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Bead curtains have been associated with Asian cultures for ages, but their popularity in the West developed much later, hitting its zenith during the 1960s. For many, that retro look is back again, and these curtains are often used to impart the desired bohemian flair.
To make bead curtains, beads are affixed to cords or filaments of various lengths. Several bead-decorated cords hanging side-by-side form a semi-private barrier. The curtains are trimmed to fit across a doorframe or within a window frame. Since the beads are independently affixed to the cord, they will not slip off when the cord is trimmed.
In addition to acting as door and window treatments, bead curtains can also be used as room dividers. They can camouflage closets, sleeping quarters, and storage areas, and have been traditionally used to cordon off back rooms from public areas in small shops or restaurants.
Various materials are used to make the beads that are used in curtains. Typical bead materials include glass, wood, plastic, bamboo and acrylic, but in rare cases, they can be made of crystals or gemstones. The beads used can come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors and motifs. Standard bead curtains are relatively inexpensive, decorative and colorful. One popular style is made of bamboo, with individual strands painted so that a total image appears when hung; many of these portray a famous work of art, such as the Mona Lisa.
Interest in feng shui decorating techniques has brought about a resurgence of bead curtains. Feng shui devotees believe that the rustle caused by a breeze or a person passing through the curtain has soothing benefits, while others use them to break up a long narrow space such as a hallway. Proponents of this style of decorating claim that, by doing this, it cuts down the airflow and captures the positive energy that would normally escape.
Regardless of feng shui philosophy, bead curtains have endured for many years, and continue to be a colorful, easy way to decorate a home or office.