Despite our devotion to them, we are not, as a nation, very good at net curtains. By which I mean that all too often they look gloomy and grimy, and the designs are usually bland and uninteresting. Personally I have very mixed feelings about them, but I can see that for houses which open directly onto the street, and there are many in Bristol, a curtain of some form is they only way to ensure privacy.
This summer I found myself fascinated by the delicately embroidered panels which adorned almost every window we passed in La Rochelle, and in the villages around the Charente Maritime. It took me a while to realise that the crisp white panels I was obsessively photographing were in fact the French answer to the British net curtain.
I was almost tempted to buy some. But I resisted, reasoning that little boats, hearts and fish, whilst charming and unaffected in the weathered windows of seaside cottages in France, would only look twee in the windows of a Bristol town house.
But it made me wonder why we don’t have better equivalents here. Since our return in mid-August I’ve made a point of looking out for interesting net curtains and largely drawn a blank. Perhaps as a nation the French just have a greater sense of style when it comes to window treatments – they even seem to do cobwebs with a certain flair.
But then the other day I spotted this lovely example in my own neighbourhood.
These curtains were put up on the fly by a friend who wanted to shield the tv and computer from prying eyes whilst they were on holiday. With no time to fashion anything to fit the windows exactly, she raided her stash of vintage tea towels and pressed four of the best into service without much thought and just a few drawing pins. It was conceived as a quick, temporary fix, but they work so well they’ll probably remain in place.
They not only look lovely from the outside but, because they are not a perfect fit, they allow one glimpses of the street from within. They provide privacy without the slightly claustrophobic gloom that comes with floor to ceiling net curtains.