Why Add Antique Portieres to an Old House—With Pictures

Discover the beauty and functionality of portieres and how they can add a vintage touch to any old house design.

Lauren Thomann is a business owner, antique dealer, and freelance writer/editor with 16 years of experience and a B.A. in English and Linguistics. She specializes in antiques—mainly Victorian through Mid Century—antique jewelry, old house renovations, and lifestyle and home-related content. Click the link to learn more.
Antique portieres for living room doorways

In the world of interior design, trends come and go. But one vintage look making a comeback is the use of portieres. These long, heavy drapes were popular in the Victorian era and added a touch of elegance and privacy to a room. Today, portieres are being rediscovered as a stylish and functional way to add warmth and character to a space. We’re sharing some original portiere designs and ways to incorporate them into your home.

What Are Portieres?

Portieres are essentially long drapes hung in doorways and were initially used to preserve heat in a room. They were often made of heavy fabrics such as velvet or brocade and were sometimes adorned with tassels or fringe. These room divider curtains date back to the late 19th and early 20th century.

They were commonly used in grand homes and castles, adding a touch of luxury and exclusivity. Portieres were also used in the bedrooms to separate the sleeping area from the dressing area and in the drawing rooms to separate the formal area from the informal area. These drapes were an important element in the interior design of the time and were often custom-made to match the room’s decor.

Why They Are Making a Comeback

Cover of Ladies' Home Journal, 1921-10
Ladies’ Home Journal, 1921

One reason for the resurgence of portieres is the current trend towards antique and retro decor. As more and more people are looking to add a sense of history and character to their homes, portieres are becoming an attractive option. They offer a unique look that can be difficult to achieve with modern drapes.

Another reason for the comeback of portieres is their functionality. They can be used to add privacy and warmth to a room, as well as to create a sense of separation between different areas of a home. This can be especially useful in undesirable open-plan living spaces, where portieres can be used to define different zones without closing off the room completely.

How to Incorporate Portieres into Your Home

Portiere in a Victorian living room
A Book of Distinctive Interiors, 1912

Here are some creative ways to incorporate portieres into your home:

  • Incorporate portieres in large, open doorways. This will create a sense of separation between different spaces or use them over entryway doors for additional warmth.
  • Match your portieres with your window curtains for a cohesive look and to enhance the overall design of the room.
  • Hang portieres on walls or windows, either alone or in a pair, to create a focal point.
  • Use heavy fabrics such as velvet or brocade for a vintage or retro look. Opt for lighter fabrics such as linen or cotton for a more modern look.
  • Add color and pattern to a room by choosing a bold fabric for the portieres, which can act as a statement piece and add visual interest.
  • Add texture to a room by choosing a fabric with a unique texture, such as a boucle or a chenille, which can add depth and interest to a room.

Original Images

Modern Examples

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