I’ll come right out and say that I don’t think that window dressings are always necessary. But more than that, sometimes I think they can be more harmful than helpful in a tiny space. The wrong curtain can make a room feel cluttered or stuffy. A set of grimey shades can make it feel downright gloomy. Don’t get me started on vertical blinds. Personal taste aside, window dressings are often expensive. And there’s the matter on choosing them in the first place. I’ll admit my own fickleness on the subject. Don’t believe me? There’s this post for evidence, wherein I encouraged you all to sometimes splurge and then promptly decided that I didn’t really love the lugubrious light the splurgey curtain cast in our apartment after all. Whoops. Suffice to say, curtains get complicated.
When you live in a rental you know that the years that you get out of anything that requires careful measuring will be limited. Most hardware stores will cut blinds to fit your windows, but what happens when you move and the windows in your new place are a different size? A curtain stretched or scrunched accordingly can sometimes withstand a change in window size, but chances are that you’ll eventually need to make an adjustment or two to fit an old curtain into a new window, too.
And yet. A sad venetian blind might indeed be the thing that stands between you and the room of your dreams. And a simple sheer curtain could be the thing that pulls a small space (or any space) together. Of the five apartments that James and I have shared together, three of them have come complete with blinds already hanging in the windows. The blinds have been invariably filthy or ill-fitting or broken. In each of these spaces the single biggest thing we could do to drastically change the feel of a place was to remove the blinds. In the end, it’s a teeny tiny fix with a big impact. We’ve taken them down, bagged up the hardware, attached it to the blind with a bit of masking tape, and stuck the offending window dressing in the back of a closet to hang again once it’s time to head out.
So here’s my advice: take down the blinds. I don’t even care if you have nothing to replace them and your window overlooks a neighbor’s living room. The sooner they’re down, the sooner you’ll find an alternative that makes a space that you enjoy. Better yet, you might realize you don’t need a window covering at all (though don’t blame me if your neighbors disagree).
If you do decide to dress your windows, consider an affordable stand-in for expensive drapery (and flagrantly ignore my previous advice on that front). All things considered, in our apartmments I’ve had the best luck in hanging super simple curtains made from cutting up old tablecloths or linen shower curtains, or lengths of plain white cotton.
In our first apartment I bought inexpensive curtain rods, but I found that they eventually warped and when we moved to a larger place in Providence, I used string and nails to hang our curtains instead (see here). In our first apartment in Brooklyn I bought a thin piece of wrought iron from an iron shop for $5 and attached it to a set of metal hooks. (Later I hung the same rod with a pair of copper brackets from the hardware store, see here.) The curtains have never been perfect (far from), but they’ve done the trick.
Most recently I bought super simple cotton yardage with a selvage edge and lopped pieces down to size with a set of pinking shears. To hang them, I bought a set of small metal clips and stretched a bit of annealed wire between two black dry wall screws. Curtains for under $20 and less than 20 minutes. As usual, none of these specifics matter as much as a general attitude that you might be able to make something from nothing and end up with a finished product that’s more to your taste than anything you could have bought. Despite my advice to sometimes splurge, sometimes scrimping leaves you better off.
If you’re in the mood for more window reading, here are few thoughts about the black silt that settles on windowsills, HERE.
More glimpses of our tablecloth curtains, HERE.
Tiny apartment survival tips #1 – 124, RIGHT HERE.