French Country Curtains
France is large and diverse, so it's no surprise that authentic French Country Curtains can look very different across the country.
French Toile Drapes
There are two types of fabric that say "French" louder than any other: Toile de Jouy, and Indiennes fabrics.
A LITTLE HISTORY...
When the engraver/colorist Christophe Philippe Oberkampf started printing Toile de Jouy (="cloth from the town of Jouy") in 1760, it was the beginning of a print design style that is now perceived worldwide as the textile embodiment of "Frenchness".
Inside France, Toile is commonly used with restraint, as in this photo: heavy, coarse linen with a broad border of toile, rather than ceiling-to-floor french curtains done entirely in toile.
Creating these gorgeous drapes begins with linen drapes.
Surrett Luxury Solid Color Sheer Grommet Curtain Panels $45.99 pair - The Luxury Solid Color Sheer Grommet Curtain Panels are crafted from open weave linen fabric, showcase a casual and natural pattern, adding your house a rustic classic and sophisticated touch. This linen semi-sheer curtains are not transparent, just block out enough light so that natural light can be into but no one can see through.
Francoise Curtain Panels $40.99 pair
Linen, as a fabric is not an inexpensive fabric and so anything made from it will be fairly expensive. But, and a big but - it's a gorgeous fabric to have throughout your home.
MAKING YOUR OWN
1. A medium weight linen curtain with French toile at the bottom - rather than attaching the toile fabric as a curtain extension, layer it on top to create a heavier, more substantial drape.
2. This looks particularly good when you draw the curtains at night and the toile borders meet in the middle to form a stripe down the center:
3. If you would like to draw the eye up instead, use toile de Jouy at the top of the curtain. Here, the toile border is accented with a solid-color ribbon:
4. The relative simplicity of flat pelmets suits toile de Jouy designs:
♦ It displays the beauty of a toile pattern without distorting it, and
♦ You can use a pelmet to evoke the simplified, graceful shapes of the Louis XVI period (1760-1789) when toile de Jouy was first invented.
To let more light in, replace the heavy linen with lighter, more translucent fabrics or sheers:
There are many more ways to use toile as 'eye candy' at the top of a plain curtain. For example, if you have a curtain made of sheer linen, cheesecloth, bleached/unbleached linen or translucent cotton, just add a layer of toile de Jouy.
A LITTLE HISTORY
Another, very French but lesser known group of fabrics are the colorful cotton prints from Provence.
They're often called Indiennes because, just like toile de Jouy, they owe their existence to the hand block printing and fabric painting techniques that were developed in India.
They reached France through the port of Marseille (Provence), where the first French printworks were set up around 1640.
The patterns vary from very intricate, colorful florals to simple boteh ("Paisley") repeats.
Heavy French Linen Curtains
In Provençal homes, these French style curtains unlined are in all rooms with either interior or exterior shutters.
The typical crumpled appearance of linen creates a perfect complement for the glazed terracotta tiles that are so common in the Mediterranean part of France.
To get the full effect of these country French curtains, make them so long that they form a pool of yummy, creamy crinkles on the floor.
Gorgeous LINEN Curtains can be used in any room of our homes.
Of course, extra-long French country curtains aren't particularly practical. They're dust catchers. Your dog may want to curl up in a French linen curtain puddle. You'll probably have to wash these drapes a lot. But they're ... French. Treat them like they're special ('cause they are)!
French Ticking Drapes
Ticking is a sturdy, fairly rustic, tightly woven fabric, great for country French curtains that see a lot of wear.
French ticking comes in mellow colorways (a calm, cool antidote to sizzling summers), and it looks perfect against whitewashed or tinted walls, particularly the pale chalky blue or yellow umber walls of French Mediterranean houses.
Country French curtains made of ticking have an understated,'Scandinavian' feel, reminiscent of the Gustavian style that the Swedish adopted from the French court in the 18th century.
Gorgeous TICKING can be used in all rooms of our homes.
Making Your Own
Create French country curtains from original, vintage French ticking - there's usually a wide selection of original French ticking for sale on eBay, or buy new from JoAnn's.
Most important - if you have a sewing machine and know how to use it - making draperies are very simple.
Determine the width and length of your windows. You can either take the whole width for each panel, or split the width in half. If you want them to go to the floor, measure from the ceiling down to the floor and add 12". Remember the curtain rod will be hung a few inches beneath the ceiling.
Have the fabric store cut each panel for you.
French ticking isn't just for curtains:
Elegant French Cheesecloth Sculptures
The transparent curtain of loosely woven cheesecloth ends in the most amazing, artistic knot.
Apart from fulfilling their job as curtains (i.e. provide privacy and cover the black 'hole' that is a windowpane at night), these French country window coverings really are works of art, adding interest and panache to what might otherwise be a plain little room.
So if you have a room in your French Country style country home that is in need of a little ooomph, these country French curtains could be just the ticket.
These curtains are absolutely scrumptious when pooled on the floor because there so light-weight being made solely of cotton. When looking for these types of curtains 1) make sure there 100% cotton and 2) the fabric has a texture to it and there sheer.
Sample of Cheesecloth Fabric
French Style Patchwork Curtains
The last-but-one in our little défilé of French country curtains is this patchwork masterpiece.
Considering the fine fabrics that went into it, it probably doesn't really qualify as a French country curtain, but it was found in a very small village in France, so maybe it does count ;-)
The general idea here is to use a plain fabric for the main body of the curtain and then add something more fancy & eye catching to the lower third.
It's a simple but very effective way to give your French country window coverings that extra little bit of style.
In order for this style of French country drapes to work, at least some of the fabrics that go into the patchwork need to be repeated elsewhere in the room like with upholstery, cushions, a bed spread, a tablecloth.
How to Hang Them
Keep your curtain rods really, really simple.
I've seen several homes where country French curtains were just attached to a length of copper piping.
So don't sweat fancy finials (unless you really love them, or find a fabulous pair you can't live without).
Whatever you do to hang your French country curtains, present them in a way that allows the fabric speak for itself.
You can make a room look higher if you hang your French country curtains from just below the ceiling. This works particularly well if the curtain rod is in a color that's similar to the wall and/or curtain fabric. With more color contrast, you'll get a distinct 'line' on the wall.
I have learned so much about French Country Curtains in sharing this with you. I really didn't know what type of curtains are most likely used in France, so I had to rely on doing a little research and came across this woman's wonderful blog on them.
She has fabrics and books available on Amazon. Just visit her blog listed above to find out more.
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