I love using portieres in my designs. Originating in Europe in the 4th century, this interior fabric treatment is used at doorways, or entrances to passageways and other rooms to prevent cold air or drafts from flowing throughout large manor houses, chateaus, or even country houses. The word itself is derived from the French porte which means "door." The peak of popularity for portieres was undoubtedly during the Victorian era where the panels were almost always made of heavy brocade or velvet, and trimmed with even heavier passamenterie like long fringes, beads, and tassels.
But today, they lend a sense of elegance. They add additional softness to a space, and serve as a great way to separate functions in adjacent spaces. And they can still provide additional air cushioning in colder months!
The portieres seen below in soft blue (to coordinate with the nearby chairs) separate a dining room from a sitting area. The view of the next room from the sitting space is beautifully framed.
Below is a great example of a portiere used to shield a hall from drafts... but really, it just makes this sumptuous space look even more grand. Imagine the doorway without the fabric panel, and it feels a little plain.
You don't have to have a large space to add a sense of grandeur. The end of this hallway grandly yet simply announces the living room beyond. The result is a design element that feels both cozy and refined.
The gold of these panels and the tortoise shell treatment on the door casing and pediment looks spectacular against the blue of the walls. (Yellow and blue are complimentary colors, as you may recall from my introduction to color posting here, and they look good together in many shades and tints.)
Here, the portieres separate the entry from the rest of the house. Placed as they are, they could provide some temperature insulation from heat as well as cold...
Many times contemporary homes have open spaces in master bedrooms, whether it is a bathroom suite or a dressing area. A nice way to provide some privacy as well as providing softness (and another opportunity for color, pattern, and texture) is to add portieres!
Again, we see a fabric panel at a doorway...this one is a bit reminiscent of a Victorian portiere with its burgundy velvet and thick corded fringe. It looks right at home next to the intricately carved stone fireplace surround.
Portieres can have a rustic sense as well... conjuring up an English hunting lodge, as seen in the example below. A wooden rod and wooden rings provide an organic note that suggests a cabin in the forest. The woodland color scheme and thick vegetation of the fabric print finishes off the ambiance.
Here is a nice example of a portiere in a style of home familiar to most of us. It elevates this walkway between the entry to a sitting area, making it something special. The finials of the hardware are wonderful and add tremendous visual interest to an otherwise blank spot.
And if you think that portieres can only look "old-fashioned," "fancy," or "fussy," just look at this fantastic, ultra-modern space. The slight shimmer of the portiere fabric has an almost Art Deco sense of glamour. The furnishings are modern as is the wall art and objects. The portieres soften but keep things sleek and sexy.
No matter what style of home you have, and no matter the size, you might want to consider the unique touch of a portiere.