I have spent a few holidays over in the States with family – it’s great living in with them for a couple of weeks at a time to really take in what’s different about life over there and here. One of the stand-out features for me is the difference in weather. How we dress our windows to suit this weather differs too. We just pull blinds down or close curtains. They have wonderful window shutter blinds which are made of wood. You have to keep out the extreme sunlight and heat when they have 70% humidity – otherwise the aircon is prohibitive to run. We have been seeing the advent of the same blinds over here now. In fact I know several families who have invested in them – more for show than keeping out extreme elements of course! One thing they don’t do is hang washing out – even though in most states they have much better weather all year and saving the use of tumble driers would save this planet overnight!
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I help out at a local historic house – it’s actually known as a Hall, but is not particularly big. Being of palladian design, this means it has very balanced number of windows and doors on all elevations. The windows in fact all go from floor to ceiling in just about every public room downstairs. This is a huge amoun of glass to cover up to keep the cold out in the winter, as I can testify. The hall still has all the original internal window shutters that fold back each day. The sheer height of the windows involves one of us standing on a plinth to reach and unlatch and lift off the iron restraining bar so the shutters open. It’s such a basic design but it still works after 300 years. The thick wooden shutters themselves have been painted over many times and they’ve also warped a little – nothing too dramatic though, as they wouldn’t all fit so neatly and efficiently to let in bright sun but keep out the miserable darkness of a rainy night!
Whilst I was away on a quick trip to Texas, my host family were very busy and very kind but unable to take a lot of time of of their day jobs to entertain me – that was fine, I found plenty to satisfy my curious mind. However, they did enrol me as a family guest at their rather fantastic country club . . . . . Now we are definitely talking posh. It was grander than any spa or hotel I’ve been in to date. They had the most wonderful windows – huge but with style. The window dressings were equally impressve but also very functional. Being a privacy protection site, they had special see out but not see in windows; then they had the formal slatted shade producing shutters. There were also great swathes of curtain dressings to with side swags. It probably was rather OTT but such gorgeousness was a luxury.
I have noticed lately that some of my younger family friends have been adopting a more classical approach to their choice of soft furnishings and window dressings. After years of that rather grim combination of grey, black and grey, red-black-grey etc. I am sure this is because of the rather wonderful selection of blockbuster tv series currently – most of which have a historical theme. Particularly high on the list is anything Victorian. As we celebrate 200 years since her birth this year, there will be even more. These programmes reflect fashions and customs of the time. Very feminine bedrooms, pretty lace and floral themes. Bedding sets may be more modern with duvets, but the covers and matching curtains really do reflect a sumptuous feel which you don’t get with an austere minimalist theme. Pretty patels and chinz may not be everyones’ taste but it brings a lighter, softer air to any room.
That lovely time of year is upon us again – light showers and then bright sunshine. It’s the perfect time for freshening up everything around the home. Curtains and blinds should come down to be cleaned and the window spaces thoroughly wiped down. It isn’t easy to do this sort of thing when the window dressings are still in situ. If venetian blinds don’t lift off, it is possible to pull them into the very highest position and clean around the back with a flim feather duster or micro stick this removes the dust from behind the blind and around the corners of the windows. Clean windows with malt vinegar does wonders – I’ve always found that spraying the windows with slightly diluted vinegar then immediately drying and polishing off with scrunched up newspaper works better than any duster and cream cleaner. Another good tip is to use clean rain water from the garden butt. I strain a can load through an old kitchen sieve.
One of the things you really need to consider when you move house, is how are the windows dressed currently – unless it’s a new build. What is the view immediately outside and can anyone see directly in? My best pal lives on a quiet estate and opposite are the sides of houses only – no overlooking windows or any problem. Therefore she has never felt the need to put up blinds or tulles or nets at all, just has some gorgeously coloured curtains that pull across at night to keep out draughts. Now though, she has thought that a fresh approach is needed – updating her decor, she has changed colourways quite dramatically. Instead of thick curtains hanging each side of the window, she’s now got shutters which open fully in the daytime but shut firmly of an evening and look very smart from both inside and outside.
I have connections with two or three community groups nearby – we meet regularly, at least monthly for two of them. Our choice of venue is very limited so it is very dissapointing that the one we are expected to use is so dreadfully grubby and has a permanently unkempt air about it. I dread to wonder what our speakers think when we welcome them. All they see is a rather ugly squat single storey place with a few parking places. When somewhere is rented out for hire, and this is the purpose of its existence, it should really be kept along other commercial property lines. Decent decor, clean and functioning washroom facilities, and top here – a decent fresh and well equipped kitchen. Our hall was built with public subscription so it isn’t going anywhere soon – but it’s not good enough for wedding receptions or anything that really matters anymore. Very sadly.
I was leafing through our small local trader booklet the other day – trying to locate information about pub walks that I’d spied. I didn’t find the original article but I did notice two or three new advertisers had ventured into the world of advertising in the ‘locally yours’ brochure. This is a good sign – confidence in being able to quote and supply in a quiet market is to be encouraged. The ones I had in mind are for blinds, window dressings – curtains and that sort of thing. They really do make a room feel totally finished and I know of a young couple who moved into their dream barn conversion – couldn’t actually afford to do the windows until near winter. What a difference this has made – they booked a consultation online and the visit was very helpful. The results are magnificent – stylish and really set off the splendour of each room.
It has become very much the norm these days that as soon as a couple know they’re expecting a baby, all kinds of changes and special preparations have to be put in place. Take the nursery for example – at once time there would be a tiled or wooden floor with a nice colourful rug. There would be a crib for the first few months and then the cot for another couple of years. The curtains and bedding would be yellows and lilacs or green pastel shades and generally baby would be left to its own devices when sleep was concerned. Now though with the rise in technology and lowering of costs, it’s very on trend to have black out blinds installed in nurseries and any bedroom in fact. These cut out excess light, often some exterior noise and also help to exclude drafts. They really do work too especially when combined with modern shutters.
A good chum of mine lives in a big house that was built to look older than it is. I know not why the previous owner wanted it to look like a 1920s villa, but it does and it has beautifully proportioned sash windows throughout – very in keeping with the design ethos. The problem with big windows is the need for a lot of curtaining. If you don’t have those, then the space can look really cold and uninviting. So after going through their rosey fabric with swags period, followed by start minimalist roller blinds, the family have settled on wooden slatted shutters inside – they fold back in the daytime and very adequately and efficiently cover the vast glazed expanse at night. They have the little cane down the middle to turn the slats up or down according to the sun direction. They are stunning – minimal fuss but totally adequate reduction in cold air off the windows.