I’ve always thought that curtains are the unsung hero of room makeovers because everyone’s quick to talk about how paint can make such a huge difference (agreed, it totally can) but I’d argue that curtains can rival the whole “wow, paint totally changed that room” because they can:
- make a small window look twice as wide
- draw the eye up and make ceilings feel taller
- add a whole lot of color/pattern/interest (or not, if you just want something simple/breezy)
- make any room feel more cozy by adding softness
- add function (block light and drafts, provide privacy, absorb sound, etc)
So there it is. My name is Sherry, and I’m a fan of curtains. Just look at the nursery wall without any:
And here it is now with some happy green-apple deliciousness going on:
This room is still far from finished (we’re planning a colorful large-scale mobile for over the crib – maybe something like this – and the bare wall across from the crib still needs furniture and art). But back to the curtains. They make such a difference, right? I also tried a new pleated approach this time, along with an extra thick hem at the top and bottom to give them some added heft, and I’m a complete fan. It was really easy, so I’ll just stop yapping and dive into the details.
When it came to picking the fabric for the nursery, we knew we wanted something happy and colorful since the walls and built-ins are a neutral palette (Clara’s white-walled yet super colorful room has taught us that safer choices on those harder-to-change surfaces leave things wide open to layer in a lot more personality and color with other accents like textiles, art, and accessories). We considered everything from a bold pattern to a fun dip-dyed look or a band at the bottom, but thought one solid hue would be nice because we didn’t want anything that would look too busy next to our patterned rug and crib bedding.
We were actually really inspired by the different tones of green in the Target box that we recently grabbed for the built-ins, along with our old stacking tree game, which both showed us how great a vibrant apple green color could look with a darker kelly tone in the mix.
We hit up a local place (U-Fab) as well as JoAnn fabrics, and ended up falling for a cheerful apple green color at JoAnn. We thought it would layer in nicely with the kelly green bedskirt, bike art, and chair pillow without being too matchy or flat. I bought five and a half yards of fabric, which was listed at $6.99 a yard (it’s 100% cotton, and the color is Solid Apple if that helps you track it down at JoAnn) but I used one of those 50% off coupons so my entire purchase was $19.22, which means each of my panels breaks down to being under ten bucks.
The first thing I did when I got it home was pre-wash it (this helps you avoid shrinkage on the back-end, which can result in highwater panels if you wash them later). Then I laid my fabric on the floor and folded it in half (length-wise, not width-wise) and cut along the fold so I was left with two equally sized 99″ panels. My desired finished length was 88″ so that meant I could have a nice weighty 5.5″ hem at the top and the bottom. First I hemmed the top and bottom of the panel just about an inch from the edge with hem tape, like so:
Heavy duty Heat N’ Bond is a favorite of mine, just because I’ve made a few curtain panels with my sewing machine and others with hem tape and find that hem tape is easier for me to get a nice straight seam instead of a slightly meandering one. I’ve also had luck with durability (and washability) in a nursery/kids room with it over the last 3.5 years (all of Clara’s curtains have been hemmed with the stuff) so that made it an easy choice.
After making that first 1″ hem on the top and bottom of the panel, I folded each one of them over again to make a 4.5″ cuff, so I was left with a nice finished looking edge on each end (that’s why I did that little 1″ hem first). Even though it’s the back of the panel, it doesn’t take much time to make that extra little fold, and it ends up looking nice and clean.
Again I used hem tape to secure that flap of fabric at that 4.5″ mark.
After securing each of those top and bottom hems, I hemmed the sides (just with simple 1″ one) to keep the panel as wide as possible, but give it a finished edge. Here’s what one panel looked like on the floor with the backside-up, wrinkles and all.
Next I ironed each panel to get a bunch of the wrinkles out (they honestly still could use a steam-session now that they’re hanging in place) and then it was time to give the whole “pinch-pleat effect” a try. Instead of my usual MO of clipping rings to the top edge of the fabric (so the curtains hang like this or like this), I pinched the fabric in ten equal increments and secured the clip to the back of the top hem, about 2.5″ from the top of the panel. Burger was intrigued.
Here’s a close up for you of that top hem along the back of the panel (again, I just used ten ring hooks and spaced them out by eye in as-equal-as-possible increments).
This is John holding up the rod after I strung one panel on so I could snap a picture of the back for you guys.
And here’s what they look like from the front after hanging them with the anchors and screws that came with the rod we picked up at Home Depot:
Don’t those pleats add a little something extra? I like that they’re not super perfect & uniform (it’s more of a casual pleat if that makes sense) but they still feel a bit more upgraded than the regular old ring-hook look that I’m used to. If you’re at home thinking “I’d make those, but I wish each pleat was identical and super uniform” – fear not. You could probably stand on a stepladder and tweak the clips in the back to even everything out. John and I just thought they looked sort of effortlessly cool this way. Either that or we’re too lazy to break out the step-ladder.
Update #1: We’re getting a bunch of questions about if we’re planning to use blackouts and/or if these curtains can close to block light. They can close (they’re each 56″ wide) but we have light-blocking faux wood blinds on all of the upstairs windows (more on those here) so we typically just close those instead of the curtains. Although I might add some blackout panels to the back of these panels like we did in Clara’s room if this guy ends up loving total darkness like her. Will keep you posted!
Update #2: Also getting questions about where the chair’s from. We bought that from Joss & Main a few years ago (it used to be in the corner of the kitchen across from the fireplace in our old house, and was in our office at this house until we realized it made more sense in the nursery). The white pouf is a sale find from J&M too.
It’s definitely feeling a bit more like home (and making this baby on-the-way thing feel a bit more real) to see how much this space has changed since we bought the house.
I’m telling you, curtains make the difference. Ok, and a new floor, some wall paint, a pair of built-ins, crown molding, and furniture help too.
So that’s what’s new in the nursery. And Operation Homemade Mobile is actually in progress, so I hope to share that with you guys soon – along with some updates to the completely blank wall across from the crib. Have any of you ever done pinch-pleats, either with the sewing method or the ring-clip method? Do they make you feel fancy? Was your dog super interested the entire time?
The bookcases in the nursery have officially been filled with board books, toys, stuffed animals, framed prints, and a few other random bobs and bits that I hope our little man will love feasting his eyes (and mouth?) upon. You know, in the case of those gummy blocks in the bottom right corner of this shot that Clara loved chomping on. Of course we still have a bunch of bigger toys, puzzles, and games that will probably get stored in baskets or some sort of cubby system in another area of the room, but it’s nice to have some fun kid stuff on the bookcases that’s easy to grab and gaze at.
This is the built-in to the left of the crib, which Clara helped me fill by offering up all of her baby books to “my baby” as she sweetly calls her brother on the way. She is well past the board book phase, so I was especially grateful that she wanted to hand them down as opposed to suddenly wanting to hoard them even though she doesn’t read them anymore. She even brought in a few of her stuffed animals that she thought he’d like (two gators and a monkey).
Obviously these shelves will evolve as he grows and we get more items just for him that are based on his interests, but I did grab a few boxes from Target, like the three-tone green one below. Just to store things like crayons, blocks, and other small-scale games that feel more organized when they’re corralled.
That crocheted cactus above makes me smile. Isn’t he cute? We bought three of them a while back at a holiday craft fair here in Richmond and I was so excited to break them out as some can’t-kill-it-if-I-try greenery for his room.
Here’s the bookcase to the right of the crib:
That three-toned tree was one of Clara’s favorite stacking toys when she was younger, so I was thrilled when she said she thought her baby would like it. She also dragged her blue crayon-truck out of a basket and said it was for the baby now (she’s more into markers these days, but the gesture was still pretty touching since she colored that herself a few years back).
She also picked out the mustached man-doll for him at a recent craft fair, so I lifted her up so she could do the honors of placing him on the shelf next to a box of flashcards and a cute cloth covered photo album.
Another one of Clara’s “creations” for her brother’s space was this robot print that she colored a few years back (it used to hang here in our last house’s hallway). We were going through frames in the storage room together and she said “he’s going to like this one – can we use this one? I made it just for him.” Regardless of the fact that she colored it well before he was conceived, it’s the thought that counts, so onto the shelf it went. Along with a random teal oyster can that I found at an antique shop this summer (it feels like a cheeky nod to the whole barnacle nickname that Clara came up with this fall).
Besides going through old baby items and buying a few new things like those Target boxes, and the mustached man-doll, Clara and I also had fun making a little art project for the bun. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Norman The Narwhal. He’s FAR from a perfect specimen, but it was the sweetest project to do with Clara and I think I love him more for his handmade wonkiness than anything else. Dude has some serious character going on. So let’s file this under “made by a kid with a little help from mom for her baby brother.”
Here was our inspiration (which is nowhere near as wonky, and very charming indeed), and here’s how Clara and I had fun subbing in paper mache for a styrofoam ball, made the horn a different way, used buttons for eyes, etc.
1 & 2. First we picked up a small wooden craft plaque from JoAnn for around $3 with a coupon, and we had fun painting it white together.
3 & 4. Then we made waaaay too much paper mache (seriously, it was a comically large batch) by adding water to flour and stirring until it thickened up. Clara LOVED this part, hence the comically large batch. She kept wanting to add more water and more flour and “stir, stir, stir” things up.
5. Next we used some newspaper to make our narwhal face, which was essentially just sort of a rounded blob of paper squished up and covered with paper mache with a flat back so it could sit against the plaque. We used small strips of newspaper coated with paper mache over our ball of crunched up newsprint to get it as smooth as possible on the surface, but that’s sort of a relative term since it’s still quite a lumpy little face that he has.
6. We used an old wooden dowel that was about 5″ long to create the horn.
7 & 8. First I just wrapped it with painters tape (using more on one end than the other for that tapered shape). Then I covered that with yellow polka dot washi tape that I had on hand, just because polka dots are cute and our inspiration narwhal had some pattern going on with his horn. We used a coat of matte Mod Podge over the whole thing to keep the tape in place and protect it a bit more (Clara loves Mod Podge and calls it Pod Modge, which makes me think of Padma Lakshmi for some reason).
9 & 10. When the paper mache narwhal face was dry, Clara helped me paint it blue with craft paint. I also used Aileen’s Tacky Glue to secure a screw to the inside of the dowel of our horn, which we let dry for a nice long time.
11. Once our narwhal face was dry and the glue for our screw had cured up, we could screw it right in for that horned look. I even made a small pilot hole with our drill to get things started (Clara LOVES anything drill related, so this was a thrilling step for her as well).
Then we searched the house for some small round items to use as eyes, came up with some old pearl colored buttons, and drew a little smiling mouth with a sharpie as well as drawing some little black lines around the frame of the plaque. I did that while Clara watched and counted (she’d get to about 30 and then start over, which was pretty cute). And finally, we just used some black & white twine from the craft closet to create a little hanging device (one small picture nail easily holds this baby up).
Over the years I’ve been asked if I think obviously fake creations like these (or a ceramic ram head, or a cardboard deer head) might glorify the act of mounting an actual animal head. I’m sure everyone has different opinions about this (it’s such a highly personal thing) but I’ve thought about it for a while, and I don’t believe faux taxidermy makes any sort of pro-real-taxidermy statement. To me, it’s just like using faux sheepskins in our house instead of real ones, or how people might buy faux fur coats. Another example would be how animal rights activists like Stella McCartney will design things with faux leather (real leather = against her beliefs, but she’ll use the imitation to make a statement that there are great alternatives to the real thing).
Now I’m excited to start in on some other personality-adding details, like a pair of colorful curtains, and a large-scale mobile for over the crib. And of course we have a whole blank wall across from the crib to deal with, where we think we’ll add a cubby-type cabinet for toys with a changing table on top and our bike art hanging above it – along with a bold green closet door.
But going back to that “large scale mobile idea,” this is just some bad photoshop, but I have an old manzanita branch that I think could be fun with lots of colorful shapes hanging off of it at a ton of different lengths and depths.
So those are next on the list. What are you guys up to when it comes to bookcase-filling and art-making? Anyone else breaking out the paper mache? Clara kept trying to eat it, which was both comical and surprisingly ok (it is made from flour and water).
Psst- To see our nursery progress from the very beginning, here’s the planning and rug-buying post, the dresser-sourcing post, the wall and ceiling painting rundown, the first half of built-in building, the second half of the built-in project, and how we added crown molding and a homemade crib skirt.