It was a forgotten old box in the musty storehouse that threw up a whole stack of curtains. Well! To tell the absolute truth, it was a lazy afternoon in the times of corona when nobody had anything much to do except perhaps crib about the state of things; that I was rummaging through the old run-down box.
I was aimlessly hunting for Knick knacks to spice up my existence without having to shove out the green bucks – that the curtains made their presence felt. And so began the romance with the curtain.
CURTAINS are beautiful things. They are full of mystery, intrigue, Drama, romance, et al. The curtain hanging on the window or covering that door speaks or hides volumes of life in it.
For centuries, straddling geographical boundaries, the curtain has had a role in every Drama that has been played out: be it between the cover of a novel or be it in the live arena of international stage or politics.
Where there is Drama, there is a curtain! ‘If the sheer curtain behind the heavy drapes had not been rudely torn, the murderer would never have been discovered’ – such is the power of the curtains.
Curtains decide which strata of society you belong to. Are you a prince or a pauper? Until the latter half of the 16th century, the concept of curtains had not surfaced. Wooden shutters were used to keep out the cold—an efficient approach.
Gradually heavy drapes of velvet, damask, tapestries, and wall hangings began being used as a door cover and eventually as a window cover to have a homogenous interior décor. However, this had not percolated to the lower strata of the society. Curtains were highly upper class, and the bourgeoisie could not have conceived of their usage.
The fabrics used to make curtains were exclusive and beyond the reach of the middle class. Beautiful silk velvets from Italy and France were beyond compare in their richness and ambiance. At the same time, wool and linen were used to hang and cover the humble household’s doors and windows.
Asymmetrical patterns of floral scrolls, birds, and gamboling animals contributed largely to marking this household interior window dressing as the rich and the famous territory. The fabric, the patterns, the trimmings of lace, buttons, frills, ropes, and tassels all went into making the curtain rich and more prosperous.
Till today, the curtains can give away the status of the household one is visiting. Last but not least is the curtain hanging hardware. That was highly decisive in how the curtains were hung and the consequent style statement that they made. A curtain hung from a curtain rod was first made possible by Samuel Scotton in 1892.
GRADUALLY, the curtains’ role did not just remain confined to blocking excess sunlight or keeping the harsh cold winters where they belonged- outside! One could choose different materials for different purposes and different rooms and their locations.
For example, the heavy silks could be for drawing rooms that showcase luxury, ambiance, and sensuousness. The bedroom had to be more relaxing, such linen and calico would work better because of their flexibility. These materials allowed light as well as controlled temperatures.
Moving away from heavy materials could make space look more confined. Trends began where daintier materials were preferably used. These light, airy fabrics create an atmosphere of romance and elegance in the daytime while providing a veneer for safeguarding your privacy.
SHEER CURTAINS OR SHEERS, as we lovingly refer to them, are very friendly and versatile. I love their gossamer look and the ability to hide things, partially creating an aura of delicate romance and mystery. Although the sheers are as old as my old great-grandmother, they have nothing of her papery skin nor her lack of allure.
The sheers began with net curtains being used as a background for the heavy drapes. The nets would prevent the heavy curtains from fading and increase their life. They were sewn behind these drapes and would be hung on a single rod as one curtain.
This, however, did not ensure that dreamy quality to the room which the sheers are famous for. And so began using sheer curtains made of gauze, linen, chiffon, silk, polyester, lace, voile, and fine cotton for layering the heavy curtains. The amount of privacy afforded by the sheer curtains depends upon your choice of color—the darker the shade, the higher the opacity.
Now the sheers’ role is to be in place, blocking out partial light and view while the heavy curtains are drawn back to let the elements in. How much of your private life becomes a part of your neighbors’ pastime will be decided by your color preferences if you want sheers. The box that I emptied on the ground revealed long-forgotten treasures by way of curtains. There were drapes, thick cotton curtains, and sheers! These prayers were answered.
I do not know where those various genres of curtains came from; they might have been hoarded treasures or discards of my mother or the ladies before her, but right now, they beckoned me. And I was game. So, the only complication remaining was the hanging technology since I had only one rod, not the dual one for the sheers. I did so want to try the layering – the sheers behind the drapes.
I knew that LAYERING CURTAINS would give my tiny apartment oodles of depth and Drama, to say nothing of the color and space that it will enhance. But all my enthusiasm fizzled out when the single rod bracket defied all my plans. Never mind, my willfulness made me rake the net. That threw up with various suggestions by people who understood my desperation. One straightforward method was to place the heavy curtains on the two – the curtain rod’s right and left ends.
The main curtains are placed to the curtain rods’ right and left edges while the sheer curtains occupy the middle part. This sort of curtain arrangement underlines the unique chic and sense of style. The curtain panels placed at the end of the rod give the appearance of having been placed on a separate rod and shade your room from harsh sunlight.
TO GIVE THE LAYERED LOOK slip one panel of the heavy curtains onto the rod. Push it to the very end to make space for more panels. After that, add one or two of the sheer panel to the rod. The number of panels you slide onto the rod largely depends on you and the strength of the rod. Finally, the leading curtain’s final panel goes on to the rod and then adjusts the panels to give them a look you so wanted.
It is the play of illusion created by the contrasting heavy and light curtains placed side by side. The sheers seemed to be framed by the heavy curtains with the flexibility to pull across and push the sheers behind them because of the latter’s lightness.
This solution seemed to be hassle-free as it did not require any change in the hardware. No double curtain rods. No heavy pelmets and no running after the installers. Above all, no delay in gratification.
The only LIMITATION is when it is sundown; the lights need to be switched on, and the curtains need to be closed to deter all the peeping Toms from entertaining themselves at your expense. Then you might have to invest some good time in adjusting the sheers behind the main curtains. This was perplexing. So, let us look up ALTERNATIVES
It occurred to me that if I use a length of wire that can hold the almost weightless sheers, it could solve my problem. It seemed like a solution at that time, but the aesthetics did not look very pleasant when I did it. After all, an iron wire resembling a clothesline acting as a curtain rod. Did not get very well. Searching for alternatives, I came across BUNGEE CORDS.
These are part of the mountaineering equipment. Adventurists use them to climb mountains or jump off cliffs with these cords providing them the safety of being held. Bungee cords are stretchable, being made of a thick elastic with hooks at both ends.
It is encased in colorful plastic or fabric. The hooks at both ends, very neatly, latch to wherever you want them to get fixed. These are available in all sizes and, because of their stretchability, are most suitable for creating the layered look which we are looking for.
Things seemed to be looking up with the bungee cord. I only had to THREAD MY SHEERS on to the versatile cord, and voila! Not so fast, though. Once having put the sheers on the cord, the hooks are fixed on the central curtain rod or pelmet’s sidebars.
The first layer of lighter curtains is hung successfully, without the foxing limitation of the earlier solution. On the central curtain rod, we place the heavy curtains and arrange the two sets of curtains to align neatly, one behind the other. Thus, the sheers hang behind the main curtains giving me a layered look that I was longing for.