Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Choosing Curtains

My husband does not believe in window treatments. He thinks that windows should have nothing on them, or, at minimum, a utilitarian shade for privacy or light blockage. When building the cornice for the girls room, I tried to engage him in a discussion about the height and shape of the thing, and he finally shut me up by saying, quite simply, "I don't want a cornice. Before this project, I didn't know what a cornice was."

I, on the other hand, believe in the power of a good curtain (or roman shade, or valance, or whatever suits your fancy; I draw the line at swags), and I think they are all about effect. Let a shade do the dirty work of sun protection. Curtains bring color and warmth, pattern and drama to a room. For years, if I couldn't find a store-made curtain that I liked, I simply bought some fabric and pinned it up to a rod, always intending to sew it, but never getting that far.

When we moved into this house, I was determined to do things properly. To finish projects. To aim for a certain polish in addition to effect. I was also determined to try to walk the line between the clean, minimal lines of the house and my own maximalist tendencies. I decided that three rooms needed curtains: the two upstairs bedrooms, which have more ordinary scale windows and needed some warmth, and the dining room, which has two half walls and is open to the kitchen and the hallway; curtains claim the hallway wall as part of the dining room to make it feel much cozier and finite.

I went looking for charteuse velvet (the (older) man at the fabric warehouse called me a "wild woman") but came home with yards and yards of chartreuse silk, which in the end I am loving for the sheen and weightlessness. I realized that finishing projects requires many decisions about details, and while I had fabric, I had no plan. I dug up the drapery how-to book I bought a decade ago when I first planned to sew proper window treatments and looked at the drapery options. I learned the difference between pinch pleats, butterfly and goblet pleats. Armed with this lingo, I turned to my trusty stack of Domino magazines and looked for curtains that evoked the mood I was going for: opulent without being fancy; a little flyaway and footloose. I liked the way some designers played down a fancy fabric with a casual treatment, like these grommeted silk draperies in the living room of Ashley Starck.


While I admire this choice in this room, I happen to dislike grommeted panels in general, so found myself drawn to an upscale, dorothy draper-like box pleat. I have now torn the house apart looking for this particular tearsheet--it is from the Domino guide to rugs--but have so far been unsuccesful. No matter, I realized that, as an amateur seamstress, I best not attempt such a tailored style: it would certainly give away every mistake.

I loved these, in a room decorated by Julianne Moore:


But wanted to challenge myself to do something beyond the pole-pocket top. (These curtains did, however, reconfirm my decision not to line the silk. Again, much less formal that way!)

Finally, I landed on this fabulous room in designer Fawn Galli's Brooklyn town house:


and fashion designer Nanette Lepore's insanely hot living room and family room.

[Elle Decor]

Perfect. But I couldn't find the name of this style anywhere, and without the name, how's a girl to google how-to videos? Finally, in the Domino Book of Decorating, I saw this useful chart:

Found! I was after a "tiny soft pinch pleat." At Calico Corners, I looked at their sample draperies and found that they had a sample with something similar, called a fan pleat. Finally, in another drapery book (studied at length sitting on the floor at Hancock Fabrics), I found that this look might also be called a "french" or "parisian" pleat. Who knew? I love that the Domino guide calls this a "bohemian" look, much more laid back than the traditional pinch pleat (if a silk floor to ceiling curtain can ever be laid back?)

It's always amazing how much thought, energy, and research can go into one very small decorating decision (I suppose this is why trained designers get the big bucks: they already know the difference between a parisian pleat and a pencil pleat). But making such deliberate choices make a difference. I also find it hilarious that I got Dave to look at tears of different styles of curtains and to actually weigh in. This was EARLY in the decorating process!

Check back in the next day or so for the next part in this process: planning and sewing. I promise, all the effort paid off.

1 comment:

  1. You can choose the curtains with guidance from the post here. Useful post


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