Creative coverings for difficult spaces

My house is 106 years old. It was built before indoor plumbing, in an architectural era when “storage” was probably considered a frivolous waste of space. Or, more likely, 106 years ago people had less “stuff” to store. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that Craftsman homes are famous for beautiful built-in bookcases and abysmally small (or nonexistent) closets. Our house has two little closets, each measuring approximately 3 x 4 ft, with a doorway measuring 24 in. wide. If you’ve done any remodeling, you’ll know that 29″ is the smallest “standard” door size, so without dropping $$$ on a custom closet door, we had to find an alternative means to hide all of our stuff.

The yellow blob on the closet floor is an exercise ball that our Aussiepoo popped during an enthusiastic game of pounce. It’s waiting for the day I feel inspired to get a bike kit and patch it. This could take years. Note also a bag of kitty litter. The point is that this closet is messy and personal and I don’t want the contents to be public knowledge. Except that I just posted a picture of it on the internet.

Old houses require creative solutions to privacy problems. Take our attic, for example. We remodeled our unfinished attic several years ago to be a man cave/craft cave/guest suite, complete with ensuite half bath. The house was never meant to be two stories, so the ceiling is very low. We found an antique wooden door that we planned to dog-ear to fit our funky non-rectangular bathroom entrance.

I’m so pleased with myself! What a clever solution to our sloping ceilings!

Shortly after that photo was taken, we realized that it was absolutely 100% impossible to install a door in this opening, because it couldn’t open more than 30 degrees without the highest point hitting the sloped ceiling. We discussed every possibility: could we have saloon-style doors that open in the middle, but don’t reach to the ceiling? How about a door that folds down on hinges, and then swings open? We had run up against unforeseen (or naively uncalculated) problems like this before, and we always found creative solutions. What to do with a bathroom that could not possibly have a door?

Voila! French boudoir meets Craftsman.

Yep, curtains. It’s not as private as a door, but only a little less so. We’ve had numerous overnight guests, and none of them have refused to use the guest bathroom for lack of a proper door. The curtains are secured to the trim via cute drawer knobs.


The skylight next to the bathroom door proved a similar logistical problem. While great for airflow, it faces south and lets in a lot of early morning summer light. If you like rising at 4:30 a.m. in July, then this sleeping space is perfect. Most people don’t, so I had to find a way to make a shade for the skylight. I learned that skylight blinds are at least $400 a pop for the most basic and ugly venetian blind, and they head up steeply from there. Skylight coverings are a challenge, because you have to find a way to keep the curtain from dangling straight down (because gravity).

My solution was inelegant, but definitely serves the purpose. I used two lightweight tension rods braced vertically along the window, and sewed a curtain with casings along both sides. A simple tie keeps the shade neatly gathered to let the sun in during the day, but it can easily be pulled down for sleeping. I used the same fabric to create a Roman shade for an oddly squat window in the dormer.

So back to the closet. You obviously know where I’m going with this. I found some fantastic twill fabric on Amazon that picked up the robin’s egg blue on the office walls, the taupe on the accent wall, and my lime green recliner. Instead of a traditional curtain rod, I used a piece of weathered bamboo from my backyard that has been used as a trellis for pole beans for the past few years. The bamboo rod ties in the Japanese kimono on the opposite wall. Black curtain clips made for easy hanging.

You'd never guess there was a deflated exercise ball and a bag of kitty litter in there...

You’d never guess there was a deflated exercise ball and a bag of kitty litter in there…


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