This section is from the book "Homes And Their Decoration", by Lillie Hamilton French. Also available from Amazon: Homes and their decoration.
One of the best ways of securing privacy by means of a curtain is to hang a thin, almost transparent colored material over the muslin that is next the panes. The muslin curtain against the panes can then be looped back, high or low, not only to look well from the street, but to admit all the air and sunlight possible into the room. The sheer and soft transparent material which is hung over the muslin on the room side will soften the light that enters, and in this way add to the general charm of the room, especially for those who are sensitive to color. The view of the street from inside the room is also more or less excluded; for, unlike the lace curtain, this sheer material does not permit the individual indoors to take advantage of the man on the street, gaining a view of him without being seen one's self. You must draw it aside in order to see distinctly the objects outside. This, however, is easily done, the curtain being run on a fine brass rod. Some persons content themselves with using picture-wire, which often serves a most excellent purpose for housekeepers cramped for means.
This sheer material is generally of silk, - not China silk, it must be remembered, which is much too thick for the purpose. Silkoline, when a good shade can be had, does very well, if economy has to be considered. I have known yellow silkoline, that cost but ten cents a yard, to hang in a sunny window for several years without fading, and to be laundered in the meantime too. When the muslin curtain next the panes is white, the glare in sunlight becomes distressing, and this soft over-hanging softens the glare. Yellow, pink, or apple-green is used, depending upon the color in the room. Now and then a lover of brilliant hues insists on red. Soft rose-pink, however, is quite as becoming. Yellow is always used where the light is cold, as in a north room. Yellow, as we all know, gives the effect of sunlight. The curtain against the pane is not always- ruffled, though so much of softness and grace is gained by a ruffle that it is generally worth while to have one, even at the cost of a little trouble.
My reasons for suggesting two curtains are many. They are especially desirable for the dweller in town, who does not have trees or views, but his opposite neighbor's walls to consider. These sheer soft silks can be as readily laundered as muslin, though more care must be exercised. The question of gathering dust, then, need not be considered. Again, to one who is sensitive to color, these soft tones add a certain quality to the room, without which every other color in it would be destroyed. The white glare of a muslin curtain not only robs a room of its restfulness, but where for purposes of privacy a muslin is a necessity, the soft overhanging helps you to treat your windows and your walls as one harmonious whole. For windows, when arranged for privacy and not for a view outside, really become part of your wall-line and color; part of the general framing of your interior, as it were. To have your wall-surface broken by a series of glaring white windows is in reality to have it broken by a series of unpleasant patches. The exigencies of modern city life, where narrow streets and ugly exteriors prevail, demand a different treatment for the window from that which ruled in old palaces, or from that which might hold good in country estates, where uncurtained windows are a refreshment and a delight. My reasons for the two thin draperies, then, is that even a sheer, thin silk against the panes gives from outside an impression of heaviness. It conveys no impression of transparency to those on the street, but looks like an opaque hanging. From the inside of the room this impression disappears, and the outline of the muslin curtain against the panes is clearly visible through the transparent silk.
Leaded glass serves an excellent purpose, not only where a question of privacy is to be considered, but where there is an ugly outlook to be concealed. It is more expensive than muslin or silk, and also, in certain places, more interesting. Where large windows are a necessity, these leaded panes, admitting the light, are better from an architectural point of view, and will serve also to render outside objects into mere suggestions and outlines, robbing them of many of their unpleasant features. When, however, the window opens against an opposite wall, as it must in the halls of some city houses, or in libraries or rooms built in "L's," and this wall is of a hue which, when reflected in your room, will destroy your own effects, a careful choice must be made of the material, and especially of the tone to be used in your leaded glass. This careful choice is especially urged upon those dwelling in apartments, where all the windows are on a level, the corner one having no opposite wall to consider, while one in the middle room may open directly on the objectionable color. If, for instance, you desire a yellow tone in your glass, and the opposite wall shows a dusty red, your glass, as a color, may be thrown all out of key. It is necessary, therefore, not only to experiment with the glass in the shop, holding it between you and the light, but to experiment with it in your own window, placing it between you and the offending reflection. This method of choice is especially urged, as in many cases a window, after being placed, will have to be removed for a better one, because of these unforeseen complications.
It should go without saying that when I refer to the question of color or of tone in leaded glass, cheap stained glass - the so-called "art glass" of commerce - is not referred to. This glass is a constant snare to many an inexperienced but ambitious house builder. It should be avoided like a pestilence.
Artists will often make use of the brush on a window from which a view is unpleasant. In the illustrations on page 183, two interesting examples are shewn. The window over the sideboard directly faces a neighbor's inquisitive panes. The colors used in this instance by the artist are soft yellows and browns. On the shelf which has been made to run across the sash, some Spanish jugs holding small plants are generally placed. Sometimes a fish-bowl holding cut flowers is placed there instead, producing exquisite effects in color and light. In the other illustration the window has been treated not only with bull's-eyes, but with flowers and a coat of arms. This window also faces a near-by neighbor. Sometimes such a window is merely treated with a varnish of Venetian pink, giving a soft yellow tone.