This One Little Thing Made the Most Amazing Difference in My Living Room

published Jun 22, 2018
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(Image credit: Diane Deaton Street for Airbnb)

It’s no secret that swapping out curtains is one of the absolute quickest ways to transform the look and feel of a room. Losing the shiny fake silk gold draperies left in the living room by our home’s previous owner was high on my project list, but when you’re talking about the kind of massively tall windows found in a Victorian home like this, it’s no small outlay to buy nice new curtains.

An added challenge in this case was a stained glass window above the two original windows. And I don’t mean a period-appropriate work of art. Nope, we are the not-so-proud owners of a rainbow sunset complete with a blood-red sun. I can’t begin to understand the thought processes that led to that call back in—I’m guessing—the 1970s. It’s not in our budget to swap it out (and if it were we’d probably do something about the actual windows that are painted shut instead), so I figured we were stuck with it.

Then, talking with friends on Facebook (as I do about almost every home project—I’m lucky to have some clever and creative friends!) about my window woes, I got the simplest, but most brilliant, tip from one.

“Why don’t you get longer curtains and raise them higher?” she suggested. It was one of those huh! moments where I wondered why this had never occurred to me. The curtain rod was mounted below the stained glass eyesore, basically underscoring the thing, making it even harder to miss.

The living room before (Image credit: Dana McMahan)

There was some chatter about taking the curtains all the way to the ceiling, but I wanted to keep the lovely original trim visible, so I planned to compromise and raise the rod to align with the top of the stained glass, just below the trim, moving it about two feet. That meant I would need extra-extra long curtains, so I stalked Restoration Hardware’s site until a set I liked was marked down from $189 a panel to $84 each. The brushed cotton twill was heavy enough to block the late afternoon sun the front of the house is battered with all summer, as well as the arctic drafts that blow through the 130-year-old windows in the winter. And they’re perfect. They manage to look both elegant enough for the room—what would have been a parlor back in the day, complete with fireplace, pocket doors, gorgeous hardwood floor, and crimson walls—and casual enough for our actual life, which features exuberant dogs and their toys and their damage, and zero formal gatherings ever.

As things tend to go, we hung them as-is first, leaving a giant puddle of fabric on the floor to collect dog hair for a few weeks (ok, months). Then before we Airbnb’d our house for the Kentucky Derby (our deadline for literally everything), we made the two feet bump with the curtains

The living room after (Image credit: Dana McMahan)

And I couldn’t believe it. Though the room had 11 foot ceilings and is a good-sized space, it had always felt a little cramped. Standing in the kitchen looking through the dining room to the living room windows before we made the change, something was lost in translation from the first two high-ceilinged rooms to that one. With the curtains placed near the ceiling, the room magically seemed to gain feet in height. Far giddier than may be quite normal as a result of something so simple as relocating a curtain rod, I admired the room from every angle.

It didn’t quite cover the stained glass entirely, but with only the middle section on view, it was much better. The thing is, the room was so vastly improved just by virtue of raising the curtains that I suddenly was much less concerned with the bloody sun.

I’m still working on dressing other windows throughout the house on a budget, so I don’t have any more plans for this dramatic treatment elsewhere. But if money were no object I think I’d get longer curtains and hang them higher throughout the whole house now that I know what a change it makes.

Have you experimented with how high you hang your curtains and had remarkable results?