Elegance—a byword for 2007—is sought by those who desire to enjoy a bit of celebrity-gorgeous glamour, even on a modest scale.
Small indulgences may be considered a long-term trend in the interior design marketplace. It means creating a look of sophistication, less complex but very rich. Today’s elegance is not over the top with elaborate curves and layers of heaviness. Neither is this new elegance particularly feminine. There rarely are ruffles or frills and seldom do floral printed patterns take center stage. Yet, at the same time, the new elegance is evocative of 21st-century femininity, which is full of confidence, power, emotion and control.
This new face of interior design is also pleasing to men, who need feel no threats today as compared to yesteryear’s overly fussy interiors. Rather, this kind of elegance is sensible. It utilizes exquisite color and fine textures at its core. Details possess great style and are not overbearing. The power of the understatement is seen in subtle textures that invite one to walk up close, to examine, to discover the eloquence of the woven pattern or richly textured solid textiles.
A LOOK OF CONTRASTS
Likewise, the new elegance is a look of contrasts, of linear quality—more straight lines, fewer curves in the application of the draperies and other window coverings. Yet straight must not be taken literally, for it might mean less perfection and far more softly beautiful imperfection. This quality, discovered by the Europeans many years prior, is finally unfolding in American homes. It is a mature look, and not to be confused with less quality. It is, indeed, first-class quality in craftsmanship, but also might not come across as rigid.
Contrast is also seen in color palettes. Rich, bold colors are often juxtaposed next to each other to yield a vivid, stimulating interior. It may be strikingly handsome and bold.
Contrast may also be indicated in texture, such as the contrast of smooth glass and hard, sleek hardware to deeply textured drapery fabric.
But this is the end result. Let’s get more specific about the “getting there” part of this new elegance.
PERFECTION IN EXECUTION
Creating this new elegance means great attention to detail and high quality perfection in execution. The measurements are right, the fabrication is top-notch quality, the folds are sewn and finger-folded to be just perfect. The look of slight imperfection comes from the decorative fabrics selected for the treatments. They are often single-color damasks—even in a very historic Renaissance acanthus leaf motif—or perhaps a heavily textured solid fabric that is anything but flat. These fabrics have relief, or highs and lows to the surface. This allows the catching and reflecting of light to form a less perfect surface and, at the same time, a richer surface texture.
The installation of draperies is also perfect in keeping with today’s elegance—only the fabric appears to have a mellow patina, high-quality, perfectly aged for a refined, near-historic quality.
Considering this style of sophistication, heavily layered and curved top treatments seem out of place. Stepping into the limelight and perfectly compatible with beautifully textured and richly colored textiles is decorative hardware.
Heavy, highly detailed wrought iron of the Spanish influence (where the decorative hardware has its origins) is generally out of favor this year. In its place are smaller-scaled and simpler designer looks. These include wrought iron and stainless steel as two popular materials. There is sleekness to contemporary hardware—thinner rods with modest rings to pull the drapery panel across. Very definitely a European influence, this kind of rod-and-drapery synergism gives importance to each of the two major elements: fabric and hardware. They work together and are equal partners in beauty as well as practicality. Wrought iron rods are often fluted or twisted, and are offered in various kinds of finishes, generally a soft black with that mellow patina evocative of a finely preserved antique. Rings are attached to folded fabric, which become pleats. These may be inverted pleats, French pleats, pinch pleats or flat-fold and hand-dressed pleats.
Highly decorative hardware is seen more often in wood, wood substitutes and resin products, and some metal hardware. These materials lend themselves beautifully to conventional draw strings within and cords to draw the draperies across. Be sure also to find sources for remote control operation, an absolute must for many upscale windows, both accessible and hard-to-reach locations. Remote control is also space-specific. For example, in a media room, remote control would be imperative in high-tech interiors.
Other beautiful decorative details are seen in fluted rods with small but somewhat ornate finials in custom finishes that may be had in coordinated colors and crackled finishes. The crackled finishes also are an invitation to an imperfect, aged or antique European style—very classy and very sophisticated. Most of these kinds of finishes are found in traversing rods and many now are being motorized.
The handsome quality of decorative hardware is appealing to all users. It is richly detailed yet understated. It is in harmony with today’s less complex interiors and is also highly compatible where the customer prefers a more decorative interior design plan. Planning window treatments with decorative hardware, assures high fashion and high quality.
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design at Brigham Young University. She has authored several books including Window Treatments, Understanding Fabrics and Interiors: An Introduction, 3rd Ed. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education and merchandising.