Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Plain House - Inside Windows

Painting by Robin Anderson from Lovely Whatevers

If it seems more difficult to add interest to a plain house, these last few posts have tried to explore some possibilities for making that a little easier. Today I tried to find ideas for the inside windows that will be seen from the outside.

One source of discontentment at home could be the window furnishings. Women at home look out a window often. A window needs to be dressed with something so inspiring and lovely that it feeds the eyes and the mind with every glance. Home decorators have sometimes made such a big deal out of draperies that we feel absolutely intimidated by dressing a window. It need not be this way at all. If you cannot afford a curtain rod at the moment, try putting a string or rope or slender piece of fabric through the pocket of a curtain and hanging it up any way. Even if it sags a little, it can still be very charming.

My own solution was to get rid of the complicated drapery rods and those stickery hooks (ouch!). Who invented those, anyway? I was often picking up the stray hook to keep a child from being injured, and more often looking at a sagging drape where too many hooks had gone missing. Then, the machinery itself was so difficult to manage, often getting snagged when the drapes were pulled open or shut. Another problem with them was laundering. They are so difficult to hang up again that one would rather not have them washed at all, if indeed they actually could wash them. Most of them required expensive dry cleaning. The hardware itself required special installation that was not simple enough for me, so I opted for a plain curtain rod.

Like our mothers and grandmothers before us, curtains are a simple, doable solution for any homemaker, and always will be. They do not have to be expensive or complicated. I know that because of the expense, a lot of people will put a sheet or blanket up in the window, but for just a few dollars they can get a simple rod and put it through the hem of the sheets and hang them like drapes and it looks so much better.

I read in an old homemaking book that curtains with a rod pocket put on a simple rod were a much better idea. It is easier on the homemaker to wash them. Mine were made of 109 inch white muslin, and trimmed with ball-fringe. I've always liked the way that looks in a window from the outside. All I had to do was iron over a portion of the top for the rod to be inserted, and make a hem at the other end. The sides were the selvage.

Curtains are, all around, are less expensive and more versatile. When you need a change, it is not a major expense to put up a new set in a different style. Cotton is the best cloth for them, can be washed in hot water, bleached, or dyed. The sun can fade them out and it is no loss, as it can be replaced for a dollar a yard. They can be made of cotton velvet, or any kind of chiffon or silky material, in the same simple way as the fringed muslin curtains.

Painting by Robin Anderson from Lovely Whatevers
A lot of the houses had those awful aluminum framed windows, with no window sills. I had the same problem, and found that you can put a small table of the same height of the edge of the window, and on it, put a pretty plant or a vase of flowers, a lamp or a candle, in the middle of the window. It looks great from the outside.
Thanks to the comment who supplied me with this link:
http://www.irvins.com/ sells window lights that attach to some difficult windows.
I have seen a few front windows where people have placed a nice desk with a lamp and books and a basket of flowers and it, too, looks great. Just be sure the desk looks as good from its back side as it does from the front, before you expose it to the outside world. A sofa-table or buffet table might work as well, as it often can be turned any way you like and still looks good. Some of the desks are not finished on the other side and do not look good from the street.

Spring Window by Consuelo Gamboa.

If you have a sofa or couch in front of the window, you can still put a table behind it and make it look like a window-sill.

French Windows and Curtains by Francois Chopin

Apartments can still have a homey look. I know someone who has a plant outside her door and a wreath on the door. She brings them in at night. Apartments can still have lace curtains at the windows or at least a lace panel in the middle if there are drapes that can't be removed. Now, there are candles that stick to windows that, with a little effort, can look quite charming. If you use the table-idea and create for yourself a window sill, you can use electric candles on candlesticks, in the windows, or a plant. If the windows are high, you can mount a shelf in front of them and use that as a sill.

painting by Robin Anderson, from Lovely Whatevers
In keeping with the frugality articles I would like to add an excellent description of the Great Depression, here http://thesparrowsnest.typepad.com/the_sparrows_nest/2008/04/homemaking-depr.html?cid=111747204#comments I commented that although it was much worse than people have experienced nation wide today, these survivors have not carried the bitterness and resentment from hard times that we so often see today, often only from trivial matters. We are blessed that so many of them are still with us today. As commented by someone before, the pictures in her article show people dressed with dignity, even daily, in their own homes. Pictures are worth a thousand words, especially to those who mock the past and say that women dressing up did not really exist. In the late 40's and 50's, people saved their jeans and tennis shoes for rough work, and dressed up the rest of the time, even in the house.

Awhile back, someone requested I post a photo of the family newspaper idea. I am hoping to do that, eventually. Also, when I have more time, I'll take pictures of the muslin curtains.
French Window and Curtains by Francous Chopin


Lydia said...

ps. you can also paint those aluminum window frames.

Anonymous said...

We live on a very busy street, with lots of pedestrian and car traffic. We also have a great number of windows, to inexpensively cover them we decided to buy inexpensive white mini blinds to pull down in the evening when you don't want people peeping in, and from the inside I hung inexpensive polyester lace curtains. They don't require any fancy rods, they wash very easily and nicely, and they let the light in, filtering potentially mundane outside views, and adding a romantic touch to your home from the outside looking in. I got most of my lace curtains from yard sales. Also tapestry and woven upholstery remnants make beautiful heavyweight formal curtains, and I've adorned a few windows with those when I've found material. It looks very "rich" but is not at all. This adds dimension to the mini-blind/lace window and frames it nicely.

:) Mrs. Stewart

Lillibeth said...

For a curtain rod for a little bathroom window, I went to the beach and got a pretty stick of driftwood and set it on nails. The fabric for the curtain can be simply draped over something like this.
I also replaced some old drapes on a huge sliding glass door with twin-sized white sheets. They were on sale for $4.99 per top sheet, so I bought two for each side of the window, one for the curtain and one for the lining. I put in my own grommets (which was easy) and hung them on curtain rings on a pretty rod.
I like the curtain ideas in the Pottery Barn Kids catalog. I like the simple curtains in gingham and such. They look really classy but sweet and simple.

candy said...

I love this post. Lovely ideas!

Anonymous said...

I love curtains. It seems the trend now is all sorts of custom blinds, like roman shades. They are very expensive. Some look nice, but some look very plain.

Curtains are an especially great way to redecorate your kitchen every once in a while.

~ Ann

Tracy said...

I admire that in each and every post you speak to ladies from every walk of life. From the rich to the poor. "Make do with what you have, but make a difference". That is what I take away each time I visit. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I like your ideas.

I love the look of a little light in the window at night. At Christmas, I purchased some little "country" electric candle sticks with silicone bulbs. But the problem was reaching behind furniture to turn the off and on. Another problem was when we left during the daytime there was no one to turn them on. An yet another problem was that the window sills of our old house is pretty narrow and sometimes for no reason they would fall off.

Now this may seem silly, but I do believe God cares about these little things and so I prayed for an answer.

My answer came back in January. Through a little ad in the back of one of my homemaking magazines I found Irvin's Country Tinware (www.irvins.com). He makes and sells dusk to dawn window lights! I requested a catalog and received it a few days later.

I save my pennies for things such as this and so I ordered via mail with a personal check. It arrived the day before my birthday on February 18. Now when we leave home, we have a wonderful little light in the window to greet us and welcome us home. It also makes a great subtle night light because the shade softens the already soft light. I love it!

Lovingly, Paula

PS here's another great blog (not mine) for Christian homekeepers www.warmpiehappyhome.blogspot.com

Lydia said...

Yes, I have been lurking on Warm Pie all week!! And your story is wonderful. I have a few sills but for some diabolical reason they were built slanted so no one could perch anything on them! My lights would tumble down after awhile, even if I put two-way tape or mounting tape on them. We may have many advantages with homes built after 1900, but in some ways we lost a lot of really needed things that makes home a home!!

Lydia said...

Tracy, what a wonderful saying!! I believe more young women would stay home if they thought they could afford it. These ideas are for the purpose of showing them that you do not have to "afford" anything--just use what is around you.Besides that, it is what good stories are made of.

Anonymous said...

When we had no money for Christmas window decorations I got some cans of fake spray snow at the dollar store (on sale) and used stencils I had to make window dressings. I have used hemed and dressed up sheets, tea towels, napkins, used curtains from thrift stores, made my own with fabric..the ideas are endless. And expensive fabric and rods are not necessary. Check out the window "mistreatments" at this blog..they look amazing http://nestingplacenc.blogspot.com/

Lynn said...

Another great post filled with good ideas - thank you.
I was reminded of my fist home - swags & tails were very "in" and I made mine from peach curtain linings and a staple gun. Peach satin ribbons hid the staples!
I remember using a garden bamboo cane as a curtain rod. I made curtains for about £4 a window & they were HUGE windows!!
Happy days - I learnt how to make a pound stretch & now money is less tight but I still dress windows on a budget because it just seems better stewardhip to do so.
Old habits die hard!

troubling stars said...

Last year my husband and I moved into our first tiny apartment. Our aunt found us some beautiful sage green crushed velvet curtains but we had no rod. So we went to Home Depot to get one. But, on our grad school/no jobs budget we couldn't really afford what they had. We went home with just pretty scrolled wood mounts for some future find. Then we decided that when we next went to my grandparents summer house we would find an old straight branch of beautiful wood and use it to hang the curtains. We received many compliments on that make shift rod and every time we looked at our windows we had warm memories of hapy times with family on Lake Michigan.

Deborah said...

Beautiful site with some great ideas!
As someone else mentioned, a very inexpensive window treatment is to use flat sheets. They are a great idea for kids rooms as you can match them with the bedding.

Anonymous said...

You've shown us such fine & inspiring examples of dressing windows...lots of good ideas in your text as well.

many thanks,

texasmcvays said...

I just purchased curtians ($3.99) for the kitchen & homeschool room (known as the informal dining room to realtors) from Goodwill they were valances and my intention was to hang them from the middle of the window and add (1.99 Goodwill fabric which look more like $25/yd fabric) fabric. My wonderful hubby pointed out we cannot secure them in the middle of the window because our windows are oversized. So I am going to add the fabric at the bottom to personalize the valance. We do not need privacy we live in the country. But I still may buy some inexpensive bamboo blinds. We will hang the curtians from PVC pipe attached to brackets. I will paint it antique bronze to match our fixtures. I think the whole kit & kaboodle will cost me about $10! After reading your post I am motivated to get a covering on my big living room windows. We have a problem...we have a metal french door that leads to a back patio off of our Master Bed Room. The toilet sits right there in plain sight of kids playing (we have neighbor kids over all the time, they live right next door!). Are there any curtain rods that hang on metal I tried velcro and it didn't even make it 5 minutes. I want to put up my cute $1.99 Good will curtian. Does anyone have an answer?!
Ma of 3 p's in a pod

Anonymous said...

My grandmother came last week to help me iron my new curtains (well, new to me ;) She told me that when she was a child during the Depression, that her family hung paper curtains in the window just so they could have something pretty to put up. She said her mother and grandmother could make anywhere into "home" with little of nothing.

Fair Skies said...

Hi. I love this topic, and all of the great ideas. In my combined kitchen/dining area, there were vinyl blinds on the windows when we moved in, but no curtain rods. I wanted a quick, inexpensive window treatment that would add some color. I got my idea from a framed print in my dining area, of an old farmouse with a clotheline in the yard. I tacked a couple of small nails at the top of each window frame, and stretched some clothesline across. Then I used clothespins to hang some colorful, pretty cloth hankies that my mother-in-law gave me. To give a little more color and coverage to the dining area windows, I also put a piece of clothesline about halfway down the windows, and hung old printed tablecloths that were my grandmother's. These "curtains" fit in with the old-fashioned look I have in my house. Since I already had everything on hand, this window treatment did not cost me anything.

If you don't have clothesline, you could use twine or string, and you could hang any sort of item from the line -- this look might be cute in a laundry room, or even a child's room, where you could hang pretty little garments.

Along these same lines, a couple of our closets were missing their doors, so we put up shower curtain rods, the kind that stay in place with tension, and bought very inexpensive but pretty cloth shower curtains to hang in the closet doors. I found the shower curtains rings at a thrift store --several sets in a bag for a dollar.

I'm sure some visitors to our house think these treatments are sort of strange, but, my husband thinks I am clever when I come up with such decorations. His opinion is the one that matters most to me!

JKaye said...

Hi. I'm enjoying this topic. I would like to point out something I see in people's windows that I don't think looks so attractive. My husband and I walk our dog around the neighborhood in the evenings, and we see a lot of people who leave their living room curtains open (if they have any curtains at all. They have mounted huge flat-screen TVs to a wall in the room, often the wall opposite the window. We can see the people sitting in the room, watching the TV, and it's like looking in at people sitting in a movie theater. I wish these people would have some curtains, because it makes me feel weird to be able to see right into their rooms, seeing them as they stare at the TV. Also, the look of that big glowing TV does nothing for what often is a very pretty front window.

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

We moved a lot when we were following my husband's career.

Another nice thing about curtains which just need to be slipped on a rod, they can be used in various houses.

I especially love the dutch lace style of curtain that is floor length. They fit almost any style of window whether it is large or small.

Lydia said...

Maybe buy some of those peel-off the back stick-on plastic hooks (come in several sizes) and put it on the metal with plaster. Plaster is available in small portions for household repairs. It sticks to metal better. Then put a rod on the hooks when the plaster is dry and they are secure. Or, use the hardware that comes with one of those metal curtain rods. Plaster the little hook piece to the metal area. Let dry and put up the rod.

Lydia said...

I agree about the tv/vcr set. It should be put in a corner away from view of the street. One good reason is to prevent theft. The corner next to the front window is best, not across from it, but beside it. The best thing to be seen from outside is a fireplace. It makes a warm, homey glow. You can get electric fireplaces quite inexpensively or use a mantel and put a glowing heater in it. Most people have relegated their "media" equipment to another room, other than their front room.

Anonymous said...

Answer to question about hanging curtains on metal door...
There are curtain rods made for this that have magnets. They are very inexpensive and I have seen them at discount stores and Walmart. They look like a curtain rod, but the rod supports or brackets have a strong magnet on the back. You could also use tension rods in the door frames, or use tea cup hooks that screw into the wooden frame on the glass part and hook a small curtain rood with holes in the end (they sell these too) onto them. I bet you could also find a way to make magnetic wreath hangers or suction ones work.

Last, but not least, cut contact paper to size. You can find tons of them and they will let the light in and still give privacy.

Let us know how it turns out.