Curtains are a bit like the hairstyle of a room. They really define the feel of the space. Change them, and the whole personality of the room changes. And without them, it feels a bit.... well, bald. But deciding what to go for is a bit of a minefield. So we've tasked somebody that really knows what she's talking about to tackle the task for us. Sarah is not only the most brilliant new Interior Designer on the block, but is also a dab hand at advising on fabrics, finishes and french poles. Here's the lowdown, from the expert herself:
ONE | Where to start with fabric and pattern?
Curtains are a wonderful way of showcasing a particular pattern you love – but this must work with the design of the rest of the room. Personally, I’m a fan of large-scaled patterns. Using bigger patterns in a smaller space has the unexpected effect of making small rooms appear bigger (and low ceilings seem taller). However, if you don’t have a penchant for patterns, then a plain, chunky linen or a wool fabric will drape very nicely. You may pinpoint your perfect fabric and colour, but if it doesn’t drape well it won’t look 100%. Attention to detail is everything.
Always get your hands on a large sample so you can properly check the look, feel and hang of the material before you buy metres and metres of the stuff.
TWO | Which style of pole or track?
The type of pole or track you choose can have a real impact on the overall look and style of the curtains. A chunky wooden pole and finial might look great in a traditional country house but perhaps not in the town. For projects in London I have used a lot of the flat, metal poles with metal rings (Tilly’s Interiors do the most beautiful ones) or French-style metal poles that return back to the wall (Cameron Fullers are very reasonably priced). If there is no space for a pole above the window, I often use fabric-covered laths and fascia with a track behind.
THREE | What about curtain headings?
I like to think of curtain headings a bit like dress darts – they are critical in giving shape and personality to a fabric. There are loads of options, and they all fundamentally alter the style of the curtains. For a more classical style (and a neat, elegant look) I often use a triple French pleat. These are also great from a practical perspective because they stack back neatly into a relatively small space. If you are using a striped fabric a good curtain maker can centre the stripes on the pleats for a really smart finish. For a more simple and contemporary look I often use inverted pleats with a contemporary pole or recessed ceiling track.
FOUR | And the lining?
If the linings of the curtains will be visible from outside the window, I like to use a contrast fabric like a mini-print or a check. Both Chelsea Textiles and Nile and York do a great range of small prints that are perfect for linings. If you will never see the lining (or budget doesn’t allow), then your curtain maker will have a standard lining that comes in a number of colours. I also make sure most of my curtains are interlined so that they are nicely full bodied – this helps to prevent creasing and keep rooms warm if you have draughty windows. Occasionally, in a hot country or in a contemporary main living space, where blocking light isn’t an issue, I will opt for unlined curtains – sheer wools like alpaca or sheer linens look amazing.
FIVE | I need total darkness to sleep – what can I do?
If absolute blackout is key, then you will need to make sure your curtains have proper blackout interlining. Light can also escape above a pole. A covered lath and facia, ceiling recessed track or additional roman blind is a good way to seal in the light and help you nod off a little quicker.
SIX | How about trims?
I often like to use a tassel trim or braid on the leading edge of a pair of curtains. Samuel and Sons have a great selection. A contrast fabric will work equally well to add a bit of interest to the leading edge. If the budget is tight, it’s a good way to include a material that you couldn’t afford to use for the whole curtains.
SEVEN | And last but not least...pelmets?
I love pelmets because they remind me of times gone by and add something out of the ordinary to curtains.
Look at photos of work by the decorator Veere Grenney for inspiration. His classical shaped pelmets are flawless and never too frilly!