Considered by some to be a relic of the 1960s and ‘70s, often associated with lava lamps and neon flowers, decorating with bead curtains has a much richer past. Recorded history shows that beaded curtains actually originated centuries ago in the Asian region known then as “The Orient.” Famed American author, Ernest Hemingway even featured beaded curtains in his short story “Hills Like White Elephants” that was first published in 1927.
Whatever their origin, beaded curtains are making a comeback in the interior design world. Some designers add the accessory to give rooms a retro touch, while others have managed to incorporate the curtains in modern decors without producing a dated look.
Perhaps one of the most expected uses for a beaded curtain is as a door substitute. The beaded curtains depicted in Hemingway’s tale are used in a doorway to keep flies out of a bar in Spain. College students seeking added privacy use beaded curtains to block doorways in dorm rooms with restrictive policies that require doors to remain open when members of the opposite sex are in the room. Beaded curtains designed for doorways tend to feature strands of solid beads, such as opaque plastic beads or wooden beads that are placed close together for optimal privacy. Placing tightly strung beaded curtains in a doorway provides the privacy of a solid door while allowing airflow to circulate between the strands.
Considering ‘curtain’ is in the name, it comes as no surprise that many people use beaded curtains in their windows. Unlike the opaque curtains commonly used in doorways, beads hanging in windows should make the most of the natural light flooding into the room. Unlike doorway bead curtains, that typically hang alone, bead curtains in windows often replace the sheer panels beneath solid fabric drapes. Select curtains with translucent glass or plastic beads in colors that complement the color scheme of the room, as sunshine through the beads will alter the hue of the light coming in. Another option is to hang curtains of mirrored beads that will reflect the light.
Similar to the concept of hanging beaded curtains in open doorways to separate areas, longer expanses of beaded curtains are being incorporated into designs as space dividers. Designers of hip nightclubs create smaller seating areas in the warehouse-sized spaces by hanging long expanses of metal ball chain beaded curtains. Party planners have also replaced the typical canvas siding of marquee tents with beaded curtains. Beaded curtain room dividers are often suspended from the ceiling in open areas rather than mounted along straight surfaces, such as a window frame or a doorway. As a result, custom brackets can be made to hang room divider beaded curtains in a variety of patterns, such as circular, wavy or zigzagged.
Potentially one of the most atypical decorating ideas is hanging beaded curtains along a blank expanse of wall as an art installation. In this instance especially, the color of the wall must be carefully coordinated with the color and style of the beads as the wall behind becomes part of the art piece when glimpsed between the curtain strands. Add depth to the installation by attaching the beaded curtains on a 2x4 board mounted at the top of wall rather than directly to the wall itself.
Whichever way you decide to use them, beaded curtains are sure to give your space that little extra something.