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As someone who has rented since my college years, I’ve lived in my fair share of apartments with what I refer to as the “Landlord Eyesore.” There was my senior-year college apartment that came equipped with mirrored closet doors directly across my bed so all I saw all day and night was my own reflection. Then my first solo place had a “pantry” that was really just a nook with wire shelving and no doors so all visitors could see my Triscuit boxes from the sofa. The next spot was super dated (but with an amazing view up on the sixth floor), though the worst offender was a shower-tub combo decked out with shiny yellow brass hardware and a frosted glass door etched with a heron standing in tall grass. The hallway from my bedroom to the bathroom was fully flanked by more shiny brass and mirrored doors, so my heron buddy could be seen from every angle.
So far, I’ve lucked out here in Los Angeles but have seen more LETM in places I walked through to potentially rent or in friends’ homes. My usual move either for myself while considering a home or when my friends complain about a certain detail is as follows: Put a curtain on it. There are few things that cannot be solved with a curtain, dear readers. They provide privacy where convenient, disguises where needed and even visually improve flow and use of space. That’s right, curtain panels are essentially the Swiss army knife of the design world, and I’m going to walk you through seven examples where they can save the day.
Cheap (Or Broken) Closet And Laundry Closet Doors
A month or two ago, I shared the plans I have to take my rental kitchen from “meh” to “me” and it included taking down the bifold laundry closet doors (shown above). They’re cheap-y hollow core doors that we can’t seem to ever sit straight and have some chips in the paint. When I first brought this up, a few readers told me not to do it for one reason or another, but I gotta tell you…I’m doing it (we can store them in the garage thankfully; not everyone has this option).
I plan on either using a tension rod to hang them within the frame or a simple rod installed on the inside so it’s a bit more polished looking. A secret third option is leaving the doors (they provide good soundproofing with the loud laundry machines in there) and using a track system or even just a traditional drapery rod to hang curtains in front of the doors. It might be a little annoying to open the curtains to access the laundry closet doors but it would only take seconds and is worth it to me to get the aesthetic payoff I’m hoping for.
Here’s one more example, but this time from two of Emily’s previous homes, and for a bedroom closet instead. In her Glendale home (left), the pocket door she had was broken so instead of spending the money to fix it, she just repurposed a vintage bedspread into curtain panels. Cute! And in her Los Feliz house (right), she gave her closet the same drapery treatment. The look is soft, romantic, and a chance to either match your wall color or have some fun with pattern and contrasting hues. It also saved a lot of real estate not needing to worry about needed space for a door to open.
Woo-wee have I seen my fair share of mirrored walls and closet doors. Having lived in Boca Raton, Florida, for eight years will do that to a person. I recall a condo I was looking to rent that used mirrors like most people use paint. I mean, they were on EVERY wall in the living room. It was a funhouse in there. I didn’t end up getting that place (thankfully for my vertigo) but my head spun around with ideas for how to fix it. Peel-and-stick wallpaper? A ton of privacy screens set up in front? Frankly, there just wasn’t a solution for that much reflection. But if your house has a normal application, like say…on one wall of your entry or dining room where they’re usually found, and you don’t jive with the look: Put. Up. A. Curtain.
I recommend picking something that matches your wall color so it’s more visually seamless. You don’t really want it to be a “moment” so much as a “concealer.” Try using a rod if you have the ability to mount it to the wall, but a ceiling track is likely your best bet. Or even a temporary curtain rod holder that sticks to any surface (no screws needed so perfect for mirrors! Make sure you have enough width so that they drape like normal panels rather than being flat across your wall.
Before moving on, let me share another example but this time with mirrored sliding closet doors. If you don’t know Molly Madfis from Almost Makes Perfect, she’s worth a follow. As you can see in the before and after photos above, she removed the mirrored doors (I’m assuming) both for form and function. If you’ve ever had these super wide closet doors that slide in front or behind the other, you know you spend half your life moving the doors left and right to access what you need. Grab your pants on the right, slide the door, grab your shoes on the left. Woop! Forgot your belt, slide the door back. And so on and so forth.
Anyhow, the key to a clean look either against a wall or in place of doors is hemming the panels to hover *just* over the floor, about half an inch or so so that they’re not bunching up.
Frosted Shower Or Tub Doors
I already referenced my heron-bedazzled tub door that would have fit any of the bathrooms in the 1980s Miami Beach home of The Golden Girls, but I didn’t share what I did to rectify the problem. Honestly, it’s the most “duh, of course” option in the bunch, but it can’t be overlooked. Put up a shower curtain. Done. I mention this here because I had some people come over who admitted to me they would have “never thought” of that. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you are not one of these people, but hey, we’re all busy with weighed-down brains full of daily to-dos. Maybe it didn’t occur to you. Just look at the difference in the two images above when I Photoshopped in a shower curtain to cover the doors.
You’ll want to hang your tension rod as high up to the ceiling as you can to cover it all up, and obviously yes, open the curtain before you open the door, but it’s worth the two seconds of effort to have a bathroom that you want to spend time in.
My old 1920s apartment (are you tired of hearing me bemoan having to leave it?) had beautiful original casement windows with not awful wooden blinds over them for privacy and light control. Our new place blessed us with allllll the vertical blinds. On every window and sliding door. Most of them are broken and many a curse word has been uttered while opening and closing them on the daily. Not to mention they’re just plain ugly. While we did take down the ones in our living room that had a long unsafe-for-a-toddler cord, I have been known to just put up a curtain rod and curtains above the existing headrail and call it a day. See, easy!
With that option, you just want to make sure you open the blinds fully and they’ll essentially just always stay nested on one side behind the curtains. Yes, the headrail beneath the rod isn’t the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see, but I promise after a while, you’ll stop seeing it.
If instead, you take your vertical blinds down, it’s important to store them well so that they are in good shape to put back up when you move. You’ll need to snap each individual blind off carefully then stack them neatly and wrap something (painter’s tape works great) around them to keep them together. If the track has a cord, wind it up neatly and use a hair tie or string to keep it from getting tangled. You can put it all at the back of a closet that’s long enough, under your bed, or in a garage if you have one.
Above, I mocked up a shot of the window in my current dining room with the (broken) vertical blinds, some cafe curtains (which would require me taking down the vertical blinds), and traditional panels which I could install in front of the blinds if the space above the window were tall enough to actually install a rod.
Too-Open Floorplan Or Studio Spaces With No Walls
Ahh an exposed bedroom…everyone’s dream…right? Of course not. This may only be the case for city dwellers but let’s just say you have a bedroom (or any space, really) that opens up to a main living area and you wish it didn’t? You guessed it: Curtains to the rescue. Designer Megan Hopp sectioned off her sleep space in the Brooklyn home she lived in a few years back with yellow velvet IKEA SANELA curtains (I had these same ones in green in my old dining room). If you have an arched opening, you’ll want to install them on a curtain rod on either side of the wall, though my vote is opposite of any main living space as Megan did.
I don’t have a photo of it to show you here, but I’ll likely be doing something similar in my bedroom because evidently in the ‘70s, it was super popular to have a vanity and sink IN the bedroom, not closed off by a door. Thanks to this genius design decision someone made decades ago, I have a clear shot of our toothbrushes from my spot in bed. Also, it would be nice to have some privacy while I inspect and squeeze my pores every night. Some things in a marriage should be more mysterious…
Jess, actually did something similar in her last studio apartment too! It really helped to define the different zones which is so crucial in a studio. Those are also from IKEA:)
Bad Kitchen Cabinets Or Openings
Don’t forget about cabinets/sink areas! This can go country kitchen REALLY fast and if you love that look, go for it, but if you don’t, be sure to opt for a simple fabric rather than something with a print. Usually, it’s just an under-sink area that needs covering, but you can also employ this curtain trick if you have janky cabinet doors you want to take off, there’s an open spot in the bottom half of your kitchen while you await the installation of something (like the example here from Chris Loves Julia), or you want to bring in some character and softness to a utilitarian space if that’s what you’re working with.
Disguising Clutter Or A Messy Display Cabinet
At this point, I should probably go ahead and retitle this post “All the Ways Arlyn Plans on Using Curtains in Her Apartment to Hide Ugly Things” because that’s where we’re at basically. But alas, my own personal visual example is not yet ready (stay tuned for an update on my kitchen); rather, it’s an image from Emily’s powder bath in her previous Los Feliz home. While most of us will not have a custom vanity that needs the curtain/fabric treatment, it’s a great example of how to cover up clutter inside a furniture piece. Say you have a display cabinet in your kitchen or dining room that you wish wasn’t in fact on display. Installing a small curtain inside the doors is a fairly quick fix. Check out this Reel from Grillo Design who did this in a vintage piece she was using as her pantry to see how to do it.
I truly hope something here was a lightbulb moment for covering up a Landlord Eyesore (or even if you’re not a renter, something in your home you can’t stand looking at anymore). It wouldn’t be an EHD post without some additional help via shopping options, so I dug up just a few of my personal picks at an affordable price point in varying lengths, depending on what your needs are.
- Woven Modern Plaid Shower Curtain Ivory 2. Catalina Freshman | 3. Waffle Weave Shower Curtain | 4. RHODE Begonia Shower Curtain | 5. Botanical Floral Shower Curtain | 6. Colorblock Canvas Shower Curtain in Lilac
- Linen Curtains 50″x63″ | 2. Linen Cafe Curtains Rust – Varied Lengths | 3. Light Filtering Honeycomb Curtain Tiers | 4. Tropical Garden Country Cottage Colorful Kitchen Curtain 44″X36″ | 5. Curtainking Striped Kitchen Curtain 26″x36″ | 6. Ticking Stripe Rod Pocket Tiers 50″ x 36″
- Sanela Room Darkening Velvet Curtains 55″x98″ | 2. Allen + Roth Slate Blue Room Darkening Thermal Curtain 52″x84″ | 3. Curtain Panels in Natural White 47″x98″ | 4. Preston Room Darkening Curtain Panel 50″x95″ | 5. Half Priced Drapes Faux Linen Room Darkening Curtains 100″x96″ | 6. Tibast Room Darkening Curtains Dark Red 57″x98″