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Home Sweet Rented Home
Windows and Walls

Windows to the World...
One of the toughest challenges that I faced as a renter was how to deal with windows. If you're lucky, the windows already have decent mini-blinds in place. If these blinds have seen their better days, ask the landlord if you can replace them with new ones. Smaller blinds, and I'm not talking wood or even faux wood, can be as inexpensive as $4 a shade. Make sure they match the color of the wall, or the trim if it is painted. In other words, if the walls are off-white, use off-white blinds. Why make then stand out even more by using a stark white shade against an off-white wall, or vice versa. But, don't use these shades as decoration for your windows. They are intended for privacy purposes, and I will talk about another way to add a decorative touch to these blinds later.

1.) Your easiest all-round solution is to create no-sew window treatments. Using no-sew techniques not only saves you time and money, but the fabric can be used for other purposes when you move if it has not been cut-up too excessively. My floral fabric that is shown in the "Color Scheme" section is almost 8-yrs old, and still looks great. It has been used in 4 homes, and I will use it again when we move from this home, whether we own the home or rent again. I initially invested in good fabric, and that is the key. But, you can still create great looking treatments with remnant fabrics, seconds, and best of all - sheets. Also, keep in mind a fabric called "scrim." Scrim is a gauzy-type fabric that is easy to drape and swag. It usually sells for about $4 a yard, and comes in lots of great colors. It can even be dyed to suit your color needs. Corbel-type brackets for window treatments are available everywhere, from Target to Walmart, and even fabric stores. These can be placed at the corners of windows, and the scrim can be pulled thru and draped in a classy and elegant style. Try using two or even three colors of the scrim draped together. Be creative, and think of other possible holders that fabric can be draped thru. How about small, brass horns purchased in the craft dept., used in an English Country setting or a music room. Grapevine or honeysuckle wreaths can be used in a cottage or country setting.

Want to add detail to the fabric or scrim? Lay the fabric on a flat surface. Cut out several large designs such as a fleu-de-lis pattern from heavy cardboard such as a pizza box. Roll a piece of masking tape in a circle and stick on the back of each design. Place the designs on the fabric in a random or chosen pattern. Now, using a can of spray paint in a coordinating color. Lightly "spritz" the fabric all over. Remove the cut-outs. This technique produces what is called a negative stencil. Add another layer of the spray paint if desired. I used this technique on taupe colored scrim using a gold spray paint. It turned out great!

2.) Cornices are another way to add instant pattern and color to your windows. There are no-sew cornice kits on the market which make the job even easier. QVC carries a line of foam cornice kits. Go to www.qvc.com and do a search for cornice kits, or window treatments. Also, if you do not want to invest in such a kit, there are instructions on the web to make your own using plywood, batting and fabric. Try going to www.roombyroom.com and they will have instructions there. On my site, a friend wrote an article for me about making cornices from cardboard. Her project turned out great. There is a picture, as well as directions, for this project under the Guest Writers section.

3.) Ready made accessories such as napkins and table runners provide lots of varieties for no-sew window treatments. A basic piece of wood called a lathing strip is all the "hardware" you need other than a few finishing nails, a hammer, and a heavy-duty staple gun. Try folding a napkin in half, points together. If its a larger napkin, cut in half. If its smaller, fold it in half so the edges are not together, but about 2" apart. Measure the width of the window and have the lathing strip cut to this length. (The lumber store will do this for you.) Now determine how many napkins you will need by laying the halves across the strip. Overlap the napkins slightly. Once you are satisfied with the placement, staple the napkins onto the top of the lathing strip. Hot glue trim or fringe or even ribbon along the edge to add a decorative touch, or even add tassels at each point. Once your window treatment is complete, simply nail the lathing strip on top of the window moulding. If no moulding exists, use "L" brackets to mount the wood to the wall above the window. Another pretty idea is to use pre-made table runners. I have an outlet nearby that sells these for as little as $3 each. These can be cut in half, and stapled onto the lathing strip side by side. They already feature a tassel on each end. Cut additional fabric from the middle of the runner if they are too long.

Even basic sheets can be used. Cut a single-size sheet in half. Hot glue the cut-edge so it has a turned under finished hem. Paint, stain or cover the lathing strip with fabric. Place the panels of fabric so that the pre-finished outside edge is on the inside. Staple the panels to each side of the strip, gathering in full pleats or boxed pleats as you go. Nail the lathing strip as described above.

4.) Roller shades can be covered with fabric and spray adhesive, stenciled, or decopauged with cut-outs from wallpaper, paper napkins and gift wrap. Hang a coordinating valance or make one using fabric that matches the decopauged cut-outs. For istructions on how to cover a roller shade with fabric, click here.

5.) Remember when I mentioned above that there was something you could do to enhance the look of plain blinds? While mini-blinds may be inexpensive and practical, they are not always the most attractive of window treatments. But, by hanging sheers in front of them, you are addng a much needed softness, and even additional pattern if you choose a sheer that features a design. The blinds can still be opened or closed as needed, and the sheers will help "camoflauge" them. This also works for unsightly vertical blinds.

And Now for the Walls......

1.) Wallpapering with fabric is one of the most dramatic ways to add color to a room, but not always the most economic. Covering a whole room can add up to a lot of money. But, covering even one wall in a room may be all you need, or possibly just below the chairrail. Check out www.linit.com "How to Wallpaper with Fabric and Starch" to learn all the details you need for this project. This technique will not damage or discolor the walls in any way, just use warm soap and water to wash away any residue. The fabric can be laundered and recycled for another use in a different house.

2.) Fabric borders vs. wallpaper borders is another solution for dull, boring walls, and can be used in conjunction with a fabric-covered wall. To save on both fabric and money, cover one wall with fabric and apply a fabric border to the other three walls. The secret is finding a workable design because not just any fabric will work. Generally, a horizontal design or all-over pattern works best. Cut fabric into 8"-10" widths. Apply a product known as Fray Check, found in craft and sewing stores, along the edges. This will prevent excess raveling and fraying. Adhere to walls using the starch technique as mentioned above. To cover the raw edges, hot-glue upholstery trim in a coordinating color directly on the fabric border, being careful not to allow any glue to get on the wall. This too can be simply removed when its time to move. I have managed to save the "border" from one place and recycle it in another room in the next home.

3.) Fabric cutouts can be turned into interesting borders and faux wallpaper designs. A few yards of fabric can produce dozens of cutouts. Patience is the key here; the cutting process can be tedious and timely, but you will be rewarded with reusable designs. I like to use cuticle scissors to make intricate cuts. Fabric with larger-scale patterns such as fruit, florals and even geometrics work best. Again, use the starch technique to adhere to walls.

4.) For a free-flowing look, fabric panels can be hung from mounted rods or decorative hooks. Put some of that recycled fabric back to use, or use panels of inexpensive, unbleached muslin, dyed to a specific color with Rit dye. As a matter of fact, I often use my washing machine to dye large quantities of fabrics. Just pour the needed amount of water into the washing machine, mix in the measured amount of dye read manufacturer's instructions carefully), and place the fabric in. I use a stick of some sort to push the fabric all around, and let it soak for the recommended time as instructed by the manufacturer. Then, I remove the fabric, ringing softly, and dry it in the dryer on a low-temp setting. I run the dye out with a small wash set on a regular cycle, and repeat another small run with just water and a cup of vinegar to clean out any dye residue that may have been left over. The muslin can then be hung in panels as stated above. Viola'! Instant color! These panels make a great backdrop for artwork, wreaths, or even plates used for decoration. This is a great idea to cover a large expanse of wall, or to create a "focal point" above the sofa to draw the eye to. One large focal area can greatly make-up the lack of color on walls. These panels also hide a multitude of unsightly sins from ugly, damaged walls to air conditioners.
I have also adhered plain muslin to the wall under the chair rail and under backsplashes for example, and used stencil creams to add decorative designs. Once I did this under a chair rail, and used a vine placed in vertical stripes every few inches. Everyone thought I had wallpapered.

5) I, also, like to use fabric adhered to the wall with starch in square or rectangle shaped panels. I like to use one large square in the middle and two longer and narrower panels on each side. This is a great look over a sofa. Cut the panels based upon the length of the sofa or the size of the wall you are working with. Use the Fray Check product as mentioned above, and adhere to the walls with starch. Purchase some thin trim moulding, and paint or stain. Cut the moulding so that it creates a "frame" for each panel. Adhere the trim moulding with very small finishing nails over the panels, covering the raw edges. (The nail holes can be filled in with putty once removed.) This provides a beautiful and colorful background to accessorize with your favorite grouping of prints, plates, etc.

6.) Although stenciling is considered a no-no, if done right and in small amounts, it can be easily remedied upon moving by painting over the design with a primer such as Kilz. Small touches such as a flowing, ivy garland can be painted above a mirror; at corners of windows, etc. Use a light hand when applying paint.
I was emailed the suggestion of using regular colored chalk scrapings to make a stencil. She simply scraped the chalk with a knife and added just enough water to make a stencil cream. She used a normal stencil brush to apply. She says this mixture is easy to remove with a little 409.

7.) Recently in Lowe's, I spotted a wonderful new product. It is a wallpaper that is adhered to the wall using a special tool, which in turn creates a suction action of sorts. No adhesives are required. This same tool is used to remove the paper when needed. The paper looks just like the normal variety, and is available in several prints and designs. The tool costs about $11, but if you add up all the tools and supplies you would spend for a normal wallpaper project; you would have spent far more. Coordinating wallpaper borders were also available, which can be used alone or in conjunction with the papers.

8.) Foam Core - This idea can create a whole new room. All you need are enough sheets of 4x8-foam core, or even insulating foam, to go around the perimeter of the room. Place the foam long side down, either flush with the floor if there are no baseboards, or just on top of the baseboards. Use small nails to adhere to the wall. Prime the foam with Kilz or a similar product. Now the surface is ready for paint, or wallpaper is that is preferred. To complete the look, stain or paint small trim moulding and use a product called Liquid Nails to apply on top edge of the foam.
***Do not apply the trim directly to the wall, because Liquid Nails cannot be removed once applied.

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Follow the links below to go to:

Home Sweet Rented Home: Index Page
Home Sweet Rented Home: "Building a Reusable Color Scheme"
Home Sweet Rented Home: "Cabinets and Tiles"
Home Sweet Rented Home: "Choosing the Right Furniture"
The Everyday Decorator : Home Page