Creating a curtained off space in a loft...?
May 15, 2020 12:02 PM   Subscribe

I would like to build something similar to this in my loft. However, I'd want the curtain to be on a track and it to be a perfect circle. I don't know how to do it or what material to use. Know something about building/construction and/or fabric? Come on in!

So I live in a loft that -- with the exception of the bathroom -- is one giant room, 1100sf, with 14ft ceilings. I'd like to build a small circular space within the loft where I can put a small desk and chair and "go" there to do my writing.

I did find this track which is long enough to encircle my desk, but I know nothing of construction or fabric. I found linen fabrics on etsy, but they're very expensive. I found designer shower curtains, which are interesting, but not wide enough so I'd have to use multiple, which isn't as pleasing, and aren't long enough to go floor to ceiling.

I basically want to be able enclose the curtain around the space (say, 41" diameter) and not have it be hideous. Floor to ceiling is best but maybe not cost effective. If there's a way to have it go floor to 8 - 10 feet above the floor, I'd be happy with that, I think, but don't know how to accomplish this, either.

If you know something of fabric/curtains/linen/etc, what would you use/suggest?

If you know something of building / construction, how would you accomplish this?
posted by dobbs to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think that track has to be attached directly to the ceiling. Could you use it with 8oz, 12x15 canvas drop cloths?
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:24 PM on May 15, 2020

Ikea has a variety of rails that could also suit your needs. Ikea's availability right now, unfortunately, is a bit spotty.

If it were me, rather than try to form a perfect circle, I'd think about making a square/rectangle with rounded corners.

As for the fabric, if you can't sew, you can also purchase fusing tape and bind/iron pieces together to get the height. You can make it look more intentional by using a more open-weave fabric for maybe the top 3-4 feet and then a more opaque fabric below, kinda like this. That would be quite helpful for getting some light into the closed off area.
posted by hydra77 at 12:28 PM on May 15, 2020

You may want to research hospital curtains and tracks. I have seen many curved ones, but you will probably not easily find the exact size of arc you want and will need to go with flexible track.
posted by Jane the Brown at 1:33 PM on May 15, 2020

Instead of drop cloths: Scenery fabrics, their 10-foot wide muslin is currently out of stock #becausecovid but would be enough to go most of the way around. You could use a couple narrower panels to fill in the gap, act as a "door", and give it some wiggle room to be all cool and billowy.

I think it would be harder to do a partial height curtain, you'd either have to A) suspend the track from the ceiling (seems hard to do securely) or B) add really long loops/chains to suspend the fabric (hard to do attractively). You might have better luck with A if you can brace it on the side from a nearby wall or add a floor support.
posted by yeahlikethat at 1:38 PM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

As noted, it looks like the track must be attached to the ceiling or a solid backing of some kind. I'd buy a 4x4 sheet of plywood, trace the arc you want for the track, & cut the wood to fit, sort of as a new ceiling. Then attach the track around the perimeter. Make it solid or a narrow ring, cut a hole in the middle for a lamp, etc. Suspend it by eye-hooks and cord from the actual ceiling at whatever height <14 ft you want. Don't run the cord straight up/down so they are vertical, but spread them out at a noticeable angle so the plywood pulls the cords evenly 'down and in' -- less sway that way when you move the curtain.
posted by TDIpod at 2:03 PM on May 15, 2020

As a designer, I love working with textiles as spatial components, and I've done it for ages. At this time of my life I prefer having it done by professionals and I've discovered that the cost is little more than when I DIY. So check your project against a professional offer before you go ahead.

That said, IKEA has some little hook things that would work perfectly with the track you found on amazon. They are called RIKTIG. I don't know if they have them in your area. You need at least 4-5 for every meter of fabric, depending on the weight of fabric. Remember the folds - if you have a circumference of say 20 meters, you need at least 40 meters of fabric. Straight up and down fabric with no folds doesn't work well in practice, for many reasons. If you use the IKEA hooks and enough fabric, the folds will cover up the space between the lengths so you don't have to sew them together.

If you want an airy, white fabric that is easy to keep, a linen/cotton mix is ideal, and the best of these fabrics come from Lithuania. Buy it at a wholesale fabric site in rolls. Wash before seaming, at max. 40 C. It should be 3-5 cm above the floor if you don't want to wash all the time. It's maybe more beautiful if it hits the floor if you don't mind washing all the time. The seams give weight to the fabric and make sure it falls elegantly.

Indian cotton is very beautiful, and cheap, but I'd say it definitely needs professional handling, and it must be dry cleaned when dirty. You can wash it in advance as with the Lithuanian cotton/linen mix, but it changes character completely, not for the better.

When I was young, American and Egyptian cotton were big deals, but I haven't seen any of those for ages. That doesn't mean they don't exist, just that they are not traded here.

You can use a lighter synthetic material, there's a whole spectrum of "parachute silk", and then you should probably go for a little less fabric, perhaps 150% of the circumference. Then you may have to add in some weight in the bottom seam, and you definitely need to sew together the lengths of fabric. A simple cotton strip inside the seam can be enough for the weight. You may like it floating about but you don't want it to bundle up in your face while you work.

Just as an idea: for ages, I've been wanting to do a velvet curtain at home, as a more theatrical element that also offers very good acoustic control. I want it to be a very specific pale blue color, and the price of getting the fabric colored is delaying my project, but even if you go with a standard color it's more expensive. I'm just putting it in here to remind you that there are so many options...
posted by mumimor at 2:08 PM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

If your loft is relatively new it probably has a prestressed concrete ceiling and it can be quite dangerous to drill into your ceiling. If you compromise the tensioning cables your upstairs neighbor could end up in your den.

Check with your HOA about this! There may be detailed specifications about how to go about this sort of project.

(ETA: the more correct term is post-tensioned concrete.)
posted by sjswitzer at 2:22 PM on May 15, 2020

^ if it turns out you can't attach/suspend anything from the ceiling, maybe a defined room-within-a-room could be achieved in a corner, with folding screens as room dividers or a premade mosquito canopy attached to the walls.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:44 PM on May 15, 2020

Something with a bit more heft, 11 oz. white burlap, 60" wide, $ 4.50 per yard, cheaper if you buy bigger quantities. They also have bleached muslin, 60" wide at $ 2.99/yard.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:31 PM on May 15, 2020

When you are choosing fabrics consider two things besides the hand and look:
1. Flammability
2. The weight of these very large panels
posted by janell at 6:42 PM on May 15, 2020

Thanks for the answers thus far, folks. Excellent ideas here.

(As a side note, there's no issues with me doing this in my loft both with the landlord or the physical qualities of the building. I've had circus performers suspended from the ceiling and for a time had a swing in the loft -- weight isn't an issue.)
posted by dobbs at 7:18 PM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

FYI, as far as the track you found goes, I just purchased that exact one for a question I asked on here, and it's fantastic. So, if you can figure out the height instance, I think it'll work perfectly. You have to bend it into shape a little before install, but you could absolutely get a perfect circle if you were able to install it on the ceiling.
posted by knownassociate at 1:05 PM on May 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

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