Over the Christmas period I spent a lot of time having a massive clear out at home. Much of it was in preparation for the restyling of my lounge into a more 1930s look and I wanted to do a proper declutter whilst I had the free time. I also picked up my first piece of genuine Art Deco furniture, an incredibly gorgeous Art Deco display cabinet which, thanks to the stamp on the back of it, I know was made in London in 1937. And with great joy, I finally got rid of my old Ikea bookcase ready for my Dad to get started on building shelves within the second alcove next to the fireplace.
After I was done I sat back and started imagining how I wanted the completed room to look and I could visualise everything except for the curtains. I was really struggling to figure out what would go with the colour scheme and what would look relatively authentic. That was until I watched And Then There Were None on the BBC.
Whilst watching this fantastic adaptation of one of Agatha Christie’s best-known mysteries I was constantly surveying the details in the background interiors, trying to spot lighting, furniture fabrics and ornaments, but what caught my eye more than anything were the dramatic curtains. I absolutely fell in love with the ones in the main drawing room as seen above. The pelmet boxes are just breathtaking. Hmm, it was time for some serious researching.
After hitting the books and the internet I learned that pelmet boxes were incredibly popular during the inter war years as designs became much more streamlined than the over decorative styles of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. They allowed for the rails and the top of the curtain to be neatly tucked away underneath, therefore different pleat styles almost became redundant. I’d never even considered any sort of pelmet before as they always seemed really old fashioned, the sort of thing you would’ve seen in every home during the 1980s, usually covered with lots of frilly floral fabrics and finished on every edge with tassels. Not a good look!
I found these two examples, the first one from the 1920s and the second from 1931, which are rather more subdued that the over the top 80s look. I know they loved their Jacobean, Tudor and Georgian prints during the 1930s and both of these have that stylised floral feel to them so they are classic of their time, but I want something more Art Deco or Modernist looking. Think Poirot’s fabulous flat, clean lines and very much looking forward, not back. Then I came across this:
This amazing pelmet box was designed and made by Russ Hogg Furniture who specialise in handmade furniture with bold geometric shapes typical of Art Deco furniture. It was styled to match the original ones that still remained in a 1930s house. I cannot tell you how much I love this! It screams Art Deco with the stepped horizontal detailing at the bottom and the vertical line motif in the centre. This is exactly the sort of thing I’m after. So, having discussed this at length with my Dad, my ever-faithful woodworker, we’ve come up with a design for mine.
These are the colours I’m using in the lounge. The mint green will feature on my 1930s style chair using a very Art Deco style chenille (as seen in this post) and I also have my eye on an original 1930s mint green glass lampshade. The stone colour will be lightened slightly for the wall colour so as not to make it too dark. I want the curtains to feature the cornflower blue and either one or both of the other colours, however finding something suitable is virtually impossible.
I adore the Modernist prints of the 1930s like the ones above and I would absolutely love something like this in the lounge. However, having trawled through just about every interior fabric website I have come to the conclusion that people just don’t like this style any more. It’s all pretty floral prints, mid-century prints, stripes, checks or plains. Where’s the interesting experimental designs?
These are the only two I found. The first is called Fitzroy and is from Sanderson and I do really love it, however the ferns are massive, you’d barely get one on a standard sized cushion. The second is called Mulligan Flair and is from US based Archive Edition. I do know of a company who can get this for me in the UK, however, it is $65 a yard. For the 8 – 10 metres I need, as I have two windows in the lounge, this would cost in the region of £550!!
So, having resigned myself to the fact that I’m never going to find what I want I’ve gone back to the thing I fell in love with in the first place, the curtains from And Then There Were None. I’ve found a beautiful collection of linen mix plain weave fabrics called Tuscany, also from Sanderson, that comes in a wide range of colours, including cornflower and stone, and only costs £16 a metre. I’m going to make my own floor length curtains with the main colour as stone and have the cornflower as a 2 inch trim down the centre front of each one. The pelmet box will then be covered with the stone fabric and trimmed in the design I’ve come up with in cornflower. Yay, I’ve finally made a decision!
Now on to the rest of the house!
My kitchen is almost complete, the units, worktop, sink and tap have all been replaced and I’ve got new tiles all the way around. The ceiling and walls have been painted and I sold my old modern dining room set on eBay and have replaced it with a secondhand farmhouse set which has been painted ivory. I’ve just got a secondhand Welsh dresser to find and I need to decide what I’m doing to dress the window and French doors. I told you it was all curtains, curtains, curtains!
I love both windows in these original illustrations from 1929 with the combination of a blind, a pelmet box and decorative curtains. Both are quite streamlined, even though they have quite feminine prints or trims, but the top one is probably more of the look I’d want to go for. It’s interesting to see blinds like this as I associate blinds, especially slatted ones, with modern day living because so many people are opting for them over curtains these days.
My kitchen units are a pale blue colour (you can see them on a previous post) and I have the blue floral Cath Kidston fabric above on some of the seats of my kitchen chairs, which matches perfectly, so I definitely want this colour to feature in the curtain fabric. I also have a plan to start collecting 1930s Alfred Meakin style crockery to display on my Welsh dresser and these often include yellow and orange in their patterns, so I’d really like to include them in the pattern too. So far I haven’t found anything that really takes my fancy but I’ve been concentrating much more on the lounge fabric to worry too much. I know I’m going to enjoying trying to find just the right thing as 1930s florals are much more accessible than Modernist prints.
Lastly, over the Christmas period I also spent a couple of days taking up two pairs of these gorgeous vintage style curtains for my bedroom. I actually bought these during the previous January sales and they’d just sat there waiting to be shortened for an entire year. It was about time I got on with it. And yes, I’m redoing the bedroom too!
After hanging them up I realised that there was a lot more fabric in the new curtains compared to the old ones and when drawn back still covered quite a bit of the window. Right, hold backs were now in order.
After trawling my books and not coming up with much in terms of what they used during the 30s apart from fabric made ones I headed to the internet. I started to find really sweet painted tin ones from this era on random online shops that were leaves, foliage or flowers curved in an arc. I instantly fell in love, however, there was a problem, I needed two matching sets. Yep, that was an impossibility. Then I came across the above ones on Etsy. Okay they weren’t tin and they weren’t painted but they were the right design and they had two sets. I’ve now ordered them and they’re on their way to me. I plan to spray them cream and then rub them here and there to allow the gold to come through. This will match my curtain poles perfectly.
The rest of my bedroom is going to be very country 1930s, a bit like the kitchen, but in greens and pinks. I have a plan to replace my very old divan bed with a metal frame one in cream with brass knobs and make a quilt from the off cuts of the curtains mixed with a few other pink and green fabrics I’ve found. The look I’m going for is very much influenced by the 1930s bedroom examples shown in the Style your Modern Vintage Home book by vintage aficionado Kate Beavis. It’s been a massive help to me during this process and, if you don’t already own, I’d highly recommend it.
I have one more curtain to do, a full length truffle coloured silk one that pools on the floor for my office/walk-in wardrobe but it’s on the back burner until I find just the right colour. I did find one in Laura Ashley, but as you can imagine the price was very high. Yes, I have a lot to do, but I love a challenge and it’s just so much fun! I’ll try and keep you posted as I get things done.