Annals of Good/Bad Design: DIY Burlap Panel Shades (with Fixes)

Remodelista recently posted a compelling DIY by San Francisco blogger Caitlin Long of The Shingled House. It’s an example of a charming idea that has, in our eyes, something of a “fail” built-in, or at the very list, an interesting design problem.

Long devised chic, clean-lined panels of burlap to act as shades for her windows. The panels afford privacy, but are sheer enough to let a sense of the outside come through. Great so far.

The unworkable part for us: The shades “open” only minimally: a brass ring attached to the bottom hooks to a cleat screwed into the wall, allowing for only a peak of the outside. Which is fine IF you are trying to hide the outside view.

Caitlin Long

And therein lies the vexing problem that remains to be solved: How to make the curtains open more to the outside?  If you place a cleat higher up, you would either have to stand on the counter to hook the curtain to it OR devise some sort of rod with a hook at the end that you could use to move the curtain ring to the position you want. And you would STILL never have a completely open view.

Caitlin Long

We can think of three solutions right off the bat:

One would be to make the shades out of a sheer white fabric —linen most likely — that would let more light through. Then we’d fool around with the cleats and rings placements to see how we might drape and pin the fabric to let more of the view in.

Another would be to afix a ring on one side of the shade far enough down so it could be made to be pulled across to a hook on the opposite side of the window. (As the ring would be to high to reach easily, we’d devise a rod with a hook on the end that would allow us to do this).

We could also imagining a way to fashion a sort of primitive top-down-bottom-up shade. We’d afix the curtain to each side of the window exactly halfway up (it might require adding a supporting horizontal rod, similar to the ones at the top and bottom). We’d sew an additional ring onto the very top of the shade, leaving the one at the very bottom. Then we’d install a hook at the top of the window, so the top of the shade hangs from it. We’d use our rod with a hook on the end to unhook the top of the shade so it folds in half. That would let view in through the top half of the window, and preserve privacy on the bottom. OR we could reverse it, hooking the bottom half of the shade UP to catch the top hook, leaving the full bottom half of the window unobstructed.

What are your thoughts?

14 Responses to Annals of Good/Bad Design: DIY Burlap Panel Shades (with Fixes)

  1. kimithy 05.11.2015 at 4:14pm #

    I LOVE the idea of a dual-use curtain panel that can be folded in half upwards or downwards depending on your light/privacy needs of the moment. It’s a really great solution to wanting that clean / curtain-rodless look while keeping the flexibility of blinds or typical curtains. I’m too attached to the sight/sound of my white sheets-turned-curtains blowing in the breeze to give them up, but if I had to, this would be my next option for sure!

  2. johanna 05.11.2015 at 6:05pm #

    IMO, love the burlap/heavy linen/flax idea for a shade, but the fold over tie back doesn’t work either aesthetically, or functionally for me.

    My fix would be to sew small diameter flax colored or brass rings down both of the vertical/side hems on the window side, about 6 inches apart or so.
    And then attach flax cords at the hem bottom on both sides (window sides) and run the cords up through the rings to tiny pulleys at the top, and over to the side, making it a roman blind of sorts.
    That way i can pull to open fully for a full view, part way for some view, and shut for light filtering/no view.

    I think the Linen/burlap would look very nice as it folds in the drawn up position as well.

  3. Ev 05.11.2015 at 8:06pm #

    Magnets sewn into the hems on the bottom and the sides. You can place as many as you want up the sides to allow for various “lifts.”

  4. Ev 05.11.2015 at 8:08pm #

    …or a metal stretcher on the bottom (for rigidity) and magnets up the sides. Same effect, but neater.

  5. Veronika 05.12.2015 at 6:24am #

    I would sow elastic on both sides (vertical) and cleat on the bottom. It is hooked when down and springs up when unhooked. Then you can play with strength of elastic on how high it will spring when unhooked, if it goes too high, add a little string (like with old fashioned bankers lamps) to bring shade down and hook again …

  6. Julie Houston 05.12.2015 at 8:10am #

    I’m noticing that the burlap curtains are used in a bathroom, with a very high end bathtub up against the windows. The slight raise of the two panels (with brass ring holding them up) is probably intentional, affording privacy while giving the bather a slight view of the outdoors, where there appears to be another building opposite. So it matters what room in the home the curtains are meant for.

    For other rooms, I would leave the bottom of the curtains hanging free — it looks like there’s a slat to keep it rigid — and to get a view outside, would rig up a loose tie-back.

  7. Mary C Kelly 05.12.2015 at 10:52am #

    What about making Roman Blinds – if they were unlined they should work (depending on the width) – then they would fold up to the top of the window.

  8. Sally 05.12.2015 at 11:33am #

    I think she said she put the curtains elsewhere in the house…

  9. Sally 05.12.2015 at 11:35am #

    Good idea. I’m wondering if there would be a problem with the fabric bunching in the middle… There are probably a number of variables that couldn’t be found until you try…

  10. Sally 05.12.2015 at 11:38am #

    I’m a big fan of magnets and love this idea. The problem remains though, how to move the curtain when it’s out of reach…???

  11. Sally 05.12.2015 at 1:41pm #

    The great thing about the how-to, is that it shows you how to make a basic shade. It is not far to turning it into a Roman shade or applying any of the ideas our clever readers have come up with.

  12. caitlin 05.17.2015 at 2:44pm #

    What a nice surprise to have my burlap shades featured here; great to get some reader feedback. One thing that I would like to clarify that got lost in the Remodelista feature is that this bathroom is a COMPLETE FISHBOWL. It faces south and gets blasted with sun all day long and there is a row of houses that sit on the hill directly behind (I live in San Francisco). It is for that reason that I used this type of shade (stationary but semi-transparent) so that the blue of the sky shows through but my neighbors can’t see me sitting on the loo!. If these were not the conditions, I would completely want the shade to be able to be pulled up higher or drawn to the side and I think a bottom up application would work well and that the mechanism for doing this need be casual and unfussy to go along with the vibe of the burlap, perhaps even just a second set of cleats. Again thanks for the mention. -Caitlin

  13. Sally 05.18.2015 at 5:38pm #

    Caitlin, thank you so much for sharing the thinking behind your wonderful curtains. It makes perfect sense. The design was so good, we wanted to be able to apply it to situations where you’d want to let in the view. Some readers have thought of pretty great “next steps” for your pattern, including magnets. We’ve been following The Shingled House since we saw your idea..

  14. Katrin 03.09.2016 at 1:16pm #

    Many years ago when needing an inexpensive window treatment, I used mini “spring rods” (small metal bars that hold in place using pressure, like a mini shower curtain rod) and a linen fabric. I used the bars on the top and bottom of the window, allowing me to change the position and length of my window treatment according to what was needed. Depending on how wide the fabric was, it had different looks. It worked really well!

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