“Fantasy is about going beyond the limits, breaking the rules and mixing the unexpected to create the unpredictable.”
-Elizabeth Wilhide in Laura Ashley Windows
If eyes are the windows of the Soul, then perhaps the windows within our dwellings offer a glimpse into the Soul of that sacred space we call home.
Recently I picked up my copy of Laura Ashley Windows by Elizabeth Wilhide, first published in 1988. While it is decades old, I love flipping through the well-worn pages to glean creative ideas to refresh our old-fashioned Victorian style rooms. Below, I’m sharing a few decorating highlights and tips from this classic home décor book…
Windows Influence the Mood of Your Room
Author Wilhide captures the importance of the interplay between window treatments and lighting:
“One of the most important ways in which window treatments influence the mood of a room is also one which is often least considered.”
She goes on to point out that light is never singular in color or intensity, but rather depends on many factors. Lighting strength is influenced by climate and placement of the window, but so many other factors are also at play.
The Synergy Between Windows & Light
Have you ever tried to take a photograph only to be dismayed when it didn’t turn out as well as you might have hoped? I know how frustrating it can be.
On any given day, the season, local weather conditions and even the time of day can contribute to how we perceive not only the lighting within a space, but also the atmosphere of the space, its energy.
A unique synergy between the window treatments we choose and the factors above give the room life and a spirit all its own. The resulting contrast between light and shade has the power to emphasize colors and textures within the space, drawing the eye to (or away from) certain objects, teasing lines cast by shadows, and augmenting architectural form.
Here are some tips and highlights from the Laura Ashley Windows book:
To let in light, consider lace, printed voile, or fine, unlined fabrics.
Cottage Divine Tip: Breezy sheers can create an uplifting, fresh atmosphere – open the windows on a summer night and enjoy the timeless whispers of nostalgia as you watch the old-fashioned sheer curtain billowing gently in the breeze. New and vintage sheer curtains come in an endless range of beautiful colors, in showy patterns and classic solids – so the design possibilities are unlimited.
To filter out light, try half-drawn blinds, which also boost the drama in the room by blocking or angling the light.
Cottage Divine Tip: There are so many effective ways to block out light – for Old World elegance, think rich, heavy velvet drapes. If that’s not the style of your room, lined curtain panels work well in just about any room, offering a greater range of versatility. Get creative – upcycle a vintage chenille bedspread or other heavier weight linen into a one-of-a-kind window treatment.
Let’s talk lining: Many of us think of curtain lining as being a standard white cotton/poly blend. Yet this wasn’t always the case, as Wilhide reminds us. In days gone by, all linings were not netural, but instead came in a range of pleasing colors and patterns.
Why does a curtain lining matter? Because it can have a gentle effect, delivering hints of warmth and brightness where it is otherwise lacking in the room.
A Window to the World Beyond…
I don’t know about you, but I’m a very visual person. So when I’m looking at a window, what I really see is a picture frame that beckons to the outside world.
If you’re working on dressing a window or two now, it can help to visualize it as a picture frame. From that perspective, ask:
Do you love the view within that “picture frame” – or could you do without it?
Whatever your answer, carefully selected window treatments are key. If the view in your “frame” is less than favorable, the solution can be as elaborate or as simple as you desire. As Wilhide points out, a well-dressed window can itself become the highlight of the room, with elaborate drapes can shift the attention away from whatever lies beyond the window.
One of the most common dilemmas is when you’d like just the right amount of filtered light – not too much so that it’s overbearing, but not so little as to obscure a natural radiance. An unlined curtain panel can still let light in without obscuring it completely. To allow a greater amount of natural filtered light while creating striking textures and shadowy silhouettes within the space, play with lace or voile.
Layer Your Curtains to Cozy Up Your Room
I’ll leave you with one last idea:
In Laura Ashley Windows, the author reminds us that window treatments in days gone by often featured multi layers. For instance, a heavier weight outer curtain offered an insulating effect, followed by inner sheer or lace curtains to offer glimpses of filtered light while giving a bit of extra privacy. Blinds were often employed to reduce sun glare.
The advantages to this approach in window treatment décor remains relevant today – you benefit from the best features of each type of window treatment, while creating a rich, dramatic presence within the space.
Have fun with this – make your space a living fantasy. In the words of Lloyd Alexander, “Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it…”