Work Around Odd Windows, Nonfunctional Fireplaces and More

By: Emilie Sennebogen

With odd-shaped windows and brick walls, it would be hard to know where to start. But it can be done.
With odd-shaped windows and brick walls, it would be hard to know where to start. But it can be done.

Finding your dream home is pretty tough, even if you have relaxed standards for what that dream consists of. When home shopping, most people compile a few lists: wishes, would be nice if and must-haves. Maybe you refuse to close a deal on anything without a garage. Perhaps a nice outdoor living space is your top priority. We all have things that we won't bend on, and you should stick to your guns on those features.

But when buying a house, you may find that getting that dream backyard or sunroom comes with a caveat - you'll have to also take an odd window, a closet that seems out of place or a fireplace that doesn't do much more than sit there, cold and empty. Some homes just have weird features that you have to try to work around. You'll find that keeping an open mind and searching for your inner creative genius is the best way to tackle these issues.


Sometimes these features are a result of poor craftsmanship or architectural design. Other times, they're supposed to be that way, a flourish of a designer's whimsy that you don't quite get. Especially in the world of cookie-cutter houses, occasionally a builder wants to add a unique element that sets the house apart. Either way, it's now something you need to deal with in order to land your otherwise dream home. In trying to make your house a reflection of you, it can be stressful to deal with an element that you've never had experience with before. By accentuating uncommon features of a room, you have the opportunity to create a focal point that will make your guests ooh and aah.



How to Decorate Oddly Shaped Windows

Bay windows, arched windows and hexagonal windows are unique details that are often appealing to new homebuyers. That is, until it comes to figuring out how to decorate them. Regardless of the shape, owners still need to be able to control light and keep things private, but standard window coverings don't usually come in unusual shapes, so rarely is there a pre-fab solution. Don't worry, though, there are many creative solutions that will do your window and your decorating scheme justice.

Curtains and draperies are the easiest fix for most windows because they're the simplest to customize. Tall and narrow windows are at least shaped like a typical window, but their different dimensions are often amplified by a set of regular curtains. The key to making it work is to hang the curtains wider than you would a normal-sized window. This will create the illusion that the window is wider than it really is. Patterns can also help change how a window's shape is viewed. For example, overly wide windows benefit from a long vertical line that helps draw your attention away from the width.


Stuck on what to do with an arched window? You can spend a bunch of money on custom fixes or just hang the curtain rod across the square part of the window, leaving the arch exposed. The arched part is probably the most interesting feature of the window, and it's usually high enough to keep people from looking in. Keeping the arch open will also ensure a regular stream of natural light. You can pair an arched valance with the drapery fabric to complete the look.

If you'd like all of your window treatments to match, blinds are a great option. Most blind companies offer all sorts of custom sizes and shapes, and they can be tied together with existing blinds by using the same size, material and color. Plantation shutters are a great architectural choice that come in all shapes and sizes and can be custom built to fit your oddly shaped window like a glove. But keep in mind, the more custom the blinds, and the more windows you have, the price will get increasingly more expensive.

Window clings are an inexpensive option for decorating oddly shaped windows. These adhesive mats come in all kinds of patterns and colors -- some even are designed to mimic stained glass windows. They adhere to your window and block the view while still allowing light in. The best part is, you can cut them yourself to fit any oddly-shaped windows, and if you ever decide you want to switch it up, they're usually easy to remove.


How to Decorate a Non-Working Fireplace

The black hole of a broken fireplace can suck the energy right out of a room.
The black hole of a broken fireplace can suck the energy right out of a room.

Fireplaces add so much character to a room. Even if they aren't working units, their sheer presence exudes warmth and evokes sentimental memories spent in front of a roaring fire. Maybe your fireplace actually works but it isn't used for majority of the year. If so, you can turn it into a focal point with some decorative touches that don't require keeping a fire extinguisher nearby.

Fireplace openings make great places to stage your accessories. A group of vases or pottery in varying sizes makes a great visual statement, especially if complemented by the items on your mantle. If you're an avid antiques collector, display some of your favorite pieces in your fireplace. Throw in an assortment of pillar candles to add a little glow and scent coming from your hearth. If you're a literature lover who's short on bookshelf space, create stacks of your favorite hardcovers to add some color to your fireplace area.


Plants and flowers bring in a natural element that's always visually appealing. You can make a bold statement with a single large, leafy green plant, like a fern or a peace lily. Or you can create a vignette of smaller plants in baskets and fresh flowers in vases that can be changed up to fit the seasons. Add branches and baskets of pinecones for a little fall drama. Fireplaces also make great storage for firewood out of season, and the added plus is that piles of raw wood create an interesting visual. Wrap some Christmas lights around the logs for a little fire-like sparkle.

If you're like many home dwellers these days, your flat screen television may have made its place hung over your mantle. So the interior of the fireplace can be a great place to store your cable box and the rest of the ancillary electronics that hook up to your TV. Just be sure to install a chimney pillow, which seals up the fireplace and prevents leaks. It will also keep critters from making a nest in your stereo equipment.

But what if your non-working fireplace is a big old mess, with chipped cement and caked-on soot? In that case, your best bet is to cover up the opening. Find a piece of fabric that complements your décor and hem three sides to fit the interior dimension. Not much of a seamstress? Use no-sew, iron-on tape to seam it up. Then take an inexpensive tension rod that fits inside the opening and hang the fourth side over it. Once you have the perfect fit, add more no-sew tape, leaving a hole to slip onto the rod.


How to Work Around Room Oddities

A staircase jutting into the middle of your living room can be a bit tricky.

Some of the best parts of houses are details that you wouldn't expect. Rounded walls and nooks and crannies are all details that add visual interest but are tricky to figure out how to decorate around. These could have been decisions made by architects or builders, or attributes added by previous owners. Whatever the situation, a room oddity can be a difficult feature to figure out how to fit into your décor. Your first decision is whether you want to work with it or cover it up.

If your desire is to go with what you've got, go ahead and make a bold statement - go big with color. Say you have a weird window configuration, or some interesting architectural details on your ceiling or walls. Choose a bold paint scheme to draw the eye to it, making it the focal point. Contrasting colors are a great way to do this. But maybe it's a feature that just doesn't fit with what you had in mind. If so, you should stick to a neutral palette, which will help these features blend into the background. Then, create your focal point of the room in a different area, assuring that your eye won't be drawn to the oddities.


Sometimes your oddity is an eyesore that you just want to make go away. Curtains are a great way to cover up something that can't be removed. Or, find a large piece of art that blocks the view. Multi-panel screens are popular décor pieces that can be easily moved if the area needs to be accessed. Then use the space behind it as extra storage. Freestanding bookcases are also good blockers that can be used as storage or to display accessories or collections.

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