If you want a vintage-style plastic beaded curtain or doorway, don’t settle for cheap reproductions — we’ve found the real deal: New Old Stock, made in the USA “Lollipop” beaded curtain strings — in 13 colors — leftovers from 1960s and 1970s production, when plastic beaded curtains were all the rage.
Yup, Beauti-Vue — home to 48 designs of retro woven wood shade patterns that you can order custom-made into roman shades — also has hundreds, maybe thousands, of yards of these beads in 13 different colors — Dark Sapphire, Crystal, Beige, Amethyst, Light Sapphire, Rose, Topaz, Aqua, Emerald Green, Olive Green, Ruby Red, Shell and Jet Black. Combine them in any number of ways ways to create the vintage beaded curtain of your dreams!
During my recent visit to Beauti-Vue, Kristin Grumbeck, sales and customer service manager, showed me a large beaded display curtain that combined Olive Green, Ruby Red, Beige, Crystal and Amethyst beads — and it was stunning. The beads themselves are very substantial feeling — heck they were made in the USA back in the 1960s and 1970s. The way the light catches the facets in these beads makes them seem to glow from within.
History of these plastic bead curtains
Stormy Grumbeck, owner of Beauti-Vue, told me that Beauti-Vue started making beaded curtains in the early 1960s. Beads were at one time stocked and sold through Marshall Fields. Stormy was about 20 years old at that time, working as the company’s stock guy. Each week, he would make the trip over to Marshall Fields to take inventory and make sure they had all the stock they required. Stormy remembers that there were at least 40 different beads stocked at that time – three or so patterns each in several colors.
Stormy recounted that back when beads were very popular, people would make all sorts of custom curtains out of them. They would use one or more of three different bead styles – (1) all round, (2) faceted, and what he calls Lollipop – to create the desired effect. Out of the three original styles, the only one with remaining stock is the Lollipop style (S 56), in the 13 colors shown above.
Beauti-Vue continued to stock their beads at Marshall Fields until the early 1970s, when pre-bagged, cheaper beaded curtains from Taiwan began being imported. Prior to that, they could sell a custom beaded curtain for $200 – but once the cheap imported beads hit the market, customers could buy beaded curtains for about $15 for a curtain. Stormy says they couldn’t compete with that price, so they stopped making and selling the beads to focus on their core custom window treatment business.
Tips to calculate how many strands of beads needed for a curtain
These beaded curtains are easy to assemble. The beaded strands slide into tracks that can be mounted on the inside of a doorway or directly on a wall. Strands hang from the track from the small, rounded bead in the pattern. You can also ask Beauti-Vue to add one of their New Old Stock decorative trims to the front of the track if you want to continue to bling it on.
If you want to order a beaded curtain from Beauti-Vue here are a few tips on how to calculate the amount of beads you’ll need:
- Decide where you want to put your beaded curtain, measure opening to determine width and decide how long you want the curtain to be. Tip from Pam’s initial experience doing an inside mount: If you are inside mounting, you will need to leave space for a half-inch opening to slide the beads on; or, you will need to put on your beads before you screw the header into the top of your opening [awkward but do-able, although if you are going for 100% full you will need to leave a blank or two so you can get in between the strings to screw the header in.]
- Choose your color or colors.
- Determine how long of a piece of track you will need. Track is $2.50 per foot. Stormy thinks they have both square and round profile track in silver or gold, but he recommends calling to check as they have limited stock remaining. If you want to mount the track directly onto a wall — not inside a doorway — you will need end caps to keep the beads from slipping out the sides.
- During my visit, Stormy estimated that the small rounded bead which fits into the track is about ½ inch diameter, meaning if you want to fill the track to capacity for a full looking curtain, you can fit two strands per inch/24 strands per foot. But NOTE: Pam ordered a load o’ Lollipops and has begun to set up beaded curtain in her office. She thinks that for a full curtain — no space at all between the small beads inside the rail — it’s more like eight strands per three inches — she actually had to call and order more yardage. For a less full looking curtain, you could use one strand per inch with a single bead in between to act as a spacer. Beads are 85 cents per yard with a 10-yard minimum order.
- You can also order colorful trim (profiled in another one of our stories on the company) to glue on and decorate the track as shown on the display curtain above.
For example, if you were making a full coverage, beaded curtain to hang on the inside of a 36″ doorway that extends down from the doorway 6′ you would need:
- 3 feet of track = $7.50
- 72 strands of beads in desired colors (to cover the three feet of doorway at 24 strands per foot) that are each 6 feet long = 432 feet of beads = 144 yards at 85 cents per yard = $122.40. [But NOTE: Pam thinks more strings are required for a totally full curtain — approx. 8 string per three inches or so. Watch for our follow up report.]
- This equates to about $129.80 + shipping and decorative trim if desired.
- These plastic beaded curtains and attendant materials are not featured on Beauti-Vue’s website. We learned about them as we reported this story. To order, select from the colors shown in our story [click on the images and they should double in size on screen] and consider the instructions we’ve outlined here and contact Beauti-Vue directly with any questions. Write up your order, then call Beauti-Vue for instructions on how to submit your order, and/or to ask questions and/or finalize the details.
DISCLAIMER: We do not warrant our instructions; we are doing this as a service to readers to help connect them with this product; we are not making any money from Beauti-Vue or anything.
Close ups of the available colors
Pam already has ordered a bunch of beads and a track to make a beaded curtain for her Big Fat Retro Crazy Epic Office window. First report: Beauti-Vue’s service was great — she loves the beads — they are beautiful and even ‘strung’ with real thread, not plastic — and she thinks her very full loading of beads on the header rail is requir-ing about 8 strands per every 3 inches. Stay tuned for a look at her project.