Window shutters, without a doubt, look fabulous. Smart, minimalist, and super versatile. That said, I think they have become, dare I say commonplace, and I think curtains are about to come back into vogue.
Curtains are for all seasons. They provide warmth and comfort in the colder months and protection from the sun and insects in the warmer ones.
Choice of style and colour is infinitesimal. A beautifully made pair of curtains can be the defining factor in an interior scheme.
There are options depending on budget and time frame. High street retailers such as Next sell ready made curtains whilst Laura Ashley sell both ready made or made to measure. They also stock a range of fabrics and linings that allow the keen seamstress to make their own.
Interior design studios and specialist stockists can provide a fully bespoke service. They will do everything from taking measurements, providing fabrics, making the curtains, and hanging them in the desired position. Job done.
At the other end of the spectrum Ikea sell unlined linen curtains, black-out curtains, roller blinds, and slatted blinds, starting at a price of £3 for a pleated blind!
Having had a sewing machine from a very young age I have, over the years, become competent in the art of curtain making and as much as I would sometimes like to handover the task to a specialist I invariably take on the task myself. The sense of satisfaction when hanging the final product is well worth the effort involved.
Self-taught, I have relied on trial and error and The Laura Ashley Book of Home Decorating. First published in 1982 by Octopus Books I have the Revised edition which was published in 1985. It is my “go to” book for all things related to soft-furnishings. With great illustrations and straight-forward language it explains how to make everything from a roller blind to a tented ceiling.
Recently I finished making a pair of loose-lined curtains and valance for my guest room. I used two different types of linens from Laura Ashley; one floral and one spotted. Choosing fabric can be quite difficult as there is such a variety of colours, patterns and weights.
If making your own curtains for the first time I would recommend an unlined curtain in a plain fabric with a simple gathered or pencil pleat heading. Measure the width of the window and finished length prior to making any purchases as these measurements will be critical when calculating how much fabric and heading tape to buy.
If a pattern fabric is preferred an allowance has to be made for the “pattern repeat”. This repeat is multiplied by the number of widths to calculate how much fabric is required.
Once happy with the concept of making a pair of unlined curtains the next step is to make loose-lined ones. The advantage of using a lining is that the pattern only shows on the inside of the window thus giving a uniformed look from the outside. A lining will also protect the curtain fabric from being bleached by the sun.
The ultimate goal is to make a pair of curtains which are lined, and inter-lined. An interlining is usually a fleecy fabric which provides body to the finished curtains and adds a touch of luxury. It also acts as an insulator to the cold or to draughts. I think is more suitable for larger windows that require full length curtains. My experience of using it in small, cottage style windows, is that it is too bulky.
If feeling creative a complimentary curtain fabric could be used as an alternative to a plain lining. This is ideal if you have internal doors that require a window dressing as each side of the curtain will have a decorative finish. An example of this might be a set of internal doors opening into a conservatory.
Having become confident making curtains I quickly progressed to valances and tie backs. These seem to dip in and out of fashion but in the right setting they can look very effective. The great thing about them is that a contrasting fabric can be used to add interest to a scheme. Stripes and spots can sit happily alongside one another as can geometrics and florals. The combinations will depend on the scheme in mind.
If contemplating updating your interior scheme with new window dressings The Design Centre at Chelsea Harbour is a fabulous place to look at fabrics and styles. With 120 showrooms and over 600 of the world’s most prestigious luxury brands, it is the largest of its type in Europe. Normal opening hours are 9.30am-5.30pm from Monday to Friday; closed on Saturday and Sunday. Each year DCCH hosts London Design Week and 2018 is no exception. It runs from 4th-9th March inclusive, with Trade Preview from 4th-6th and All Welcome from 7th-9th. This is a great opportunity to view imaginative installations and bespoke pop-ups, and to discover the latest offerings from 120 exhibitors from around the world.