Xxviii

CURTAINS.

MRS. POTIPHAR had curtains, we believe, woven of every color under the sun, and carpets that looked as if the curtains had dripped on them. It is not curtains of that description, though, that those of our readers who are arranging their houses picturesquely or cosily, and without recourse to the upholsterers, will be inclined to select. Nevertheless, we have seen exquisite broche stuffs at the upholsterers', which, while they were indeed filled with every color under the sun, had all those colors so closely blended and balanced as to present only a rich and quiet effect.

Whatever maybe the predominating tint, of the carpet, the curtains should lead it up in a something lighter shade, or else should decidedly contrast with it. At any rate, they are always to be considered as part of the furniture, and, when not of diaphanous stuff, are to correspond in color, if not in material, with the coverings of the chairs, 6ofas, and tabourets.

In some rooms, where the chairs and other articles are of wicker and bent wood, the curtains will be of Japanese and other extreme Oriental stuffs, as so much bamboo and rattan work comes from that quarter of the world, or else of muslins, white or tinted, or of the various flowering chintzes which correspond with the gay garden season in which such rooms and furniture are chiefly used. Lace curtains, too, are very suitable for the rooms of this summer occupation. Although the usual patterns of the coarse Nottinghams have an effect of the frosty fern and flower shapes upon the winter pane, lending some cool effect to a summer room, yet a geometrical design of bands and squares is preferable; but we think that something real and altogether less pretentious is in better taste. Prettier than they, to our mind, are the sheer white muslins with insert-ings and edges of coarse white guipure, and the unbleached muslins with unbleached guipure, or even the plain muslins without trimming; and the fittest way of hanging all these dispenses with heavy cornice or lambrequin. Thin curtains, it must be admitted, guard the transparent character of the window better than any other.

There is really a great latitude allowed in the choice of curtains, the desirability of drapery being so strongly recognized that almost any drapery is countenanced. Thus, it is not unusual even in elegant drawing-rooms to see curtains of a cretonne that harmonizes with the other furnishing, or of embroidered muslin alone. Still, it is desirable, of course, if the drawing-room is begun upon any scale of richness, to carry it out thoroughly ; and curtains of satin, of silk damask, and 6ilk rep, with under-cur-tains of lace or of delicately wrought muslin, are the window drapery best suited to a drawing-room whose furniture is covered in choice stuffs. Velvet is more suitable for the library, when that also is richly furnished ; it is really too heavy for the light character that is usually considered appropriate to the drawing-room fittings.

In the hanging of curtains their family relationship must not be overlooked. It is into them that the old once-tapestry-lined walls have shrivelled. Except for occasional instances of archaeological furnishing, where middle spaces between frieze and dado are still stretched with tapestry or its representatives, the curtains are all there is to stand for that ancient and superb decoration with those for whom the Flemish and the Gobelin tapestries are impossible. Throughout all the revolutions and convulsions of France the great manufacturers of tapestry, and those of china as well —the Gobelin and the Sèvre6—have never intermitted their work ; but their product goes to princes and bankers and those with corresponding incomes, and the "meaner sort" of wealthy people content themselves with curtains and portières in a very different article. It would need, indeed, princely halls to carry off those great tapestries well ; and in a republican country, where the richest men have nothing like a retinue of dependents to fill their halls, both the rooms and their decorations are undreamed of.

But if we are furnishing with precision, in spite of the latitude allowed those who are only intent on producing pleasing effect, and are paying little or no regard to the curiosity of epoch or style, we must choose and hang our curtains with hardly any latitude, but with as close attention to historic accuracy as when we design the carving of our chairs and wainscots. For instance, to one furnishing otherwise in the Gothic, the designs proper to the stuffs of the Gothic period are to be chosen, and not of the succeeding period. We would hardly choose, though, the 6tuffs of the first epoch, which were chiefly cloths of gold and silver, mingled, indeed, with colored 6ilken threads, however pictorially splendid the result might be, but would take rather those designs where, either in a charming confusion, or with wheels set in bands dividing plain spaces, are mingled basilisks, unicorns, peacocks—the latter sometimes mounted by riders — pheasants, and swallows ; sometimes tigers and elephants ; sometimes or-

anges, roses, palms, religious histories and portraits ; or the Byzantine emblems, it may be, or the long stripes of the Saracenic with its strange inscriptions—both Gothic and Saracenic being offshoots of the Byzantine. Or if we are furnishing in the Renaissance style, then the designs of elongated overflowing vases with dolphins, flowers, harlequins, chimseras, classical outlines, straps, buckles, and shields, these all of silk, and those of the suggested flower of velvet upon silk, from the Palermo, Venice, and Lucca looms, and the just-invented Utrecht velvets of the time. If the pictured character of all this is objected to, we must remember that antiquarians tell us that from the wrought-work of ancient Eastern tapestries brought to Athens the imitative art of painting took rise, and that thus it has certain rights to dues of honor. Nevertheless, all of these designs are frequently so subtly introduced in modern stuffs that one lias to look more than twice before discovering anything but a pleasant blending of lines and tints ; and for those that prefer it there remains the plain repped surface of silk or wool, according to the means of the purchaser, banded off by slight bars not too full of this ornament, or entirely without it.

Altogether the neatest and pleasantest way of hanging curtains is when the stuff is suspended by rings running on rods, either open or beneath a lambrequin that may be boxed in without folds or may itself run on the rod, the ends of the rod being either spear-headed, a derivative shape, or simple pommels. The boxed-in lambrequin was that in use in the vast castles where all the drapery had its origin, and it was put up after the other curtain, or portière, was hung over the door-way, and it was found that some draught still made itself felt over the top. With most of these stuffs, fringes are undesirable ; at the best, the fringe represents only the ragged edge of the unshorn, untrimmed material. With Renaissance furnishing, other methods of hanging are suitable—those with loops, festoons, fringes, cords and tassels, under false cornices. In the Gothic the curtain is permissible at the window's height ; but in the Renaissance and the Quatorze it may fall from the cornice of the room under its own top pieces, giving greater height and space to the whole room. Whatever be the curtains, it is necessary to have straight hollands shades within the whole arrangement ; and something peculiarly elegant for cities, where the screen is valued, and where there is not that picture to be enjoyed from the windows which the country sometimes affords, is the fluted silk set close to the pane as Venetian blinds.

For the dining-room and library, heavier curtains are to be chosen than for the drawing-room, the solid character of the dining-room and the grave one of the library demanding it ; but in the chambers, the boudoir, and sitting-rooms, lighter, airier, more easily cleaned, and much less expen sive ones are the wiser. Bedroom curtains may be made of seeded muslin very full under a standing ruffle that serves for cornice, with a strip of colored cambric passed through the hem, and the whole bowed back with ribbons matching that strip. An unbleached sheeting bound with a bright border of print of some quaint pattern has a nice effect; and, indeed, there is hardly an end to the combinations that an ingenious fancy can devise.

Whenever the top-piece, called the cornice, can be dispensed with in putting up curtains, it is best to do so; very few have yet been designed

Portiere in Modern Gothic Drawing-room.

that are not really injurious to their effect. Where long curtains cannot be afforded, simple lambrequins, a little longer on the sides than in the middle, go far toward filling their place, and there are an infinite variety of lambrequin shapes according to which they may be cut; silken lambrequins over lace curtains, without the intervening long silken or woollen outer curtain, being sometimes better adapted to the desired effect in certain airy drawing-rooms than more cumbersome drapery. But so much do windows need clothing—unless when of exceptionally lovely frames— that as a general rule almost any curtains are better than none, since dra pery of some sort it is usually felt necessary to have about that outlet into sky and air, if only that of a growing ivy vine. Indeed, we have 6een windows curtained with ivies in a way that would have shamed all the tapestries of the East; and the immeasurable influence even of lambrequins in destroying the naked look of a room may be learned merely by pinning up some boughs of autumn leaves above the window casings, and observing the air of covering and use and habitation which these simple outlines are capable of imparting.

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