Back for another curtain call

Floaty muslin and minimalist blinds are being usurped by heavier, traditional window fabrics. Lights out, says ANNALISA BARBIERI

When the super-fashionable One Aldwych Hotel opened in London last year, owner Gordon Campbell Gray knew exactly what he wanted on the windows. Curtains. No trendy, floaty muslins or organzas blowing in the wind, but proper thick curtains lined with a layer of black-out fabric that let no light through.

"I am fanatical about sleeping in total darkness," says Campbell Gray, "so the curtains were a very conscious thing. It's all very well having nice blinds but our guests come in at any time of the day or night and need to get a good night's sleep." (The hotel has "nice blinds" as well, so guests can have privacy and light if they wish - they just leave the curtains open.)

Curtains, and sleeping in total darkness, is enjoying something of a resurgence. This isn't due simply to the whims of fashion. In June news broke in the Journal of Cancer that lack of a dark night's sleep had been linked to breast cancer. (The presence of the hormone, melatonin, produced by the pineal gland, is disrupted by artificial light - potentially allowing oestrogen levels to rise to dangerous levels.) But even before this it was curtains for wispy window dressings.

"Curtains have not really been fashionable since the late Eighties," says interior designer Nigel Harris of Harkin, "but I think we are on the verge of a big curtain revival." Also, we've had enough of sheets of star-embossed white organza. "You see them in all those 'home make- over' programmes because they're so easy," says Harris, "but interiors are moving on now."

Although Harris himself has "never had curtains" (because they don't suit his home, he says) he does have shutters. "I too must have absolute darkness to sleep," he says. "But if I had curtains I'd have really heavy, simple ones." Proof on the high street that curtains are back is the 50 per cent increase in made-to-measure curtains in Habitat, with off-the- peg versions almost as popular. A delighted spokesman can only admit to being "very surprised" at the sudden fabric frenzy.

In certain Mediterrean countries, curtains hardly exist. Greece and France have shutters. Italy has something called "tapparelle", which come down in horizontal opaque stripes of perforated plastic to give various degrees of darkness (and coolness for sleeptime).

Despite having an Italian MD, Selfridges doesn't sell tapparelle. But it does have an "interiors personal shopper", Richard Morgan-Hughes, who can come round to your house and measure you up for curtains or advise on any aspect of window coverings (or anything to do with interiors). Perfect if you don't have time or can't be bothered to do it yourself. As such, Morgan-Hughes gets to go into an awful lot of people's houses. What is he finding on people's windows?

"When people go for curtains now they go for streamlined and simple, and they actually use them instead of having them more like dress curtains with chintzy swags and tails. And I would definitely agree with the 'sleeping in the dark' thing. There's a noticeable trend towards this and our sales of black-out blinds are up by about 30 per cent from 1998. The really good thing about them is that you can use them with last year's sheer organza."

When Kelly Luchford, PR for One Aldwych, visited her client for the first time, she liked the curtains in the hotel so much she had the exact same ones made up for her house. "I loved the use of silk and the fact that they were so feminine. A lot of curtains can look manly and solid, or completely OTT. But these were gorgeous. Plus, muslin looks nice but you get light streaming into your room and I like the dark."

Of course, that whole "lots of light" ethos comes from the early Nineties and the move towards minimalism, big windows and loft-living. The man who brought us that was John Hitchcox, founder of the Manhattan Loft Corporation. So what does he have on his windows then? "Wooden Venetian blinds that block out the light completely," his house-mate tells me.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Programmer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Bridgend based software de...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Printer

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A specialist retail and brand c...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 2 HGV Driver - with CPC

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Haulage company based on the Thorpe Indu...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence