Here are some of my projects with some information about how they came to be.
HAREWOOD HOUSE - Princess Mary's Sitting Room
Harewood House in Yorkshire is a treasure trove of Chippendale furniture and in 1994 the Harewood House Trust decided to restore the so-called ‘Princess Mary’s Sitting Room' to its 18th century glory. This included the recreation of the curtains, which hang from exquisite semicircular gilt cornices designed by Chippendale. The challenge with a pelmet like this is that although it is made up of 5 seperate pieces of fabric, it has to look as if it is one curtain that has just been drawn up, with ropes and tassles. Therefor the nailing up of the swags and tails on the board makes all the difference and too often swags like these are made far too regular and perfectly symmetrical for my taste, resulting in a ‘hotel look’.
(This photo was taken before the fringe was attached)
HAREWOOD HOUSE - Library
For the three windows of the Library at Harewood, I made a set of small pelmets, that look as if they can be let down, but are actually fixed. We re-used a pair of amazing silk cut velvet curtains which were found in the attics and which had a beautiful embroidered border. The effect is not unlike some of the examples in Robert Adam’s work, who designed the Library’s plaster ceiling.
A Library in Berlin
The room had brand new bookcases that were too good to discard, so they were painted and made more classical with the addition of narrow pilasters and a deep cornice. The curtains have nice masculine poles with smart brass fitting and are of a French Pierre Frey cotton.
ALDOURIE CASTLE, Loch Ness
What can be more inviting than a bed like this ? As the curved cornice and the Colefax chintz are already quite feminine, I didn't add a fringe, but instead put on a contrast binding to the top valance in a reddish purple that gives the whole thing a bit of a kick and prevents it from going bland. Adding this to the bottom valance as well might, however, have looked a bit contrived and hotel like. The whole bed is lined in a lovely little cotton stripe.
ALDOURIE CASTLE, Loch Ness
These Victorian tester beds are rather masculine in design and colour, so I thought a pleated style without any edging would look suitable and not too fussy. The pleats were carefully measured out, using the green stripes of the lining fabric and this was done for all the parts, including the tester's ceiling.
GOODWOOD HOUSE - Daniel Marot prototypes
For a little gallery in the style of the 1720s I thought it could be fun to recreate curtains by my favorite designer and architect Daniel Marot, originally published by him on a famous engraving in ca 1710. I made two prototypes, in a cheap cotton, to show the client what it would look like.
London Embassy - Sitting Room - Before and After
London Embassy - Dining Room - Before and After
Bedroom in the Country
In domestic settings I tend to try and go as high up to the ceiling as possible, as this makes the room look taller and allows for interesting pelmets. So it's great when you have about two feet between the top of the window and the ceiling, like here, which allows for a deep valance while not taking away any light into the room. This valance has a fringed edge on the top to break the line a bit and pink fringe at the bottom, which is curved very gently. It hangs from a chunky pole, with doubled up rings spaced rather far apart, whichs add to the old fashioned proportions, while the actual curtains hang from a track, much lower down the wall.
At Goodwood my colleague Alec Cobbe and I were asked to redesign the ballroom, which we turned into a full blown Regency Picture Gallery, as it was originally intended. We put flock paper on the walls and colour washed it to break up the texture and make it look older, and then edged it with a chunky gilt fillet. There are two of these huge arched windows on either side of a marvelous streched out arrangement of three windows underneath one long curtain cornice, which is typical for the Regency period.
The Ballroom at Goodwood has this glorious stretch of three windows behind tall marble columns. Above them there is one long gilded curtain cornice, so we gave it a pelmet consisting of 15 different swags and tails, very much in the Regency style, from when the house was built.
NETHERLANDS - Dining Room
There is a Dutch tradition to extend the windows right up the ceiling as high as they can go. One can see that already in the 16th century so I guess it just stuck, and many modern houses still seem to have more window than wall.
In this house of around 1800 the client asked for a theatrical pelmet without drawing curtains, which ideally would not take away too much light. The solution was a simple pair of swags that part in the middle.
To me these type of swags and tails should ideally hang from some kind of cornice (made of wood and either gilt, painted or covered in fabric), but here there was no room for that, so I added a stiffened band of fabric edged with braid. It gives the pelmet just that little bit of architectural structure, which is often missing when the swags just kind of start out of nowhere (although there are many historic examples of these swags without a cornice).
ALDOURIE CASTLE - William Morris room
The design of the bed in this Arts and Craft style room pointed towards valances in three separate parts and I thought flat panels would look best due the woodwork being already quite busy. The outside is a William Morris material with flowers woven into it, while the inside is a printed cotton with a lovely pattern of the same period. The panels are edged with a cosy woolen fringe.
Princess bed in London
Every little girl wants a bed like this !
The room is still to be wallpapered, but this girl's bed already looks lovely with a French 'ciel de lit' over an antique Empire bed. The skirt round the bottom looks charming and I gave it simple pleats so it's not too frilly.
In my own office I couldn't decide what shape to give the pelmets over the two windows, so they are both different ! They are, however, on seperate walls, so I kind of get away with it, I think.
The room has a grey/green and rusty red colour scheme, so I created this pelmet with green decoration painted straight onto the fabric, which was often done historically.
The next thing I want to do with these is to paint red and green decorations on the cornices (which I spray painted bright gold and then washed with brown). Eventually the whole room will get a red cornice with green decoration, but, as ever, one's own rooms are always last in line.
At first this looks like a fairly conventional 'pinched' pelmet, but then you notice that at every pinch the bottom of the valance goes up a little and this gives an interesting rhythm to what otherwise would have been a rather dull straight line.
I thought I was being clever when I made this, but recently I found a watercolour of an interior dating from 1855 where they had done exactly the same thing.
This is a lovely wooly winter curtain across a garden door. Because of the window there is no space for a pelmet, so I made a false pelmet which is fixed to the curtains. A wooly fan edge fringe and some lines of braid give it a lovely established look.
Putting a false pelmet on curtains is a 20th century solution, associated with the famous John Fowler, and I think in most private houses it can look very good where there is no space for an actual pelmet or if the client finds a whole pelmet a bit too much.
Also, curtains in a plain fabric, as here, can look a tad dull if they just hang from a pole with nothing going on anywhere.
Reconstruction of the bed in the Bed chamber of Mary Queen of Scots.
When The Royal Collection decided to restore the rooms which once belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots in Holyroodhouse Palace, Edinburgh, it was decided not to put back the grand fourposter which for centuries had been shown as the Queen’s bed, despite dating from around 150 years after her death.
But as a bed was still thought to be essential for the room, a set of old crewel work pieces were found elsewhere in the Palace, which were very likely made for a bed like this in the first place. Some Edwardian green velvet curtains were found for edgings etc and a large amount of gold braid was salvaged, which reappeared all over the bed including the little wooden finials. The old trick of dunking cheap cotton fringe in coffee worked wonders here too; it has a lovely uneven look of old age. The inside of the whole bed is a simple lining fabric but in a rather daring red.
Half Tester Bed