Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Curtain Call! Part IV -- Sheer Genius

For those of us in "the trade," what would we do without sheers?  Not only are they a staple in the design world, but they have gone way beyond the nylon-y things your parents (or grandparents) had.  There are some wonderful variations available --too many to show -- so I thought I'd just give all my dear readers some images that illustrate how ethereal they can be:

Architect Bobby McAlpine uses cotton scrim to great effect in his former Montgomery, Alabama house. (photographed by William Waldron for House & Garden)

I love this half-curtain by Joe D'Urso.  It's a stylish and inventive way to let in light while providing privacy.  The sheer fabric is elevated by an interesting top treatment. (source unknown)

In this dreamy breakfast room, pale chiffon with a gently flounced top is a whisper at the windows.  This is also a natural for a bedroom.  (source unknown)

In this great Donghia ad, there's an interesting interplay of solids and sheers.  

What a pretty bedroom treatment.  The two sets of draperies soften the room and filter light. (source unknown)

In a modern high rise, gossamer Roman shades span the wall.  It's a beautiful way to add interest to a space with little architectural detail.  (source unknown)

This terrific living room by Kathryn Ogawa and Gilles Depardon was part of a ASID showhouse in NYC in the 90s.  When I saw it, I swooned over the remarkable undulating sheers, which were made by the late, great Mary Bright, one of the best window treatment fabricators of all time.  "Suspended from a ceiling track by copper wire, the spectral curtain seems to float horizontally in space." (source unknown)

I was also lucky enough to see this room in a New York designer showhouse in 1988.  The room was by Andrée Putman.  When the photo appeared in Metropolitan Home, I ripped it out and have saved it all these years!

Joe Nahem of Fox/Nahem uses a combination of draperies and Roman shades in a floral sheer that appears embroidered.  This very pretty look shows the versatility of sheers and how fresh and modern florals can be.  The unexpected juxtapostion with wooden paneling and some modern pieces of furniture is a nice touch.  (photographed by Simon Upton for House & Garden)

In a Florida living room, I used a plaid sheer from Schumacher to work with the needle point rug and the mix of antique and new furnishings.

These sheer Roman shades are a great solution for windows on a curved wall in a serene room by Thad Hayes.  (Architectural Digest; photographer unknown)

Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz used a gauzy sheer for a beautiful scalloped Roman shade in a Long Island house.  (photography by Antoine Bootz for House Beautiful)

I used a handkerchief-weight cotton with a window pane check by Schumacher in this Long Island bedroom.

I love the inventiveness of San Francisco designer Angela Free.  In this room for the San Francisco Decorator Showhouse, "elegance abounds with a curvy lambrequin of warm white linen edged in green hanging over linen sheers."  (photography by Michael Venera for Traditional Home)

And where's Scarlett, you may (or may not) ask.  I almost left her out, but then remembered this confection of a dress she wore in the opening scene.  Layers and layers of a floaty fabric conspired to create this attention grabber.

We still have more to explore with window treatments.  Tune in next time.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Curtain Call! Part III -- "God is in the Details."

From Scarlett's green parasol to the sash that circled her tiny waist -- all were perfectly composed.   It's these details that transport design from mundane to miraculous.  And Mies was right: "God is in the details."

Here are some divine (get it?) details that transport these draperies:

This bedroom by designer Thomas Pheasant is strikingly good looking in its simplicity.  The narrow iron rod, the oversize rings, the header punctuated by a contrasting wide tape --it all adds up, handsomely. (photographed by Durston Saylor for Architectural Digest)

In 1999, the now defunct Metropolitan Home published a trio of window treatments, photographed by William A. Boyd, Jr., that look as fresh today as they did 12 years ago.  The one above uses flat panels "to create the theatricality of a sexy scrim."  They are attached to a recessed three-track system, which allows them to glide back and forth.

The circle medallion in organza appears again, this time layered over a rich paisley and attached with grommets. (Metropolitan Home)

These layers make a great case for tie-backs.  They're not stodgy here!  (Metropolitan Home)

The large scale of the ric-rac gives it sophistication in a room by Eric Cohler.  (photos by Colleen Duffley and William Hopkins for Traditional Home)

This one is subtle in its details, but the tiered effect is a beautifully tailored touch in a room by Waldo Fernandez and Robert Stilin. (Decorator Showhouse; photographer unknown)

A traditional treatment in a pretty room with modern touches by Robert Brown and Todd Davis. (source unknown)

In an otherwise austere bedroom in the Paris apartment of Thomas Maier, these draperies with the top detail add softness.  (photographed by Thibault Jenson for House & Garden)

This is a great look that can be easily created with a variety of fabrics.  The spacing is important.  (source unknown)

Here's a drapery with a contrasting border that I used in a bedroom.  The border fabric is corduroy, which is not usually associated with draperies, but works well here with its horizontal wale.    (photo by the great Michael Kraus)

David Hicks used unlined silk taffeta in a handsome drawing room.  But what makes them special is the subtle flop-over at the top and the way they are woven through what appears to be a lucite rod.  (source unknown)

I used a layer of metallic-glazed linen  over a cotton-y sheer to create a floating drapery in a bedroom.  To keep the look lighter than air,  I used a lucite rod with silver-leafed brackets.

But then my quandary was how to attach the draperies to the rod.  I came up with the idea of using silver hoop earrings (from Michael's Craft Stores), which were sewed to the drapery's header.  (Go ahead, check the "brilliant" box at the end of this post.)

Christian Liaigre used this good looking hardware in a Paris apartment.  (photo: Jacques Dirand for House Beautiful)

For the draperies in my living room, I used a pattered sheer under a lightweight wool crepe.  It appears to be a full layer but it's actually a narrow piece, folded back.  The "finials" are actually old iron tiebacks to which I added a mirrored back.  See photo below for detail.  (photo by Michael Kraus)

There are many ways to infuse special details into window treatments.  It takes a bit of ingenuity, but it's worth it.  

My next post will continue with "Curtain Call!"

Thanks for reading, everyone!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Curtain Call! Part II --Draperies that Billow Like a Ballgown

Last time (before the brief interlude with SPRING!) the subject was draperies that were serenely simple, yet special in their length and volume.  They are made of fabrics that, well, drape (duh).  May sound silly, but the "hand" of the material makes all the difference.  Lightweight wools, soft cottons and linens, rayon and even certain silks and synthetics are perfect to cascade down to the floor -- just meeting it, breaking like a well-tailored trouser leg, or puddling in a glorious heap.  There's no right or wrong, but there definitely is a mood created by the way the drapery falls to the ground.  But that's for a later discussion.  Right now, the subject is draperies that billow!

They make their presence known in a different way and with a different attitude -- draperies that billow out speak more to opulence and less to restraint.  They can be pure silk or engineered synthetics, they can break a little or a lot, but what is always required is a certain crispness, a movement that rustles like the proverbial ballgown.  For sheer drama and glamour, you can't beat them.

Drama? Glamour?  This bedroom by Bentley LaRosa Salasky Design has it all!   These voluminous silk draperies just ooze grandeur.  There's also a knockout valance to top them off, but I'll feature that in an upcoming post.  I know you're just dying to see will.  Keep reading my blog. (photo: New York Magazine; photographer unknown)

In a Missouri house architect Bobby McAlpine and designer Susan Ferrier ramp up the drama in the master bathroom by adding a linen drapery with a fringed hem. (photo: Don Freeman for House Beautiful)

The California house of designer Mary Watkins Wood features  glazed linen curtains from her collection.  (photo:  Thomas Loof for House Beautiful) 

In a Houston house, a trio of designers, headed by Babs Watkins, used additional fabric to create extra fullness in their  opulent draperies. (photo: Kerri McCaffety for House Beautiful)

Designers Illya Hendrix and Tom Allardyce embue a California dining room with "worldly sophistication" and the silk draperies contribute to it -- notice the wrapped detail at the top. (photo: Jeff Oshiro for House & Garden)

Windsor Smith uses sky blue silk with a pretty border for a Los Angeles house.  (photo:  Victoria Pearson for House Beautiful)

Paul Sisken adds a jaunty elegance to a Hamptons dining room. (photo: Antoine Bootz for  House Beautiful)

In a Charleston, South Carolina pied-a-terre, Elizabeth Hagins (your humble blogger) used an under-layer of a UV resistant fabric from Perennials and an over-layer of a faintly metallic woven sheer from Kravet.  As the draperies are opened and closed they billow out even more, creating wonderful verve.  

This is the dining room of the same Charleston home.  Here again we used two layers of fabrics to create the same billowy sumptuousness. Since the intense sun was not such an issue, no UV treated fabric was required, so underneath we layered the same Kravet fabric used in the living room, and topped it off with a patterned silk organza from Koplavitch and Zimmer (now available through Wolf Home.)  The results in both rooms are stunning, thanks to Sam Ruff of Designer Services.            

This brings up a preaching moment.  There are lots of ready made draperies available through many different resources, and I agree that they serve a useful purpose.  But the only reason to use them is their price.  You cannot replace a well-made custom window treatment, no matter how simple the design.  I'm a lover of beautiful fabrics, but if you need to skimp, it's better to use a humble material and have it made by a professional.  Lecture is over.

My upcoming post, Curtain Call!, will continue its look at draperies, with examples of details used to great effect.  (I would ask, who said, "God is in the details," but that's just too predictable, no?)

Thanks for reading, everyone! 

Monday, March 21, 2011


T.S. Eliot famously wrote, "April is the cruelest month."  He had something there, but how about March.  Know why they call it March madness?  I assure you it has nothing to do with basketball.

In the Northeast, we are getting little teases.  The days are longer, little green shoots pop up, snow (by this time dirty grey) has finally disappeared, and we have these seductive days that flirt with 60+ degrees.

If you live in a more southern latitude, I'm not talking to you, and frankly I'm tempted to delete any sunny comments you might post about how beautiful and fragrant it is there.

I may want to whine and complain like a good (though not native) New Yorker, but being a cockeyed optimist, I won't.  Instead, I'll just post some pretty photos and hope for the best.

The legendary English gardener, Christopher Lloyd, also had a love of natural plantings.  (photo by  Alexandre Bailhache for H&G)

Mass plantings at a Connecticut farmhouse  (photo by Peter Brown for H&G)

An orchard of apple trees on Long Island (photo by Richard Felber for H&G)

The Connecticut gardens of Annette and Oscar de la Renta are a treat all year long, but most notably in early spring, as seen in the photos below, taken by Richard Felber.

An alée of pear trees frames the statue of a Florentine boar
White and almost black tulips are most appropriate for a fashion designer.
Evergren topiaries, as seen through an early spring mist create a haunting image.

And this, dear readers, is what I have to look forward to in the very near future:

Daffodils grow happily at the base of an ancient apple tree in my side yard.

In about 4 to 6 weeks, this is what my cutting garden will look like (I hope.)
Kitty's on mole patrol.
Happy spring, everybody!  The continuation of my Curtain Call! series will resume this Wednesday.

Thanks for reading.