Design 101 | Curtains

March 2016, By Nicole Langelier.

They say that history repeats itself – and good or bad it would appear that this is and always has been true. History repeating itself is not restricted to events of great historical significance but also to smaller things like trends in fashion and design. Some however, could certainly argue that movements and moments in design have influenced and perhaps even changed the world.

This brings me to curtains and drapes. Many people these days find them old fashioned and dated – opting for roller blinds most of the time as they are considered more modern – but like all things, curtains and drapes have come and gone from our ‘interiorscapes’ if you will, many times over and always seem to find their way back in to design relevance and sporting a trendy new look.

Most people don’t know the difference between a curtain and a drape to be honest, and to be honest it’s not that great a difference. Both are designed (mostly) to cover windows, provide privacy, for decoration and to minimise light. The primary difference has to do with the weight and the ability to block out light and cold. While curtains normally serve primarily a more decorative purpose and are made of a light thin material that lets light though, drapes are usually lined and block out light (and cold air) all together. There is more to it than that including how they are hung, but to simplify things lets just leave it at this: curtains = light weight and decorative, blinds = heavy weight and sun blocking.

You don’t see many drapes these days (but mark my words they will be back). What I find I see most often in the many properties I see weekly are a double block out and a sheer roller blind – or – if the home owner is feeling gutsy – a block out roller blind and a sheer curtain. More often than not the result is disastrous and can even have a direct impact on the resale value of the property (which is why many vendors are choosing to go ‘au natural’ and sell their properties devoid of all window treatments all together). Look – it can be scary stepping out of the roller zone and into that of the soft textile, but when it is done well it can be truly magical.

Personally, I’m a sucker for linen curtains. There is something so sexy and ethereal about a textural linen sheer, but if it is done badly (as with any curtain) it can be a sad and sorry sight. Fear not my children, you too can have sheer window bliss – or heavy block-out meters of material bliss if that is more your style – there are ways to do both right (for the sake of the length of this post however I am going to narrow my focus to curtains).

Curtains may seem simple to most. Yes, indeed you can go to IKEA, Target, Spotlight – or any number of DIY emporiums – and you can indeed gather up the bits required to make or hang some really nice curtains – that being said however, it is more then likely you will stuff it up – sorry! When people buy a pre – cut curtain and rod, very often that will just hang that rod right above the window frame and let the curtain arbitrarily fall where it may. Please don’t do that.

There are many ways to hang curtains – rails, tracks, bars, rods, etc. – and none of them are wrong. What is most important is where the hanging mechanism is placed and where the curtain itself falls. Really though, I should reverse that order. The most important thing is where the curtain falls (at least to the floor) – and closely after that is the height in which it is hanging from.

If your curtain is too short it looks like a daggy old man with his pants hiked up to high exposing pasty white ankles or scrunched up socks. Not cool. My favourite curtain length just at floor length (where the curtain is just grazing the floor with no visible gap in between). Alternatively you can take it up a notch and ‘break’ at the floor. ‘Breaking’ at the floor is when the hem of the curtain is just a little longer than the wall (say a couple of cm’s), causing the curtain to crease slightly – or break – at the floor (think men’s trousers ‘breaking’ at the shoe). Hint – this is a good solution if you have uneven floorboards. Finally, you can ‘puddle’ your curtains, which is just as it sounds – you can have up to 15 cm of extra material on each panel, which will just gather and puddle on the floor. It can look really beautiful, but practically speaking puddling curtains are major dust magnets, and unless you have a cleaner on call 24/7 or a serious case of OCD, it could end up looking really messy. That being said, however – all three options are better then Uncle Lou’s short pants!

When it comes to the bar, rail, rod, track or whatever you use to hang your curtains, please don’t follow the window frame but the ceiling line or crown moulding. You want to elongate the room, not make it feel smaller (and that’s exactly what you will do if the curtain covers just the window itself). The best way to achieve this is by hanging your curtains floor to ceiling.

My personal favorite is an invisible track or a track hidden by a small pelmet (a narrow trim designed to hide curtain hardware). The look of a sheer wall of floor to celling fabric (linen in my case) that can swish effortlessly from side to side is quite heavenly if you ask me.

DIY is great but not always an option when it comes to pre cut curtains and recessed fittings. Sometimes hiring a pro is the way to go. You can save yourself time and money by doing it right the first time. Check out some ideas on Pinterest until you have found what you love. It is out there I assure you. Take no short cuts (I mean that literally). You won’t be doing yourself any favours.