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
PROMOTED VIDEO
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
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
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: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

    £38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

    Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

    £35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

    Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

    £15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

    Day In a Page

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea