Monday, 14 June 2010

Curtain call for the tie-back

Curtains frame your window, but how do you make the most of your view?  Interior designer Jamie Hempsall takes a look at using tie-backs.

When it comes to dressing windows the best solution is often a pair of curtains, preferably full length if room will allow. They frame your view beautifully and help to create a feeling of opulence. However, with the exception of eyelet designs which tend to stack back at the sides of a window, most curtains have fairly wide headings even when open which can mean they take up valuable window space and reduce light. So how do you solve this problem and create an extra element of drama?

The simple answer is a tieback and I have included images of some of my favourite designs currently on the market. Whilst this is a very traditional solution, tie-back designs continue to evolve meaning that you can find something appropriate for the majority of interior schemes from traditional to ultra-contemporary.

A myth has arisen over how difficult it is to dress curtains using a tieback and, whilst it does take a bit of effort initially, I have rarely found a client who does not pick up the knack pretty quickly thereby enjoying wonderful results.

The trick is to take time initially to dress your curtains with the appropriate folds – you do need a little patience, but it is worth it. Once you are happy with the effect tie them in position with three or four lengths of soft cloth (such as left over lining fabric) evenly spaced down the length of your curtains and leave hung in position for around 72 hours. This will help give new curtains “memory” as to where a fold should be. After that you should find that as you draw them back to gather up in a tieback your curtains will naturally follow the folds you have decided upon.

Using a tieback to draw curtains back not only increases light, but when draped correctly your curtain will have a soft curve that falls gracefully at the side of your window.

To achieve the optimum effect attach your tieback either one third down from the top of the curtain or one third up from the bottom of the panel. Hanging a tieback near the top of the curtain will provide the most light, with a short curve which leaves the majority of the fabric hanging at the side of the window. Whilst using a tieback near the bottom of the window is less about light and more about creating a dramatic, long curve.

One of the simplest options for a tieback is to produce a collar or twist made from the main fabric. As a general guide a standard width curtain of about 137cm wide requires a tieback of 60cm, whilst a double with curtain (about 274cm) needs a 92cm tieback.

However, I like to make more of a statement with tiebacks. They are an important tool in your interior scheme arsenal. The world is your oyster when it comes to design, but it is essential that you opt for colours that are included in the fabric of your curtains. Do not feel you have to go with the obvious choice as carefully matching a colour contained in a small detail of the design is a clever reference point and allows you to use it elsewhere in your room scheme.

Price points vary wildly from around £10 in High Street Stores to upwards of £318 for the statement piece Twiggy tie-back from Wemyss Houles – a true joy to behold. Take time to enjoy these wonderfully tactile additions to your window treatment which you should consider as important a decision as your fabric.

Jamie Hempsall is a member of the British Institute of Interior Design. For more details visit Jamie at or why not follow him on twitter (JamieHempsall)

Examples shown:
1) Lead Crystal Tie-Back from Zoffany
2) Briati Tie-Back from Designers Guild
3) Taisho Tie-Back from Osborne & Little
4) Orio Tie-Back from Designers Guild
5) Twiggy Tie-Back from Wemyss Houles

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