Jan 10, 2012

Classical Curtains: Then and Now

Study of Crwon Princess Marie of Bavaria (Bamberg, 1844)

I hope that I haven't scared you off by starting today's post on a Classical note!

Simply because it is rooted in history, doesn't mean it has to be "fuddy-duddy" or even outdated.

Some of today's most amazing designers are still designing with draperies that use these traditional silhouettes as well as rich textiles such as silks, and the first one to spring to mind is Jeffrey Bilhuber as in the example below.

Taking a quick look at some of the style choices from the past:
From Queen Anne, Louis XVI, and many more.. these are the styles of Window Treatments from some most notable time periods.

Source: Estimating for Interior Designers
Valances, Pelmets, Swags and Tails can provide a grand window dressing statement.
These are the ultimate choice in creating "Royal" formality or a deliberately causal and informal look.

It's all about the textiles, the trimmings and color choice, as well as the overall mood created within the design of the room.

Today, I will center on the use of Swags and Tails, while tomorrow will head on to Valances and Pelmets, and in general, the rule of thumb is the wider the window the more swags in the design choice. Most swags are fitted onto a pelmet board and arranged in order to give the illusion of a continuous drapery, but in truth they are created in pieces and individually assembled.

Great importance must be placed on proportion and scale when making this style choice, and having a great workroom or curtain manufacturer is key to

This room, with a modern choice of color palette and light fixture breaks with the heavily traditional style choice of window treatment.

William Yeoward

Another alternative in making the look a little less imposing is by alternating the fabrics on each panel, or by creating a 2 tone window treatment as seen in these examples.
Duchesse de Beryy's Private Drawing room (Tuileries) / Mary Ellen Best Apartment in Frankfurt (1842)

Top tips for a Successful Swag & Tail Window Treatment:
  1. The swagged valance should be 1/5 th of the top of the pelmet board to the measurement of the floor at the deepest point.
  2. The tails, should be 2 or 3 times the length of the swags
  3. The pelmet board or pole of the swag should be installed right up to the coving of the window which helps heighten the look, as well as avoiding an unpleasant gap above the window treatment.


For a more informal look, swags and tails may be wrapped around a pole and are usually draped on site.

But at the same time, we might simply feel inspired in the use of silks, embroidered linens and cottons, and other rich textiles and in doings so we might decide to simply the design of the window dressing while still maintaining some inspiration.

Mehditash Design

Or by adding some detailed tie

Chelsea Textiles (hand embroidered)
Robert couturier
Robert couturier

So don't shy away from the use of these luxurious textiles, or from traditional window treatments, as they can add a splash of drama to an otherwise coolly sophisticated space!

More on the blog this week as we gear up to announce the details of the big giveaway sponsored by The Curtain Exchange - New Jersey & Westchester branches.

You really won't want to miss it... a little hint: Does your window need a new fresh look? (maybe I have given away too much??)

Credits: Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course & Room by Room Decorating Guide; Estimating for Interior Designers, The Authentic Decor, Jeffrey Bilhuber, Pinterest/decaporter


  1. I am loving all this education! I feel like I should be taking notes. :)

    1. So great that you are liking these posts Irma, Its been fun putting them together.

  2. The classical curtains have changed a lot and you can see the difference in this post

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  6. What an interesting and informative blog post about the evolution of classical curtains! It's fascinating to see how interior design trends have changed over time, and your comparison between classical curtains and modern styles really highlights the shifts in aesthetics and preferences.

  7. Your blog is a true testament to the diverse and creative nature of design in all its forms. Looking forward to more captivating posts from you!

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