A Small Apartment in an Old House Has Smart, Money-Saving Solutions for Covering Tall Windows

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Name: Marina Savashynskaya Dunbar, my husband, our two cats
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Type of home: Apartment in an old home
Size: 485 square feet
Years lived in: 6 months, renting

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I share this apartment with my husband and two cats. I am a full-time artist and my husband is currently studying engineering. This is our second apartment in Charleston; we moved to South Carolina about two years ago. We spent most of our married life living in apartment complexes and with this move I wanted to experience living in an authentic Charleston home. I appreciate the intricate details of old homes and the history they carry. Our rent is pretty modest for the area, but when we moved in the apartment needed a lot of work. The walls were stained and needed to be patched and painted. In the living room we pulled up an old rug and found the floors damaged with residue from the backing, which had been there for years so we had to clean the floors without ruining the original hardwood. This was the most work we put into a place that we don’t own but it was worth it because I absolutely love the location and the apartment.

What is your favorite room and why? The living room is my favorite room because of its functionality. It works as the living space, a work/study space for my husband, and a dining area. Although I enjoy it now, it was a challenge to make it functional in all the ways we needed. This apartment is about 1/6th of the entire home, which was built as a single family home in the 1800s. Because this is not a traditional apartment, it does not have a standard layout with designated areas for dining, living, etc. Our “apartment” was originally a guest suite. Some of the problems that came with arranging furniture were due to oddly placed architectural elements. For example, there are seven doors in the living room alone! Two of which lead to areas where we don’t have access. It was a difficult but fun challenge to organize furniture but not block entryways. Another reason I like the living room is that it has two sets of french doors, which lead out to the porch. When opened it makes the space feel twice as big! The front porch is one of my favorite aspects. It is huge in comparison to the rest apartment and overlooks a lovely street. Although we don’t have room for entertaining inside the apartment, the porch has enough room for a large table and additional seating, which is perfect for when we have family or guests in town.

If you could magically change something about your home, what would it be? I would change the size of the windows; they created the biggest problem for me when decorating this house. We needed curtains in the bedroom since there are four windows and it gets very bright. We also needed curtains in the living room for privacy since our porch extends to the next unit and is shared with our neighbors. The problem was that the windows are so tall and high that no standard store-bought panels are long enough. Most curtains for sale online are 120 inches and these windows need at least 128 inches. I did not have the budget for custom drapery so I ended up finding a solution via YouTube.

I bought 120-inch panels from a department store and a few extra for the material. I extended the curtains by creating the look of a longer hem by opening up the bottom and attaching more material with heat bonding tape. The result was an extra large hem that works well aesthetically with the length of the curtains. Another reason why I would change the windows is because in the bedroom one window ends awkwardly at the end of the wall, with the right side of the window touching the perpendicular wall. This meant I could not install traditional curtain rods in the bedroom as I did in the living room. I found a solution from IKEA. We got two very long curtain rods that go around the perimeter of the room and end when they hit the perpendicular walls. I think this creates an interesting, custom-made look and the whole rail system cost only $50.

Any advice for creating a home you love? I would recommend collecting furniture and art that adds to your personal experience. It’s not important how art matches furniture or vise versa. I think each piece should stand out in a unique way. If you consistently collect things with which you have a relationship eventually everything will start to display a harmony deeper than its visual elements. And through that you may discover something about yourself.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Airy, quaint, cozy, comfortable