A stylish friend with a small potentially chic apartment in Wellington is in the market for window coverings. She was advised that curtains needed to be floor to ceiling and of a plain neutral colour. This is both good and bad advice.
The good bit is the floor to ceiling part. Firstly mid-wall curtain drops look dopey in almost any setting and secondly the larger the expanse of curtain the more adaptable they are – BECAUSE YOU’RE GOING TO TAKE THEM WITH YOU.
This is important.
New Zealanders seem set on the idea that chattels stay with the house but recognising from the beginning that you intend to take your curtains with you, will free you up to commit to a fabric you love or to rationalise buying a more expensive fabric (and let’s face it the new owner will probably thank you).
The bad (really bad) part of the initial curtain advice is of course the neutral bit and this is also connected to resale. It seems that New Zealanders would rather get it wrong with a discreet neutral curtain than with a bold colorful pattern, as if this makes our mistakes less noticeable. Unfortunately bland-on-bland is the single biggest mistake made in contemporary home decorating and all because resale has come to govern decorating decisions. This reaches the point that it is not the pleasure we will get from living in a house that dominates its decoration but what might possibly offend someone on resale.
My advice to my curtain-less apartment-dwelling, friend – was “look at David Hicks – he knew what to do with curtains.” No sooner were the words out of my mouth and I thought where did that come from?
I’ve never been a huge Hicks fan – indeed in my modernist youth I used him as a symbol of … well let’s say I was less than complimentary. So why was I now promoting Mr Hicks? Was it that when looking for curtain fabric at our local Spotlight, I’d spied a number of geometric designs that were very like the fabrics on which David Hick’s early reputation had been based (I feel as if I’m channelling Gok Won, suggesting High Street versions of designer fashion)? Was it that he understood that in tackling the decoration of an old house you need to steer a path closer to sympathy than to authenticity?
Having gone and had another look at the classic Hicks on Decoration (1971) and the more recent David Hicks: A Life of Design (2009) – I’ve decided it was something all together different that made me suggest his approach. I don’t think either Hicks’ or his clients thought even once about resale value and because of that lived in wonderful personalised and satisfying interiors – which is what we wish of any of our friends.
I will be off to the library this week to look up Mr Hicks. Once again this weekend, advice came for a neutral or small patterned fabric. What is the point? My apartment might be delightfully shoebox in size, but within it, I want to live large and extravagantly, nestled amongst pattern, texture and colour.
The ‘curtains’ were one of the few chattels that came with our house (previous owner not even being generous enough to leave behind the laundry tub) and sadly they are the only thing that has marred my enjoyment of home-ownership.
We now prefer to expose ourselves through sheers to suburbanites on their evening promenade (and post binge-drinking teens trying to find their way home), rather than live with the horror of our floral drapes. We tried and failed this weekend with neutral roman blinds – a result that ended in one shut in bedroom in tears and the other outside taking the offending item out to the shed. I fear we are destined to a life with unclad windows.