In their earliest form, curtains were a form of drapery used to section off the Great Hall of a manor house (the servants quite literally ‘made their beds’ from straw & blankets and slept at one end, while the Lord and Lady slept around the hearth at the other). Wall hangings in medieval homes were a functional form of decoration with tapestries providing insulation from cold stone walls, drapes at draughty doorways being more common than drapes at windows.
During the late 16th Century the earliest methods of curtain suspension were developed for doorways – metal rings or hooks were sewn onto the top of a drape and suspended onto a rod, curved at one end to prevent the hooks from sliding off. Drawn to one side only, this type of door hanging was known as a portiere (from the French ‘porte’ meaning door).
As construction methods improved and buildings expanded upwards, upstairs chambers were added, affording homeowners space away from their servants. For much of domestic history, the bed was the most expensive piece of furniture that most people owned (and a symbol of wealth and importance) and drapes around a bed afforded additional privacy from servants sleeping in trundle beds at the foot of their master’s bed as well as helping insulate against the cold. First suspended from ceilings, as beds developed to include headboards and corner-posts, so drapes were fixed to the bed itself both on top (a canopy or tester) and at the four corner posts.
Curtains & Blinds
In the early days, windows had shutters to keep out the cold and provide security and it was not until much later in the mid 17th century that drapes, in the form of decorative curtains, were popular as a window treatment. ‘Curtain’ comes from the old French ‘cortine’, which itself originates from the Latin stem ‘cort’ meaning enclosure.
During the early 1700s Holland blinds and simple draw curtains were seen at the sash windows of large homes. Pelmets were useful in hiding curtain tracks and unsightly blind mechanisms. Then during the 1720s, Palladian style filtered out of London to English country homes and paired curtains began to play an integral part in the design scheme of a room.
Curtains are both Functional & Decorative
Curtains are a popular choice today and as well as giving us privacy from neighbours and the street, protection from draughts and being an effective way of blocking out light, curtains also have acoustic benefits, absorbing sound and helping reduce noise pollution. Curtains soften hard spaces and make them feel welcoming and inviting. Curtains can also draw the eye in a room – framing a beautiful window or adding visual height to balance a room’s proportions. They can be a decorative focal point and one of the most striking style elements of a room.
I hope you have found this interesting if not useful. Do get in touch if you would like help planning a window treatment and if you’d like to more inspiration then hop on over to our Pinterest board.