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