There are several kinds of windows, JL and each must, of necessity, be differently treated. Always see to it that the curtains do not prevent the window being readily and easily opened. Curtains that have to be pushed, hauled and shoved aside every time we want a breath of air are an unforgivable nuisance. They should be hung far enough back on the trim, not to allow a shaft of light to show between the curtain and the casing. They should protect from prying eyes, mitigate cold draughts, and last of all be an adornment. Curtains properly made and hung should fulfill all these requirements.
There are French windows, casement windows, sash or hung windows; and transom windows combined with all three. French windows are usually nothing more or less than doors, but should be curtained as windows if there are other kinds of windows in the room. If all the windows are French, they should be hung as doors are hung, i.e., the portieres and hangings should match.
Over the glass some thin material should be stretched, attached to a rod top and bottom. An excellent rod to use is flat, Ys inch thick and about % inch wide. This is better with thin curtaining than a round rod as it keeps the curtains close against the pane. The side edges should be very carefully adjusted else the edge will bulge. Always hem the edge, even if it is selvage, so that there will be a firm and secure edge to stretch. These thin curtains may or may not have a heading. They should not cover the trim of the window casing itself. The top panels may be left exposed, the curtain only reaching the bottom of the top pane. This is an informal treatment and permits more light into the room, at the same time protecting us from the outside. Such curtains should never be permitted to hang loose, as they would flap each time the window was opened.
For over-draperies on French windows a heavy material is suitable. It should be hung on the outside trim on strong rods, as the pull is severe. Plain long hangings may be used wide enough to pull together at night. The hangings should be lined to give them body, also because the outside as well as the inside is seen. If a valance is hung between the curtains, the curtains must remain stationary. A fitted or French pleated valance, hung across the entire opening on a separate rod, permits the curtain being easily pulled back and forth. If the windows open out, either of these methods are adaptable: if they open in, with no depth to the casing, the doors would catch in the valance. Therefore, the only practical hanging is plain straight folds on either side placed well on to the casing at the top. If the window has a stationary transom above, a valance may be hung all the way across, or better still, one-third on each side, permitting the light to come through the center of the transom and giving the decorative effect of a valance. The valance should be shirred or made with a French pleated heading. The method of doing this is treated in a later chapter. The depth of the valance varies from one-third to one-half yard.
Casement windows allow of a variety of charming treatments. The shirred thin curtains may be stretched across the window casing and attached firmly at top and bottom, otherwise when the casement window was thrown open, the curtains would flap in the wind. If the lights are small in casement windows, it is best to leave them uncovered. Pots of plants arranged on the window-sill give the necessary protection from the outside. Chintz or casement cloth curtains may be hung on the outside of the trim and should be made wide enough to come together when pulled. Hung with rings and rods adjusted to slip easily back and forth, these curtains may be pulled at night. If a valance is used it must be hung on a separate rod completely across the curtains. This window arrangement is extremely picturesque.
When thin curtains are used against the glass, the over-curtaining may be hung with a valance between, thus making them stationary. The former method, however, is preferable. Casement overhangings should not come to the floor but should end at the sill. As the sill usually stands out from the window trim, it is best not to have them come below the sill. A window seat below the casement should be upholstered in the same material as the hangings.
If the sill is broad, a good effect may be had by hanging the thin curtains directly under the heavier ones on the outside of the trim, that is, leaving the window pane itself uncovered, but softening and enriching the effect of the over-curtains by the soft thin ones directly underneath. These should be extended 6 inches or 8 inches beyond the heavier curtains. The color contrast should not be too sharp. For example, the casement window in the bedroom or dining room might be hung with yellow and green flowered chintz, and thin curtains could be of a soft muslin or madras with yellow dots or small figures. Such a treatment needs above all to be fresh and picturesque. Imagine at such a window yellow daffodils or chrysanthemums! A large bowl of gold fish and on either side a box tree, pyramidal in shape make a good window decoration for the winter.
Casement cloth is the traditional material for casement windows. The colors are rather somber and the texture very smooth and plain; therefore it were better to use in a living or dining room or hall, than a chamber. The curtains should be edged with a simple cut fringe of the same tone. Casement cloth always needs some finish in the way of fringe or guimpe.
With equally good taste it may be hung as an under- or over-curtain at a casement window.
In a casement window in a library or living room, an unusual effect may be had by inserting one or three panes of stained decorative glass. The design must be excellent and the color good: otherwise the effect will be cheap and tawdry. These decorative panes give a note of interest and also may be very lovely with the light shining through them, laying splendid splotches of color on a polished floor. Be careful that the color does not fall on a vari-colored rug or a piece of furniture, else half the effect will be lost.
A group of casement windows set in a deep embrasure gives opportunity for handsome and unusual effects. Each window may be hung with casement cloth, and at the entrance of the embrasure, heavy curtains reaching to the ground may be used. This creates an alcove. If, instead, we wish to make the embrasure part of the room itself, the thin under-hangings may be put directly against the windows and the heavy draperies hung at either end, connected with a valance over the entire group of windows. Or else, one heavy curtain may be hung between each window and at the end, valances hung between them. Any or all of these treatments will give an excellent effect, provided the curtains are well made and evenly hung.
With ordinary hung windows, which of themselves are not decorative, we should make a distinct decorative feature of the hangings. A large unbroken expanse of plate glass certainly needs some softening and surrounding decoration as to curtaining. The day has past for the draped and festooned and over ruffled hanging.
Once everything was done to disguise a window as such. Simpler methods have come to replace these offenses against simplicity and health.
Sash or under-curtains are made to be hung from the top of the upper window frame reaching to the sill. These are hung with rings and rods and are easily adjusted. The objection to them is that when the lower sash is opened the thin curtains fly out of the window, get dirty, and their fabric is impaired. Another method is to attach one pair of curtains at the top of the window casing. These reach the top of the lower window. A second pair are hung from the top of the lower casing and left free or attached at the bottom. This makes raising the window a little difficult, as the lower sash has to be raised up under the top curtain. A third method is to stretch a pair of curtains on the lower sash only. Thus we get a good share of light from the top uncovered glass, and at the same time we are protected from the outside by the lower sash. Any sort of a thin lace which, in the trade, includes nets, scrims, muslins and laces, answers the purpose.
For over-draperies many suitable materials may be used. The curtains should be hung on the trim, exposing as much as is desired of the woodwork. This is more a matter of choice than taste. If the woodwork is very fine and tones in well with the sidewall, it is well to leave it exposed, as it makes an architectural feature of the window opening. On the other hand, if the casing is poor in construction and color, the over-draperies may be hung at the outside of the trim and as high up as possible, thus concealing the entire woodwork. In a room where the woodwork is white and the paper dark, the use of a lighter toned hanging effectually conceals the woodwork and avoids an effect which otherwise, on account of the too sharp contrast of woodwork and paper, would be disastrous.
If we wish to make a room appear higher, we can hang curtains at the top of the trim. If the curtains come to the floor, this tends to make the room look much higher. This forms a succession of vertical lines in a room. On the other hand, should we wish to make the room look lower, hang the curtains low on the trim and almost the full width of it. If the trim is exposed at the top it must be exposed on the sides, but not in its entirety.
In some old houses, built in the period of solid mahogany doors and beautifully carved mantels, we find really exquisite window and door trims, finely proportioned cornices and side pilasters with hand carving which it would seem a pity to cover. To carry out their exquisite feeling use net curtains trimmed with real lace and repeating, if possible, something of the design of the woodwork. I have in mind one such treatment. The casings have in the side-panels roses and in the lace of the curtains the same motif is used. The curtains reach just to the perfectly proportioned paneling below the window. A valance is hung between each curtain and the color tones perfectly with that of the woodwork. It gives to this drawing room a lightness and refinement that suits the period in which the room was conceived.
It is always a question of dispute whether or not draperies should come to the sill or to the floor. If they come to the floor they should be made to just clear. The weight of hanging will always tend to make them longer. For formal rooms, these long curtains are best. They add to formality and richness. Curtains planned to come only to the sill should better come to the bottom of the window casing. It is more consistent with the idea of outlining the entire window opening. Moreover if they just top the sill, there is nothing to hinder them from blowing out every time the window is opened, but coming below the sill helps to keep them inside. Such draperies may be hung as a pair of straight hangings or with a valance between, or with a full width valance.
A valance is preferable in every instance because it serves as a connection for outline and color. If the curtain, for instance, is rather dark and hangs in straight long folds, the room, with many openings, has the effect of a succession of dark divisions. If, on the other hand, the line and color is carried across by a valance, we have the horizontal line to break the continuous vertical effect. Also without it, there is usually an ugly empty space at the top, disclosing a rod or two. The work and expense of a valance, particularly one hung between the curtains, is well worth the effect. The manner of cutting, making and applying valances will be taken up in a later chapter.
Any of these various types of windows may have a transom overhead. This may be treated as part of the window opening, as a distinct window, or as a group of windows. If the first is the case, it can be hung with a valance all the way across or part way across, pleated or shirred. The curtains themselves should start underneath at the top of the valance; in fact, the transom should be treated merely as an extra window casing. If a separate window or a group is made of it, thin curtains to match the under-curtains should be shirred and attached top and bottom. Heavy curtains may be hung at either end, the height of the transom, but this is rather an unfortunate arrangement. It were well either to have thin shirred curtains entirely covering the glass or else put a valance over the transom forming one unit with the window below.