The thing about glass doors is that you’re able to see through them. I mentioned yesterday that there are moments when the transparency is very lovely, but there are also moments that call for a bit of privacy or a bit of light blocking or general cocooning. We needed curtains.
We are not the first people in the world to seek this kind of solution for glass doors and judging from the amount of mismatched hardware I pried from the doors when we moved in, we were certainly not the first tenants to do so in this apartment.
If you’ve ever gone down a rabbit hole of curtain hardware made for French doors, you’ll know that the pickings are slim both literally and figuratively. On the most affordable end of the spectrum, there are classic hardware store swivel-end sash rods which are slender and easy to come by and very inexpensive to purchase, but they’re not very sturdy and not very lovely to look at. On the more costly end of the spectrum, there are outside-mount cafe curtain rods which look considerably nicer and appear to be far more sturdy, but which also clock in at roughly ten times the cost of their hardware store counterparts. Given these two options, I decided to jury rig my own.
I began with a walk to my neighborhood Italian ironworks shop, where under the watchful eye of the St. Joseph statue perched on the roof, I had a gentleman in the shop cut four lengths of 3/8-inch iron rods. He charged me $10 per piece, which is exactly double what I paid the last time I made my own curtain rod, but years have passed since then and at a quarter of the price of the outside-mount café rod I’d been eyeing, I was happy to pay it.
The curtains themselves could not be less fancy, which is only a slightly more generous way of saying that they’re quite crude. I wanted simple and straight shades without ruffles or pleats and I wanted them to be quick to make and practically free. I hacked up a bed sheet. I stripped an old twin top sheet into four equal lengths, which left me with a hemmed bottom and top on each curtain, but only two hemmed edges out of eight. I have not done anything at all about these raw edges.
On the top of each length of fabric, I sewed a very simple pocket by hand and all four curtains took about 30 minutes to make start to finish. These are not perfect curtains but making them so could be done without too much more of an investment. On a day when I’m feeling more flush and more patient I might spring for a finer fabric and go through the trouble of hemming. Until then, they’re good enough for me.
A few more notes:
+ If you’ll never be the DIY type, there are lots of lovely folks who make more polished versions of the curtains; like these beautiful linen shades.
+ Not everyone has a friendly neighborhood ironworks shop, but poke around where you are and I’ll hazard the guess you might just strike…iron? (If not, with a lightweight fabric and a small enough span, a wooden dowel would likely work here, too.)
+ When you buy unfinished iron of this sort from an ironworks shop, the cuts will likely be rough and the iron untreated. I gave mine a once over with a bit of steel wool and some olive oil. In this and all things, proceed at your own risk.
+ This mounting style is very flush to the door and is really best for cafe-style curtains or shades where the curtain is not pushed from side to side, but is left drawn or rolled and tied to let in the light.
+ I like to roll my curtains and tie them with the cotton twill tape I keep draped around the rod. To save time, I start my roll with one big fold that reaches the bottom edge of the curtain up toward its middle. This way I’m not needing to spend five minutes rolling each one top to bottom. (Sometimes I am even more lazy and tie the curtains into a big old knot and get on with things.)
+ I’ve decided to keep things light for now, but you could easily swap a dense, dark fabric—like the inky linen I used in our kids’ old room—and end up with something that blocks the light more completely.
+ If you’re not someone who craves direct sunlight, you might decide to go in the genius direction of Daniel Kanter and make your own privacy glass by covering individual panes with fabric and a cornstarch wash (see also). (Shout out to a dear reader who directed me to this gem of a project.)
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When we started our apartment hunt this summer, we were looking for a place with doors to close on rooms large enough to stretch out in. In the (daily) event that James or I needed to sequester ourselves to work, or have a semi-private meltdown, we hoped that could happen without needing to squeeze into a child’s bunk bed or sit, knees nearly to ears, in a child’s chair. Especially when the alternative was even worse: A tiny room for kids was great for sleeping, but more problematic when all three of the kids plus their beleaguered parent needed to be herded in there during a spousal conference call.
In the case of our new apartment, the doors we ended up with are made mostly of glass. Two sets of traditional French doors separate the three main rooms of our apartment from one another. Six weeks into living here, I’ve come to appreciate these transparent barriers more than I even realized I would.
It’s helpful, and sometimes even lovely, how the glass doors give us a literal window into moments we might otherwise miss. We can peek into Zoomed first-grade classes, or keep a trained eye on sibling squabbles, without needing to be fully enmeshed. Last night, James and the kids built a train track in the kids’ room while I made dinner. Two sets of closed doors provided me with a moment to myself and a sense of space. When dinner was ready I lit a candle and stood just for a minute watching my family in the semi-darkness; heart given the distance to grow fonder.
The old doors require a bit of fiddling to close properly and the hardware could benefit from some de-gunking and some oiling. I’m sure only the kids growing up will remedy the daily smudges of indeterminate origin on the lower panes. (Ditto my fear that someone’s elbow will blow through the glass.) But the doors let in light and offer privacy, which are two things we’ve long been a little bit low on.
(Come bedtime, there are curtains. More on those soon.)
My kids are hunting for pumpkins on neighborhood walks these days. The rainbow signs made in April are still hanging in apartment windows but the construction paper has faded and the edges have curled…