As it is now the custom to curtain all the windows of one's house alike, so that they present a uniform appearance from the street, this dotted muslin cannot but add a note of refinement to one's dwelling. If such curtains introduce too white a light into the room, the sheer transparent silk, or a silkoline, already referred to, can be made to fall over them, softening the glare. The monotony of the exterior produced by this uniform appearance can always be relieved by a green or flowering plant in the different windows, or again by window-boxes on the sill outside, filled with flowering plants in summer and evergreens in winter. One well-known house in town has for years followed the same fashion for its thin curtains, which are never made to cover all the sash. They are alike in all the windows, - ruffled, then crossed, and looped high. This leaves the greater part of the window exposed, where the curtains fall away on either side, and the bare and awkward space across the top is avoided. A study of the individual windows reveals the fact that in each room there is a different hanging, - blue satin in a bedroom, yellow in the drawing-room. In one window you catch the outlines of a sumptuous Venetian chair. You realize then that individuality reigns within.
There is a white grenadine which washes and makes a good thin curtain. There are point d'es-prits, and a material known as fish-net. There are also any number of materials, both plain and figured, ranging in price from six cents a yard to as many dollars. In certain country houses, in young girl's rooms, in the cabins of Adirondack camps, these cheap flowered materials, when good in color, are most effective, especially when ruffled or edged with a fringe of little balls. They may be used at the same time in trimming the bed. You must choose thin, transparent materials, unless, of course, you want complete seclusion, the sense of it which an opaque shade would give you, not only shutting you in, but shutting out the very feeling of the street - sometimes a necessity in New York. Generally speaking, these thin curtains should have a large mesh and incline toward the cream tones, unless softened inside. A pure white curtain should not be used in a room where the wood-work is dark and the contrast therefore too strong.
I know a charming country-house window with white casings. (The wood-work of the whole house, except that of the oak library, is white.) This particular window is at the end of a long room and looks directly into the branches of a maple-tree. The panes are small, and the model followed was found in one of Mr. E. A. Abbey's pictures. There are two parts to the window, and the upper part is narrow and divided from the lower, which is twice its depth, by a broad beam which forms a shelf, set out at regular intervals with pots of geraniums in bloom. The lower part alone is curtained, and with white China silk, cut after a fashion called Morris. This means that there are two pieces of silk, falling on either side, and that a ruffle runs along the top, breaking the awkward space between and making a frame for the panes, and for the view seen through them.
In windows of apartments, too high up from the street to pay heed to the eye of an opposite neighbor, where consequently no thin curtains are a necessity (and what a relief it is at times to be without them!), thick curtains may be cut Morris fashion. This serves an excellent purpose, especially when the wood-work is bad, since it makes an agreeable frame for the window. Almost any thick curtain may be cut in this way. I have seen denin, at sixteen cents a yard, made most effective when treated after this fashion. When the ruffle is run on a separate rod, the side pieces can be drawn under it at night. This upper ruffle serves in many cases to keep off the glare of the sky.
Cheese-cloth, when fine, is not to be despised when you have a cheap country house to be made habitable, and the landlord has inclined in his choice of stuffs to heavy woollens. The woollens should be hidden at once in an upstairs closet. The most charming summer parlor that I know is at Bar Harbor. The white curtains are all looped back with great bows of pink cheese-cloth.
Much depends on the looping of a curtain. An abominable fashion prevails in some country towns of so looping and straining a thin curtain, by catching it back on the sides and pulling it together at the bottom, that a diamond-shaped opening is left, an opening so low down that you would have to break your back to look through it, and so small, that all opening and shutting of the window, all washing of the panes, would be impossible. Yet you know that the householder has expended considerable labor on it, and that she prides herself on the result! She betrays herself, however, by not knowing that a curtain which cannot be readily pushed aside altogether misses its purpose. It might as well then be an iron grating. It certainly is not a curtain. When an arrangement so stiff and immovable is desired, a grill is suggested, not a curtain, - the fashion of the Orientals where women can only look into the street through a lattice. Any book on the Alhambra will give one the designs. But a curtain should be so fashioned that it can be drawn with ease, whatever the material, and the elaborately upholstered lambrequins and curtains of many houses and hotel parlors are objectionable in the extreme. Wood and metal screens must suggest a certain inflexibility, but a curtain never should, whatever its texture and whatever its quality.
Unless the sky produces an unpleasant glare the aim should always be to bring it into the room; but it was only after much study that I found out how to accomplish this in windows so near those of opposite neighbors that thin curtains were a necessity. To cover only the lower half of a window was impossible, since the fashion always suggests various advertised parlors with signs in their windows.