Curtain Raising

The turn of the century penchant for simplicity extended to window dressings with a dependence on blinds and sheer curtains in light natural tones. This is still the case this season, but we are also witnessing a revival of vibrant fabric as its versatility is being utilised by designers.

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By  Charlotte Butterfield Published  December 18, 2006

|~|window-body-1.gif|~||~|The turn of the century penchant for simplicity extended to window dressings with a dependence on blinds and sheer curtains in light natural tones. This is still the case this season, but we are also witnessing a revival of vibrant fabric as its versatility is being utilised by designers.

Materials
Under the Warps and Wefts umbrella, international brands are offering beautiful fire retardant fabrics, a huge range of colours and materials, a variety of figurative themes, washable taffetas, precious extra-wide silks, printed velvets, informal linens, refined cottons, technological weaves, large patterns and elegant textures. Design coordinator, Veenu Kanwar from Warps and Wefts says: “Fabric can be manipulated in more ways than any other interior design element. It can be draped to hang in a wide variety of looks from crisp and straight to soft and limp; from pertly tied back to billowy poufs. Fabric may find its hem length at the windowsill, to the floor or fabric may spill into sumptuous puddles on carpet or non-resilient flooring.”

She continues, “at top billing, fabrics may be pleated into French, inverted, goblet, scalloped, pencil or tape pleats and that’s just for starters. Fabric may be suspended from hooks, rings, braids, ribbons or jewellery. It may be hung from, laid over or threaded through wood, metal or resin decorative hardware. Fabric may be fashioned into valances, swags, pelmets or upholstered cornices. It may be banded, ruffled or trimmed with a dazzling array of multi-hued trimmings. As the primary décor element for window dressing, fabric thus boasts a long list of credentials.”
||**|||~|window-body-2.gif|~||~|Despite this exhaustive list of uses, the days of opulent swags and tails are very much in the past as Kamal Helou, Carpe Diem LLC explains: “The overloaded window went out a few years ago, people needed lots of fabric as well as trimmings, tie backs and sometimes many layers above one another. Today, clean looks are in, we rarely get requests for overlapping layers; Roman blinds are plain and straight. Nobody looks for borders or tassels. It is an uncluttered and more contemporary feel that predominates — less is more.”

Patrice Muscat from Lelievre agrees: “In the past, popular fabrics for windows included printed fabrics, thick heavy velvets and damasks.Now the trend is to use less fabric, but more sheers that let the light go through and taffetas, either in silk, synthetics or a jacquart. The style is definitely more modern, using less fabric than in the past.” Soft, transparent fabrics are certainly en vogue, but surprisingly, this is coupled with an increase in the demand for damask. Rachel Mistry, contracts manager at Andrew Martin says: “The revival of damask designs in opulent silks is a trend currently popular. No specific fabric is current but a move towards patterns is more evident.”

Kanwar, Warps and Wefts adds: “The trend is towards luxurious fabrics that lack the fussiness of tapestries. Rather, velvet and graphic or variations of plain weave fabrics are both architectural and sensual. Another style trend that is fast gaining momentum is basing fabric schemes on textures rather than colour and pattern. The ‘Sketchpad’ collection from USA-based Pollack is extravagantly patterned with fine viscose stitches that converge in densely meshed forms, while the warp and the weft of ‘Monogram’ consists of heavy threads, alternating with fine nylons that carve the needlepoint-like grid structure. In the warp, pairs of heavy viscose threads loop into the frise-like surface of the “negative” ground area of the design. In the weft, a lush viscose chenille gives its emphatic weight to the ‘positive’ motif.
||**|||~|window-body-3.gif|~||~|Colours

There is a definite duality in the colour charts too; on the one hand natural hues from flax to light green are retaining their position at the top of the popularity stakes but contrastingly, bright vivid tones are in demand too. Muscat, Lelievre says: “Fushia and purple, are very popular at the moment, as well as the brown/beige colours.” In fact, purple is a recurring colour in most fabric house collections. Mistry, Andrew Martin agrees: “Rich deep colours such as amethyst, purple and wine are proving popular.”

The new ‘Poesia’ collection from the ‘Living Line’ by Création Baumann is evidence of the colourful combinations available ranging from cool silver and whites, delicate pinks and greens to warm brown and blue shades.

Kirsten Bartel from Nya Nordiska says: “This season, clear and friendly natural colours such as white, champagne and ecru will be en vogue, as well as so called non-colours creating a mood of calmness and helping to find new orientation. As a counterpart you will find bouncing and pure colours which rarely allow any compromises, which will be used for accentuation.”
||**|||~|window-body-4.gif|~||~|‘Purity through reduction’ still remains the maxime of Nya Nordiska products, which has been the recipient of more than 130 internationally awarded design prizes, such as the red dot design award; the iF product design award and the GOOD DESIGN Award. The fabrics are split into three distinct collections: Pure Perfection; Creative Concept and Luxury Life.

Colour trends this year are bursting with life, excitement and a liberal dab of sophistication. Kanwar, Warps and Wefts says: “The contrasting of light values with saturated rich, dark tones creates a stark yet richly satisfying combination. Deep hues are contrasted with light hues—whites and off-whites with a gray tint, perhaps blue-influenced, perhaps pinkish brown, becoming light taupe. On the deep side, fashion has returned to purple in deep, dense shades with visual drama. Coral shades are dull and sophisticated but infused with a real saturation of colour. Off-black shades are decidedly purple-influenced or deep brown-black with purple undertones.” So a sense of drama is very much pervading colour schemes for this season.

||**|||~|window-body-5.gif|~||~|Style
The change in architectural trends for buildings have had a knock-on effect with window dressings too. The ‘penthouse effect’ has meant that floor-to-ceiling windows in residential, office and hospitality projects are becoming de rigueur. This has resulted in more panels being implemented. Bowen, Silent Gliss, says: “With the increase in glazed areas this opens up more need for products such as sliding panel systems. In this region, the control of light and heat is imperitive. Not only should the system be able to shade, absorb or reflect the light and heat, it must withstand the environment within itself.”

In spite of double glazing and reflective glass, the window dressing does need to be colour fast and lasting to counter the effects of the sun’s rays. Look for fabrics with sun-heat-light control and UV-sun control sheers. Following several years of research and development work with the company Trevira, the textile enterprise from Langenthal, Création Baumann, launched ‘Dimmer’. The exceptionally fine Trevira CS yarn is woven in a high warp and weft density and therefore has a very compact surface. The blackout effect is further enhanced with a black yarn that is interwoven into the back of the fabric as can be seen in the softly draping ‘Magic’ collection.

||**|||~|window-body-6.gif|~||~|Future

Is this penchant for vibrancy tipped to last another season? Is a new material getting ready to hit the swatch books? Adrian Battisby, wa international has a particular favourite: “Laser cut fabric that is used as a window dressing is very dynamic and gives a different slant, perfect for this region as it has a mashrabiya feel.”

Muscat, Lelievre believes that further innovations are just around the corner, and colourwise, we will be looking further down the colour palette: “The trend is heading to modern design, with neutral and dark colours.” Kanwar, Warps and Wefts, agrees that darker colours will be the tones of next season: “Perhaps the most interesting trend movement that can be seen in the coming years is away from the traditional family of neutrals toward a browned palette. The family of browns is flexible from light, soft beiges to warm and inviting mid-tone browns that contrast beautifully with lighter architectural detail, to the rich depth of dark woods that suggest investment quality and price.”

||**|||~|window-body-7.gif|~||~|Mistry, Andrew Martin, raises the interesting point that: “Interiors will mirror fashion more closely, therefore certain boundaries of style and taste will be broadened.” We are seeing this ‘catwalk to the curtain’ look already – for example, when animal prints were being used in principal fashion houses last year, they were appearing in fabrics for interiors. There is definitely a stronger link than ever between interior design and fashion houses.

Bowen, Silent Gliss thinks that the demand for bright hues is set to continue: “The future season will herald much more colour for starters. The choice of fabrics is much greater and now companies are using their windows to make a statement about the type of organisation that they are. Another current trend is towards more automation - sales in electrically operated products have grown significantly in recent years.”

Our case studies on the latest residential developments in the region have proven that home automation is a massive growth market, which will undoubtedly extend to hotels and hospitality projects soon. An additional area ripe for expansion is fabrics with inbuilt anti-bacterial qualities that reject smoke or odours. Ideal for restaurants or hotel rooms, these fabrics will always remain fresh for the next guest.

||**|||~|window-body-8.gif|~||~|To Conclude...
The fabric market is split into two juxtaposing trends at the moment. On one side are sheers, natural tones and elegant plain weaves. Contrasting this is a collection of vibrant, purple, pink and red fabrics with shimmer and texture.
Richard Smith, designer, Jim Thompson believes that whichever style designers opt for, making a statement is imperitive: “Colour and curtains are returning with a flourish! Whether you are after a vintage look with unlined prints in pale, faded colours, or want to use silky textures for interlined opulence, make sure those hems sweep the floor. Be brave mixing different weaves and patterns - as long as they are united by colour, you will get a wonderfully natural, layered result”.
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