March 6, 2009

A Fabric Draped Passageway-The Portiere

Filed under: Color usage, Fabric Usage, Holidays, Wall Decoration — Tags: , , — Leona Gaita @ 2:07 PM

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The draped interior passageway, also known as a portiere (french for door) first came to Europe from Asia in the fourth century. Made of heavy tapestry, or velvet, in was introduced to mitigate drafts.  It was used extensively in wealthier Victorian homes, for both practical and decorative purposes.

Velvets, and heavy damasks were the preferred  fabrics for the Victorians, due to their heat retaining qualities.  In our modern heated homes, we can consider the use of lighter fabrics.  A portiere can be made of silk, sheer organza, or a cotton print, as well as traditional heavier fabrics.

as seen in Metropolitan Home
A lush silk portiere defines the space in a Master Bedroom suite.  Interior design by Joy Meek, as seen in Metropolitan Home.

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A Dining Room Portiere (Dream Windows, Kathleen S. Stoehr)
A Dining Room Portiere (Dream Windows, Kathleen S. Stoehr)

In “Gone With the Wind“, Scarlett famously uses her mother’s old green velvet portieres to make herself a beautiful dress, in order to impress Rhett Butler.  Rhett’s no help, but she does come home with a new wealthy husband!

One of my favorite films (not the least because of the exquisite interior set design by Dante Ferretti and Robert J. Franco) is “The Age of Innocence” based on the novel by Edith Wharton.  There we can observe, in beautiful reproduction, the Victorian use of richly draped passageways, creating a sense of sumptuous glamour.

In one of the early scenes, shot from the point of view of the main character Archer, we go with him from one beautiful drawing room to another.  As he approaches each partially obscured  draped passageway, for a moment we are kept in suspense as to what lies beyond in the next perfectly appointed room…….the plot thickens, I’m inspired!

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A full width portiere creates two distinct spaces in an open floor plan

I love the sheer portiere I have on a gapingly wide opening in my design studio.  It really softens the space, and even absorbs some unwanted surrounding sounds, and it’s just so pretty!

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Cheerfull print portiere helps to define a space at the end of a long hallway.
Cheerful print portiere helps to define a space at the end of a long hallway.
A beautiful portiere in a fabulous bathroom.
A beautiful portiere in a fabulous bathroom.

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Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating and installing a portiere:

Excellent places to use a portiere:  between a dining room and a living

Domino
A perfect nook for sleeping and reading Domino Magazine

room, between a vestibule and a living room, between a master bedroom dressing room and bedroom etc.

  • A portiere can be used to improve the proportions of a long narrow room by sectioning off the far end and creating a windowed sitting area.
  • If you’re using a sheer fabric, neatly finished edges are all that’s required.  However, for most other fabrics you’ll want to self-line, or use a contrasting fabric to line your portiere, since both sides will be fully visible.  If you’re using ready made panels, you’ll want to double the quantity, and hang them back to back on a double rod.
  • Tie backs are an important element of a portiere.  They can be made of matching fabric, or a passementerie tie back with tassles, or even a beautiful piece of ribbon with a bow.
  • A portiere can be simple, clean and modern, or elaborate and traditional.  For a very traditional look, use a damask and add a swagged valance, and tassle fringe.  To keep it contemporary, use a sheer, a solid silk or velvet, plain and simple.
  • A portiere can installed either inside the door jamb, or on the outside wall above the passage way.  I tend to prefer to install above the opening, for a sense of height.
  • A single panel can be installed in a smaller opening and tied back to one side for an asymmetrical portiere.   A pair of panels can be used on a wider opening  and both tied back for a symetrical  effect.
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