One of my first memories of staying at my hub's family home in The Netherlands in the late 70's was sleeping in the Murphy bed in the guest bedroom. In the first place, at the age of 30 years I had never seen a Murphy bed, much less one hidden behind a curtain!
Actually there were other pieces of furniture in that house hidden behind curtains, and I just thought they could not afford wooden doors. It wasn't until reading my latest book "Levend op Stand" by Ileen Montijn that I found out that "curtains", especially velvet or corduroy, were the style. Whether that was the style in the 70's, I do not know. But it was definitely a style.
In our shipment back last fall, we brought over a wooden bookcase that had been in the master-bedroom of my in-laws. It too had a curtain at one time. Maybe I should restore the piece to its original design. And maybe not!
From what I can surmise from reading the above mentioned book and what I know about housekeeping, the curtains served the purpose of shielding the furniture contents from dust.
Certain American housewives tried to solve that dust problem back in the 50's and 60's by covering their couches, chairs, and lampshades with plastic covers. (You have probably seen examples of that on episodes of "The Nanny" and "Everyone Loves Raymond.")
My hub says he remembers when his relatives covered their living room furniture with cloths before going to bed each night. Guess the couches and chairs had pajamas, too. I wonder if housewives really thought that furniture would get dustier during the night than during the day?
Maybe it was just what they did.
And if the cat or dog decided to take a nap on the chair while they were asleep, then it was covered. Literally! (We have never let Flip get up on our furniture, so I never worry about that.)