Affordable ideas for covering a very large window?
February 27, 2012 6:12 PM   Subscribe

What is the cheapest way to attractively curtain a very large window?

I just moved into a place with a massive window that is partially 'curtained' in very run-down venetian blind type stuff that is broken and doesn't completely cover the window. It does not have enough string to lower and cover everything and the rods to lever it are missing. It is also a huge eyesore. I want to improve it, but money is really tight.

The window runs from about half a meter off the floor straight up to the ceiling and spans an entire wall of a room about 10 metres long. I am worried that proper curtains for a window that large will be really expensive. Is there something I can look for that is cheaper? Or alternatively is there a DIY I can do short of covering it with white poster board? Anything at all that will be affordable here?

Boyfriend doesn't care; he is not into decorating. So I am on my own both in terms of money and effort. There may be an IKEA gift card from my mother in the future, but I am not sure what they would have. I just really need to narrow it down to what I should look for in the somewhat affordable category.

Pic here:
posted by JoannaC to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You are right that proper curtains are pretty expensive. But you can sew some easily enough from linen sheets (add curtain tape at the top, and hem to the right length. You might need to stitch a few together to get enough width if you don't want them to stay as separate panels). Ikea does have curtains, and upholstery fabric, but it's still going to run you into the multiple hundred dollars if you go that route.

Another option for heavier drapes is painters' dropcloths. The proper ones made of heavy off-white fabric. I've seen pics online but I can't find them right now.
posted by lollusc at 6:16 PM on February 27, 2012

I can't really tell from the picture, but is it actually three windows installed next to each other? If so, the best way to go is tension rods in all three with fabric draped over the rods. I used three woven throws from Target on mine, folded over the rod with the fringe side showing. If you're interested, memail me and I'll send pics.
posted by raisingsand at 6:17 PM on February 27, 2012

Oh, here we go. I did bookmark some sheet/dropcloth posts on Apartment therapy and elsewhere:
Sheets 1
Sheets 2
Sheets 3

Dropcloth 1
Dropcloth 2
posted by lollusc at 6:20 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding dropcloths. The fabric is so neutral and pretty and has natural texture that's very appealing. Here is an example from the fabulous AB Chao. (I plan to use dropcloth fabric to make new neutral slipcovers this spring.)
posted by mochapickle at 6:22 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

One more thought and then I'll bow out. Years ago I did "curtain" all the windows in an apartment very cheaply with fleece blankets from Ikea. It was basically these, except I think the ones I bought had longer fringe bits. I folded each fringe piece over and stitched it to itself to make little tabs that I threaded a curtain rod through. With the blanket pictured, you could maybe even just thread the rod straight through that fringe: it looks like it has decorative holes in it. At that price, you can buy enough panels that they hang nicely with lots of fullness, which hides the fact that they are blankets. They are cheerful colours too.
posted by lollusc at 6:23 PM on February 27, 2012

For my apartment with two odd-shaped floor-to-ceiling windows, I used a nice brocade fabric which I hemmed and made a loop on top to run a rod through. There are certainly cheaper fabrics, bit this is still cheaper than buying actual nice curtains. It also blocks light well when necessary.
posted by Gneisskate at 6:24 PM on February 27, 2012

You don't even need to sew in order to make your own curtains. If you can find some fabric you like -- I do love Ikea's fabric selection -- you can hem it with iron-on hemming tape, then simply use these Ikea curtain rings with clips along the top edge.

I got some tension-style curtain rods at Bed, Bath and Beyond, which usually has 20% off coupons available.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:33 PM on February 27, 2012

You can often pick up old curtains, which often are very appealing, in an odd and retro kind of way, from thrift or op shops for very, very cheap.
posted by thylacinthine at 6:40 PM on February 27, 2012

Do you want curtains to block out the light/view, or do you just want to make the windows pretty?

If you just want pretty, I bought these fringe curtains on eBay for $20-something dollars a pair. They can be trimmed to fit, length-wise.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 6:44 PM on February 27, 2012

If you just need privacy (not light-blocking), flat sheets are great for this. Just open up the seams on the end with the wide hem to create a fabric tube and thread it through a curtain rod.
posted by elizeh at 7:32 PM on February 27, 2012

I do love Ikea's fabric selection

Me too, but be advised that the fabric starts at $7 a yard and you need at least 2 yards per window, maybe more.
posted by Miko at 7:43 PM on February 27, 2012

I had one day to come up with a similar solution and very little money. I bought a roll of brown kraft paper, cut it into panels 20" longer than the top to bottom measurement on the window, and double folded over a "hem" five inches deep on both ends, and taped them on the wrong side. I accordion-folded the paper into four-inch pleats, and cut a one-inch hole in the top hem all the way through the folded layers. I made ten of these panels, and threaded them through with bamboo fishing poles ($5 each, I used three), and set it up on two nails either end. The panels could be slid apart or extended fully for privacy and light control. It looked surprisingly elegant, and lasted probably six months until I could afford the real thing.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:45 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sheets, from the Goodwill or whatever near you, is the age old answer to this question.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:59 PM on February 27, 2012

Halfbuckaroo totally gets a gold star for cheapest, most awesome DIY.

Actually, that looks a lot like my then livingroom.

IKEA does have rods that can be extended to cover that length of window, and I think that's the cheapest rod option in Toronto. They also have a wire system that might work, but ist quite as sturdy. Or roller blinds if what you really want is to block the light.

When I was in a similar situation, I bought many cheap panels and hung them. In the bedroom, where we wanted true darkness, I made my own curtains with blackout material I bought at Fabricland. It didn't go great, but it worked...and those are still in storage if you happen to be in southern Ontario/GTA.

For curtains to look "full", you need 3x the distance you're trying to cover. Obviously, something like 1.5x is more affordable.

Finally, reconsider whether you actually need to cover your windows... If you're in an apartment building, does it matter? Can people really see in? Are you planning to be there awhile?
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 8:00 PM on February 27, 2012

Also, I love the ring & clips from Ike's that Blahlala posted. I used them for a decade in 4+ situations very effectively.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 8:01 PM on February 27, 2012

I was once lucky to sublet an apartment with gigantic windows. The principal tenant had installed rice paper on the lower half of each window, giving a nice feeling of privacy while letting in plenty of light. The rice paper was softly translucent and prettier than regular paper, and I don't know how much it cost but it's got to be an order of magnitude cheaper than curtains. It lasted the entire time I stayed there and then some.

Paper doesn't insulate for temperature or sound the way fabric does, though, so that might not be what you are looking for.
posted by ambrosia at 8:50 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

I live in an apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows along one whole side. I went with curtain rails that attach to the ceiling, like this. Ikea's version is called Kvartal. This worked very well because the windows are way too wide for a tension rod or a single wall-mounted curtain rod, and I don't trust a tension cable to not sag in the middle over time.
posted by neushoorn at 12:39 AM on February 28, 2012

I also have a big set of front windows and I used the Kvartal track system linked above. Note that you can also mount that system to the wall, which is what I did. I went with the triple rail so I could have a couple of layers of window panels - two layers are a neutral solid, the other is a sheer layer (this one).

So if I want to block the sun I slide all the solid panels across the track, but if I want some light and privacy I slide the solids off to the side and leave the sheer layer in place. I can of course just slide everything off to the sides for full open windows. And if for some reason I wanted the panels out of the way entirely, it is easy to slide them off the track and put them back later.

Once you get the racks, brackets and various fabric panels it was not cheap in the way that a dropcloth is cheap, but it is way less expensive than traditional curtains, custom blinds or other alternatives.
posted by mikepop at 6:24 AM on February 28, 2012

Have you looked in IKEA? I am always amazed how cheap their curtains are - and they're huge. Or you could make some yourself from IKEA fabric (some of which is quite tasteful!).
My favorite large curtains for a huge window are made from two kingsize quilt (duvet) covers. I sewed some pencil pleat curtain tape on one side of each, which allowed me to gather them to fit. You also don't need curtain liners, as the second layer acts as a lining. If you have a 10' span, you may need 3-4 quilt covers. But you can get nice quilt covers on eBay (or from IKEA) for a reasonable price.
posted by Susurration at 8:48 PM on February 29, 2012

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