January 14, 2011


 I will help you navigate through styles and their advantages or disadvantages. This weeks missive is more about what NOT to do.

As time goes by I'm less and less into curtains. I do indeed think they're necessary in many ways for many applications. But the overuse of them is nauseating and some of the crap that people hang at the windows is just so exhausting to see...all in the name of "Luxe" or showing off, which is so tired in itself...  

A perfect example is the stunning traditional dining room above.
Twenty years ago some decorator woulda draped 40 yards of schmaltzy fabric on each window with 100 yards of trim, swags, tassels and hooyah's. The simple London shades are perfect. I love no carpet too.

These beautiful rooms above have NO curtains and don't look naked or unfinished. Presumably they have privacy and a decent view

This heinous abortion above is just sooo wrong!
It's like she took them out of the dryer and the dishtowels got in with the curtains. And whats the purpose of those two tassels hanging down?

Now, this one above deserves a second look!
First, the scale is odd, notice how HUGE that window is next to the sofa and lamp table....we're going to leave alone the TV and the ceramic Dalmatian... But, whats that panel of (Bishops Sleeves) shit in the middle?? So, the chintz, swags and jabots and fringe against that wallpaper wasn't enough?
Ironically, there's a lovely garden urn outside which would've been a nice focus for that window instead of the rope ladder in the middle...

Lordy, Lordy, Lordy I don't even know where to start with this....
First of all, never let the builders select the windows and shapes, usually their training is "on the job" not architecture school....that quadrilateral polygon window is just stupid, hence the curtain design.
First of all, the upper window should have been closed over completely with wallboard. There's no use for it and its not aligned with the lower one, so just lose it.  I'm not even going to comment on that curtain or the table lined up with the driveway outside....it gives me agita.

Here are two rooms that appear at first glance to be attractive.
But, there are some basic mistakes made with the curtains.
The room on the left has something different on each section of window which isn't good. First, they have loooong curtains on a door to a patio which are going to blow in and out and get caught in the door. Secondly, there are no curtains on the window...only the door? Looks goofy.

The room on the right has a nice palette, it's well furnished and has a lovely Palladian window. But, that valance smashed up against the ceiling looks dumb and then the side panels are covering the two side windows. The curtains should be on a pole which will look "lighter" above the window trim. If they needed black out capability the curtains can have black-out lining.

For example this bedroom below is in a house I decorated a few years ago. The clients had to have total black out but the window arched and went almost to the barrel-vaulted ceiling which gave us nowhere to put the (straight) rods for curtains to traverse upon (rods don't arch up, duh).
So I had to create a valance to cover the rods which were installed side to side and the middle of it is at the very bottom of the valance.

This room below is a train-wreck... a large room with two large windows at one end and a pretty view and they've almost covered half the window with those tired-ass tie-backs, hung behind 1982 style valances...
This room needs to enhance the light and take advantage of the view.
Curtains are appropriate as a big bedroom feels cozier with panels, just not these. Tiebacks in general are sorta passe'

At first I thought they had been tied up so they can clean the carpet, then I read on...this is the way they wanted them...WTF?

Sheers with Panels
These two rooms I did, they both needed a "sheer" type covering for privacy.
The room on the left has linen sheers installed on basic traverse rods directly behind the large wooden poles. The panels also traverse. Notice the "self-valance" which is sewn onto the top of each panel.
The room on the right has a "grass shade" hung behind the pole as above. The stationary side panels installed on wooden poles with gilt rings do not close.

Curtains for a Softening Effect
The two rooms above have extraordinary views and curtains are superfluous. However, the rooms needed some softening.
The room on the left by Jose Solis-Battencourt used grass shades purely to offer texture and softness. The room on the right by Victoria Hagan, who used a simple sheer off-white wool so the views weren't distracted.

Venetian Blinds
Great, if you use them right! In the room on the left I used them as low-budge plantation shutters; the living room was small with long narrow windows, the blinds are matched to the trim color of the room with no tapes.
In the room on the right I also used them as low-budge plantation shutters they have beige tapes and they are matched to the existing stained trim

They're beautiful and always elegant. Sometimes a bit overused, but when they're used properly they are awesome.
Bill Blass' apartment on the left is so tailored and well designed that curtains would have been "gilding the lily."
The contemporary home on the right has plantation shutters which I think are the perfect solution, they blend into the envelope, allow light to be refracted into the room and add to the clean look of the space.

Matchstick, Woven Wood or Grass Blinds
I love these type of blinds, they can go from traditional to contemporary and are available in all materials and qualities.
They can have black-out or just an opaque light filtering lining applied to the back for privacy. You always want the type that Roman-fold!

Vinyl, Clutch-Roller Shades
These are amazing products as well, they are versatile, tailored looking and easy to use. The material comes in many choices of colors, and transparency from sheer to total blackout. Definitely more contemporary.

Fabric Blinds
Are also a wonderful alternative to curtains. Their advantage is they don't take up space in the room, and they can also be behind draperies if you want. There are many ways to fabricate them, look in books and decorating magazines to find a style that will work with your fabric and your room style. One the left is a standard Roman Shade, the one on the right is called a London Shade

Here are some basic curtain pleats.
The "grommet" pleat is the latest thing.
I love the "pinch-pleat, top-only"

OK, so now you have the curtain thing somewhat understood, I hope.
Today curtains are very simple, poles and rings and all that schmancy stuff from the 90's is out, finials the size of cantaloupes and carved and gilded rings that look like a David Webb bracelet are all headed into retirement.

As you think about covering your window think about this:

1.) Don't like black windows at night?
Light up the garden outside, creat a focus

2.) Worried people are looking in?
Don't flatter yourself

3.) Think the room needs color?
Why put color at the windows, then your eye doesnt see beyond the curtains.

4.) But you like fancy curtains?
Make simple panels out of extraordinary or interesting fabrics

5.) Are fabric blinds or matchstick blinds enough?
Often yes, depends on what material they're fabricated from. Don't get blinds that are the same color as the walls then they'll be too boring.

6.) Should I put a fabric valance over my matchstick blind
Hell no

7.) Is a valance by itself enough?
No valances alone...got it?

8.) You have a colonial home and you think swags, valances and lambrequins are appropriate?
They're not. Historically, colonial manor homes had built-in interior shutters (lesser homes had exterior shutters).
Fine textiles were some of the most expensive of all traded goods before the late 19th century. Fancy curtains are a "Colonial Revival" artifact  (The Colonial Revival Period was around the 1876 centennial and all the rage again in 1930's with Rockefellers rebuilding of Colonial Williamsburg)

9.) Which is better, plantation shutters or Venetian blinds?
Each have their place: Plantation shutters are very well made and offer a nice "quality" look. Their downside is you're always looking "through" them as they have to stay in place and can only open the louvers. They are custom made to match exactly the wood or paint trim.
Venetian blinds are much less expensive. Their other advantage is they can be raised and the view is completely unobstructed. However, they have fewer colors and stains to select from. They're also available with or without tapes trim, and in several blade widths.

10.) Should I have electric traverse rods?
Only on windows that are inaccessible, the motors often have problems.

You Can Do It, I'm Here to Help!

January 12, 2011




A beautiful room often contains amazing items that can't be bought at a furniture store or wholesaler.
Curtains, pillows and most "dressmaker" type items are the most difficult for the novice to articulate let alone find someone to fabricate.

There's nothing more elegant on a sofa than a pair of large, sumptuous, down-filled PILLOWS made with a textile that feels good to touch and has a delicious cord inset into the seams. That can be the icing on the cake for a lot of rooms.


Windows are important and pre-fab curtains arent all that....
How gorgeous are a pair of CURTAINS or a SHADE at the windows?


If you dont need curtains, perhaps you have Plantation shutters, but your room still needs some "softness," what about a pee-in-your-pants SKIRTED TABLE in a fabulous silk or simple linen?

Bedrooms with dressmaker details are awesome!
A beautiful upholstered headboard with a matching dustskirt and Pillow-squares are, and will always be classics! It can be contemporary or traditional


Once you decide what fabric you want at the windows, which pillows and all the other things that involve frabrication workrooms how do you "git er dun"?
* my preference
PILLOWS: What kind of pillows do I want?
- CORNERS: Square*, Turkish, knotted(with cord), rounded, tucked
- ZIPPERS: Yes or no*
- FILLER: If used inside - always down*  Fiberfill if used outside.
      no foam, ever.
- EDGES: Self welt, or fringe or cord* inset into seams
- STYLE: Boxed, flat round, ball, knife edge*

CURTAINS: What style is best for my space?
- LENGTH: Full, cafe, partial; depend on your windows and what room
- BREAK: (fabric on the floor) Never more than 1.5"
- LINING: Lined, interlined, unlined (depends on the textile)
- TRIM: Leading edge*, bottom, none, picture framed
- HARDWARE: Poles, iron, brass, wood, hidden
- VALANCE: Boxed, balloon, soft, throw
- WIDTH: Stationary side panels, traverse curtains, wall-to-wall

TABLE SKIRTS: Which is best for my room, if any?
- HEIGHT: 28", 30"* or 32"
- DIAMETER: Never more than 42" for a side table
- LENGTH: ALWAYS to the floor
- BREAK: Never more than 2"
- PLEATS: Boxed, shirred, Austrian
- FRINGE or TAPE: "Fringe" is very 90's lookin, tape is more tailored. A skirted table needs something at the bottom, or it looks like a caterers cloth. NEVER used a jumbo welt - very pedestrian!
- TOPPER: A smaller cloth that drapes over the main cloth, can be square, round or decorative edged in a contrasting fabric.
- SCALE: Dont make a super-large skirted table for the center of a hallway or between chairs, it will look like a buffet table at a wedding

- TYPEx pleated, tailored, shirred
- TRIM: Tape trim is best
- LENGTH: Break on floor 1/2", barely brush floor, NEVER not touching floor


How? Where?

1.) Ask your (good) friends; check on Angie's List; look in theYellow Pages; call a local designer you may know (or not) and ask if they'd share their workrooms number.

2.) Once you find a workroom, go in and look around, touch the upholstery, feel the pillows, look at the way its made very CLOSELY!

3.) Tell them what you want as best you can. If youre not sure, take photos from magazines or use examples in their workroom.

4.) PROPOSAL: Ask for an invoice or proposal for the items to be made before work begins.

Proposals should always contain the following information:
- YARDAGE: Quantity they suggest, dont second guess them.
- SIZE: (Bed - twin or king; Pillows - 20"x20," etc.) 
- TRIM: How is it's to be applied and how much is requested
- FILLER: (down, fiber, cotton batting, etc.)
- HARDWARE: Supplied and installed by workroom? Get specific info; ask for a photocopy of what you have selected from their resources.
- INSTALLATION: By whom? It's best to have the workroom install the curtains.
- COST:  Breakdown for each item on proposal (pillows $30, curtains $40)
- SPECIFIC DETAILS: add all specific details (trim applied along leading edges, or turkish corners)
- FABRIC: Who supplies the fabric, you? them? another supplier? 
- FABRIC ARRIVAL: When do you expect the fabric to arrive if youre supplying it.
- WHAT FABRIC: Make note on the proposal (by name, colors or manufacturer) which are to be used and where and how. It's best to return the proposal to the workroom with a small snip of the fabric attached.
- WHAT TRIM: Make a note on the proposal (by name, colors,or manufacturer) what is to be used and where and how. Attach a small piece of the trim to the proposal.
PRICE: Negotiate, but dont be an obnoxious jerk.
- DEPOSIT: Place a 50% deposit on the entire cost for each item. Dont deposit any more than 50% everrrr!
- FINISH TIME: Ask the workroom to include the ETA on the proposal
- PAY BY CHECK: Write on the proposal your check number, deposit paid, and the date you signed and mailed it back

5.) MEASURING: Let whomever is going to fabricate your curtains, bedskirts, etc. measure them.

This stuff is the fun part and it's also the frustrating part if you dont know the vocabulary or the how-to's, but now you do!

You can do it, I'm here to help!

P: 202.669.8669