Before & After Photos: 14 Months In!

Before & After Photos: 14 Months In!

Note: This post was born from an updated Before & After page that we heard people were having trouble finding (since it wasn’t at the top of our blog feed). So here it is, forever immortalized as a chronological post. And now, since we’ll continue to update our Before & After page over time, we have this post frozen in time, which is nice to look back on. Wish we had done it around 6 months in and at the year mark too.

We downsized to this 1,400 square foot house in Northwest Florida on May of 2020 after a fast, furious, and long-distance three-month renovation. You can read more about how we found ourselves craving a pared-down lifestyle for our family here and here (that last one is a really good synopsis of what led us to this exact spot). But onward to the before & after pictures!

NOTE: We created this Shop Our House page to help you hunt down any furniture/accessories that you see in our house, along with our paint colors.

The Exterior

We kept all of the same cedar siding, black metal windows, exterior doors, and metal roofing…

… but updated the decking, railings, front steps, and gave everything a fresh coat of white paint! You can see this post for more photos & details on the exterior renovation.

Then we started layering in all the tropical landscaping and it evolved to this. We need to take more photos and do an updated blog post soon.

Here’s the side of the house as it looked when we bought it back in Feb of 2020:

And here it is all painted, with new horizontal railings on that second-floor deck. Removing the steeply pitched steps to the upper deck instantly made us feel safer (someone outside being able to access our second-floor windows & doors just felt off). And even small changes like removing the guard rails that cut through those wide steps that you see (while maintaining the railings on the outside ends) made a big difference too!

There’s more that we did to this area (fences, ferns, and a firepit – oh my!) but let’s pop inside for a second and head back outside again later on in the tour.

The Kitchen

The kitchen involved some large renovations and some small projects to get it to its current state. This is what we were starting with:

We repaired the floors, removed the soffit, added additional lighting, and replaced the drywall (goodbye popcorn ceiling!). You can read more about those projects in this post and this post.

We gradually updated the room in a few affordable ways, like hanging new lighting & DIY shelves and painting the cabinets (you can also see a full tour of how our kitchen is organized). Then we scored an awesome deal on secondhand appliances & tweaked the room’s layout and later added an Ikea pantry that we built in around the fridge, which we moved to the opposite wall (blog post about that coming soon!).

By shifting the fridge to the other side of the room, you can actually see that side window now! It used to be almost entirely blocked from this vantage point by the fridge (scroll back up a few photos to see what I mean). Plus we gained an entire pantry full of storage around our newly relocated fridge. Win-win!

In order to enjoy a comfy little sitting area on this side of the room, we closed off that wide doorway that you see below. You can still enter that room via the door next to the loveseat in the next photo (it’s our bedroom – so that extra-wide doorway wasn’t necessary). You can read more about the sitting area here & we’re planning an updated post all about the kitchen now that we added the pantry, so stay tuned.

This room is deceptively large, so along with having room for an eat-in kitchen table, we love that we gained this casual bonus hangout spot (since our big family room with the TV is upstairs, we tend to gather in here when someone’s cooking or when friends drop in for a coffee or a drink). It’s also great to have when someone wants to hang out or read without hearing the TV upstairs). Having two common areas in the house that aren’t open to each other (meaning that the sound doesn’t travel between them very much and one kid can do homework while the other watches cartoons or does a big part project) is key to feeling like we’re living large in a smaller footprint. If we had one larger adjoined space as our only shared area in the house, we’d feel a lot more cramped & on top of each other, I think!

The Stairs

The stairs that lead to our upstairs family room and second-floor deck had cool vertical planking and got lots of natural light thanks to a window above them in the family room. But the wood treads had some finish issues after we had them redone, and it didn’t match our wood floors downstairs (more on that here).

We ended up adding a really nice textured runner (and painting the treads to solve the finish issue), which gives our dog Burger some much-needed traction. It’s an indoor/outdoor rug, so it’s super durable (more on that here). Don’t mind this older shot of the kitchen before we added the pantry – we’ll take an updated photo eventually…

Finish Sisal Stair Runner On Staircase With Kitchen In Background

The Family Room

The only room upstairs is this large multi-purpose room that we use as a TV/movie room, home office, and kids’ crafting area (thanks to the pandemic it was a virtual-learning spot too). It’s by far the largest room in our house (two 8 x 10 rugs can fit in here without touching!) so it’s awesome to all get to enjoy it – and for it to perform so many functions for our family. Here’s how it looked when we bought the house. Note that scummy mildew along the top of the ceiling…

And here it is more recently after some simple floor refinishing and a fresh coat of paint (those big windows and cool paneling were already there!). You can see more of this room in this post – and see a few updates we later added in this post. We’ve also made some other changes up there, so we’ll have to take more photos and a video for an updated post.

Here’s the other half of the room as it looked when we bought the house. It was pouring rain when we took this picture, hence it being so dark (and those foggy windows):

Here it is more recently from the same angle. This is such a good demonstration of how adding furniture can help so much with capturing a room’s scale! Doesn’t the room look half as wide in the before shot above? And it appears to only have a sliver of space between the windows on the right-hand wall when there’s really over 70″ for a wide bookshelf with four spacious drawers. It’s wild!

The Upper Deck

Right outside the living room is a large upstairs deck that we all use as an extension of our living area. It was hugely improved by replacing the rotting deck, railings, and rickety pergola.

This is what the deck looks like now, thanks to the magic of new decking, railings, nixing that chimney that popped up in the middle of where our big 8-person table now lives, and a whole lot of white paint. We’ve also added some more seating, a dining area, and some string lights to make this one of our favorite hangout spots! You can read all about the details of this space right here.

Deck Seating Area With Outdoor Couch Table And Two Woven Lounge Chairs

Another fun before & after shot of this upstairs deck is this one. I can’t tell you how much better it is without that huge chimney jutting through the deck (when we bought the house it was majorly leaking down into the bedroom below).

And here’s the after shot from that vantage point now. This is one of our favorite spaces in the whole house – for sharing pizza with friends or having a family game night up in the trees. It’s really cozy and makes our house feel so much bigger thanks to this huge outdoor room.

Nighttime View Of Large Deck With String Lights

Our Bedroom

Here is our bedroom as it looked when we bought the house. This house only had one bedroom with an actual door that you could close when we bought it (it was originally listed as a one bedroom, one bathroom!), so we converted this beautiful light-filled space into our bedroom by closing a large extra doorway that led to the kitchen.

We refinished the floors, gave it some fresh paint, and then it just took some comfortable things like curtains, furniture, and a cozy rug to make this feel like a welcoming retreat.

Here’s a before and after view of the bed wall, since it’s hard to see in the photo above…

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We added a lot more storage to the room and rearranged things and closed off 2 of the 8 exterior doors (yes we really had that many doors in here, which is why the two on the bed wall in the before picture above are now gone – but the room is still flooded with light). We also added a closet (storage, glorious storage!) which you can read about here. That update really was a game-changer!

We have eventual plans to create an attached bathroom in an existing underutilized corner of the room (you can read more about that plan here). Sharing a bathroom hasn’t been nearly as bad as we expected – so we’re not in any rush.

Here’s another before shot of our bedroom back when we bought the house:

Here’s the same angle now. It really is a life hack to have a puzzle table by the fireplace if there’s randomly room in your bedroom. It keeps the kitchen table clear for food – and provides a fun spot to sit and decompress whenever the mood strikes (John can be found here a lot more than I ever expected. He has become a true puzzle lover).

Speaking of the fireplace, we updated ours and shared those details in this post and this post. It’s such a cozy feature to have in a bedroom.

*And now for a long-winded bedroom-related side note, because the most common question we get about our house is if we ever considered making the large upstairs family room into our bedroom. The short answer is that we did, but ended up nixing it for a number of reasons:

  • 1) we all prefer to sleep on the same floor
  • 2) that room upstairs is nearly twice as big (it’s the single biggest room in our house!), and we’d much rather share it than take it all for ourselves
  • 3) entertaining a bunch of people on the huge upstairs deck would mean everyone would have to walk through our bedroom to access it
  • 4) there’s no plumbing upstairs, so adding an ensuite bathroom would be much pricier than the one we have planned for downstairs
  • 5) we already mentioned this, but it bears repeating for anyone who is looking to downsize & worries they’ll feel too cramped. We’ve learned that it’s SO HELPFUL in a smaller home if there are two common areas that aren’t right next to each other (someone can watch a movie upstairs or do a zoom call for work while someone else is downstairs at the kitchen table working undisturbed or reading in the sitting area). We’ve also found that when our friends & their kids drop in, the kids all run upstairs to play & we sit downstairs in the sitting area and chat & have drinks or a snack.

You can find more layout tips for a small house (& other general downsizing info) right here in this post. Ok, but on with the tour!

The Bathroom

Our house only has one bathroom – and it didn’t even function when we bought it! The sink and vanity had been torn out, there were leaks festering in the walls behind the drywall and the tile, and the toilet couldn’t even be flushed due to the absence of a sewer line. Here’s what it looked like back then:

Before we moved in, we had basically everything replaced (except for the window!) to make this space functional. I gotta say, as much as we like the fun floor tile, and the cheerful accessories, a toilet that flushes really is the best part of any bathroom. You can see more of the room in this post.

The Laundry Closet

We converted a (weirdly double-sided) closet right off the front door into a laundry closet, which actually reminds us a lot of the laundry nook that we had in our very first house.

In addition to the new appliances, we built some nice deep shelves and added lots of hooks to make it extra hardworking.

Our Daughter’s Bedroom

Some of our favorite transformations in this house are our kids’ bedrooms, since we were able to vault the ceilings in both rooms – making these spaces feel so much bigger and brighter than they used to feel.

Yup, this is the same room, from the same angle. Crazy the difference that ceiling change made, right? It wasn’t structural (the roof already had that slope, so we essentially removed a drop drywall ceiling, added insulation, and just followed the slope of the roof with the planked ceiling). You can click here to see more photos (and get a DIY channel headboard tutorial). We have since changed up the side tables and added a desk so we’ll have to share updated photos soon.

You can also see this room in particular had a very colorful past…

… which we embraced by hand-painting a large mural on the newly vaulted wall across from our daughter’s bed.

Our Son’s Room

We were also able to vault the ceilings in our son’s room to follow the slope of the roof, as well as adding more planking and beams to the ceiling, which adds character and some nice dimension. Here’s the before:

And here’s what it looks like these days:

This super cozy room is one of our kids’ favorite spots to hang out together (ever since the beach house bunk room they’ve loved quiet time together in a small space). We built in the bed by creating a simple DIY wraparound headboard, which they hang out on kind of like a daybed.

Here’s another before shot that was taken with the camera swung more towards the right wall of the room:

And here’s the same angle of the room as it looks now:

Boys Twin Bed With Fabric Headboard Bookcase And Rainbow Gradient Wall Treatment

Every inch matters in smaller spaces like this, so the built-in bookshelf we made is really functional too. That foot or so of floor space along that wall works so much harder for us now! You can also see that we added some horizontal planking along that side wall and painted it a bunch of fun colors. You can see how we did that entire project right here. We have also since added custom shelves to the closet and built in a desk – so again, we have to shoot new photos and share an updated post soon (new drinking game ever time I say that in this post…).

The Outdoor Shower

We weren’t quite sure what to make of this space when we bought the house because it felt pretty grody with so much grime going on…

… but after some pressure washing, resealing the cedar with teak oil, and adding lights, plants, and new shower fixtures, it has actually turned into one of our favorite spaces. The whole family prefers this shower to our indoor one! You can see more of it in this post and we just kept adding more plants from there (so you’ll see that it’s a lot more lush in this updated photo below):

Wood Outdoor Shower With Cascading Planters And Bench

While we’re talking about the outdoor shower, the area that leads to it is kind of like a covered side porch, and this is what it started out looking like.

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It has come a LONG WAY, thanks to removing the mildewed screening around it, replacing the rotten floor, rebuilding the railing with a modern horizontal design (like the one we added up on the second floor deck) and a whole lot of paint. And for anyone wondering what our secret is to avoiding mosquitoes without screens – it’s that ceiling fan we added! They hate flying into moving air, so when we’re out there we flip it on and they don’t bother us. You can read more about our side porch update and how we built the hanging daybed.

Finished White Hanging Daybed Under Covered Front Porch

We also have a covered porch on the other side of the house, which looked like this when we bought the house:

Now looks like this, thanks to lots of paint and a hanging swing that both kids love to lounge on (ok, us too). You can read more about this space here.

We also added a fence to create more of a private courtyard and made a cozy little firepit zone from a formerly unused area that felt exposed to the street. This is the before:

And here’s what it looks like now that there’s a fence to define that area and make a nice little private courtyard:

Here’s another angle from before we painted the house, redid the railings, and added the fence to create this new outdoor space of ours.

It used to just be an area where we never spent any time, and now it gets so much use. We can access this through a gate in the fence near our front porch, or from the wall of glass doors in our bedroom, so it’s really nice to hang out at night and make s’mores with the kids – or sit outside with a cold beverage after they’re tucked into bed.

And in one of our longest-running updates to date (it took about a year from when we applied for the permit to completion!), we also added a pool to this formerly weed-riddled part of our yard. Here’s the best before picture I can find, which was taken right after we added that fence on the right, but before we painted anything:

And here’s what it looks like now that we painted all the fences to match and added a pool with a retaining wall and three fountains that sound better than any white noise machine we’ve ever had (it’s so soothing!). We also added a pool deck with some spots to lounge and planted lots of leafy landscaping that’ll fill in a bunch over the next few years. Oh and adding some more big plants to that large bed behind the retaining wall is next on the list:

So that’s our progress so far on this house, about a year and a few months into living here. We can’t wait to take some updated photos and share the other ways that this house evolves for our family over time. In the meantime, you can check out these related pages for even more info, details, project tutorials, etc:

P.S. And to see the entire makeover of our house in chronological order, this category has you covered!

6 Hot Takes From Designers That Might Actually Surprise You — In a Good Way

6 Hot Takes From Designers That Might Actually Surprise You — In a Good Way

In many ways, it feels like some things in the design rule book are hard and fast — and permanent. And while yes, you’ll always want to put curtains over your windows and pick rugs and furniture that are the right size for your rooms, pretty much everything else is open for interpretation. Just because piece of home decor is trending doesn’t mean it’s universally loved by everyone in the industry. In fact, some of the biggest trends actually have a permanent spot on many designer’s “don’t” lists.

Ready to have your decorating world rocked? A few of our favorite interior designers weighed in on some widespread design trends with these hot takes below. Start scrolling but consider yourself warned: Some of this design tea is absolutely scalding, and again, you just do you if what you can’t live without appears on this list.

Scandinavian doesn’t have to mean all white everything.

Scandinavian design often calls to mind clean lines, minimalism, and white walls, furniture, decor, and anything else. But surprise! Just because you love that Scandi style doesn’t mean you have to kiss color goodbye in your home. “Having this really white, airy design looks so beautiful in photos, but it’s not necessarily feasible to live in,” says designer Shaolin Low of Studio Shaolin.

According to Low, the great thing about Scandinavian design is it can be mixed and matched with a bunch of styles without being too over the top (which is kind of the opposite case of an overly eclectic room). So if you want to double down on this style, go ahead and add a subtle pop of color or some printed throw pillows, as seen in the Scandi modern-inspired New York City apartment above.

Floating shelves aren’t a storage solution that suits everyone.

For as long as I can remember, floating shelves have been heralded as a lifesaver for small spaces. Not only do they take advantage of vertical space for storage, but they also dress up otherwise bare walls. But again, for Low, floating shelves aren’t for everyone. “This is such a cool trend, and I love it, but just make sure if you’re going to have floating shelves anywhere in your home, you’re willing to do the upkeep it takes to keep them beautiful,” she says. “Especially if they are in your kitchen; beautiful dishes and serving ware is a must!”

If you’re prepared to put in the legwork to find the well-appointed pieces it takes to create a striking shelfie — and the dusting it requires to keep your things that are out in the open clean — then go for it. If floating shelves are starting to sound high maintenance, consider floating cabinets or drawers instead. That way, you can really hide your clutter and forget about dust and dirt here for the most part.

Your curtains don’t always have to skim the floor.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but Roman shades, blinds, and floor-to-ceiling drapes aren’t the only acceptable window treatments. “The cafe curtain is not dead,” says Davina Ogilvie, founder of Wovn Home. “Cafe curtains are typically hung partway up the height of a window so that they provide privacy below while allowing light to come through above.”

Not only can cafe curtains work in a handful of rooms, but they’re also available in a bunch of fun styles. An eye-catching pattern, as seen in this Los Angeles-based home, adds instant cheer to an all-white kitchen. If you want to give your space a more pared-back look, opt for a breezy solid linen set. Regardless of the pattern or fabric, you’ll be doing your space and wallet a favor. “An extra bonus is that cafe panels require less fabric to make, and are therefore an economical way to instantly update and lift a space,” Ogilvie explains.

Open concept layouts aren’t the end-all, be-all.

Once upon a time — you know, before 2020 — open-concept layouts were all the rage. People were knocking down walls left and right, all in the name of keeping up with the latest layout trend. But after spending over a year at home though, many have learned that do-it-all rooms are best when they have some kind of partitions. “I think in the past year everyone realized overly-open concept homes are not always the way to go,” shares designer Liz Caan. “While togetherness is still more important than ever, eating, working, lounging, and studying all in one room is not always practical.”

Fast may be fun for fashion, but it’s not where it’s at when it comes to furniture.

“I am noticing customers really wanting things that are made well, and that is a big investment, but once they understand the story behind why the price is high and how it is made, they actually feel it’s an excellent value,” Caan explains. “I think the quick and cheap decisions they made in the past are getting old — especially when they have to keep replacing the same thing.”

Not only can investing in your furniture be good for your bank account in the long run, it’s also the more earth-friendly, sustainable option. If you’re looking to go quality over quantity when it coms to furnishings for the very first time, check out our guide on saving up for a dream piece of furniture. Still need a quick fix? Stick to fast textiles, which are easier to store, repurpose, and take up less in landfills than bulkier pieces.

Tiny lighting details can actually make a big difference.

The importance of great lighting isn’t really up for debate. What might be a little controversial here is what to focus on when choosing the right fixture for your space. Some people focus on quantity, other prioritize quality, but you might be surprised to hear that designer Breegan Jane focuses a lot on what some might consider an afterthought (or non-thought).

“I think of lighting as the jewelry of a room, so adding coordinating wall plates is key,” the designer explains. “The last thing you want is to curate a space and distract from a seamless design with a blemish of a wall switch.”

The upshot here? If you’re going to switch out a fixture, don’t forget to show your outlets a little love, too. Lighting is a total package.

Kelsey Mulvey


Kelsey Mulvey is a lifestyle editor and writer. She has written for publications like Wall Street Journal, Business Insider,, New York Magazine, and more.

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9 Stylish Ways to Decorate the Space Above Your Couch

9 Stylish Ways to Decorate the Space Above Your Couch

The wall above your sofa is brimming with design potential, and it just takes a little imagination to reach it. Gallery wall? Geometric painted designs? Or maybe a fabric wall hanging? To inspire your own decorating endeavors, check out the nine living rooms from our home tours below with interesting things above the couch. From art arrangements to floating shelves, there’s a look for everyone.

This Philadelphia home has pictures covering the entire wall above the living room sofa, and it makes a statement to say the least. We love the vintage feel of the chosen art.

Why waste your time wallpapering when you can employ one large-scale work of art instead? Take a cue from Dee Speed’s New Orleans’ home and hang a colorful painting or print above your sofa to make a big impact in your living room.

Looking for a renter-friendly way to make a statement behind your sofa? Propped up vintage art, like this vignette we spotted in Mila Moraga-Holz’s Los Angeles abode, is every bit as eye-catching as framed art—no hammer or nails necessary.

If you thought oversized mirrors were reserved for bedrooms then think again. Not only does a large mirror above your sofa look super chic, it helps create the illusion of more space in a small living room, just like what we saw in this eclectic apartment.

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(Image credit: as linked above)

Sure, decorative items look great above your couch, but have you ever considered the storage opportunity that wall offers? A sturdy floating shelf, like the one we saw in Jasna’s Canadian living room, helps anchor the empty area above your sofa, while also offering up some unexpected storage space.

5. An Interesting Textile

Whether it’s a rug, woven wall hanging, or a good old-fashioned tapestry, hang a unique textile above your couch to create a layered look in your living room, just like we saw in Breeze Giannasio’s Washington, D.C. home.

Searching for something a little more functional to fill the space above your sofa? Follow in Zeba Blay’s footsteps and employ a sleek floor lamp to center your couch and create some ambient lighting, like she did in her New Jersey rental.

Forget your boring old art prints and paintings. A handful of decorative objects, like the celestial metal sculptures Amelia Nicholas mounted above the sofa in her New York City apartment, offer a surprising spin on traditional living room art.

No Headboard, No Problem: 7 Other Ideas for Framing a Bed

No Headboard, No Problem: 7 Other Ideas for Framing a Bed

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Headboards can be a boon to a bedroom, creating a focal point and even adding a storage spot for books. But they’ve got downsides: They can be expensive to buy, and the DIY route requires a time commitment.  
For those who are decorating on a budget, or who just want to try something a little off the beaten path, there are alternatives to headboards to help make the space above your bed eye-catching. Here are seven ideas.

Duvet Cover-Turned-Headboard

You read that right: This is actually a duvet cover from H&M Home that has been turned into a beautiful headboard. Amara mounted it onto a piece of vinyl and painted the surrounding walls navy for a high-end look.

Try painting a half circle on your wall in a bright hue to replace a headboard, as seen in Trish Martin’s home

How about hanging a massive piece of art behind your bed in place of a headboard? This idea looks stunning in Tracey Hairston’s home.

Try painting a rectangular headboard, as seen on Mille M2. It’s a great way to define your bed, and doesn’t take up any space at all.

Serving Platters Repurposed 

Check out how El Ramla Hamra repurposed oversized serving platters by mounting them to the wall to serve as a headboard. Unconventional, yes, but also very beautiful.

If you look closely you’ll notice that the bed in this bedroom from Femina actually does have a headboard, but that doesn’t mean this gallery wall, with the painted backdrop behind, wouldn’t work equally well as a defining element for a bed without a headboard.

This bedroom from Planete Deco actually makes use of a door as a headboard. How crafty!

Additional reporting by Carolin Lehmann

Nancy Mitchell


As a Senior Writer at Apartment Therapy, Nancy splits her time among looking at beautiful pictures, writing about design, and photographing stylish apartments in and around NYC. It’s not a bad gig.

Here are 28 Different (Stylish) Ways to Cover Your Windows

Here are 28 Different (Stylish) Ways to Cover Your Windows

You may not think much about what’s covering your windows until the blaring sun wakes you up in the morning. After that, you’ll never forget about them again.

Curtains, roller shades, and more not only help you get more shut-eye, but can also add some flair to any room. For example, faux silk or velvet panels that pool on the floor can come off glam and posh, while a simple bamboo roller shade feels boho or coastal.
Below, 28 ideas to consider when it comes time dress up your windows, whether youbuy your treatments or go the DIY route.

Pro tip: Adding sheers behind your curtains makes any space look more high end. We love the neutral hues of the window coverings in this Barcelona apartment

Try spanning a curtain rod across the length of an entire wall and hanging it higher than your windows. This offers a high-end look and makes your space feel bigger, as seen in this Brooklyn studio apartment

4. Curtains for Multiple Windows

Bay windows like the one here in Bonnie and Per’s San Francisco home can be tricky to outfit with coverings, since it feels like you need so many panels. Just bring in the softness of draperies by flanking the set of windows with a pair of curtains instead.

Wide Roman shades are the ideal solution for covering up your windows when you might be dealing with awkward lengths due to low storage. The owners of this Berkley, California, home went with a light off-white similar to their walls so light could still get through while keeping the room private.

6. Roman Shades for French Doors

Similar to the previous solution, Roman shades can also work for French doors (and smaller windows without much clearance on the sides for rods or drapery hardware). It’s a super clean look (that worked great in this coastal Newport Beach home).

Kitchens can be a bit of a disaster zone at times, with sauces accidentally flying everywhere and rogue grease splatters (oh, is that just me?), so curtains aren’t exactly a recipe for cleanliness and success. Take a cue from the NYC home of Sarah Jacobson, which employed a bamboo Roman shade on the kitchen window instead of drapes.

In a mostly neutral room (with the exception of a killer rug, of course), a splash of deep gem-like emerald on the curtains really draws in any greenery from the outdoors (especially helpful in a Nordic environment like the one this Swedish home is set in).

Make a large window appear even dreamier by pulling back your curtain panels to introduce a bit of a drape (it doesn’t hurt that this home looks out to Valencia, Spain, of course). It softens the whole room.

In some rooms, it’s a crime to block soft, warm light from streaming in just so. In these instances, as in this LA studio, sheer panels keep that sweet, sweet light flowing during all daylight hours.

For a full look, space out panels between windows. Sheers, like the ones in wedding photographer Anna Zajac’s Chicago home, keep things light and wispy.

12. Employ a Track System

Do you have some windows or sliding glass doors that go just about all the way up to the ceiling? Try curtains hung via a track system (affixed to your ceiling as seen in this home) so you’re not dealing with any weird gapes.

Lots and lots of windows need lots and lots of draperies and curtain hardware (if you’re attempting to cover them, that is). A way to keep it all looking tidy (and generally, a more affordable option) is to install Roman shades instead (they save the day again!).

Similar to Romans but generally less expensive and more modern looking, roller shades come in a bunch of different widths (some sites let you customize exactly what you need, in fact — a good option for a homeowner), colors and opacities. Sarah’s shades are pretty sheer, but rest assured there are many, many options out there.

Buying a colorful sofa can be pretty scary (#commitment). A less semi-permanent decision if you like color? Curtains. Pull a hue from the rug in the room (or throw pillows and other decor), and use it as a solid on your windows. It’ll give you the pop you’re looking for without the fear of fatigue (after all, panels are far cheaper to change out than a sectional).

Of course if you’re the fearless decorator, a bold pattern (rather than a solid) is a great way to make a splash. One tip though is to bring in some black and white. The zebra rug in this room might draw a lot of attention because of its motif, but the neutral colors kind of ground all the other elements in the space.

Not to sound like a broken record but…Roman shades (again, sorry!). Here, they work great to block light from coming in through small windows (because of TV glare likely) without having to unnecessarily be tucked between the sofa and the wall as drapes would be.

We already talked about curtains affixed to a track on the ceiling, but a double track will get you that layered look loved by designers. It’s not just lush looking, but also really functional. A sheer layer lets in light but keeps things at least a little more private, while a thicker layer blocks out light entirely.

We’ve heard it said that some people don’t love curtains because they look stuffy and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be that way! We’re not trying to twist your arm or anything, but here’s an idea from a super charming South Caroline home: match the color of your drapes to your wall so they blend in seamlessly. This works particularly well in white and cream rooms.

A similar approach but with a bit more contrast: Curtains like these that are close in color to the wall (particularly in a darker hue) from the sill down keep things grounded, but a lighter shade on the upper part of the panel helps the room to remain open feeling.

Stash this away as a fun DIY to do one weekend: Dip died curtains look fresh, boho-inspired and add an element of the unexpected to a room.

Bamboo roller shades are inexpensive yet add so much texture to a room. They’re also a great way to inject some earthiness to a room with lighter colors and something like a floral wallpaper.

It’s not always ideal to put a key piece of furniture (like this piano) up against a large window, but if you have to do it, a nice way to frame it out is with curtain panels.

The tone-on-tone look isn’t for everybody, but if it’s for you, take inspiration from this blogger’s Michigan dining room. Having curtains with just a bit of a pattern (instead of a solid in the same hue as your walls), helps to bring a little texture to the room.

In a room with ornate ceilings and stunning floors (not to mention the chandelier!), you want to avoid stealing too much attention away with something like draperies (there’s a time and place for that, people). Here, the curtains serve the function of providing privacy more so than adding substantial style to the room.

26. Bamboo Shades + Sheers

Here’s a layered look that works great in a bedroom: layered roller bamboo shade + sheer(ish) panels.

Need to put your bed up against a window but don’t want to deal with dusty blinds? You guessed it…try a Roman shade (ahh the versatility!).

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(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Additional reporting by Carolin Lehmann

Allie M. Harper


Allie M. Harper is a writer living in Philadelphia. She has an unhealthy obsession with antique Persian rugs and anything that even resembles the color mint.