Even if you don’t have the luxury of paintings – old photos are lovely – like this evocative wartime shot.

wartime photo family heirloom interior recycled

A tiny tortoiseshell card case, with a stunning mother-of-pearl design is better displayed than hidden away in a drawer…

tortoiseshell card case mother of pearl interiors

Make sure you group items together rather than scattering them evenly throughout the house, as mentioned here.

styling antique pieces heirloom barometer

How to make a gorgeous vintage map box (before and after) Wednesday, Jan 5 2011 

I think I mentioned that I got a load of old filing boxes from a deceased estate.  I crackled glazed the first one (here), and have been thinking about the next project.

My post on maps decided me – it had to be….

Old filing box vintage before

I cleaned the old labels off and gave this a bit of a scrub.  And then I got to work on this divine wrapping paper I found!  It has an old map of Rome printed on it – but the paper itself is high quality and robust.  I’m sure you could use an actual map – but this beautiful paper just spoke to me.

map covered Old filing box vintage before

I made sure that the nicest bit was on the lid (in this case I wanted the Colosseum, and the Forum).  Whilst you could cut each side separately, I wanted the box to look seamless, so I wrapped the paper round and cut a cross shape to fit the top and all sides.

map covered box recycled vintage

I painted PVA glue evening onto each surface, starting with the top, and smoothed the paper over it.  As I covered each edge, I used a scalpel to cut the map where the top and the bottom join – as you can see below.

map covered box recycled vintage interiors2

This way the map will be continuous and the join between the lid and the base will be invisible.

I also cut around the hinges.  I did think about taking them off and re-attaching them – but I thought this would be easier and neater.  Again I used a scalpel, cutting the hole once the top was glued but before gluing the back, so that it would sit completely flat.

map hinges covered box recycled vintage interiors

They are rather cute brass hinges, so I don’t mind seeing them.  Then I waited (impatiently) for the glue to dry.  Whilst you can leave it unvarnished – it will get torn and dirty with time.  I thought I’d take a leaf out of the decoupage book – and varnish the paper.  By the way – I just don’t get the appeal of decoupage – it always looks chintzy and frilly to me – cut-outs of flowers glued onto wood.  Why would you?

varnishing map decoupage covered box recycled vintage interiors

I wasn’t quite sure how the varnish was going to take to the paper.  (sometimes glue or varnish can react badly with the printing and make it run).  I suppose if I were a different kind of person I would have done a test.  But as I only had $6 invested in the paper, I thought I’d live dangerously…  If it didn’t work, I could start again.

Luckily it did work.  And three coats of varnish later it looks amazing!  I used wood varnish in a satin finish.

recovered vintage map box interiors recycled

The varnish really makes it tough.  Dirt and oil from fingers won’t mark it.  Dust won’t permanently settle into the paper.

recovered vintage map box interiors recycled2

Wrapping the paper seamlessly over the top and sides creates a sense of flow over the box and allows you to find your way through parts of Rome…

recovered vintage map box interiors recycled3

The colours in this go with so many decor styles and colour schemes.

recovered vintage map box interiors recycled books

And for total maptastic overload….

recovered vintage map box interiors recycled books

mmm – time to plan the next holiday I think…..

recovered vintage map box interiors recycled books3

Get lost with maps: the newest look! Monday, Jan 3 2011 

It seems that either you’re a map-reader or you’re not.  I have friends who can turn a map upside down trying to work out where we are and which is the way out and still get lost.  Others throw it a cursory glance and have the position nailed and the route defined.  Whichever camp you sit in, a map can be a wonderful reminder of a holiday, a place once lived in or a beautiful visit.  They can even tempt you to destinations on your dream list.

framed antique map

The most common way to use maps inside is by framing the antique versions, as above. 

These are becoming very popular with interior designers, and I notice even Ralph Lauren is using them in their advertisements:

Not content with this minimal approach, I have been known to cover entire walls with maps – as this little washroom shows.

For details on this project have a look here.  I just love this room!  It’s a lot more work – but hey – what else are you going to do over Christmas? – a map as a mural.

If you’re looking for more unconventional takes on maps, check out these cushions. 

silk aviator escape map cushion interior

They are covered in silk escape maps from World War Two. 

silk aviator escape map cushion interior3

Pilots were given maps printed on silk that they wore like scarves so that if they bailed out or crashed into the sea or a river, the map wouldn’t dissolve (as paper maps are wont to do).

world war two silk escape aviator map

Maps look great on books:

leather bound book map cover vintage interior

The worn leather contrasts so beautifully with the antique map cover.  I feel that Darwin or Livingstone might have held this (although I’m quite sure that their stationery was nowhere near so glamorous!)

leather bound book map cover vintage interior2

Maps can make gorgeous linings for cupboards, shelves and display cases.  I lined this one with a black and white town map.

cabinet lining map cover vintage interior

You can see how do this project here.

Maps are now appearing on everywhere.  Seletti have a range of plates and mugs featuring Europe’s grand old cities.

seletti plate map cover vintage interior

I’m not sure you’d want a whole dinner service – but one or two would be stunning.

You can easily recover your old lamp shade with your unwanted, or unused maps. 

Despite a personal dislike of shower curtains (somehow, when I’m having a shower, they get sucked into towards me, through some invisible vortex and I end up wrapped claustrophically in a clinging wet wall of fabric with a life of its own), I might be tempted by this one with the Tube on it.

And of course, my favourite, the map covered globe as a cocktail cabinet!  More of which here…

Open antique globe cocktail drinks

In a couple of days I’ll show you how to make the chicest coolest map accessory – with minimal effort.  Check back and see how it works out!

« Previous Page