A twitcher's guide: Net curtains are being reinvented by avant-garde designers

If the eyes are the windows of the soul, then the windows of a house reveal the secrets of its owner. Which means you need to get the curtains right to avoid giving the wrong impression.

We all know that if you want to find out about an area, you should look first for signs of upmarket pizza chains and then for skips outside houses. And if you want to know about the neighbours, check out the windows. Net curtains or wooden slatted blinds? Etched glass or swags and pelmets?

The window-coverings market is worth more than £1bn a year, and much of that is spent on protecting our privacy. But what do you do if you live on a busy street and you want to protect your valuables from prying eyes while proclaiming your style credentials to the neighbours?

Some of the UK's hottest young designers are turning their thoughts to just that problem, and the results are a new set of alternatives to net curtains that are far more stylish than you might imagine.

Lauren Moriarty, an award-winning designer, has invented a 3-D curtain. Made from two layers of sheer lacy material with a butterfly pattern suspended in the middle, her curtain appears to move when you walk past.

"I wanted to create the illusion of something magic," she says. "We get bored of our surroundings and I thought that if something appeared to change, it would keep it interesting."

"This is an optical illusion, so that when you walk past it, it appears that the butterflies are fluttering. But if you are just sitting inside the room reading or watching television, they don't move, so they are not distracting ( www.rockettstgeorge.co.uk).

Moriarty has picked up on one of the biggest trends of the moment: layering. Elaine Williams, of Interior Couture ( www.interiorcouture.com ), says: "We are doing lots of layering at the moment. There are some fabulous sheer materials around which allow you to build up the layers, and you can then easily change the look of a room.

"The first one will just give you the privacy and diffuse the light, and the second and third can change the look. We do get bored with looking at the same thing all the time and this is a great way to be able to change the aspect.

"You can start simply with black, white and charcoal or be more adventurous with patterns and brighter colours.

"Another very hot trend is metallics. They give you a really soft look that diffuses the light and still gives you the privacy."

One company that has perfectly married this season's current love of all things sheer with that metallic look is Salt ( www.salt-uk.com; 020-7593 0007). It has produced a series of sheer curtains in delicately woven metal. "From a distance, it just looks like muslin; but close up, you can see the metal strands," says June Swindell, Salt's creative director. Prices start at around £165 a metre.

"During the day, they work like net curtains, and are just beautiful sheer material; but at night, they catch the electric light and give off a shimmer. If you are worried about people seeing in, you can put a simple roller blind behind, which doesn't affect the way the light catches them.

"The window is always the focal point of the room as your eyes are drawn to the light, and if there is a disgusting pair of net curtains, which look bad from both inside and outside, it speaks volumes about the rest of the house. We need privacy, but there is so much more we can do to create it. "

But if you still feel that's a little bit too "net" for your palate, then there are other ways to shield your modesty. What about a modern take on the old butcher's fly screen? Only this time, instead of strips of garishly coloured plastic, it's made with crystals or pearls. The more you hang, the greater the privacy and the more opulent the look.

This look has been perfected by Spina. Run by the Italian designer Robbie Spina and his co-director Joe Zito, Spina creates what it likes to call bespoke jewellery for the home. Its pearl and crystal curtains are all made to order and each one is unique.

"We can work to a budget. You choose the colour and the size of the crystals and whether you want each strand to hang 3cm or 10cm apart. Obviously, the closer the strands, the greater the privacy."

Prices start at around £95 per linear metre, which is probably not that much more than you would pay to have a pair of good-quality curtains made, and you won't need to have anything else hanging at the window ( www.spinadesign.co.uk; 020-7328 5274).

Finally, there's window film, which dispenses with the need for any material. A thin layer of film is attached directly to the window in the pattern of your choice. No one can see in, but you can't really see out either.

Emma Jeffs, of Surface Material Design ( www.surfacematerialdesign.co.uk; 020-8671 3383), has launched a range of patterns ranging from flower to retro circles in both plain white and jaunty colours. The plain costs around £47 a roll, and the coloured version, a kind of wallpaper for windows, retails at £250 a roll.

The rules of window dressing

Net curtains are being reinvented by avant-garde designers. What will the neighbours say? By Kate Watson-Smyth

* To create the layered look, it is worth asking if you can buy a returnable sample. This will be bigger than the free samples and will give you a better idea of how your colours will work together.

* Remember that you will need as many poles as you plan to have layers, so make sure that you have room for more than one curtain pole.

* Using a Perspex pole and finials will give the impression that your curtains are floating in mid air.

* Curtains should always reach the floor and puddle slightly at the bottom. Otherwise, it looks as if you couldn't afford enough fabric. If you have radiators under the window, then either have them moved or make sure that the curtains aren't so thick that they block all the heat.

* If you have a small window, try hanging the pole either very high above or out to the sides, which will give the impression of height and also allow you to pull them further back to the sides and stop you losing light.

* Don't forget: silk fades but velvet will never go out of fashion.

* Finally, Williams suggests that if you have spent a lot of money on a pair of really beautiful curtains, make sure you light them in the evening. " When you enter a room, the first thing you look at is the lightest thing. Either position a downlighter above your curtains or put a lamp there so they can become a feature of the room."

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
musicKate Bush asks fans not to take photos at London gigs
News
i100
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment