I wouldn’t go so far as to say I hate curtains, but I don’t have much use for them. When I get up in the mornings I’m always keen to open them. I need natural light, and keeping the curtains closed when it’s daylight outside is profoundly irritating to me and just feels wrong. I’ve also been known to go around offices and meeting rooms at work turning off fluorescent lights and opening blinds.

My wife feels differently. She’s concerned about people looking in and so wants at least some kind of net curtain or shade in front of the window most of the time, if not the full exterior shutter lowered. We have these shutters on our front and back windows on the ground floor and I hadn’t really encountered them until we went to Italy. There apparently everyone has them, and for someone to have a ground floor dwelling without big heavy shutters is considered a ridiculous security risk.

So contrast this with the Netherlands. Every time we go there and walk past people’s houses we’re struck not only by the size of the street-facing ground floor windows, but the fact that they’re almost always un-curtained, allowing any passer-by to gaze in and get a good look at the interior. Received wisdom has it that this comes from a Calvinistic desire to show everyone that you have nothing to hide, although others believe it’s also a practical issue, having to do with letting as much light into the house as possible. This explains, on the other hand, why they’re so common in sun-drenched Italy where you want to keep the blazing heat and light of the midday sun at bay during your four-hour lunch and nap.

What about you: curtains, or not? And if so, do they match the carpet?

5 thoughts on “Curtains

  1. Erik R. January 17, 2014 / 2:24 pm

    My Spanish wife is terrified of living on the first, let alone the ground, floor (“2nd, let alone 1st”, for Americans). She also can’t stand sleeping in less than total darkness. When we stayed in an American hotel one time, she had a hotel employee come up and use a system of clips to keep the curtains closed.

    I imagine that opinions like these vary by the latitude of your youth.


  2. simonlitton January 17, 2014 / 2:30 pm

    We’ve stayed in some places in the UK (including my mum’s) where the curtains are so thin that if you’re there during the summer you get woken at dawn by sunlight streaming through them. In a holiday cottage on the Isle of Wight we had to cover the windows in the kids’ room with tin foil. Our friend said it looked like we were using that room to grow cannabis.


  3. jagosaurus January 17, 2014 / 2:56 pm

    I like a completely dark room to sleep in, and I definitely want the added privacy in the bedroom, but I love as much natural light as possible, so the second I get up I open the curtains.

    My old apartment had huge south facing windows that had absolutely no covering of any kind on them in the den and kitchen because all that glorious sunlight was so good for me (and the cats). But! I was also on the second floor (1st for non-Americans) so I didn’t have to worry about privacy issues.

    Psychologically I want as much natural light as possible during the day, but practically speaking I also want as much privacy as possible at night.

    What I REALLY want is shutters though. Seriously. I love them.


  4. Andrea Kopacek January 17, 2014 / 5:28 pm

    I like natural light as well, and my husband likes to close the curtains and shades. I feel like I’m always going around opening them all the time. During the day, I keep them open but as it gets dark outside I close them. I figure that you can’t see into a house too much in the daylight, but at night when the lights are on, you can see very well into the house.


  5. Bebe Nanno January 17, 2014 / 8:23 pm

    Love my Spanish shutters. Best idea ever. I like the shade they give when we haven’t done housework and dust is showing: that way I can ignore it. Mostly have thin curtains on windows and decorative false ones in living room. Proud of my wall paint to go with the curtains.


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