Curtains Early Window Dressing

There was a hairstyle some years ago known as ‘curtains’ where bangs of hair draped down over the forehead either side of the eyes – the windows of the soul. Curtains or drapes as household décor hang either side of a building’s windows for both practical and decorative reasons. Way back in time before there was glass to fill a window space, light could only get through to the room if the space was unobstructed so there was no covering for it during the day time. Once night fell though, the air got chillier, curious nocturnal animals came investigating and it became necessary to provide a covering to keep out animals and the cold as the opening did not serve a light providing purpose during the dark night. Poles with skins draped from them probably were the first ‘curtains’ and they were easy to use. Skins could be strung or crudely stitched together to fit the gap and keep the elements and animals out of a dwelling. They were much easier to utilize than shutters or rigid covers on the ancient structures from long ago.

Curtains Early Window Dressing

Windows or ‘lights’ as they are otherwise known became paned with glass during the reign of Elizabeth I. They were very expensive items for householders to own as the glass making process at the time depended on blowing glass and cooling it on a flat surface then cutting out small panes, which were joined together in a frame with lead providing the joins and creating the lattice effect in casement windows that were hinged and able to open out and let air and light in. When homeowners moved they often took their windows with them! By allowing so much more natural light into a room than candles alone could provide, houses appeared more spacious and owners to demonstrate their considerable wealth to their neighbors could display furniture and objects all around them. Details of carving on wood and works of art could be better seen and ‘keeping up with Joneses’ became something of a game for the nobility and the wealthy upper classes of England. Being such indications of opulence the windows were seldom dressed though other areas of the house received curtain treatment. Four-poster beds were curtained or draped and canopied to provide privacy and retain heat or an arras hung on the wall for decoration and sometimes screening purposes. Mobile standing screens and tapestries acted as a divider in rooms and it is from these objects that the first curtains, as we know them now, were probably inspired.

Rather than having to move screens to block out early morning light from paned windows or operate interior or exterior shutters, which provided an added insulating benefit, curtains soon solved the problem of light requirements and temperature control in a room where draughts were prevalent. Not only could they be practical but also they could actually draw attention to the wonderful glazed window in a style and color that suited the room befitting the owner’s status.

Fashionable curtains can be acquired from many UK stores, big retailers such as Tesco or Marks and Spencer’s, but also many smaller retailers such as Laura Ashley or Terry’s Fabrics (their curtains section) for example. Advice is always to shop around, and never be afraid to request fabric samples if you have doubts over the quality!

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