[Photo from Michael S. Smith: Elements of Style.]
Recently I spent some quality time with my well-worn copy of Michael Smith's first book and strengthened my passion for understated curtains. Understated seems like a misnomer because these soft, unadorned (or barely embellished) masterpieces usually speak volumes. Again, I have to use the beautiful dress analogy. Smith compares great curtains to a couture gown, saying that much of the luxury is hidden in the superb construction. I especially love Smith's imagery on page 185:
"...in the Hollywood Hills, I designed utterly simple bedroom curtains made from 200 yards of pure white medium-weight Italian linen with a matte satin finish, hung with a glamorous drape from plain wrought iron rods. The effect, as windows were opened to the garden and a light breeze captured the linen, was as theatrical as the unforgettable ballroom scene in Visconti's "The Leopard" when Sicilian breezes lifted the full-length ivory linen draperies which billowed like ball gowns in the golden Summer afternoon light."
For years, I've heard designers speak about the visual aspects of The Leopard. Although I only know bits about the plot -- the story centers on Italian royalty -- and, truth be told, I've yet to see the entire film, I have spotted billowing textiles in various clips. Whether Visconti incorporates breezes to signify "the winds of change" or simply to create a sense of time and place, the impact is magical.
Sicilian Baroque architecture is also a major player in the movie. More on the specific locations here and related reading here.