Moving to France meant learning about a whole new culture, language, and cuisine. And after eight years here, I’ve picked up a few design ideas, too, from those clever French. Here is one of my favorites.
Americans are famous for having wonderful, huge closets. But the French, who are more often squeezed for space or living in old stone houses where walls aren’t easily moved, have learned something about closets too. Instead of putting doors on them, they very often drape them. I was first inspired by this idea when I visited an elegant renovated Provençal farmhouse. There was a long hallway from the bedroom to the bath, and Madame had draped one entire length of the hall with luscious, celadon silk, heavy and lined and wonderful, to hide her clothes rod. The hall was narrow and the closet itself not much wider than a coat hanger, so a door would not have worked well. She captured unused space, and she did it with a grand nourish.
Since then I’ve thought of LOTS of reasons to drape a closet door. I don’t drape my windows, but I’ve ended up draping lots of storage areas in our home.
Nine Reasons to Use a French Drape for Storage:
1. Put them any place where you want to liven up a wall with fabric, color, and texture, as opposed to the flat surface of a door.
2. You can walk through a closed curtain with your hands full—carrying a laundry basket for example, or a stack of towels. In fact, you can keep it closed all the time if you like, and just slip through. No more fighting with your spouse about keeping the closet door closed in the bedroom.
3. Animal lovers take note! Litter box problem, solved. You can tuck a litter box in a closet behind a drape, and a cat can come and go, even if it’s closed. Or keep your pet’s food and water bowls out of the way in your kitchen pantry, using the same trick.
4. A drape adds softness. This is especially nice in a bathroom or even in a kitchen, where there are lots of cold, hard surfaces.
5. Your closet ‘doors’ can go from traditional all the way to contemporary, depending on fabric and hardware.
6. I have a small, windowless bathroom with a closet. Draping the door not only gives the suggestion of a window, but also adds color and pattern to the small space.
7. Drapes can go where doors cannot, especially in narrow openings where a sliding door isn’t possible. Use them to cover shallow shelves in a tight spot. I’ve even hung a drape around the utility area in my laundry room to hide cleaning tools, in a small corner where there was no other way to hide them.
8. Drapes can be a frugal alternative, compared to a door, especially if you’ve got a sewing machine. The French sometimes use vintage, coarse linen sheets, bought for a song at the flea markets.
9. And the final reason: they’re oh so French, and what is more chic than that!