This Controversial Decorating Move Will Make Your Living Room Instantly Feel Bigger and Brighter

published May 8, 2020
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Credit: Viv Yapp

I’m going to offer some controversial decorating advice: take your window treatments down and let the light in. Believe it or not, you might not actually need them. Of course, if you love your curtains or if you like your rooms dark (or are particularly private), by all means, keep your shades drawn. But if you never gave much thought to your window coverings—maybe you’ve just been living with what was there when you moved in—or if you got some blinds because you thought you should, consider test driving the curtainless look.

The reasoning is this—even the sheerest curtain or most retractable blind is stealing a good chunk of your daylight. In fact, I’m so passionate about avoiding the wrong window treatments that in the renovation chapter of my book, “The Little Book of Living Small,” the first thing I suggest anyone do is remove whatever blinds or shades came with your place, wash the windows (inside and out), and let the light shine in. This small fix really makes a world of difference.

Credit: Weston Wells

Some people feel like bare windows make it look like you’ve just moved in, but the homes I’ve lived in (and those of my curtainless friends) have always had a decidedly “full” feel with lots of art, books, and vintage finds. In my own open living and dining area (seen above), I opted to do without hanging any curtains or blinds because the options for our big window were so expensive—or so cheap-looking—that I decided I’m okay with a neighbor occasionally peeking in through the bare tree branches in winter. (And living in New York City, especially now, I am very unlikely to ever meet those neighbors.) Plus, living on the ground floor, we want to get every last bit of daylight we can. 

This isn’t my first go-round with bare windows. When I lived in a top-floor apartment in a Brooklyn brownstone, my husband and I only needed blinds to block out the streetlights at night; so again, our living room and kitchen windows were naked. This is not just a trick for the young and the urban either. Years ago, my parents had been living with the drapes that came with their house (and they were nice drapes!) for years before taking them down for cleaning. Suddenly, their living room, which had always been cozy and welcoming, felt lighter now that it was opened up to their garden outside. 

Credit: Weston Wells

If you feel too exposed, you might try installing self-adhesive privacy film, which lets you obscure the view into your home without losing much daylight. Basic options like a frosted glass look-alike are available at hardware and big box stores, and Stick Pretty sells patterned options. I’ve used both on the lower panes of my windows on street-facing apartments, where I felt I needed some coverage.

If you need window coverage at night, consider a roman shade that you mount high above the window. That way, the shade can be pulled up so its bottom edge is flush with the top edge of the window during the day, letting the maximum amount of light in. Then at night, you can pull it shut. My sister and her husband found a great fix for their kids’ room where they wanted maximum darkness at night and all the sunshine during the day: Travel blackout curtains that mount to the glass with suction cups—genius! They fold them up and put them in the drawer each morning.

Whatever you decide to do, I’d encourage you to start by taking your curtains down for a few days and seeing what life is like with your windows uncovered. You may just find that you’re seeing your home in a whole new light—and that your space seems bigger and brighter with this one easy decorating move.