Simple and Functional Primitive Curtains

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In primitive country design, window treatments are most often viewed as a purely functional design item. They include curtains, drapery panels and valances whose primary purpose is to control light and heat and provide privacy. The decorative element they add to the room is secondary. However, country homes today can add some detail and color to these curtains and still maintain the primitive feel.


Primitive curtains are commonly made from simple homespun fabrics such as muslin, cotton, linen and even burlap. If a bit of color and pattern is desired it can be added through the use of embroidery along the hems and borders of panels and valances. Consider using easy folk art designs like those found in a country sampler.

If your decorating plan calls for a patterned fabric for your curtains, consider using plaid. Plaid is a casual and inviting design with a simple pattern that will not conflict with the primitive decorating scheme you have chosen.

In a bedroom area, curtains can be made to coordinate with your bedding. Lace panels, old quilts, and other fabrics can be reused as window treatments, table toppers and to upholster small items like a bench or vanity stool.

Curtain styles

As with primitive fabric and furniture, curtain styles are simple in design and utilitarian in nature. They include:

  • Single panels that are shirred onto a rod and hung at the window. These panels can be opened to let light in during the day and closed at night to retain the heat and provide privacy.
  • While a valance is usually a decorative item, it can be considered functional in primitive decor as a way to reduce air from entering through the top of the window or doorway. A simple ruffled or box valance is a good style for a primitive home.
  • Country curtains are hung at windowsill level on a simple rod. There is no waste of fabric in country design by allowing drapes to reach the floor and certainly no “puddling” in a primitive home. Tiered curtains are a popular style as they allow you to open and close the lower and upper tier to control the amount of light and privacy. If a cafe curtain style is used the upper valance can hide unsightly window molding and prevent drafts from entering through the window frame.
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Rods and hardware for primitive curtains

Rods and supporting hardware for primitive curtains are usually made of wood or metal with a rustic finish. You will want to avoid any shiny finishes such as brass or stainless as well as “fussy” designs that have fluting, faux finishes, etc. Finials are placed at the ends to prevent your fabric from sliding off the rod.

Be creative when it comes time to choose a curtain rod. Use a branch from a tree in the backyard or repurpose wood from old furniture or an old building. This allows a functional item like a curtain rod to act as artwork and adds a bit of history to your home decor.

Sources for primitive curtains

The very best primitive curtains are those that you make yourself. Suitable fabrics can be purchased at fabric and craft stores as well as from online retailers. Scout the flea markets, garage sales, thrift stores and antique shops for vintage lace, quilts, fabric scraps and even old clothing that can be repurposed into creative window treatments.

If sewing is not your thing, many department stores and discount outlets carry a large selection of ready made curtains, panels, valances and swags designed for use in country and primitive homes. You simply choose an appropriate rod and hardware, bring them home and they are ready to hang. That is about as easy as it gets!

Park Designs‘ collection of primitive and country textiles include window curtains, table runners, bedding and accessories such as shower curtains and lampshades that have all been designed to enhance your country home. While Park Designs is located in North Carolina, they are a wholesale provider only. However, the list of retailers who carry their products includes several states in the United States, including Hawaii, western and eastern Canadian provinces as well as Puerto Rico.

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Curtains and other window treatments are certainly an important design element to consider when you are decorating a country or primitive style home. When it comes time to choose a style and fabric, keep in mind your own specific privacy, light control and design preferences.

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