Monday, June 22, 2015

Keeping warm - the curtain edition

There's been a fair bit in the NZ media recently about the warmth (or lack thereof) of our houses. The attention has mainly been focused on houses that are at the lower end of the scale, but we have a terrible track record in general, and plenty of us live in houses that aren't as warm as they should be.

In Wellington, The Sustainability Trust offer free in-home assessments which will help you target the areas you can best improve in your home. I highly recommend these if you're in the Wellington region (I'm not sure if other regions have equivalent programs, please comment if you know of any) but regardless of where you are, one of the easiest, cheapest and most effective things you can change are your curtains.

Windows by their nature are thermally substandard when compared to the other bits of your house. Fortunately, well-fitted, lined curtains can go a long way to solving this. Consumer have a great article that has lots of pointers, but the basic idea is to trap the air around the window in as much as possible, ideally with floor-length curtains fitted as close to the window as possible and with big overlaps at the sides.

Our new house had curtains on most of the windows when we moved in, but none were any good. Most were very thin - the kind you can see in through at night when the lights are on - none were thermal, and all carried many years of dirt and grime in them.

Though cheaper than, say, double glazing, good quality curtains can still be pretty pricey. If, that is, you buy them new. My strategy (because I'm too cheap to pay custom curtain prices and too lazy to make my own) is to scour TradeMe for curtains that will work in our house.

This has two downsides; firstly, the time involved in checking the new listings to see if there is something that might work, and secondly, accepting the offerings available. I don't mind the time because it doesn't take long and has the potential to save us heaps. And because the whole house needs redecorating there aren't really any existing colour schemes to take into consideration, which makes it easier to find something that will work design-wise.

Our new bow window curtains - shown in their old bay window home. 
We got pretty lucky on curtains for our bow window (aside: did you know there's a difference between a bay window and a bow window? We have the latter, though I often refer to it as a bay window to save confusion). Someone had bought a house which had recently been redecorated, and the bold, funky, custom-made curtains for their new bay window weren't to their taste so they sold them - we paid $290, but have been told that curtains of that size and quality could be $1000+ so I think we're winning. And I love them. So definitely winning.

I've bought three other pairs of secondhand curtains so far, all floor length (actually two sets are longer and will need hemming, but that's better than too short!) and fully lined, all less than five years old, and all in great condition. These sets have ranged in price from $40 to $125 - amazing value for what they are!

The only room I still need curtains for is the lounge, which will have three windows when we're finished with it so is a bit tricker. I may end up making those because getting matching secondhand curtains for three windows in the right sizes might be stretching my luck... But I have a while to watch TradeMe before we need those ones so we'll see.

Have you nabbed any secondhand bargains lately?


  1. It's a shame you don't have IKEA there, curtains are dirt cheap and they have thermal or blackout options. I have double glazing so warmth isn't an issue. I have a blackout blind in the bedroom which I'm planning to top with white sheers at some point. Got some cream heavy cotton curtains for the living room as a stop-gap measure when I first moved in, but it turns out I quite like them so they've stayed. They were £40 I think.

    My only eBay purchase so far is an old school desk. I stuck a mirror in the lid and now it's my dressing table. I have a coffee table which was in my flat when I moved in, but I'm looking for another second-hand

    1. It sure is... I wish we had IKEA here! I do quite like the lucky-dip aspect of secondhand but it doesn't work all the time.

      The desk sounds cool!