From The Archive: Tapestry Portières

Tapestry portières of 1915, from the Trorlicht–Duncker Carpet Company
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Before portières were shown the door, they were de rigueur in tastefully furnished homes. Depicted is a selection of the many patterns for doorway curtains offered in the St. Louis, Missouri, company’s catalog during the bungalow era.

Richly colored portières had been popular since the late 1870s, keeping warmth in and drafts out before central heat was commonplace. Frequently sold in pairs and hung between living room and entry hall or dining room, they were a soft supplement and later substitute for heavy pocket doors.

By the Arts & Crafts era, luxurious yet affordable damask and tapestry portières were efficiently mass-produced on Jacquard-type looms in gorgeous tone-on-tone or multi-color patterns. Widths varied from 36" to 54", but the length was typically 100" to 108"—sized to allow the top 18" to 24" to be thrown over a wood or brass rod and stitched to hang perfectly in a standard to 80" to 84" doorway.

For romantic designs, the warp threads were run long, then gathered and tied off into fringed ends. Increasing the “exotic” factor, fringe treatments usually differed top and bottom; the elaborate upper fringe added texture and weight to counterbalance the over-rod hang, while smaller bottom fringe was practical, allowing air to flow through the doorway without the curtain moving. 

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