Episode 327

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Spring is here, and my mood is lightened – even though things are getting intense! We have a move-out date and no new house. Although we have focused in the New York area, we may be considering some other options. If you’re from Richmond or Charlottesville, VA, I’d love to hear your experiences!

This episode, I answer questions about…

[4:44] Guidelines for curtains (Gonie)


Hi Betsy, I love your show and listen to every episode. Your advice seems so commonsensical and obvious until I actually try to implement it in my own space and then even after hours of listening I still have no idea what to do.

We recently renovated a 4 bedroom apartment in a suburb of Tel Aviv. I have no idea what to do about drapery. All of the windows except for the sliding glass doors in the living room have shutters, so I don’t need curtains or blinds for privacy or to keep the sun out. I want drapes or curtains to make the apartment feel softer and more put together. But in three bedrooms, the windows are in corners. In the master bedroom, the two windows are different sizes and in the living room/kitchen area the kitchen window is only a couple of feet from the glass doors. These are aluminum windows and the frames are flush with the walls so all of the options have to go in front of the window frames.

How do you match a window in the kitchen (which you said has to be wipeable) with curtains on sliding glass doors? How do you choose curtains for corner windows? One of the corner windows swings open so blinds are out of the question, too. Do you put curtains behind a headboard? How do you hang curtains when one window is wider than it is tall and the other is taller than it is wide?

Any advice on where to start and some basic guidelines would be much appreciated. Please explain them as if you were talking to a small child :-). I feel that incompetent choosing curtains.


First things first: You don’t need privacy. Some of these windows are hard to treat, or difficult to have open with a treatment in place. I’m not seeing that corner window, which can have a whole host of challenges, but I do see the other windows. The kitchen window is very close to the stove, and the bedroom windows are indeed different heights.

If you have shutters or blinds in place, you don’t really need curtains. They are nice to have, but they aren’t a must have. There are lots of different ways to warm up a space that do not involve curtains. With curtains, you have to measure, have hardware, and make sure the fabric is not encroaching on your window. You want to make sure it makes sense in the room that you’re in. If it’s too close to the stove, the curtains will get greasy and gunky and likely be a fire hazard.

Let’s discuss different solutions for warming up these spaces. The rooms right now appear to have the same kind of gray beige on the walls, and I think that is a missed opportunity to warm up this space. Wall color is even more impactful than curtains when it comes to warming up a space. You have a lot more wall than you will have drapery. Using a warmish tone – whether it’s a yellow, coral, or blush – or even something that feels warm like a yellow green, would warm up the room.

Another way to warm up the room is with different textiles. If you had a really delicious rug in the room with a significant pile (0.25-0.5 inches), I think that would really make the living room feel softer and more inviting. You could also add a throw blanket to the sofa, and layer it with pillows that have different colors. Instead of the wooden dining chairs, I might suggest ones that have upholstery. That way you are softening the room and adding some warmer colors, but in a different way.

For the bedroom, you would again rely on those textiles by getting a really sumptuous, snugly duvet with a beautiful throw blanket at the foot of the bed. You could add some decorative pillows, and again factor in that wall paint. Art is also a wonderful way to bring in warmer colors. Instead of choosing things that have a lot of harsh lines, you may want to pick artwork or even patterns on your fabrics that have curving lines.

Another amazing way to soften a space that feels harsh, cold, or unrelenting is to put all the overhead lights on full-range dimmers, because then you can kind of control the lighting experience and the atmosphere. Additionally, having multiple lamps throughout the room will allow you to control the atmosphere as well. Make sure that you have a bulb that leans toward the warmer yellow-white rather than a blue-white or an intense, bright white.

In terms of that living room slider, you could do an inside mount rod – sort of like you’d see in a shower curtain or a closet rod where it’s touching both side walls – because there is no back wall from which brackets could extend. You would need a lot of fabric for this, because you need double the width of drapery that you have with the window. When you push all that fabric to one side, you’re going to lose quite a bit of the sliding glass door window because there is no wall for that fabric to gather on. I would say curtains should be a last resort for these rooms, and instead I would suggest trying some of these other ways to soften the spaces.

[13:46] Adding character to a blank canvas home (Donna)


Hi there! I discovered your show recently, and I am so excited to apply your tips to our home! We bought a house, and are going to move into it when my husband is no longer in the military. I’m already starting to dream about making it fit our personalities, but am not very design savvy. This is a first for us, as we’ve always rented and move every few years. I would love to keep with the craftsman style of the house but feel that the previous owners made the house a blank canvas for selling purposes.

My question is whether or not you’d recommend adding some wooden beams to the ceiling to give it some character? I’m hoping to have a large modular sofa, and some plants (the furniture was the sellers’). The dining room (past the wall) will be converted to a playroom for our kids since there is another dining space. The kitchen has light wood floors, grey granite countertops, and cabinets that I’m planning on painting a light sage green. Thanks for all of your help, and wisdom. I hope that you can help me add some fun to this house. Nothing is off limits! I’d appreciate any tips that you have!


It can feel exciting to have no limits, but I do want you to put some limitations on yourself. You can do too much to a space. You can impose things on a space that feel really interesting, lively, and fun, but turn out to not be a fit for the architecture or the vibe of the home. In this case, I have one picture to go on and it looks like these ceilings are just standard height ceilings. They don’t seem overly tall based on the picture, so my concern about adding beams is that it will make the ceilings feel lower. The beam would have to have a depth of at least 6 inches, so it would essentially bring the ceiling down 6 inches. I would not add beams to a space unless your ceilings were taller than 9 feet.

I would also not add beams to a space unless it really went with the architecture. I see no evidence that this house is a Craftsman, which of course doesn’t mean that’s not true. There is just nothing, architecturally, in the living room telling me it is a Craftsman. I don’t see any chunky wooden moldings, and in fact there is a really contemporary fireplace. Everything seems very contemporary and doesn’t seem to harken back to any particular era besides what is happening now.

I think there are lots of other ways to give this space visual interest, and I don’t think you have to do it architecturally. The first thing I would do is lose the unibrows on top of your windows. People formally call it a valence, and it’s not only a little “80s-tastic” but it is also blocking a lot of natural light. You’re losing an opportunity for drapery. Unlike Gonie’s situation, in this room there is no reason not to use drapery. There is a wall on either side of the window, and it will help accentuate the height, soften the space, and add a burst of color.

The other thing you might want to consider is something with these interesting niches. There is one niche that has an arch above the fireplace. The fireplace has a built-in shelf that only extends about two inches past this niche, and the fireplace is on the right. There is a TV on some kind of a TV stand also inserted in a small niche on the left. Above that is another niche, that is a square or a rectangle.

I think the TV cavity may be way too small for the room, especially when you bring in a large sectional, like you suggested you want to do. I am thinking that we sheet rock up all of these niches, remove the little projection mantle, and make the wall around the fireplace flat. Then we could put artwork above the fireplace, or just put the TV above the fireplace. I don’t always put the TV above the fireplace, because you don’t want to be craning your neck looking up. You need to have a room that has significant depth, so your seating can be set far back enough that it’s not like being in the front row of a movie theater.

In your case, I also might style with a large, leafy plant. You could consider keeping part of the niche where the TV is and filling it with logs for the fireplace. That would be really warm and cozy. I think there is so much going on with that focal wall, and it’s really detracting from any one thing – be it the fireplace, the TV, or a piece of artwork. It’s like there are four focal points on one wall with all these niches.

The other thing I think would really help is some artwork. You have wall-to-wall carpeting that looks fairly plush, so I would not layer another area rug on top of it. We’re going to need to bring in colors since the room has neutral walls with the fabric from the drapes, throw pillows, a throw blanket, art, or a wonderful mirror. A mirror would fill the wall, but probably won’t bring in much color.

What I’m trying to get at is, the very last thing I would do is change the space architecturally. Changing the space cosmetically is going to be so much easier to do, and it may achieve the same effect of personalizing and warming the space on a much smaller budget.






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