Curtains & blinds for period windows in Edinburgh, Fife & Perth

From Georgian to Victorian and Edwardian – period properties are a common sight in Scotland, especially in Edinburgh with its historic Old and New Town. They’re full of character but not without their challenges, often requiring a compromise between period and practical features. So, let’s have a look at what you need to know about curtains & blinds for period windows in Edinburgh, Fife & Perth. 

made to measure pelmet in sections bay window Edinburgh

Period features & window treatments

Regardless of when your property was built, there are some features that you will find in most historical buildings in Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland. And they all come with their own implications for your curtains, blinds, pelmets and other window dressings.

One of the most common features are decorative cornices adding luxury to period ceilings. Another popular feature are wooden shutters providing privacy and protection from direct sunlight. And let’s not forget the original wooden floorboards that give a special charm to many older properties.

My tips & tricks

When it comes to finding the best curtains & blinds for period windows, it’s essential to consider these features. For example, avoid hiding your cornice behind a pelmet. Instead, consider a simple unfussy curtain heading like a triple pleat to show it off.

And if you want to keep using your shutters, make sure your curtain track or pole is positioned accordingly. Otherwise, you might find it difficult to open or close your shutters properly.

Another challenge you might encounter in period properties is wonky floors and windows. If you don’t want to emphasise your sloping floors, choose an overlong curtain to disguise them. And when it comes to uneven windows, you will have to choose between the curtains & blinds being straight and looking straight. 

Radiators under the window are also very common. This means, unless you’re ready to block out the heat from the radiator at night, your curtains & blinds will have to be sill-length. Also, the original lath and plaster walls have the tendency to crumble as soon as you drill into them. So, the best way to fix your curtain pole or track to your period wall is to install them on the wooden architrave.

Tall windows – Georgian & Edwardian

The Georgian and Edwardian eras in particular produced spectacular tall windows in Edinburgh, Fife & Perth. Often set deep into the wall with working shutters, they can be up to 3.30m or 3.50m high. 

Their size gives you a lot of options when it comes to curtains & blinds for period windows. But they also come with a few challenges.

Opportunities

From curtains, blinds (or both) to London blinds, pelmets or swags & tails, everything is possible. As long as the proportions are right. For example, your pelmet or swags & tails have to be sized right to avoid them looking skimpy or top-heavy.

As a rule, swags & tails should be around 1/5 to 1/6 of the overall height of the window. But while swags & tails or pelmets are great for adding trimmings, you will lose light at the top of the window with either. 

Challenges

Window size is important when it comes to the weight and cost of your curtains & blinds for period windows. For example, the weight of your curtains plays a major role when it comes to opening or closing them. Depending on fabric and curtain heading, hand-drawn curtains with poles and rings might be awkward to manage. 

Make it easy to use your new curtains by using a draw rod, a corded or motorised pole or track. That is especially important if your tall Georgian or Edwardian windows are in a hard-to-reach location like above the stairs. And if you have working shutters, make sure you install the track or pole on the outside of the recess so they are easy to open and close.

The size will also lead to more fabric being needed. If you want to mitigate costs choose a plain fabric without a pattern repeat. But with original windows in Edinburgh often being single-glazed, don’t dismiss the idea of interlined curtains & blinds for your period window. The added fabric and weight will add insulation and reduce heat loss. They will also drape more nicely and hold their folds better. 

Bay windows – Edwardian & Victorian

Another typical period window is the bay window. Very popular during the Victorian and Edwardian periods, they are a common sight in Edinburgh, Fife & Perth.

With these types of windows, the main thing to keep in mind here is the shutters. Are your original shutters in working order? Are you planning to place your pole or track on the inside of the bay? Then make sure you have enough clearance to open and close them. Alternatively, your curtains can sit on the outside wall of the bay window.

If you’re considering blinds for your period windows, keep in mind that multiple window panes mean multiple blinds. Something that has a big impact on the amount of fabric you need. And Roman blinds will definitely get in the way of any working shutters you might have. So, I’d suggest choosing a different type of blinds instead, like roller blinds, for example.

Compromise between practical and period

Like most period windows in Scotland, bay windows are often single-glazed. Interlined curtains & blinds are the best options in that case although it also means more fabric and more weight. So, if you want to be able to open and close your curtains & blinds, consider a corded or even motorised track or pole. 

Similar to tall Edwardian windows, you might find radiators or even furniture in your bay window. Whether that’s a table or sofa, think about the logistics of opening and closing your curtains & blinds first.

If you want your window treatments in the bay, leave enough clearance to manoeuvre around them. If you are thinking about placing them outside the bay, your furniture (or radiator) will be hidden when closed or needs to be moved.

And last, but not least, leave enough room for the brass catches and screws used to open and clean traditional bay windows to make sure that your blinds don’t catch when opening and closing them.

Dormer windows – Georgian, Victorian & Edwardian

Popular since at least the 17th century, dormer windows are similar to bay windows when it comes to curtains & blinds for period windows. Although they are smaller and not as tall, when planning your window treatments, you can treat them like their larger cousins.

This means, you can position your curtains & blinds inside or outside the recess and you can choose between sill-length or full-length window treatments. All while paying attention to any radiators or furniture that might be placed there.

Because of their smaller size, the amount and weight of the fabric will not be a problem and they are very suitable for smaller-scale patterns. But you will want to keep an eye on reducing the light loss to a minimum.

Placing your curtains & blinds outside the recess will lead to the least amount of light loss. But in that case, your window treatments might be a long way away from the glass. And you will have to make sure that you have a bit of wall available on either side, so the curtains can stack there or for the blinds to cover the recess comfortably.

Alternatively, put your window treatments inside the dormer window. Although this way, you will definitely lose light when the curtains or blinds are drawn.


Can’t find the period window you are looking for? Historic properties in Edinburgh, Fife & Perth can have a wide range of window shapes and sizes. Above, I have covered windows & blinds for period windows you’ll most commonly find in Scotland. You can find my tips and advice for window treatments for more unusual windows here and here.