One of the worst parts about apartment living is the constant feeling of living in an off-white world. The walls are off-white, as is the carpet, and the linoleum flooring in the kitchen and bathroom. And sure, the landlord is fully amenable to the renter investing the time and money to paint the walls interesting and lively colors, as long as the renter is willing to invest an equal amount of time and money to paint them back to white one day. So what's a girl to do to break up the monotony of this stark, apartment existence? Well, in our first apartment, I decided that window treatments were a good solution. Fabric comes in an endless variety of colors, patterns, and textures, it's portable, and when it's time to move the only labor required is patching up a few screw holes.
I hadn't really considered window treatments a serious possibility because beautiful, luxurious home decor fabrics didn't really fit into our shoestring budget. I knew that twenty dollar per yard fabric was not really an option for my husband and me. I happened to get lucky one day, however, when I went to the yard sale of an interior designer in my husband's hometown. Frugal crafter heaven! She was selling her leftover fabrics for next to nothing, so I ended up buying a partial bolt (probably 4-5 yards) of rich burgundy and ivory striped fabric for less than $20. I found a coordinating burgundy fabric with a subtle stripe pattern on the clearance table at a big box craft store. Although I got lucky with the yard sale, I wonder if other local interior designers would be willing to sell their leftover fabrics at heavily discounted prices. This may be a great way to get luxe fabric on a small budget.
Once I had the fabric, I needed the know-how. I researched window treatment how-to books and eventually purchased The Complete Photo Guide to Window Treatments by Linda Neubauer. It was a little pricier than some of the other available guides, but I definitely think this book is worth the price difference. Using the guide and a lot of muslin, I finally made swags that draped the way I wanted (or as close as a novice like me could possibly get them). My husband and I bought lumber and hardware to build a cornice board to mount the swags on, and after a couple hours of staple-gun wielding my window treatment was complete. Although the swags were a little bit lopsided, and a little bit small, we were happy to have a splash of color on the wall.
When we moved to another apartment, however, we had to leave the valance at my parent's house. Just this week my dad pulled the staples out of the fabric swags and cut the cornice board to fit our new living room window. Although our window now is nearly a foot shorter than our old sliding door, I decided to use all three swags and the side jabots when I remounted the fabric. I started from the outside, working my way towards the center. The side jabots went down first, as seen in the picture. Because my fabric is striped, it was really important to make sure the pattern was well-aligned vertically (no crooked stripes!). I lined up the back edge of the fabric with the back edge of the cornice board, then worked my way forward and around the front edge. Then I did the side jabot on the opposite end the same way. Next came the left and right swags, then the third swag centered over top of the other two. I lifted the cornice onto the edge of my ironing board once all of the fabric was mounted. By hand, I recreased the folds of each swag, adjusting them until they laid the way I wanted. I used the steam setting on my iron and lightly steamed each crease (I'm not sure if this really did anything useful, but it made me feel rather professional). My husband helped me mount the window treatment in our living room using L-brackes screwed into both the wall and the top piece of the cornice board. Voila, no more hospital walls!
With a little bit of patience, basic sewing skills, a good iron, and lots of muslin it's possible for anyone to make basic window treatments. Like mine, they may not look perfectly professional, but it is a satisfying undertaking (and a whole lot cheaper than paying someone else to do it). Also, moving to a new place does not have to be the death of any window treatments you already have. Don't be afraid to rip out the staples and give remounting them a try. Be creative and enjoy!