An Old-fashioned Fabric Gets a Modern Update

Stephen Lewis

Once considered a relic of your grandmother’s house, sheer curtains are having a revival. Today, a new generation of designers are rediscovering the transparent cloth in its many guises—mesh or tulle, silk or linen—all deployed in new ways, using elements such as pallet sequins or metallic threads in embroidered patterns, and in surprising hues.

“Sheers get a bad rap for being boring and simple,” says Sasha Bikoff, an emerging New York designer known for her freewheeling use of color and pattern. “I use sheers when I don’t want a space to look that heavy. I use them as a kind of glistening fabric: to add life to the windows and texture to the walls. It’s part of a layering process.”

Stephen Lewis

The 30-year-old designer likes to riff on old-school tricks like designing sheers into ripple-folded drapes that wrap around an entire room, especially with metallic weaves or silks that “bring some cosmopolitan glamour to a space,” she says.

Caleb Anderson, half of the firm Drake/Anderson, created a salon with multiple window treatments at this year’s Kips Bay Decorator Show House. He likes to sandwich featherweight fabrics and layered sheers between drapery panels and Roman shades, all made by the French label Lelièvre.

The key to getting away with sheers? “Do something that feels clean and modern and not heavy or overly done,” Anderson says. “Look to things with a nuanced texture, either an open weave or something with another material or interesting detail, to make them relevant.”