Solving a Big Window Problem with Little Money

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When my family moved closer to the city, I lost my office — as in the room with 4 walls and a door that I could hole myself up in when I really needed to focus on work. Now, my office space resides in the sunroom that is right off the living room and one of the first things you see as you walk through the front door. Because of its prime location, I wanted to do everything I could to make it really beautiful, but functional. The first task would be covering up those windows, since the only logical place to put my desk is right up against them.

But of course, it’s called a sunroom for a reason. The space has 4 huge windows that go from about a foot and a half below the ceiling all the way to the floor, as you can see in the photos above. Three of those windows face the parking lot a few feet away, and our apartment is right near the entrance to our complex and the school bus stop. In other words, we get a lot of foot and car traffic right past these windows, so leaving them uncovered was not an option.

Window treatments can be pretty pricey, particularly if you’re trying to go organic. And as organic window treatments go, variety can be difficult to come by. I wanted something bold, fun and graphic. Since I was unable to find any that I really liked, I decided to buy some organic fabric and make my own. Except you need a LOT of fabric to cover this many windows. I gave myself a budget of $100 and decided I would come up with a more creative solution.

duvetcover-before

One night, I was searching eBay for organic bedding for my daughter’s room when it still was in the planning stages, and I came across Pottery Barn’s organic tile duvet cover. The idea hit me. I would use a king size duvet cover and cut it down to make 4 curtains. The measurements were perfect, and the eBay price was just $40.

sunroom-before2

Of course, all of this was before we moved into the new apartment. When I came up with this “brilliant” idea, I was planning from memory based on the brief tour we had of our new digs. I only accounted for only the 3 windows along the main wall. Once we moved in, I realized that there was a fourth window in the corner (shown above). Privacy wouldn’t be as much of an issue because it was facing a different direction, but I couldn’t just leave it uncovered, right?

Well, on a trip to Ikea to pick up the fancy cardboard storage boxes you see in the before photos, I happened across some panels that were the perfect color to complement my duvet cover fabric. They’re 100% cotton (not organic, but better than polyester), and they were very long, designed to be adjusted based on the length of your windows. Perfect! At $40 for a pair, I was still under budget.

So do you want to see how my duvet cover-turned-curtains turned out? Check it out below:

sunroom-curtains1

sunroom-curtains2

The Ikea curtains were the hidden tab style, so I made mine to match. I basically followed the same steps from my no-sew curtain post until I got to the tabs, which were really easy to cut and sew. In the end, I wound up with 6 hidden tab curtain panels — 4 of which are made of organic cotton — for a total of $80. How’s THAT for design on a dime?

What do you think? The room isn’t totally complete, but a couple of consignment store finds from last weekend put us a lot closer. The full room reveal is coming soon!

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14 comments… add one

  • Susan May 14, 2010, 10:11 am

    Love this solution! I have a sleeping alcove in my apartment that I wanted to separate from the rest of the space. Drapes are expensive, as you point out, but I figured out that two twin-sized sheets from Target would be just the right size to fill the space and have a generous gather at the top. All I had to do was make a small incision at the top so I could insert the tension rod into that pocket at the top of the sheets. And I opted not to sew the two sheets together so I have an opening in the middle for entering and exiting the alcove.

    • jennae May 14, 2010, 11:44 am

      @Susan Now, every time I need a large piece of fabric, I’ll definitely consider sheets, duvets, etc. And because they come pre-hemmed, as you mentioned, it can make projects so much easier! Not in my case, since I had to do some cutting and seam ripping to take it apart, but it was still an awesome solution. And I bet your alcove sheet/curtains look great!

  • Tara May 14, 2010, 10:44 am

    That is dope. I’m trying to get my office together as we speak. What a project! Can’t wait to see the full room.

    • jennae May 14, 2010, 11:58 am

      @Tara Thank you! Offices can be a pain because so much functionality needs to happen there. But I’m getting it together — AND reupholstering the green chair in something a lot nicer :)

  • Kelli May 14, 2010, 12:31 pm

    Love it!

  • Susie May 14, 2010, 5:46 pm

    Hi Jennae! It looks awesome. I can’t wait to see the final results. Another source for inexpensive furniture besides consignment stores that you should look into is a hotel liquidator. I have a hotel liquidator in my city and there are some smokin’ deals. Just last week I picked up a coffee table for $79 and a desk for $99 that comes with a custom glass protector top. These steals were from the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. I also picked up two Queen Anne style arm chairs for $29 a piece. All these will be sanded and painted (and the chairs reupholstered) and they will look fabulous when done. The other nice thing about hotel furniture is that they are built heavy duty to withstand the abuse by their guests.

    • jennae May 15, 2010, 9:25 am

      Susie, I will definitely have to look up hotel liquidators in this area. Consignment stores and yard sales in more upscale communities have been my best bet for finding quality pieces, but I can only imagine what I could get from a hotel sale! Thank you so much for the idea!

  • Sheena May 14, 2010, 6:29 pm

    I am trying to add some color to my walls with curtains and I considered sheets as well – even shower curtains! I love what you did to the office so far. I don’t know what colors to put in ours, maybe orange? *ponders*

    • jennae May 15, 2010, 9:28 am

      Sheena, I know what you mean. We painted one wall in each of the bedrooms, but didn’t want to paint any of the main living spaces and be stuck having to repaint them before we move out. So we added a lot of color elsewhere.

      The final color scheme in the office will be orange, blue, black and white. It may sound crazy given the current state of the space in these photos, but it’s turning out beautifully! I have some sewing to do, but overall, I’m really excited about it.

      I’ve always wanted to do an office is beautiful shades of turquoise. I’d suggest using a color that really inspires you, since it WILL be the place where you have to work :)

  • Susie May 15, 2010, 2:44 pm

    Sheena,
    I think both the orange and turquoise would look fabulous in your office. Orange and blue are complimentary colors and look great together if you pick the right shades. I have seen a lot of that combo lately since turquoise seems to be one of the new “in” colors for home decor in 2010.

  • Nikki MacCallum May 16, 2010, 3:55 pm

    Wow, your curtains turned out great. I love the solid and print together. One note of caution: unless you line your curtains, bright colours tend to fade pretty quickly in direct sun – Iknow this from experience! Also, remember to pre-shrink you sheets or fabric before you start cutting, so that your curtains will be washable. Another good trick – if you have a piece of fabric but it\’s not large enough – sew a contrasing band on the bottom, top or sides to create the size you need. On sides I like to use a 3-4\" border. On the top or bottom, either 1/3 or 1/5 of the total length in a contrasting fabric looks good.

    • jennae June 23, 2010, 6:28 pm

      Nikki, I just realized that I hadn’t responded. Thank you so much for the tips. I originally had planned to line the curtains, but then I got lazy. I may regret it later, but they work for now :) I never would’ve thought to wash the duvet cover though! Great tip!

  • Tara June 2, 2010, 8:04 am

    This looks great! what an inexpensive idea to transform a room. Can I ask which IKEA curtains you used….I\’m looking for the exact same color to use in my living room and I cant seem to find them on the IKEA website….thanks!!

    • jennae June 23, 2010, 6:34 pm

      Tara, thank you so much for your kind words. I would be lying if I told you I could remember the name of the curtains, and I already recycled the packaging. I do remember that I paid $29.99 for the pair. Most of their curtains are either a lot cheaper or a lot more expensive than that. And they were the ONLY ones in this color, so they should be pretty easy to spot in a trip to the store. I looked on the website, and the ones that look the closest are the RITVA curtains: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/00111989

      Those are listed for $19.99, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the price were reduced, as Ikea will often do. Sorry I couldn’t be more specific, but the Ritva panels really look identical to mine.

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