Rental Remedies, Small-Space Solution

Beyond White Paint, Episode 1: Curtained Walls

So here’s the deal. You’re renting your apartment, and it’s got those horribly cold white walls that glare at you.  You asked your landlord if you could paint, and the answer was a resounding “NO!”

Why not? Does he really think that a little paint on their walls will wreck the place?

I guess so – because regardless of whether or not you agree with his logic, you’re living in a white cell until you find a way to jazz up those walls without hitting up the paint aisle at your local hardware store.

Fear not, fellow renter – because I’ve been there, done that. I (sadly) don’t have the pics to prove it, but I’ve got a few tried and true tricks up my sleeve.

And that’s where my new Beyond White Paint series comes in.  Over the next few weeks I’m going to discuss several alternatives to painted walls.

Beyond White Paint, Episode 1:  Curtained Walls

Curtains can be used in so many ways around the house – from dressing up a bedroom to hiding the cat litter.  But they can do so much more than the basics – like covering up the antiseptic-white walls that too many renters get stuck with.  Behold, the curtain wall:

VIA Kara Paslay Designs


Using Curtains to Create an Accent Wall

These walls can be used to create an accent wall anywhere in the home.  Kara of  Kara Paslay Designs installed a pale gray one in her dining room to create a specific ambiance – and it looks gorgeous! If you’d like to try a similar look, she’s got a great tutorial on installing the curtain wall.

This site  also shows curtain walls installed in several different ways, such as it swagging curtains gracefully or using exposed curtain rods for a more urban look.


And check out this before shot of the master bedroom at Welcome to Heardmont.  In the bedroom pictured below, Meredith wanted to create an accent wall behind the bed, but felt that it wouldn’t look right with the off-centered window.

Before Adding Curtain Wall

BEFORE (Via Welcome to Heardmont)

Instead, she installed wall-to-wall curtains to add a dramatic backdrop while bringing symmetry by covering the window.  And look at the incredible transformation!  Isn’t it elegant?

AFTER (Via Welcome to Heardmont)

Using  Curtains to Fix Awkward Spaces or Add Storage

Are you a lucky renter who has a strange nook or hallway that could use some zing?  Cloak your entryway, hallway, or any other space you previously thought you couldn’t fix. This treatment will add warmth and soften corners if need be.

Additionally, this can really hit the spot when it comes to creating beautifully hidden storage.  This elegantly curtained wall, which I discovered at one of the newest and best restaurants in DC – The Atlas Room – displays the power of fabric.

The Atlas Room

The restaurant resides in a skinny and deep building typical of downtown businesses.  Storage space was lacking, yet storage isn’t want pays the bills – seats are.  To create easy storage that didn’t sacrifice table space, a curtain wall was installed along one entire side of the restaurant.

The Atlas Room Washington DC

Behind the wall is a surprisingly large amount of storage -a perfect use for the awkward space below the staircase to the second floor.  But the best secret of all has got to be the hidden office, which is accessed via a door hidden behind the curtains.

The curtains also hide the point-of-sale computer, where customer orders are entered.  The staff can easily access it by pulling the curtains aside, and the manager can also access the computer from the office, as the machine is installed on a swinging door.  Genius!!

Bonus Idea:  Creating a “Wall” With Curtains

Finally, curtains can be used to create the illusion of different rooms in one space.  The photo below is a great example of how a studio apartment can be given a “bedroom” simply with the installation of strategically placed curtains:

VIA pinterest. origin unknown.

So there you have it – a roundup of one of my favorite ways to beautify a space.  Ryan and I actually have plans to create a curtain wall in our basement TV room – but we’re just now sketching it out and don’t have photos to share yet.

Have you ever used curtains to dress up your space or solve an awkward design dilemma?  If so, I’d love to see photos!  Email me at

I would like to thank my virtual assistant, Julia, who contributed to this article.  

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  • Reply Christina Leaman at 6:33 pm

    I’m going to love this series because I’m stuck with white walls until we move. Hate it. I did add some color to an inset with some fabric and foamcore though and shared it on my blog. It was worth it. Definitely brightened up the space. 🙂 Can’t wait to see what else you share.

    Christina @ The Scrappy Housewife

  • Reply Leigh at 8:03 pm

    What a great idea.  I love this series.  I could have used 3 years ago! 

  • Reply Jenn @ Peas and Crayons at 1:09 am

    ahhh get out of my head! actually… stay there a while. I’ve been talking to paul about a wall of curtains in the bedroom for WEEKS now! I’m so excited to possibly convince him to say yes. Right now he can’t envision it so he’s skeptical. lol

  • Reply Ryan at 1:10 am

    Readers beware! Curtains can also bring about some very real problems as well.

    For example:
    Ghosts can use them as camouflage.

    This has been a public safety announcement brought to you by Ryan.

  • Reply Jen on the Edge at 1:11 pm

    Helpful post. Love the ideas.

    As a landlord, I’d like to chime in with a differing viewpoint on the beginning premise of this post. I have a house that I’ve been renting out for a few years. The walls are neutral colors. None of our tenants have asked to paint, but if they did, I’d be hesitant to consent because 1) we spent a lot of time and money making that house look nice and 2) I’d be concerned about what kind of paint job the tenants would do. That said, I’d be willing to consider it, but it would involve an addendum to the lease that would cover all of my concerns and ensure that if the paint was sloppy, the tenants would have to pay for a professional to come in when they move out and fix the problems.

    • Reply Jane @ The Borrowed Abode at 1:48 pm

      Hey Jen!

      Thanks for chiming in with the other point of view 🙂

      I thought I should clarify a bit. When i wrote the opening, I was primarily thinking of those places with the awful white walls that are grungy or stained or get slapped with a new, poorly applied coat of paint every time a new tenant moves in. Primarily apartments run by companies that just want to make a buck and don’t really take good care of the apartments…which inevitably seem to all prohibit painting – when they’re the spaces that need it most!

      On the other hand, if the landlords (like you) have put on a nice coat of paint, and even better, it’s not bright jail-cell white, then I would ABSOLUTELY understand and respect your wishes to not have tenants paint over it. Especially because, like you said, they may do a sloppy job. Smart move on your part to go with a nice neutral. Your tenants are lucky!

  • Reply Ashley @ Design Build Love at 11:39 pm

    curtain walls = LOVE!  Love the use of curtain walls as room dividers!

  • Reply Samantha at 11:41 pm

    Definitely going to love this new series… but for me, it’ll be Beyond Fleshy-Pink Paint!

    I actually have plans for our bedroom to create a wall of curtains behind our bed. The main reason behind it is because the windows are old and I don’t want the dirt and dust falling on our faces while we sleep, so instead it can just dirty up the back of the curtains! I’m looking forward to more of this series Jane!

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  • Reply Chris Newald at 4:36 pm

    Curtain walls are great and always fill me with an
    unexplainable urge to look behind them. You see them in restaurants and other
    public places but I never thought to use one in an apartment – what a great
    idea. The few times I managed to sneak a peek behind a curtain I was disappointed
    to find a wall – go figure! One day I’m sure I’ll something amazing…

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