In 17th century England window curtains were rare still, and usually were only found in grand homes in important rooms. Shutters were frequently used on townhouses on the first and second floor windows for privacy. Keeping the cold out was a constant concern, so at times special window cloths got hooked at night in the window recess to keep the draughts out.
Until the end of the 17th century paired curtains continued to be rare, when windows’ architectural styles had a symmetrical effects. All of Ham House’s principal rooms were fitted with the by the 1670s. Curtains were definitely less lavish than bed hangings, and frequently were made out of sarsnet, which in simpler homes was a dark worsted wool, and in grander homes was a think silk taffeta.
A French Huguenot named Daniel Marot, who William and Mary brought over to England, significantly influenced interior design during the couple’s reign. He loved to impose unity on a room, and the engravings that he did were highly influential. One of his favorite styles involved the use of portieres en suite along with wall hangings. They excluded draughts so they were both functional and decorative. Portieres were frequently combined with lambrequins,which ware stiffened, shaped, flat pelmets.
Pull-up curtains were a major innovation; curtains that used cords to pull up and hang in swags or festoons. They were usually unlined, made out of silk, and hung flat against windows when pulled down. At this time hanging curtains were still be using, however, valances and pelmets were introduced. Ornamented, shaped, and stiffened pelmets were very fashionable, and usually were trimmed with tassels to add definition.
From mid-century, white silk blinds started to be used in many of the grander homes to help protect the interiors from the sun’s full force. Unlined Indian calico and Holland matting were used for that purpose as well. At Versailles, white damask blinds with gold thread were used, and later on in the century, external slatted blinds were introduced by the French. Sashes were used as sun blinds as well. The fabric was stretched over a wooden frame and then soaked in turpentine or oil to give it a translucent appearance. They were tinted with a dark color and decorated with paint quite often.
Beds continue to be a symbol of status and wealth of the owner. These beds were referred to as French bed and featured a simple wooden framework that were then covering completely with hangings. They did not have any cornices, with curtains hanging straight down from the rail, with nails holding them in place.
Domed testers (or lits a la duchesse) actually were half-testers, and had a “flying” canopy that were suspended over the bed’s head by cords that attached up to the ceiling. In both England and France, daybeds were fashionable, and could be used along with gild sculptured cornices and plumes, pearls and gold embroidery, and gold lace.
Beds were getting taller and there was an obvious French influence in its luxurious trimmings and fabrics using in hangings. For bed hangings the number of curtains that were used was two, four or six. Customarily fabric was hung below a tester bed’s top rail – which became known as a “valance,” which is a term that is applied to any type of softly pleated pelmet now.
The valences and hangings were richly decorated with embroidery or crewelwork and frequently lined with a contrasting color. Turned knobs were frequently fitted over the tester and be covered with fabric, gilded, or carved and trimmed. Small bouquets of metal or silk flowers, ostrich plumes, or feathers could cap the tester as well. Chairs, curtains, and beds were decorated “en suite” (using the same fabric). Sometimes fabric was draped around the bedposts instead of curtains, although that would keep occupants less warm compared to hanging curtains.
In England, there was a wider range of fabrics available that were imported from Flanders, Italy, and France. Some of the main simpler fabrics included sackcloth, linen, and tickings. Needlepoint and cotton were used regularly for upholstery. Initially Indiennes were used as stool covers and table carpets, and later on as bed covers, wall and bed hangings, and curtains. By mid 17th century, the very first Provencal printed were made by printing wooden blocks on cotton.
Damasks of wool, linen or silk were very much in favor still, and all types of silks were plentiful. The French in particular favored moires and heavy taffetas. In England the silk industry was developed by Dutch and French weavers and and then advanced by Huguenot refugees coming from France. Spitalfields emerged as the main British center for brocades and silk damasks.
Top range fabrics included gaufrage velvets with its pattern staped on using heated metal and bold-patterned, expensive Genoa velvets. Tapestry and Brocatelle were used primarily for wall hangings, and could alternatively be flocked, painted, or printed.
Leather was used widely for chair coverings and wall hangings. It was embossed frequently with using a wooden mold or punched to make small patterns, and the main part of its pattern was painted, with the unpainted sections being varnished to produce a gilded effects.
Trimmings in the seventeenth century, which were primarily made in linen, silk, and wool, had clean lines and were becoming increasingly complex and delicate as the century continued to progress. Trimmings displayed various clever combinations and effects. Velour braids were decorated with stylized flowers, campaign fringe that had bell-like tufts, and fringes with braided tops. A majority of tie-backs were made of rope cord that had tassels for definition.