It’s curtains

The kids are out of town at my mother’s for the week. J and I have cunning plans to Get Things Done while the kids are away and we don’t have to teach school or run them to all their classes. This is a fine, fine plan.

We have needed new curtains for … a while. A quick internet search reveals that the curtains over the front picture window were probably installed around 1988. They have holes. They are filthy. They are covered in aggressively adhesive cobwebs. They have permanent stains from where my now-deceased hound drooled on them for ten years.

We need new curtains.

Over the last few weeks, J and N have done some preliminary curtain shopping. To our initial surprise, no-one in creation makes the sorts of curtains that go on the hook-and-pulley-track system anymore. (I remember, distinctly, when those curtains were THE HEIGHT OF LUXURY, and all the families in the subdivision had them, and we moved into a parsonage that had them and I was like NOW WE HAVE ARRIVED.) Apparently pulley-track curtains are a relic of the distant past, like having sixteen feet of lace at the bottom of your curtain that drapes on the floor for the maid to launder, demonstrating to everyone that you can afford both lace and maids.

At any rate. We needed a new curtain rod.

For reasons I shan’t go into at this juncture, J had in her possession a gift certificate for Restoration Hardware. Restoration Hardware is a lifestyle store. If you furnish your home with their things, they assure you, you will own a well-behaved Weimaraner, your tortoiseshell cat will not shed, your sweaters will be appropriate for all weather, and your lover will give you charming, quirky gifts from the little shop you both saw in Provence six years ago. This … this is not the life I have.

But we had a gift certificate. Which could not be cashed out. The money had to be spent there, on something. So we got a glorious brass-finished curtain rod.

At this point I should mention that the window is 122 inches wide. (3.1 meters, for the sensible rest of the world.) Apparently, since pulley-track curtain rods have gone the way of all flesh, such windows are Simply No Longer Done. (Okay, that doesn’t actually make sense, since the house, and presumably the WINDOW, was built in 1916. I do not know why curtain rods have shrunk in a hundred years.)

Not to worry, the Style Consultant at Restoration Hardware assures us. (The Style Consultants walked around the store in casual clothes that cost more new than everything I was wearing, including winter coat and boots. I cannot imagine that the clerks at RH make enough money to actually buy the things they need to support the fiction that they can afford the lifestyle they are selling. I hope they get their clothes on deep discount, or secondhand.) We understand that fabulous old home sometimes have inconvenient windows. You simply buy two curtain rods and thread them together with the connector provided. Simple!

We bought the two curtain rods. Now we needed curtains.

The distance from the only place we can mount the curtain rod to the floor is about 74 inches. A little over two meters, for the sensible rest of the world. Ready-made curtains are sold in two lengths: 63″ and 84″.

J and I briefly discussed the possibility of custom curtains. When we finished laughing we wiped our eyes and decided on the lesser of two evils. We would get curtains that brushed the floor — we could always, if we got SUPER-AMBITIOUS, hem the curtains — rather than curtains that did not cover the window. After further discussion, we decided on some perfectly decent beige panels from Target. They wouldn’t clash with anything and were an amount of money we could both stomach spending on home decor.

The curtain rods arrived in the mail. The curtains were acquired. The children were away. It was time to hang the curtains.

I would like to pause here for a brief poll. Have any of you, in the history of ever, embarked on a home repair or improvement project with all the tools and parts you need at hand, a plan in mind, and subsequently executed that plan in order with no stalls, hitches, or do-overs? Ever? Has anyone EVER done this?

You see my point.

We took down the old curtain rod, whose fasteners had been painted over and whose screw-heads stripped out as soon as they spotted a screwdriver. Not to worry. We found the vise grips and got everything out of the wall.

We read the installation instructions for the new curtain rod. It called for drilling 1/4-inch holes in the wall. This seemed … excessive. (It was clear that the instructions presumed one was using the drywall anchors, which we were not.) On the grounds that you can always make holes bigger, we used a smaller bit. The hole was still too big. Not to worry. We have wood putty, which mends a HOST of ills. We found the correct drill bit and proceeded.

The cord on the drill did not reach. Not to worry! We have a properly-rated extension cord.

We assembled the rod. It … it had a connecting screw for the join in the middle. However, one of the two rods had a threaded join for the screw, and the other did not. … Well, we fitted it together as best we could, and proceeded.

The rod was mounted! The curtains were hung! The rod fell apart at the middle join if one so much as glanced harshly at it!

We searched the packaging. Nothing. We read the instructions. They all read, “the two rods can be connected with the screw.” This was less than helpful.

Not to worry! We lit on the happy thought that we had purchased said curtain rod from a poncy store of the sort than is committed to relationships between Style Consultants and customers. We called Restoration Hardware.

A conversation ensued, in which one party was trying to describe different holes in a tube, and the other party was looking at pictures of the tube on the internet and trying to figure out what the first party meant. To wit, curtain rod tech support proved about as helpful as internet tech support, with a strong implication of “that can’t be right, what are you talking about.”

After much, much conversation, J and I decided to remove the curtain rod from the wall and drive it across town to the store, where all parties could look at the same object at the same time. As which point J and I did something we had not done yet, but in hindsight really ought to have.

At J’s suggesting, I whacked on the offending curtain rod with a screwdriver.

The missing third of the rod, with the necessary threaded end, fell out.

We blinked.

We gingerly approached the rest of the curtain rod, sensing that this might be a trick.

It was not a trick.

We assembled the curtain rod. We hung the curtains.

Three hours after beginning the project, and six weeks after beginning the quest for new curtains, new curtains are to be had.

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2 Responses

  1. Oh, that sounds familiar. Our new house came with fancy curtain rods and modern curtains. Earlier this fall I moved the curtain rods from my office to the bedroom. The previous owners had the larger room with the double curtain rod as their bedroom. The smaller room is much bigger than our previous bedroom. This side of the house has a lovely view of the back yard and our neighbor’s living room windows. We wanted both sheers and light-blocking curtains in the bedroom. The goal was to swap the curtain rods.

    I had just done a bunch of sheetrock repair in the basement, so I had a fresh tub of drywall patching compound. Of course the two sets of curtain rods had different sized brackets. I took down the double set from my office and patched the holes. I didn’t have to patch the holes in the bedroom because those were smaller and mostly in the right places. I am very proud of myself for actually getting out the paint and painting the patched area the next day. That’s important because I still have not put up the curtain rod in my office. It has miniblinds.

    The bedroom does not have blinds, so the curtains needed to go up in one day. I managed to do this with only a minimum of re-drilling holes. Luckily the curtains cover all the flaws. I’m very happy with how it came out. I need to take the time to put up the other rod and curtains in my office before we have houseguests for WisCon.

  2. @Lynn Houseguests are a WONDERFUL incentive to finish repairs ….

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