A little bit tiki, a little bit rock ‘n roll: John asks for basement window treatment ideas

John’s basement is a little bit tiki, a little bit rock ‘n roll — it’s pretty fabulous, actually. Now, John needs to finish the room — with some cheap, cheerful, effective and aesthetically pleasing window treatments for his small basement windows. I bet the design of these windows looks familiar to a lot of people; classique. So –what do you think that John should do for window treatments? Read on for his complete question and more pics, and then, let’s hear your ideas. John writes:

hi pam,

a few friends and i have been facebook fans of yours for a while now, using it for inspiration. i have a 1968 ranch in a suburb of boston. we’re putting the finishing touches on the two windows.

they’re nearly side by side and measure 32″x16″.

we were hoping to find this kind of shutter (above), but haven’t had any luck finding them in the right size. we are completely open to a different way to go. we’d like them open by day and closed by night. we can’t justify spending the $ on custom built for the basement. any ideas for a manufacturer or a different solution?

thanks, john
Terrific room, John. I’m ready to come over for a few Suffering Bastards and end up dancing on the coffee table when Love Shack comes on the eight track. But, yes, you need to get window treatments first, so’s we can keep out the paparazzi.

Readers, what are your window treatments ideas for  
 John’s Tiki Rock n’ Roll basement windows?

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  1. George K. says

    Years ago I remember folks like my grandparents (owners of a 1960 ranch house) and their neighbors having short curtains on rods on their basement windows. I noticed you have finished basement walls so you could easily attach the rod hardware. Open by day, closed by night. Check out vintage stores and ask if they have them, or pick out a new material that looks retro with a Hawaiian/polynesian vibe and have then custom made (neighborhood tailor, friend that sews, etc.). Another option would be wood slatted shades. Again, check out vintage stores. I’ve also noticed recently that the big box hardware stores do have wood slatted shades. I don’t know if they cut to fit for smaller windows, Another option: as was mentioned in a previous article, observe what’s on windows (basement, in your case) at estate sales. If not marked, offer a price. Good luck!

  2. Kae says

    I agree about the short curtains on a rod. My parents still have theirs hanging on the windows in their ’70s time capsule basement. Homemade of course.

  3. says

    I also vote for short pinch pleat or cafe curtain/drapery panels in vintage (or reproduction) tiki look bark cloth fabric. You wont need much yardage with those small windows and may even find some that are the right size in a thrift store, Ebay or Etsy. If you cannot drill into the basement walls to hang rods you could use tension rods which are very inexpensive. I love the wall treatment!

  4. Lynne says

    John, I would put up matchstick roller blinds. Pull the string and roll them up to where you want them by day, and roll ’em down at night. Very in keeping with the Tiki look.

    I also must say how much I like your wallpaper! Is it wide grasscloth??

  5. Else says

    Yes, I agree with the pinch pleat type, that is the most accurate retro look. You need to find the fabric first, I may be able to help you with that. I have a local place near me but you can also access them online, here is the “Tiki” specific choices, but they have some great Mid-century patterns. If you need assistance with anything else you can ask me. https://www.facebook.com/else.ayala
    I’m a lifelong seamstress, and if I don’t know it, my circle of friends does.

  6. bux1234567 says

    I’ve got similar windows in my 1955 ranch, and I agree with you: finding a treatment that fits the window is a challenge. What do you think about using pinch-pleat drapes from floor to ceiling, foregoing altogether the trial of finding an exact-fitting solution? In addition to going floor to ceiling, you could apply the drapes along the entire window wall, from inside corner to inside corner. A full wall of drapes would not only look mid-century, but would visually and perhaps literally warm the basement, also suggesting that the room has larger windows than it really has, and that the room is not below grade. Further, a full wall of drapes absorbs sound a bit, which may be advantageous given the apparent musical activities that go on in the room. Last, a full wall of drapes would provide a neutral, frameless, textured backdrop for your entertainment setup, making the setup the single focal point of the wall, free from competition from the windows. Given your baseboard heating, you may have to hang the drapes right to the ceiling (a good thing), but I imagine that standard-height 84-inch drapes would still fit quite well, even with the base heating. 84-inch antique satin pinch-pleats from Penny’s are easy to get, come in mid-century colors, and are affordable. Anyway, this is what I did in my TV room, and along with low lighting, the room has a cozy movie-theater quality. One guest calls it my womb room. Good luck.

  7. says

    While they don’t offer a ton of privacy, you could use some matchstick blinds inside the window and use bamboo for rods to hang cafe curtains from, or create a bamboo valance on the wall & combine with repro or original polynesian print fabric.

    I’ve found this pattern at our local Joann’s. Using a coupon it becomes super cheap! http://www.decorativefabricsdirect.com/Tommy_Bahama_TBO_WAVE_RUNNER_SPICE_800581_Fabric_p/604212.htm

    I’ve also had great experience purchasing from Barkcloth Hawaii

  8. Jennie says

    I would check out some estate sales (although I *am* partial to estate sales) for some vintage fabrics, which I find all the time. Sometimes I see them still hanging up but as I don’t have a use for them, I don’t purchase. Well, that and I don’t actually sew…

  9. Miss Wynonna says

    My Grandparents had their basement finished off in 1957, Yes, Knotty Blonde Pine, Full wet bar in the corner, funky pea green and light mocha floor tile in an odd pattern. The company finished off the windows on the inside by building simple secondary wooden frames that were hinged to allow them to open, and they were set with bathroom privacy glass to allow maximum light in during the day, yet allowed privacy at night.
    It was not until the 1970’s that my Grandmother decided to add curtains. when she did she used the thin rods on the tops and bottoms of the inside frames and made the curtains with the pockets on the tops and bottoms, like you would do on a french door.
    You could easily build the same kind of window frame today, and use the con-tact brand privacy window coverings to copy the look of the old bathroom window glass.

  10. Nancy says

    The room needs some more color and pattern. I like the idea of the cafe curtains in a retro bark cloth. Also try fullswingtextiles.com. Their fabric is expensive, but you don’t need a lot.

  11. Nancy Stevenson says

    I like all the suggestions, for practicality, design, and authenticity. The only thing I might suggest, is a pop of color on the windows. I too love the textured walls, but there is a lot of neutrality here, and could be dark with window covers. A pop of orangey-red, or a bright golden color maybe? Even something in a hawaiian print, bright , would be fun! I remember some palms, and large flowers on some of my aunties windows! :o)

  12. says

    How about reclaiming some shutters? There are reclamation shops all over the Chicago area, and I’m positive that you’ll be able to find similar in the Boston area. Check under “restoration” “reclaimed” “demo”…you get it! There’s almost nothing that you can’t find there.

  13. Cindy says

    I’d go with matchstick roll up blinds, which are fairly inexpensive. But instead of natural, I’d spray paint them for a pop of color in the room. Go with something tropical like palm green, ocean blue or hibiscus red. Follow up with some throw pillows in the same color and you have a nice little tropical escape in the basement.

  14. TappanTrailerTami says

    Hi John,

    Great basement room, love the texture on the walls!….So, I’m with everyone here. I like the matchstick blind idea (cheap), I also like the barkcloth idea.

    I found these on eBay – they would fit your windows perfectly AND they are only $35 a pair! They aren’t pinch pleated, but since the seller made these, maybe you could contact them about making the same thing with pinch pleats.

    Rock N Roll!


  15. TappanTrailerTami says

    Oops – I guess you’d have to verify if each panel is 27″ wide, or if the 27″ wide is per pair. No matter, I think you could have the seller create the size you need for a reasonable price –

    They also have this material in burgandy and also an aqua blue!



  16. says

    I was slightly weirded out seeing the first pic, because your basement looks just like one of our neighbours…. crazy. My two cents are: if you want the windows to blend in – matchstick blinds – their horizontal texture should work well with your grasscloth.

    However, it seems like there is a lot of brown and grey (greige) going on in there, so if you want a statement on the windows, then I’d go with thin barkcloth drapes (minimizing the stackback) on a tension rod, or one of those ceiling mounted systems, mounted inside of the window box, so you can keep the drapes inside the window frame for a nice clean look, and maybe a set of those curtain hook thingies on the sides so you can get the curtains as out of the way as possible during the day.

  17. Annie B. says

    Short pinch pleats in tropical barkcloth on traverse rods.

    Great to see you’ve got the uke to go with the decor. Do you play it?

  18. says

    I go with Lisa’s idea! Lindmon venetian blind from Ikea.
    I wanted shutters in my bathroom, but the tap makes it impossible to open them, so I bought similar wooden blinds, looks great!

    Still, are you planning to stay in the brown colorschemes?
    I’d say get some yellow curtains with leaves- or fruitprint.
    Just to add some juicy joy.

  19. Larry says

    Well, if it were my basement, I would make my own custom fit shutters. Basically a miniaturized version of a room divider but with only two little folding hinged panels for each side of the window. Nothing fancy. Not louvered. What I would use is maybe some 1×1 or 1×2 or 2×2 for the basic outside frame and then see if i could find some of that really great textured acrylic sheets like the one’s used in drop ceilings over light fixtures. I probably wouldn’t use those basic cracked ice looking ones but I think they make some really cool looking acrylic sheets like with grass, capiz shells, stuff like that embedded in. Or if you’re handy with a jig saw you could cut out a really cool pattern of circles or whatever in some very thin plywood and sandwich some rice paper in between and use that for the filler of the basic frame. The possibilities could be endless. And even better if you could make it all out of recycled, or old found stuff.

  20. Larry says

    Another thought if you don’t want to build the basic frame from scratch, you can get frame kits for picture frames. They come in all sizes so you could get all the pieces to make 4 8×16 frames, hinge a couple together for each side and then fill the frame with whatever you want: fabric, decorative paper, photos, etc, etc.

  21. Ima Pam says

    Bux….We have the typical original short pleated curtains on thin rods in our ’63. As we are redoing, the basement, I have thought about going with full length ones for the reasons you suggested-illusion of larger, above ground window, sound baffle, warming-and to visually normalize the room dimensions. Our windows are on the short wall of a very long narrow room. Anyhow, good to know someone else has done long curtains on short windows and is please with the result!

    • bux1234567 says

      Ima Pam,

      Cool, I’d love to see pics of how your basement with full-length pinch pleats turned out. I’d send pics of mine if you’re interested.

  22. Loralei says

    I have roman shades in the basement of my 1962 ranch. They are, oddly enough, striped horizontally rather than vertically, in gold and maroon-y colors. I can’t take a picture right now because, shhhhh, I’m at work. They came with the house so I’m thinking they’re close to original? They look old to me, ’cause they are really well made and perfect for the windows. The other windows in the basement have wooden shutters with lace curtains inset in them, which HAVE to be original.

    I’m pretty sure that roman shades would be cheaper than pinch pleat drapes. Don’t get me wrong – I love those floor to ceiling drapes and they would look super in John’s basement. But I priced them for my living room and OUCH!

    But anybody who loves tiki gods will surely make a great decision regardless!

  23. Lynn-O-Matic says

    That message was supposed to be in response to Sputnik Housewares re: Dawn Frasier. Don’t know why it didn’t nest like it normally does.

  24. Lynn-O-Matic says

    I’d consider matchstick bamboo blinds or wooden venetian blinds with barkcloth curtains layered over. That’s a pretty classic tropical/tiki look. The matchsticks let in a lot of light, almost like sheers, and blinds can be adjusted to direct the light in different directions, so they give you lots of options. Whatever you do, I assume you’re also going to include the door in the new window coverings?

  25. MEW says

    You really can’t go halfway with tiki. My vote is to get some hawaiian fabric and make short, cheap curtains like a lot of us remember our moms making for our basements.

  26. Chase says

    Hang a grass skirt across the window and accent it with a barkcloth valence; you can use curtain hold-backs to keep the grass skirt open during the day. Haha, I’m just kidding. I do like the idea of incorporating some fun, bright barkcloth though. The bamboo shades aren’t a bad idea either, but may blend with the wall a little too much.

  27. says

    I’d add some color with a cool Hawaiian print of, like, guys surfing while playing guitars, stretched over 2 frames slightly larger than the window. Then you can mount them on “flagpoles” made from one of those old floor-to-ceiling shelving units–the poles with the springs inside. (Ditch the dented metal shelves and just use the poles.) Flip the frame one way–it’s a window covering, flip it the other way, it’s a picture on the wall.

    You could even use 2 different fabrics, one on each side of the frame for a day/night theme…..

  28. tiki room john says

    aloha all, you guys are great. what a creative bunch. thanks so much for all the suggestions, it’s gonna take us a little to process it all. i like all your ideas, it’s just gonna take figuring out what’ll work best for us. barkcloth is high on the list though. that one with the ukes on it looks awesome. i’ll keep you posted.

  29. Randy Gaston says

    Ikea sells several flat panel curtain systems that I think would work well in your situation. Basically they are flat panel curtains that can be slid back over the wall. If you cover them with the same wallpaper you used on that wall, they will be practically invisible open or closed.

  30. Erik the Red says

    Hi John,
    Great looking space! I agree with Sputnik’s plug for Dawn Frasier’s retro fabric designs. I think that colors that “pop” would be better suited towards pillows and art, not the window treatments.
    I have a couple suggests since your space has so little tiki.
    How about make the treatments look like Marshall speakers covers. Of course you should get the Marshall mini fridge to match. The covers could be hinged so they can attach to the ceiling when open.
    Or, framed art, also hinged. Depending on style of art, you could back light it for a nice night time look. Imagine faux fish tanks. Notice that the “pop” could work because of the suggestion of art.

  31. Nell says

    I love bux’s idea of full length drapes. I would do that, no question, if it didn’t obscure the only wall with that fabulous wallcovering!

    Alternatively, something clean and tailored would benefit, as the room is already busy. I love the idea of matchstick blinds and spray-painting them a zingy color. If you aren’t serious about privacy, this is a great, cheap solution.

    Another tailored idea is roller shades with the fabric of your choice laminated onto them. This is an inexpensive DIY project. It will also give full privacy.

    Another full-privacy solution: Two hinged frames that open and close on either side of each window, but set inside the windows, on the same plane as the wall. I’d cover these frames in barkcloth on both sides so that there’s no “wrong” side when they are open. I’d choose hinges which allow the shutters to open all the way, so that they rest against the wall when open. Tailoring with these details in mind would allow you to go crazy with the fabrics, while not increasing the clutter factor.

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