24 June 2010

Get Inspired: Ruffled Curtains

Haute couturière Elsa Schiaparelli in a window of her showroom at 21 Place Vendôme in Paris. Image by François Kollar from "Good Housekeeping", June 1938. Republished in "Shocking! The Art and Fashion of Schiaparelli" (Yale University Press, 2004).

Believe it or not reductivist extraordinaire Jean-Michel Frank had a thing for curtains with ruffled edges. The influential French interior designer hung them at the windows of numerous projects, commercial and residential, including the fashion salon of Elsa Schiaparelli at 21 Place Vendôme in Paris in 1935, shortly after he decorated the salons of Mainbocher and Lelong. And by ruffled curtains I don't mean Priscillas, those overwrought, dramatically crisscrossed curtains adored by Dorothy Draper and my own mother. Instead I mean sumptuous, dead plain, unlined panels of wide-wale white piqué (a fabric that deserves to come back in a big way), the leading edges trimmed with cascades of bias-cut piqué tucked and sewn into gentle loops and whorls and tied with matching tiebacks.

Heaven, no?


Room Temperature said...

I'm with you on this one, big time. What makes or breaks ruffled curtains is the the level of contrast with the rest of a room's scheme, and the stronger the contrast, the more striking the results. In a room filled with flounces & furbelows, ruffled curtains die a thousand deaths, but against a stricter background--the kind Frank favored early on--they're killer.

Here's a rare photo of what have to be the most glamorous curtains in all of Chicago, designed in 1928 by the incomparable Rue Carpenter for the lounge of one of the city's toniest private clubs.


The only spot of color in this otherwise-monochromatic room are the fixed panels of emerald green satin, which glow like Kryptonite against the dead-black walls & carpet. Heaven on earth.

Quatorze said...

Love it, especially the contrast of the unlined, plain fabric with that sumptuous ruffle against the white and gilt 17th/18th century boiserie.

I think the real aspect that makes such curtains work is ceiling height, low ceilings would make the curtains look affected or "forced".

Visual Vamp said...

I had ruffled white Priscilla curtains in my room when I was a girl and I thought they were so glam.
In the 1980's I rocked quadruple width ruffles on black chintz drapes in my, yes, New York City apartment!
I was a lady-in-waiting to Mario Buatta The Prince of Chintz.
I can see ruffled curtains making a come back, especially the way you present them all chic and arty.
Love that you are posting now and then.
xo xo

Pigtown*Design said...

love these. especially on the looong tall windows.

Jane Kilpatrick Schott said...


Hels said...

It all depends on what ruffled curtains remind you of. If they represent Georgian refinement, you may love them. If they represent the 1946-59 Woman = Domestic Angel in the Home era, ruffled curtains would be a definite no-no.

Penelope Bianchi said...


Yes; those curtains are heaven!

Wide wale pique? Where can we find!!!!!!!


Dumbwit Tellher said...

I'm not typically a ruffly kind of gal, but I'd say oh yes to these. You so beautifully you described them.

I hope you have a good weekend ahead ~

mary said...

Yes, those curtains are pure heaven. But look at her shoes--they look pretty cool, too. Classic.

Anonymous said...

Dear Aesthete,

I love curtains! But we've moved so much, it really seems like a true luxury to invest in something so expensive. Even ones as simple (but I suspect, if correctly made, expensive) as the ones in this post. But deep down, curtains are the first thing I dream about in a room.

Even if they are few and far between these days, I welcome your posts! I hope you keep cooking too, but I've been ordering a lot of pizza lately, so I totally understand!



Rose C'est La Vie said...

Divine, yes. Wide-wale piqué -as you say it deserves to come back. My mother used fine piqué on the collars of our dresses and so on. It is a very resonant fabric for me. It has an element of the clinical or the 'strict' which may have appealed to J-M Frank. I love the juxtaposition with the ruffles therefore.

Anita - juegos de mario said...

awesome.. that is good, really good