Window of opportunity: the best fabrics for curtains

Luke answers readers’ questions on design and stylish living every week. Email him at lukeedward.hall@ft.com and follow him on Instagram @lukeedwardhall We have a garden flat in London with a cosy south-facing sitting room with stripped floors, lots of books and an open fireplace that looks out to a small, very green garden.

I’d like to use a fabric curtain in this room, something lovely and of excellent quality that will last — but I don’t want to spend a fortune. Any advice? By the way, I love the golden (ish) curtains you have in your sitting room in the Cotswolds.

I very much enjoyed the process of gathering fabrics for our Cotswolds cottage, the majority of which we used to make curtains and blinds. I wanted a mix, both plain and patterned, meaning we’d have something different to beguile us in each room. In our bedroom, we have curtains made from a heavyweight linen in the perfect shade of mustard yellow (not too brown, but not too yellow either) called Lavenham, which came from Tinsmiths, a home goods shop located down a Dickensian alleyway in the Herefordshire market town of Ledbury.

Founded by Phoebe and Alex Clive, Tinsmiths is particularly known for its huge choice of fabrics, and the shop’s website is easily navigable. We also used a heavy plain fabric for the curtains in our sitting room. As you mention, the fabric is golden brown in colour, like caramel just before it starts burning.

I wanted brown curtains because the rest of the room is a storm of colour — olive green walls, a pink sofa, armchairs in forest green and a murky shade of greenish-yellow. Patterns feature heavily too, from Ikat lampshades and another armchair in a dusty beige-and-green animal print to cushions made from old kilim rugs. The fabric we used came from 36 Bourne Street, the fabrics and wallpapers arm of Howe London.

It’s called Ripstop and it’s a medium-weight canvas-type fabric with an intriguing crosshatch weave pattern.

Luke Edward Hall’s curtain fabric came from 36 Bourne Street, LondonWindow of opportunity: the best fabrics for curtains

Ripstop fabric was first developed in the second world war for parachute cloth, as an economical and stronger alternative to silk. Howe’s version
has a pleasing, subtle texture and was designed to look slightly faded and dry — a texture that will age well the more it is used, like old tent or truck tarp. To achieve this look, the fabric is made from unbleached cotton, then dyed in a way that gives a subtle ombre and hand-dyed effect.

I love this fabric: it is utilitarian and elegant at the same time, and it comes in 12 colours — some vivid, some less so. (Rust and the fire-engine red Portside are my favourites.)

House & Home Unlocked

FT subscribers can sign up for our weekly email newsletter containing guides to the global property market, distinctive architecture, interior design and gardens.
Sign up here with one click If you are after something lighter and perhaps a little more shimmering, I recommend Milanese fabric house Dedar. Blazer is a 100 per cent linen with a luminous satin finish, and it comes in a range of good colours from sherbet pink to peacock. New fabric with an aged appearance is all very well, but why not consider real vintage?

I hunted down several rolls of old patterned fabrics on eBay, which we turned into curtains for our dining room and a guest bedroom
(as well as cushions and lampshades). The fabric we have in our dining room is a Sanderson design from the 1970s, with a small pattern of ivy leaves in an unusual colourway of blue and green. It cost peanuts.

I cannot recommend eBay enough for old fabrics — unusual and rare designs crop up all the time, and you can search by quantity, too, which is helpful when many metres are required.

Window of opportunity: the best fabrics for curtainsLuke Edward Hall’s vintage Sanderson design curtains

If you are thinking you might like pattern over plain, look to London-based Dutch design house Ottoline, which was founded by Ottoline de Vries in 2015. The company’s colours are bright and bold, its patterns playful. I particularly like its Pillars, Sporty Stripes and Pablo Stripes designs — all of which would make charming curtains.

Window of opportunity: the best fabrics for curtains‘Pillars’ fabric from Ottoline

Or turn it up a notch.

I am an enormous fan of architect and interior designer Ben Pentreath’s new collection of wallpapers and fabrics made with Morris & Co, custodians of William Morris’s original company. Named Queen Square after the Bloomsbury location where Ben lives and where Morris had a workshop and home, it comprises fabrics and wallpapers
by Morris with zingy new colour combinations dreamt up by Ben.

Window of opportunity: the best fabrics for curtains‘Kennet’ from Ben Pentreath’s Queen Square collection

My favourite fabric from the collection that would work well made into curtains? Kennet, printed on a cotton-linen blend, comes in two eye-popping colourways: olive/turquoise and aqua/pink. Ben’s reworkings have given Morris’s classic, timeless designs an uplifting, optimistic squeeze of lime.

Surely just the ticket for 2020?

For more ideas about fabrics, read our feature on the artists collaborating with manufacturers

Follow @FTProperty on Twitter or @ft_houseandhome on Instagram to find out about our latest stories first

You may also like...