to net or not

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.

6 thoughts on “to net or not

  1. In my youth (a long time ago) every house in my home-town in Wales had cotton nets up at all the windows. When I got my own first home I abandoned them except at the front door. I do like what your friend has done and I like almost all that I have seen in France. I don’t have any need for them nowadays, living on the first floor – besides, they’d only obstruct my view of the outside world.

  2. We’re recently back from a holiday in Burgundy and I noticed the same thing. Much better nets (though, some of them were quite funny too). The British obsession with nylon and polyester has a lot to answer for. Real lace curtains would be good too.

  3. Back in the early 90’s, my sister & I shared a house. She was adamant that we were not going to have net curtains. Three days later she changed her mind. Sitting up in bed in the morning she was waved to by a passenger sitting on the top deck of the double decker bus that had pulled up at the bus stop opposite. We went for a patterned muslin in the end.

  4. A friend made similar panels from lenths of antique broderie anglais eding all patched together … very effective. Beautiful photographs😀

  5. I’ve always thought net curtains are more or less class-related in the UK. The posher you are, the less likely you are to have them.

    I had heavy ‘antique’ lace curtains for a while, which I thought were ‘u’ enough (my daughter tells me I’m a snob) but they were actually revoltingly super twee. Now I have a stick-on window film from Brume on the lower panes, which I’m very happy with, and the major advantage is, it doesn’t need laundering.

    Love your pictures of the French windows. I’m a bit obsessed with windows and door photography, which all started in France one year. Charmig – as they say in Sweden.

  6. Hi,
    Great fix there – I need something similar. Although my house isn’t too close to the pavement I do still feel that I’d like some privacy (especially when I’m on holiday) and don’t want to use net curtains or blinds.

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