When you’re out in a hot mediterranean country for a short holiday, the extreme heat of a good summer can just be a temporary treat. For the locals however, the constant hot weather without any respite of rain or even cool wind, is exhausting and debilitating. I have a friend who lives in exactly this situation. Having built her villa some twenty years ago, over a period of 5 years, she is just now recognising the folly of building it without heating for the winter and adequate fans, aircon or hefty window shutters for the summer. Climate change has occured on a much bigger scale over there, the day time temperatures are now regularly 44 to 46 deg C all day, every day for months on end with very little variance. It’s staggeringly hot! My chum has had to spend vast sums on replacing the flyscreens fitted to each opening side of her windows and then the outer shutters as these do shade each room, cooling down rooms that are in direct sunlight all day long.
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Some people have a distinct knack of furnishing their homes with that touch of elegance and panache that singles them out from the crowd. I know two such ladies – and yes, I appreciate there will be chaps out there with the same talents but I’m not personally acquainted with any. One lady I’ve got to know quite well lately has a very similar house to my own, on the same estate so the same age. However, her lounge curtains are utterly beautiful. Set off by an attractive wrought iron rail, the curtains are palest cream and hang superbly in gentle pleats from under the overhead swags and swathes. The main window have roller blinds to block out the evening. The whole ensemble helps to disguise that her front window is plain, no bows or bays in her house. My frontage affords a nice square bay which although more attractive, was a devil’s job to hang a curtain rail around!
When we’re confined to our home bases for several weeks at a time, after the initial euphoria of experiencing the much coveted joy of endless weekends . . . these joys eventually come boredom and lethargy. But this is just the time when we can make the most of our furnishing repairs and by looking at every room to check over the condition of the window dressings for example. Those ruffed roman blinds that seemed such a fantastic deal twenty or thirty years ago now look a tad old fashioned and dare I suggest, garish? The venetion blinds that have been up for donkeys years really do need a good clean. This is not easy. You will need baby wipes and this tip: firstly either dust the closed blinds with a feather duster or vacuum attachment. Then taking one baby wipe at a time, try to wrap it over both sides of the slat and wipe firmly along to the cord and back. It will take several wipes but once you get into a rythm, it’s quite a relaxing task and the blinds should look brilliant and smell adorably clean!
In these days of needing to keep ourselves safe out of the sun’s burning rays, it’s very usual for families to fit roller blinds and screens across windows. At one time it was common practice to hang net curtains – pretty white or cream lace and frills at the windows meant you could look out but folk couldn’t really see in these were replaced by frilly festoons blinds, clouds of colourful materials. They were effective from a privacy point of view but screening out harmful rays was beyond their remit. We now have the US idea of slatted shutters that fit to the inside of the windows. I suspect this is really a fashion statement as these are very effective in keeping air conditioning working effectively and we don’t tend to need that much protection over here. However from an asthaetics point of view, the slatted shutters are very attractive and really do finish off a window. I know many who have them plus the adornment of curtains, just for show. A touch of belt and braces from an interior design point of view!
Whenever you see old films and documentaries about the Victorians, after noting the wonderful looking clothes and hats the women wore, one thing stands out – the amazing festoons of curtaining at the windows. These were used for decoration and to keep the room as warm as they could – there wouldn’t have been central heating, only fires made in the main rooms. They went in for oversized curtains when they could get away with it with lots of blousy colours and chintzey patterns. Sometimes, especially if the windows were in a drafty corridor or on a landing, some would have to have the curtains sown with exta weights in the bottom hem so they curtains stayed down and absolutely in the position they were intended for instead of getting blown about in the drafts. Nothing makes you feel cold more quickly than seeing curtains and blinds moving about. Let’s face it if they’re at that stage, then nothing will get you much warmer.
The interior design of any property generally reflects the owner installed at the time it was last set. I belong to a general interest group and a couple of the members are experienced seamstresses and undertake regular recovering of chairs, making of matching curtains, blinds and other soft furnishing items. This to them makes the point of interior design – it’s a very important part of making their home feel designed around them and their family. The rest of us less talented buy whatever we find in the massive out of town home supply emporiums. But to have the home actually stripped out and either refigured or added to takes nerve, money and a professional home interior design team. They have the skill to look at a room or dwelling and see potential – can that unloved little corner be lit and refurnished with an existing chair or cabinet . . . Would knocking out that bit of wall open up the kitchen or utility and bring in more light, etc etc. Always use a professional if your budget allows. It adds to the value of the property so much.
To make a truly grand job dressing the windows in any room needs some preparation work first. As with all decor related activities, cleaning around the framework to get rid of all those creepy spiders and other insects and creepy bugs. Then the glass needs a really good clean – perhaps with lemon juice in the rinsing water. The new e-cloths are superb at leaving a streak free finish. So. also if you’re dressing the bedroom windows, adding a blackout layer is a popular idea to prevent additional light from pouring in. Ensuring the main curtains are fully lined will also help reduce light polution. If using roller blinds, they too can have a blackout backing to try to keep the area outside as dark as possible. Venetion blinds are definitely a smart idea in kitchens and bathrooms. I’m thinking that venetian blinds are a superb choice for the kitchen and bathroom as they are manufactured in either plastic or wood and can instantly lift a room with their elegant fuss-free looks.
Way back in in Victorian times the need for curtains and window dressings was not purely for decoration and keeping ahead with fashionable trends. There was the somewhat bizarre social etiquette aspect to be taken account of too. In the days when families would entertain – the lady of the house would accept into her home another lady of her own house and it was all done very politely and in very heavily prescribed order. No one was alllowed to see legs – of any sort, be they attached to a young female, or furniture legs. It got quite ludicrous for a period. House furnishings and decor had to be of exacting nature too. The housekeeping staff would have to abide by eery new social dictat as far as placement of furniture and the covering of same. Antimacasas flourished greatly in this period – covering chair and table and even piano legs at the height of the Victorian folly period. A case of modesty being take to the most silly degree.
When I was walking down the town last week I couldn’t help noticing that two of the little cottages I pass have either changed hands and are now owned by the same family, or there’s someone offering a grat deal in these attractive american style wooden window shutters. Before this, I can’t really say I’d taken any notice of their window dressing as it was probably fairly bland. I only notice when blinds or curtains really make a statement and enhance the window cavatity int the wall! These new indoor shutters were almost identical to those I’ve experienced when staying over in the – US. They keep out lots of sunlight and heat – which in somewhere like the deep south is seriously necessary. They have to have airconditioning on 24/7 so anything that reduces the effect of the humidity is essential. The traditional wooden shutter blind across windows is now as traditional there as applie pie!
Swags and ornamental curtain displays are most definitely things of the past. We don’t currently go in for great big side curtains with massive swags on pelmets that stretch over the entire width of the window. This was such a fashion for so many year – probably due to the prim Georgians and Victorians, when here was a surfeit of curtaining materials and no one worried a jot about the travelling footprint of every mm of fabric. These days however the concerns are more ecologically based. We need good window dressing of whichever sort will protect us, our furniture and household effects from any damaging rays from the sun; any damp from water ingress and this can mean spores drifting about causing disease and many types of asthma. We also need to keep out the cold. Nothing is more debilitating than feeling cold when you’re trying to concentrate on reading, homework; letter writing whatever. When window covering is needed, it pays to speak to experts in that field. A combination of cost effective curtains, blinds and shutters will provide all the protection needed at a good price is planned and sorted as a project and not just knee jerk reaction to things.