Directorio Deco by Gloria Gonzalez

Directorio Deco

Primula Auricula

A couple weeks ago I found myself going down the Pinterest rabbit hole again. This time was with flowers, more specifically with Auriculas. I have always found these flowers mesmerising: their symmetry, colours, shape…they almost look too perfect to be natural! Like many of the things that catch my eye, I decided to delve into these fascinating flowers.

Georg Dionysius Ehret Auricula with butterflyGeorg Dionysius Ehret (1708-1770), A Blue auricula and Butterfly

Auriculas first appeared in European and English gardens around the mid-sixteenth century.  There are two schools of thought as to how auriculas reached England. One is that they were introduced by Huguenot Flemish weavers fleeing religious persecution in the 1570s. However, at that time, these plants were still novelties and were grown only by the rich. The second school of thought which seems more plausible is that they arrived, as did most other flowers, by the interchange between leading Continental and English plantsmen. Whichever it was, the auricula became a major craze and was grown by the rich and famous, as well as humbler folk, in great numbers and varieties during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries becoming also popular with artists.

Coloured engraved plate depicting Auriculas from the 1820 publication 'The Beauties of Flora' by Samuel Curtis (1779-1860).Coloured engraved plate depicting Auriculas from the 1820 publication ‘The Beauties of Flora’ by Samuel Curtis (1779-1860). 

The auricula was one of the great Florist’s flowers, some of the others being anemone, ranunculi, tulips and carnations. The term ˜Florist” was originally applied in the 1600s to a person who grew plants for the sake of their decorative flowers rather than for any useful property the plant might have. The modern meaning of florist only came into being towards the end of the 19th century. The florists formed groups with like-minded people to meet and hold ‘feasts’.

By the 19th century the florists groups were very popular with working-class people in the industrial North and Midlands of England. They met in public houses to show off their tulips, auriculas, primulas and carnations and to weigh their giant gooseberries. Prizes at their shows were frequently copper kettles & the public houses would often hang a copper kettle outside on show days.

Towards the end of the 19th century, a movement developed against what were termed “artificial flowers” and florists flowers lost popularity, some disappearing completely. The auricula, however, retained a loyal following especially in the north of England, although Stripes vanished and Doubles became rare. Then a further blow was struck with the advent of the First World War when many of the named varieties vanished. Between the wars, the auricula was kept in being by the auricula societies, and then after the second world war a recovery began that continues to this day. A large number of new varieties of both edged and self-coloured auriculas have been raised by the modern successors to the old florists. Striped auriculas have been re-introduced and more new doubles are exhibited each year, their current magnificence owes much to the dedicated breeders in the United Kingdom (this information was found on The National Auricula and Primula Society (Kent Group) website)

Augusta Innes Withers 1793-1864 An Auricula in a PotAugusta Innes Withers (1793-1864) An Auricula in a Pot

Reading about these fascinating flowers I’ve learnt that they require very particular care and growing conditions. For the flowers to be at their best, it’s important that the plants are kept in a sheltered spot, away from wet and windy weather. Rain will ruin the perfection of the flowers, washing away the farina. What’s more, they need to be shaded in hot, summer weather, as strong sun will scorch them. So, auricula growers keep their plants under glass over winter, and only display them when they begin flowering in spring, in an auricula theatre. (This information came from The Small Gardner Blog where I found   a brilliant article about how to make an Auricula theatre. I had seen these displays of Auriculas before here in the UK but I didn’t know they were called theatres!

Auricula Theatre illustration by John FarleighAuricula Theatre illustration by John Farleigh. Image found on Janet Haigh Blog.

 auricula theathre calke abbey  auricula theathre calke abbey

In large country houses, it was the fad in the 18th century to have auricula theatres to display these flowers at their best. As tastes changed they fell out of fashion and houses removed the theatres. Calke Abbey has the only original auricula theatre in England.

Calke Abbey Auricula Calke Abbey Auricula@carmypeach

Auriculas Bunny WilliamsBunny Williams

Auricula garden Auricula garden Auricula garden

@derletztewolf

auricula theatre@ewgardens

Auricula Theatre@flowersonlawn

One of my favourite discoveries while researching for this blog post was finding the work of Corinne Young and her fantastic embroidered Auriculas.

corinne-young embroidered auricula

corinne-young embroidered auricula

And this blog post by Janet Haigh en the making of her divine embroidered Auricula Theatre!

jane haigh embroidered auricula theatre

jane haigh embroidered auricula theatre

The Art of Window Dressing Part II

The second part of this blog post is all about fabrics and trimmings – two of my favourite things! I’m sharing the rest of the very helpful information that Emma Stewart has shared with me. I hope you have enjoyed this little curtain masterclass – I certainly did!

Finding the right fabric for your curtains

I would be hard pushed to think of a material I don’t love – they nearly all have a place. My favourite part of selecting fabrics is feasting on the amazing array of fabric houses producing exquisitely produced fabrics. Doyennes of this industry Sybil Colefax and Jean Monro are synonymous with crisp 100% cotton chintz prints that can take up to 180 separate hand blocks per pattern repeat. The cotton chintz holds the dyes well and also its shape making for intricate valances or just a simple long drop to show the incredible designs and how the same pattern printed on a linen backcloth can seem so different is testament to different fabric’s qualities.

Penny Morrison Welsh Country HousePenny Morrison bathroom in her Welsh Country House with Colefax and Fowler curtains. Elle Decor. Photography by Miguel Flores Vianna.

How a fabric will fall and drape is the most important part …. will it do what you want?! Discovering this is a huge part of the selection process and most companies will offer a large returnable sample that you can manipulate into folds showing how it will react.

Asides from the fun aspect of choosing the colour and style there are important things to consider for practicality; will it withstand the UV rays? (avoid silk in direct sunlight unless using a good UV filter film), moisture within a room? (natural fabrics will expand and contract throughout the year with central heating and atmospheric humidity).

Curtain makers worth their salt will be able to wrangle a half drop pattern repeat and also match up the pattern on seams so they are almost undetectable but this can be a bit of a problem with some hand-blocked designs that can run out across the width, making the match impossible. The only fabric I would never recommend is one that isn’t fire retardant for upholstery or a commercial situation. The rest I can’t wait to work with!I

kensington home by Robert KimeKensington home by Robert Kime

It’s what look and feel you want … that’s all. For a light and breezy, relaxed but beautiful style evoking a natural impression I would head to Inchyra who have a wonderful aged linen collection. I have also used textiles that I have bought directly from India which can be an inexpensive option. The fine muslin print and kantha quilts make wonderful curtains but beware that they do tend to fade in sunlight but I have been known to try to give fabrics some ‘age’ by facing UV lights on them or washing them with pebbles with varying effects.

inchyra textilesBeauclerc Stripe linen by Inchyra textiles

There are companies offering extremely low priced fabrics online which are tempting if budget is key. I would suggest checking the fabric thoroughly (with a light behind where possible) as the quality control may be lacking at the site of origin. They may have different levels of acceptability ‘tolerance’ so do check the terms and conditions regarding returns and don’t cut the fabric until you have checked it!

For drama and statement then a large scale pattern such as Soane “Tendril Vine” which can be printed on different backcloths or Hawkeswood by Teyssier which is inspired by an 18th-century flamestitch and is simply wonderful used as curtains and upholstery. Flora Soames prints are a go too for clever colour pairings and thoughtful patterns inspired by her collections of antique textiles.

Flora Soames fabric Flora Soames’s Enid Garland fabric

For an uplifting boost to any home Molly Mahon’s designs are essential. All of the cloths used are super quality and a delight to work with.

It is so hard to choose a favourite as we are extremely lucky to have so many homegrown talents producing heavenly fabrics so it is rather an open book …. you just need to be mindful that the fabric you select will drape or sit in the way you want so grab a sample and give it a work out!

Tips to choose the perfect trim

The trim is my favourite part! You can completely transform your fabric and curtains with a passementerie – the story can be changed entirely with a just a few inches of exquisite embroidery, tassels, braids fringes or frogging – it’s quite  magical!

My tip is to be bold … but certain … there is a balance that you need to get … the trim maybe the hero element – so naturally your fabric needs to be quieter or if you want to ‘finish’ the edges – then look for a trim that compliments the colour and texture and won’t fight with it.

I like to play with the trim samples – I’ll tack my  choices on to a  fabric sample … walk away for a moment or two … and then make my decision when I walk back into the room … often my first choice goes out the window – if you’ll pardon the pun!  The weight of a trimming can be quite something so ensure the fabric can cope with it and will not pull or pucker under the strain.

I always like to hand sew the trimmings on rather than using a machine as you can adjust the tension in the thread avoiding snags and dimples along the way. Samuel and Son’s range is quite extraordinary and I am yet to be disappointed however if you want to get just the right shade Heritage trimmings will match yarns to your fabric and advise on best designs – an incredible service!

Kirill Istomin Window TreatmentKirill Istomin

Alidad Ltd. You can read my article about ‘The Best Decorating Lessons by Alidad’ here.

Bennet Weinstock window treatment Bennet Weinstock window treatment Bennet Weinstock window treatment

Window treatmens in different projects Bennet Weinstock. Images from the book ‘Window Dressings: Beautiful Draperies & Curtains for the Home’  by Brian D. Coleman.

chateau versaillesPassementerie at Chateau de Versailles

bunny williamsBunny Williams Home

Madelaine Castaing inspired suite at the St James hotel designed by Bambi SloanMadeleine Castaing-inspired suite at the St James hotel designed by Bambi Sloan

Alex Papachristidis New York ApartmentAlex Papachristidis NY living room

The Art of Window Dressing Part I

While I was researching about the home of Judie and Bennet Weinstock for my previous post dedicated to gingham, I stumbled across a book on google called ‘Window Dressings: Beautiful Draperies & Curtains for the Home’  by Brian D. Coleman. Google allows you to browse online a few pages of the book and I thought that the fascinating world of window treatments would make a, hopefully, very interesting blog post!

When I started to write this piece I thought it would be useful to have some expert advice so I reached out to Emma Stewart, who specialises in bespoke curtain making, upholstery and soft furnishings to the trade. Since I found all the insightful info that Emma shared with me very helpful I will be dividing this post into two parts so I can share everything from our conversation as well as some images of my all-time favourite curtains.

How to choose the length of the curtains.

Curtains really do change the feel and style of a room and depending on what you would like the curtains to say about you and about your home there are numerous options!

Getting the correct length is certainly in the top three decisions you can get wrong in so far as what is the look you are aiming for. So when I talk about what lengths the curtains should be with my clients – we first, of course, assess the window: what’s beneath it or indeed above it? are the curtains floor-to-ceiling? is there a radiator below? wall lights to the sides? a beam to navigate? With many period houses, especially cottages – we have to learn to love the irregular walls and sloping floors, so the length of the curtains can cleverly correct these characteristic – at least to the naked eye!

It’s all of these things you need to take into consideration when thinking about the length. Then, when the practicalities are all watertight – you can have fun working with your selected fabric and decide what headings will look most beautiful.

For me, the ideal curtain would be long and full with soft undulating pleats helped by using a beautiful lining fabric from Nile and York and a good quality interlining.

The time of oodles of puddling fabric spilling over the floor beneath curtains may have passed but having a few centimetres so that the curtains ‘break’ on the floor will soften the feel and also add a little casual luxury.

As the pleats will not fall in a completely organised fashion the light and dark of the shadows in the pleats will add another texture and dimension to your fabric choice.

However,  if the curtains are in a high traffic area such as a garden door, you may wish to have them finishing just off the floor – one could even consider a deep border along the base of the curtains that can cope with a muddy Labrador’s tail on a daily basis!

For a sleek tailored finish, I would suggest finishing just off the floor where possible and using a simple tailored hand pinch pleat or cartridge pleat. The type of fabric chosen will also affect the finished look greatly – large curtains need to be moved about a fair bit during the making process so make sure that it is alright to steam the creases out of the fabric – never steam a moiré!

For smaller windows that have a large amount of space above and below I would still go for the drama of a full length curtain but with a pelmet or valance above. I would be keen to avoid having a large amount of space on show between the top of the window recess and a curtain pole which can look unbalanced!

Short curtains in smaller rooms can look terribly sweet and suit a cottage style and work well with a hand gathered or dainty tape finish but I would say not to have short curtains if you are hoping to get a tailored neat finish as this can look quite un-evocative.

emma stewart curtains vsp interiorsCurtains by Emma Stewart in two projects by VSP Interiors

Working for interior designers who have differing styles means that I need to ensure that I have understood the client’s preferences and so I quite often will sketch out a window treatment to scale as a visual aid.

emma stewart curtian sketchA series of cape headed curtains with bullion trimming reusing the original embraces. Sketch by Emma Stewart.

After speaking with Emma I wanted to also have an interior designer’s point of view on window dressing. I wrote to Kate Aslangul, founder of Oakley Moore – an award-wining London based interior design practice. In the past, I’ve mentioned to Kate how much I loved the curtains in her projects and I wasn’t surprised when she told me she used to be a curtain maker. Naturally, designing the window treatments in their projects is always amongst her favourite tasks.

I always start designing a room by looking at the sight lines from every angle – what will the client see on a daily basis? I create modern timeless interiors that feel elegant and comfortable, spaces to live in and enjoy and that will lift your spirits for years to come as I believe that where we live has a big influence on who we are and how we live – something we are all recognising during this lockdown. Windows are nearly always in a sight line as our gaze is drawn to the outside, drawn to the light.

How you dress a window can make or break a room. Curtains not only affect the appearance of the windows but they also alter our perceptions of the proportions of the room as a whole. Whether your style is pared back, sculptural, dramatic, formal, or easy-living the first most important thing to do is to stand back and assess the window, the architecture, the light, and the proportions. Window treatments should frame a view – never dress a window in such a way that it fights with a stunning view outside.

An Oakley Moore London project with  a tailored roman blind in a Schumacher fabric and an upholstered pelmet with the stripes aligned.  ‘Perfect and smart for this Georgian sash window.’ says Kate.

Oakley Moore curtainsChristopher Farr & Objets Nomad stripe, a wonderful horizontal stripe, was used on this Victorian terraced house bay window by Oakley Moore to give the illusion of width. A horizontal stripe pulls the eye to the sides.  Paired with a covered lathe and fascia in an ethnic print from Warris Vianni

The chief ingredient in any successful window treatment is imagination. Often the best designs are those where a traditional idea is injected with a touch of originality – in the proportions, the detailing or the choice of fabric and trims.

London Townhouse by Oakley Moore. The Colefax and Fowler fabric with Samuel and Sons piping around the edge of the upholstered shaped pelmet add definition. Designed and templated by Oakley Moore Interior Design, made up by Emma Stewart. ‘We doubled the embroidery in the centre of the pelmet to ensure that the pattern repeat fanned out evenly across the width of the pelmet and accentuated the centre point of this gorgeous Georgian arched window in this London project near Regents Park’

After this super useful information by Kate and Emma (that I will be saving forever!) I wanted to share some of my favourite window treatments from past and present interior designers.

Veere Grenney always does wonderful window treatments in his projects and he often uses curtains to frame beds which I love!

A country house in Norfolk by Veere Grenney.  A country home in Norfolk featured in House and Garden  In this bedroom the curtains are made in ‘Mughal Flower’ linen from Lisa Fine Textiles. House and Garden. David Oliver photography

veere grenney country home.

Veere Grenney’s second home, an eighteenth-century folly previously owned by David Hicks. The festoon blinds, made of Fox Linton satin and taffeta from Tissus d’Hélène – disguise the fact that the windows on one side of the room finish higher than those on the other. Veranda Magazine. Simon Upton photos.

Veere Grenney country home, the TempleAnother view of the same room featured in Grenney’s book ‘A point of view’ David Oliver photography.

Festoon blinds at Valentino Garavani’s Chateau de Videville. Architectural Digest.

Deeda Blair bedroom with handpainted French curtainsDeeda Blair’s bedroom at her Manhattan apartment with handpainted French curtains. T Magazine. Julia Hetta photography.

cathy kincaid window treatmentCathy Kincaid 

A Palm Beach home by Gil Schafer.Blithfield Parham linen on th curtains  Palm Beach home by Gil Schafer. Blithfield Parham linen on the curtains. Luxe Magazine. Eric Piasecki photography.

lady wakefield london home curtains in colefax and fowlerThe Twickenham house of Lady Wakefield. At one end of the drawing room, three tall Georgian windows frame the greenery of the garden. The full-length floral-print curtains from Colefax and Fowler add to the effect. House and Garden. Michael Sinclair photography.

Who can forget Mario Buatta’s iconic curtain designs? He was a master creating dramatic and impactful window treatments.

‘There is nothing like Mario Buatta-designed curtains, trimmed, pinked, lined, interlined, and embellished by hand.’ Emily Evans Eerdmans

Mario Buatta’s Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse, 1984 . Architectural DigestMario Buatta’s Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse, 1984. Architectural Digest. These iconic curtains were auctioned at Sotheby’s last January. You can read my blogpost about the timeless  ‘Verrieres’ print here

Curtains in the Dillon Room of Blair House decorated by Mario Buatta. 1988. Curtains in the Dillon Room of Blair House decorated by Mario Buatta. 1988.

Mario Buatta CurtainsThree different silks, two by Kravet and one by Brunschwig & Fils, make up this living room curtains in Buatta’s latest project. Architectural Digest. Scott Frances photography

“Wiggle-stripe” cotton curtains and tortoise-shell bamboo blinds in a library of a penthouse pied-à-terre that Mr Buatta decorated for Hilary and Wilbur L. Ross Jr. Trevor Tondro photo for The New York Times.

envageline bruce london apartment decoracted by John FowlerEvangeline and David Bruce London apartment decorated by John Fowler with its legendary silk draperies. Derry Moore photography.

the grove, david hicks and lady pamela home in OxfordshireThe Grove, the late David Hicks and Lady Pamela home in Oxfordshire.Brittany Ambridge photography

The bamboo blinds are an essential element because without them it really gets too cold. They help give the space warmth and ground it. The organic materials, including the faux-bois wallpaper, help a lot, especially in conjunction with the fancy medallions and the carved elements that are over my desk.Alexa Hampton Photography by Steve Freihon

Beata Heuman is another favourite when it comes to getting window treatments right. Her projects are packed with brilliant curtain ideas.

‘The ladder stitched half curtain is a nostalgic detail – inspired by my favourite restaurant Trattoria Cammillo in Florence’ Beata Heuman

Beata Heuman bedroom. Curtains

I love a contrast grosgrain braid on a blind, especially when it’s midnight blue’ Beata Heuman

rita konig london flatRita Konig London Flat. House & Garden. Paul Massey photography.

Rita Konig North Farm Durham Rita Konig’s Northfarm Durham

‘When I think of curtains, the analogy that comes to mind is that of clothing. There are all these tiresome bits of advice dealing with personal adornment, how it all has to harmonize and interrelate. The same is true in the world of curtains. Whatever you may think, you want hanging at your windows, it has to go with your room, your furniture, and your whole decorating style.’ Mark Hampton

estee lauder palm beach home by mark hampton curtains and chair in toile de nantesEstee Lauder Hamptons home decorated by Mark Hampton. Armchair and curtains in Pierre Frey ‘Toile de Nantes’