Last twitches for unfashionable net curtains

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The Independent Online

The net curtain may be on its last twitch. Despite its essential flimsiness, it has represented a barrier between our private lives and the world outside. It became a symbol of suburbia, the badge of office of the nosy neighbour and a surprisingly effective deterrent to criminality.

But alongside blind manufacturers, the chief beneficiaries of changing fashions are the nation's burglars, who can now not only ascertain whether a home is occupied but are also tempted by the array of domestic goods such as televisions and stereo systems on show.

A survey has revealed that only 39 per cent of us have net curtains covering ground-floor windows, while 40 per cent of homes have no covering at all. Almost 60 per cent of home owners do not bother to close their curtains when leaving home for a lengthy period, such as a holiday.

Two thirds of those surveyed said they did not have net curtains "because they did not like them", while nearly half - 47 per cent - considered them terminally unfashionable.

The trend is troubling the police, whose crime prevention officers have spent many years advising people to keep curtains drawn as much as possible, and insurance companies, who have to fork out for burglary claims.

Adrian Harris, director of NIG, the insurance company which commissioned the survey, said: 'It's common sense that leaving valuable goods on display is asking for trouble, but more and more of us seem to be doing that unconsciously. Taking down net curtains may be in keeping with the latest fashions but it does create a shop window for burglars deciding whether or not to break into a property. The more they can see into your front room, the more likely it is that they will try to gain entry."

Annabelle Campbell, of the Geffrye Museum of Domestic Interiors in London, said net curtains were "about separating the private nature of the Victorian family from the outside world," and were reinforced by the need for privacy in urban areas with houses being built close together. Now people are restoring original shutters, finding more sympathetic fabrics such as muslin, choosing cotton or wooden blinds, or avoiding window coverings altogether.