By Carleton Varney
Special to the Daily News
Oscar Wilde’s reported last words stir empathy among decorators all over the world. I’m sure you will understand why: “Either those curtains go or I do.”
That remark is often quoted, although I’ve seen another version involving a different decorating issue: “The wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.”
Regardless of what Wilde actually said on his deathbed — and no one seems to know, exactly — it doesn’t surprise me that draperies have become part of the lore.
So many people view what’s hanging at the windows with a similar raised eyebrow. Think of the newly married fellow who arrives home and discovers his spouse has redecorated his once all-gray master bedroom with lace curtains under a pink-and-white striped bow-style valance.
I’m not sure if I would blame the new bridegroom if he issued an ultimatum. There’s a lot to be said for decorating compromises in any new marriage!
In any case, windows are said to be the eyes of the house and should be treated with the utmost respect. Yet choosing the right treatments for windows poses a dilemma to many people — particularly so in city apartments, where air0conditioning and heating units are often installed under the windows. And woe is me when I find a window-installed air conditioner that juts out in an ugly manner, intruding into the living space.
There are many ways to design window treatments that accommodate all the factors in any given situation. There are window shades, window blinds — many of which can be fabric covered — and roman shades, which are a good choice for windows that have air-conditioning units installed below the window sills. Venetian blinds are now available in every color, including those of the rainbow.
In contemporary rooms, where fabrics hanging at windows are generally not a modern touch, I very often install Venetian blinds to match the color of the room’s wall surfaces. A gray-painted room can be unified when blinds of grey are used. Of if your young daughter’s room has strawberry-pink-painted walls, you’ll surely find blinds of the same color.
And in Palm Beach, especially, I do like the look of plantation shutters at the windows — such a simple, visually crisp and geographically appropriate solution.
I am a great believer in letting as much light inside as possible, so I am not partial to windows that are over-draped, over-swagged and generally over-covered, unless the windows are part of some historic restoration project.
If you visit the great houses of Newport, R.I., village, you’ll see astounding houses open for tours. Their windows generally are curtained to the nines, blocking the views of the majestic Atlantic seacoast but reflecting an opulent era of by-gone history. I love my visits to Newport, despite my preference for windows that are more lightly, and I would say, graciously curtained.
I wonder if Mr. Wilde might agree with me?