life in a tiny apartment.

July 8, 2015

life in a tiny apartment: curtains | reading my tea leaves
Tip #126: Dress your windows, minimally.

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.
life in a tiny apartment: curtains | reading my tea leaves
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.
life in a tiny apartment: curtains | reading my tea leaves
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.
life in a tiny apartment: curtains | reading my tea leaves
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.

Considering black-out shades? We attach a black sarong to our bedroom curtain every night with a pair of these clips. #teenytinyfix

Tiny apartment survival tips #1 – 124, RIGHT HERE.

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  • Reply Francesca July 8, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    I would love to take down all my blinds, but the thought of people seeing my every move especially at night creeps me out.

    • Reply Erin July 8, 2015 at 3:31 pm

      Might need to hang an easy little curtain instead!

    • Reply Francesca July 8, 2015 at 6:45 pm

      I think I will try that. Bathroom seems like a good place to start, since I want some privacy there for sure. I love simple curtains.

    • Reply admin July 8, 2015 at 3:31 pm

      Might need to hang an easy little curtain instead!

  • Reply Neurotic Workaholic July 8, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    I might follow your advice about the curtains. One of my neighbors is a light owl and leaves his very bright lights on all night long every night, which makes it difficult for me to sleep without one of those eye masks. So curtains would help, and they would dress up the apartment.

  • Reply jka July 8, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    I recently took down all the blinds since I have a 15 month-old and the standard apartment ones are incredibly unsafe! Thanks for the great, inexpensive ideas.

  • Reply Archana Paladugu July 8, 2015 at 6:22 pm


    Beautiful hack ! Your curtain looks really nice !

    May I ask about your wooden floor sweep/brush ? I need one and dont want a plastic one.

    – Archana.

    • Reply Erin July 8, 2015 at 6:32 pm

      Thanks! The brush is this one! I love it for my windowsills, but it is mini—just 4.5 x 5 inches!

    • Reply admin July 8, 2015 at 6:32 pm

      Thanks! The brush is this one! I love it for my windowsills, but it is mini—just 4.5 x 5 inches!

    • Reply Archana July 9, 2015 at 2:39 am

      thank you ! I love that site. I have an ink pen from them. And TSA pulls me over every single time and examines the pen 🙂

  • Reply Elysabeth Ratto July 8, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    The blackout shades? Genius! We've had black trash bags taped to our bedroom windows since the days started getting longer (for our 8-month-old's bed time). It's such an eyesore, but I think I will order those clips…NOW. Thank you!

  • Reply Joanna July 12, 2015 at 6:20 am

    As someone living in a typical NYC railroad walk-up (though not the fortunate kind with fabulously tall ceilings), installing white floor to (almost) ceiling curtains was the single best thing I have done to transform my living room space. It feels spacious and open and dare I say lofty. The minimal Ikea SANNOLIKT curtain rods set me back $8 each and the linen H&M curtains were $80 for two panels… All in all, $100 and ALL THE IMPACT. Can't believe I waited three years! Team curtains all the way (oh and did I mention… saving on cooling costs because I'm finally keeping some sun out of my top-floor oven apartment).

  • Reply cokaly July 27, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    i love this idea and love the simplicity of it all. i'm wondering about your source for (what looks like) sheer cotton selvage, though? any time i search 'selvage' i turn up with denim options…not quite what i'm going for. thanks!

    • Reply admin July 27, 2015 at 3:31 pm

      I just head to the fabric store and look at the edges!

  • Reply Keara Soller September 4, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    Hello! I was wondering where you got that tiny broom sitting next to the window! It’s adorable.
    (3rd pic from the top)
    Also, how many clips do you use for each curtain and how do you attach the wire to the nails?

    • Reply Erin Boyle September 6, 2016 at 9:56 am

      I got it from Kaufmann Mercantile a number of years ago. Not sure that it’s still in stock. Number of clips depends entirely on the width of your windows! I just wound the wire around the screws!

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