Semi-Custom-Made Blinds

Finding suitable window treatments for my living room was a concern for me.  I wanted something that would give us a little privacy at night, and disappear during the day, but be attractive all the time.  When I did my first design project back in the 60s, I got high marks for using matchstick blinds, and trimming them with decorative fabric trim tape.  During that period, there was a bit of a Bohemian vibe, and matchstick blinds were easy to acquire, hang and decorate, not to mention inexpensive, too.

I have continued to use matchstick blinds throughout the years, sometimes sacrificing most of the blind to make simple valances— where full coverage of the windows was not necessary— but still giving the impression of window treatments.

In the early days, I did not use liners with the blinds; they were not in an area that required privacy.  In my previous office that faced east, cutting the bright morning sunlight and heat made lining a must.  Once the sun rose above the blind area of my view, I could easily raise the blind and enjoy the view.  

My current living room faces the street, and I felt too exposed to do without any window treatments.  I had considered a lightweight wool drape for the window; but with an east facing window, I felt it would require a lining, which would make the drape too heavy to fall nicely and would add considerably to the already expensive wool fabric.  Besides, wool would be more formal than I wanted.

Matchstick blinds were a little harder to find this time around.  Once I got the requisite sizes, color and number I needed, it would be up to my handy husband to cut them to size—standard was not going to work in my space.  The cutting down of the blinds would be put off for sometime, since it required the use of his table saw, which had not found a place to operate right away.  Bummer!

The trick to cutting down matchstick blinds, is to roll them tightly and use a new, fine tooth, sharp blade.  In days gone by, he used painters tape to hold the blind while he cut it to size, but this time he thought of using hose clamps.  Brilliant.

Once the blinds were cut and fixed to the windows, I was delighted with them.  I wanted to live with them for a little while to see how I felt at night with lights on inside the house—still a bit exposed. 

The solution was to line them.  Again, there was nothing standard about the now customized blinds.  I bought some light-weight batiste fabric, trimmed it to size and hemmed all four sides.  Perfect.  Now to attach.  I began doing it by hand, but quickly decided that hand work would be too labor intensive; and my hands and back would not appreciate it.  I thought of using a nylon tag gun that is used to attach price tags to clothing, but would employ shorter nylon pins.  Fabric stores carry these guns.  They are called Quilter’s Basting Guns; however, I found that the nylon pins were red or hot pink, and that would not do for my project.  I went on-line and found the basting tool with shorter, clear pins; but had to wait for them to be delivered—over a holiday weekend.  

Once I had the basting tool, I was in business; and it worked like a charm!  I was particular about getting the lining up as high as possible and tacking it all along the top as well as the bottom.  Additionally, I pinned all the way down the liner and across the blind in neat rows, to ensure the liner would roll up cleanly; and from the outside it would appear smooth.

The end result is just what I wanted: the privacy issue is solved, and it feels cozy from the inside at night.  During the day, with the blinds raised, I love the light and the look of the blinds rolled up; it adds to our casual lifestyle, not so Bohemian since the blinds are unadorned.

Privacy, Light and Etched Glass Windows

The desire for both privacy and light often work at cross purposes to one another, but sometimes you can have both.  If you treasure the beauty of light in your home but need a little privacy, etched glass or etched glass film might be a good solution.  Keep in mind that etched glass is permanent while etched glass film is not.

While many folks in the country do not live as close to their neighbors as do city dwellers, privacy can still be an issue.  If you have a great view, why not take advantage of it as much as possible, with a bit of a twist to conventional window treatments?

Privacy can be achieved in many ways, and most homeowners go straight to window blinds or draperies.  Both covers can be great insulators of heat and cold; but if you prefer a more minimalist approach, etched glass might be just the thing for you.  Etched glass is not new, and it is not difficult for the average person to obtain.  Most craft stores carry etching compounds; and, with adult supervision there are plenty of child-safe craft ideas out there, but I digress.  

If you have sidelights to your front door that are clear glass and you feel a bit too exposed, or even the lower portion of a double or single hung window, consider adding an etched film, you can purchase at your local home center.  If you are more creative, you can create a design yourself and make your own stencil, but there are plenty of film designs available.  Simple designs will give you a more modern feel, while something botanical will give you a more cottage feeling.

Another good use of etching compounds is to change the look of mirrored closet doors.  While these doors are common in many households, they are not always a favorite of homeowners, and are usually merely tolerated.  While they do reflect light and that is a good thing, you might not want a total reflection of the room.  One idea is to run bands or stripes of etching across the bottom third or two thirds of the closet doors, giving the doors a more designer look.  Or also can defuse just half of a full length mirror on both sides of a double closet or only one side of the double closet door. 

Windows that are difficult to reach are equally difficult to treat, this is an ideal application for an etched glass or film.  Expensive fan shaped wood blinds or pleated shades are usually the only option, while a simple and fairly inexpensive etched film might be a better idea, even if privacy isn’t an issue.

French doors that separate private rooms from more public rooms is another good use of etching without the heaviness of blinds or drapes, while still allowing the light to come through day or night.

If one of your windows has a less desirable view, the window becomes another good candidate for either etching or film on the window without sacrificing valuable light.  Think of the possibilities.  

Contrast Adds Drama

While it is true that high contrast will add drama to a room, it is wise to consider how you use contrast.  A painted accent wall is fairly easy to change should you decide you cannot live with the drama the color created, but a floor or a tiled backsplash or shower enclosure is a bit more complicated in terms of expense and time invested.

When you are considering changing something more permanent in your home, like flooring and counter surfaces as well as backsplashes and tub/shower enclosures, try less contrast.  You will be living with these changes for a long time and a classic surface in these areas will serve you better.

Think of all the homes built in the early to mid-20th Century; for the most part, these homes were built with hardwood flooring.  Over the years, as wall to wall carpet became popular, these floors were covered with soft, colorful carpet.   Today, that carpet is considered undesirable and old fashioned.  Carpets in older homes are routinely being  pulled up, exposing those now treasured hardwood floors.  If the wood is in good condition, a simple sanding, staining and fresh coat of polyurethane to preserve its beauty for another half century or more.

Choosing a new color for the floor will be important and fairly permanent.  While it may be tempting to add or stain a border or pattern, think in terms of long term use and how you will feel about such a contrast as a wide, light or dark border verses a solid-colored floor.  An exception to this rule, would be if the floors cannot be successfully refinished, but can be painted instead; then I’d say, go ahead and paint a fun harlequin pattern or boarder.  While the traditional black and white pattern is always popular, you can use softer colors for less contrast, like shades of grey or spa colors like blues and greens; even shades of beige would be a calm and peaceful color combination. 

Tile and natural stone is an expensive and fairly permanent surface for kitchens and baths.  Tempting are the bright colors and fun patterns, but again, consider how long it will be in style, staying classic is wiser.

Unless your home is clearly in a particular style like a Spanish Revival or Spanish Colonial, the use of colorfully patterned tiles might be a bit risky.  Adding cute “accent tiles” to a kitchen backsplash will date your renovation very quickly and reduce its value at resale time.

If using these colorful and playful tiles is something you have your heart set on, use them in less permanent ways.  For instance you can make tile trivets and hang them on the backsplash to add some personality without risking the need to tear it out once you tire of it.

When considering high contrast, think about how long you will live in this home and consider the home’s style.  High contrast will give you high drama, but you can enjoy soft contrast too and it is often easier to live with in the long term.

Dormer Windows Offer Interior Opportunities

The charms of an exterior ornament can be a decorating challenge for the interior, but the ornament also can also be a true asset when viewed with an open and imaginative mind.  For instance, dormer windows or slanted windows in some architectures will add interest to the outside of the home and welcome light on the interior.  While these attributes are welcome, many find the decorating or furniture arrangement more than a little challenging.

Take the customary trio of dormers in many homes—lovely to look at, but what do they offer on the inside?  Depending on the spacing between the dormers, there are lots of options.  One of the first things that comes to mind are comfortable window seats.   If the windows open, you have the additional benefit of good air circulation in an attic space that has been converted to a bedroom.  Window seats can afford great storage containment that can be left open or closed--an excellent use of space.

Another option would be a writing or computer desk for.  Usually on the second or third floor, these spaces may offer great views for inspiration or just a great place to read for your own enjoyment.

If your dormer or slanted walls are generous you might consider adding an alcove bed--an easy way to add extra sleeping space without taking away from the room’s intended use, be it a TV room, office space or a well-organized storage room or craft/hobby room.  The possibilities are endless.  To find a bed to fit your alcove is not difficult and custom is not always out of your price range.  You simply order a bed from a sleep shop--one size larger than your opening--and give the shop measurements you need your bed to become.  It takes about two weeks and your custom-sized mattress is ready for pick-up or delivery.  If you build a low box below to serve as the boxed spring, you can use it for storage.  Build the box a little higher and you can have more useful storage with full extension pull-out shelves for linens, pillows and extra blankets.  This will have a captain’s bed, look, which is fun for children and teens.

Making the best use of your space is always an asset to your home’s value and your enjoyment.