These are used behind main curtains, closer to the window to filter light, to afford privacy, or to use in the warmer months instead of pulling the heavier over-curtains.
* Under curtains are also a useful alternative to blinds for awkward windows and as an addition to blinds for elegant window dressing. Whatever the reason, they are an attractive window dressing and can be sheer, semi-sheer or opaque in colours that disappear in sunlight, that blend in with the room scheme, or that provide a contrast.
* In the city, we often make under-curtains in flat panels to hang very close to windows. We use a soft, brownish linen or bamboo, as it discretely disappears against the glass from both viewpoints; from the inside the outlook is barely obscured but when looking from the outside in, the glass is screened.
* In the country, it’s less important for the windows to disappear and under curtains are rarely in permanent use–so off-whites are perfectly suitable, creating a floaty aesthetic that works well with views to the open landscape–at least in bedrooms and bathrooms.
* For reception rooms and studies, under-curtains look best when linked back to the main curtains. Use a fine material such as silk or linen in a sympathetic colour: warm neutrals or say, red silk under red wool, a fine stripe under a plain… Avoid greens, blues and cold colours that cast a very odd light, instead go for creams, oyster and soft butter-yellows. These are just guidelines, the room and aspect will dictate the final choice.
* Unlined silk curtains really come into their own as under-curtains, especially in the summer with a slight breeze blowing through them, as the colours come alive and movement emphasises the inherent beauty of silk. The downside, however, is that silk is badly affected by prolonged exposure to sunlight and the leading edges at least will soon begin to fade and tear as they weaken. A simple solution to this is to use an inexpensive silk cut more fully than you normally might, so that after a few years they can be turned the other way – return edge to leading edge which in the days of make do and mend was always called ‘sides to middle’); and then a few years later the sides can be cut down.
* Synthetic silk can be remarkably good when it has been well designed and coloured. It doesn’t fade, tear or wear out with direct sunlight. Many of the best fabric houses have a good range, perhaps especially the Italian Etro.