Mid-Century Storage

Today’s reader Q & A comes from another college friend, Christy (Carnegie Mellon represent!). She, her husband Chris and their adorable daughter Hazel just moved cross-country from a condo in the heart of Chicago to an incredible tree-lined property, complete with horse barn, in Seattle.  But between two grown adults that work from home, a baby on the verge of walking and a menagerie of pets, they are in desperate need of storage until they have the opportunity to start the large renovation they’ve been planning.

As a result, they’re not looking to spend a lot as most of these solutions will be temporary. But, as both Christy and Chris are both very design-minded and crazy artistic, I’ve been charged with the  request that my solutions “can’t look ugly” and in terms of style, Christy said “I hate that country shit.”  She is also definitely not a fan of wicker (so there goes most of my basket ideas).

Here’s a little bit more about Christy’s design storage dilemma, in her own words:

OK, so here’s the deal:

We are completely overhauling this house within the next year (gut remodel), so I have been hesitant to fully “move in” and make my space just so. However, I have recently come to the realization that with all the other stress in my life, at the very least, I need my most-lived-in space to be a lot more livable in order to maintain a peaceful state of mind. (aka: SANITY)
 

I spend most of my time when I’m at home in these two connected rooms: the family room and kitchen. The family room serves three purposes: 1) Hazel’s play room, 2) My office, and 3) Relaxing on the couch in front of the fireplace (sadly, this rarely happens). 

 
This house has many attractive features, but one thing it is severely lacking is STORAGE. You will see from the pics of my kitchen that we are exploding out of the space. Believe it or not, my kitchen in our condo in Chicago had about double the storage space. We had tall ceilings with floor-to-celiling cabinetry, a large original built-in in the hallway, and a huge pantry. Now we have no built ins, no pantry, and only one row of cabinets (first world problems!) But it does suck, because then we end up using our precious counter space for things like loaves of bread and ridiculous milk frothers.
 
Oh – and our aesthetic tastes tend to converge around Mid-Century Modern +/or warm contemporary. We hate ultra-modern stuff (read: cold!) and love a good, simple, hardwood furniture piece. We dislike things that are “clunky.” I love industrial objects juxtaposed with warm organic elements. It’s the German in me coming to terms with the Artist somewhere in the middle. Luckily, my husband and I agree on most things aesthetic.
 
Anyways. I need help. And I can’t spend a lot of money. And I have like no time.  –  Christy

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So, let’s attack the kitchen first as it seems their milk frothers are running over. I’d assume all of their cabinet space is filled to the brim. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at any additional areas we could take advantage of for more storage. Next to their wall oven is the perfect place to add some hanging shelves. Depending on how sturdy Christy can make them (she’s quite handy and is the one who taught me how to use a drill), she could use it as extra space for smaller kitchen gadgets, like those frothers, coffee grinders, etc. Alternatively, she could use those shelves for additional food storage.
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In the open area to the right of the wall oven where the windows are, I’d recommend a bigger island/bar cart than what they have now. It will give them both additional table-top surface as well as additional space on the shelves below. I think the Ikea Forhoja is her best bet. It’s simple, made of real wood (and could be customized if she chose to keep it) and always has high demand for resale on Craigslist if they choose to not bring it back in to their renovated space.  It could also be put to great use for dinner prep if they are living in the space through the reno.  Finding a space to make a makeshift kitchen is essential to surviving a major renovation.
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Moving in to the living room, the first thing I would add is a console table behind their sofa. This will give them a shelf for additional storage and an open area underneath to store some of Hazel’s larger toys without having them out in the open. I wouldn’t recommend this table in terms of style for Christy, but it illustrates a creative way to store kids toys in an aesthetically pleasing way:
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Some examples of great console tables that would coordinate with their current style are the Foundry table from CB2 for an industrial look or a vintage piece like this mid-century modern classic.

Cb2 Table

MCM Table

Underneath their new console or their coffee table, I would add some Christy-approved baskets for Hazel’s smaller toys. These from CB2 and Crate & Barrel would fit right in to their mid-century modern style:

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Crate & Barrel

For that long wall filled with Hazel accutrimont, there are two ways Christy could go: the budgetary/immediate option or the pain and gain option. My first inclination is to spend a little more on some pieces that Christy and Chris can keep and use after the reno such as a mid-century modern George Nelson-style shelving system. It would require some rearranging of their artwork, but this option would provide the additional storage they need in the living room and still provide lasting value to their overall furniture collection.George NelsonI see this as something that would be a great piece in Christy’s future office to display her artwork, stacks of books, and pictures with her favorite red-headed friend, kind of like this one:

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(Yes, this picture is now 10 years old… I suddenly feel ancient)

Alternatively, Christy could go with the lower cost option that is still made of solid wood and would not require her to put giant holes in her walls (or break her budget).  I’d suggest going with the World Market Espresso Charles Slanted Bookshelf.  The style is simple enough that it could blend with the current furnishings and as it’s moveable, could be reused post-reno.  Also good for resale on Craigslist if she chooses not to keep it.

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A third option would be to go the budget friendly, industrial route.  This option from Ikea would add a significant pop of color and hide toys behind closed doors.  Another great piece that could be carried over to the future space, repurposed in Christy’s art studio, or resold.
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Beyond furniture, there are a few other options Christy could opt for that would help corral throw blankets, magazines, and the stray dog chew toy.  I’m loving this basket (Christy, trust me on this one) from Crate & Barrel.Crate & Barrel Basket
This storage ottoman from CB2 would provide storage as well as an additional seat for when the house is filled with more grandparents than chairs, which from what I hear, is a likely scenario.
CB2 Stool

So what do you guys think – any other storage options you’d suggest for Christy?  And in case anyone doubted that a bunch of sorority girls knew how to drill (get your minds out of the gutters people!), here’s exhibit A:

christydrill

(This may be my favorite picture of this girl.  She’s kind of bad-ass.  Although I’m slightly afraid that she may be revoking my design privileges for posting this…)

Q & A: The Great Merge – Part 2

As promised, today I’m bringing you Part 2 of Ali & Justin’s GREAT MERGE. For this post, we’re going to focus on that awkward little room just off their bedroom. They’re in desperate need of storage space and have more dressers than they have room for.

For a little refresher, here’s Ali’s little video tour:

As they don’t really need an office space, the next obvious solution is to turn it in to a dressing area. There unfortunately isn’t any space to add any additional storage pieces so today’s all about with working with what they’ve got. Starting with the left side of the room, I would use that little section of wall beside the lamp for some accessory storage.

Sunglasses frame storagevia

Moving over to the small dresser with mirror, this is where Ali does her hair. And if I remember anything about living with Ali, she is always doing crazy stuff with her hair… like the time she tried to dye it white. I may never let her live that one down ;-).

I would use a combination of drawer organizers and decorative bowls for things like headbands, bobby pins, and smaller bottles of hair products. Then for combs, brushes, and smaller curling irons, she could use a large vase or apothecary jar.

Dresser top 3via

Dresser top storagevia

For larger bottles of product she could neatly arrange them on a tray to streamline the look.

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Lastly, I would suggest using a nicer, metal 3M hook on the right side of the dresser by the coat rack to hang her hairdryer so it’s within arms reach but is out of sight.

If Ali and Justin really want to get ambitious, I would hang the flatscreen TV on the wall. As it’s already a decent distance from the bed, a few more inches won’t matter. That way, it clears significant space on top of the dresser for additional storage.  And Ali could turn it in to a mini gallery wall!

TV Wall Galleryvia

I would also utilize decorative or 3M hooks (to avoid putting holes in the wall) on the wall to the right of the larger dresser. Ali mentioned that Justin prefers to hang rather than fold and this area would give him some additional options besides tossing items on top of others on the coat rack.

3M Hookvia

Continuing around the room, I would get some nice baskets for the bookshelf they’re using for storage.  It appears to be a tall Billy bookcase, in which case you can buy additional, individual shelves to make the most of the space.  On either side of the bookshelf, I would use that for additional storage.  On one side, Ali could install some towel racks for all of those scarves I know she still has.

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On the opposite side, she could use a variety of solutions for her jewelry.  I think this painted cutlery tray hung on the wall is a great, easy solution that adds some visual interest:

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Now, lets talk style. All of these little DIY storage and organization projects can be areas where Ali can really add some of her eclectic flare, between hanging her jewelry as decor to using vintage frames. To update the dressers, Ali can replace the hardware with something a bit more her style.

And to really amp things up, I would replace that overhead can light with something a little more glamorous and less 1980’s. It may require calling an electrian, but for the $50-$100 it would cost, it the difference it would make is worth the cost.

West Elm Capiz Light

I am loving the West Elm Small Capiz Chandelier which would bring in softer, rounder shapes in to the otherwise angular room. The price, however, may not be what Ali’s looking for, so she could try her hand at one of these DIY versions:

HGTV Faux Capiz Shell Pendant Tutorial
Design Sponge Capiz Shell Tutorial
Freshly Picked  Capiz Chandelier

Although this extra little room is a bit odd, I think with some of the above suggestions Ali can really add some much needed storage as well as real eclectic style that she likes so much.

So how about you all?  Any creative storage solutions that are both function and pretty on the eyes?  I’m a HUGE fan of 3M hooks; I use them for my long dangly necklaces and my fancy purses I’d rather not shove in the dusty space underneath our bed (just keeping it real, kids).

Q & A: The Great Merge – Part 1

Today’s reader Q & A comes from my college roomie, Ali.  Some of my first true interior design projects occured when she and I moved into a cramped room in our sorority house.  It included my first wall paint job (in the perfect buttery yellow) and styling the room with coordinating lamps, bedding and art.  Not to mention finding an appropriate place for the all-so-important mini-fridge and bar.

Since those days that suddenly seem too far away, Ali’s done her fair share of trapsing across the globe.  As a musician, artist, and all-around bohemian extraordinaire, her style is quite eclectic.  Recently she moved in with her boyfriend in Washington, D.C. and she’s encountered the same problem most of us have when taking the plunge into co-habitation with a significant other: the Great Merge of belongings.

Here’s Ali’s request:

Hi Mal!

Here’s some info on a couple of current problem areas (there are several more…) of our new place. As we enter Week 3 of unpacking and merging our belongings, we have most of the big furniture situated and are starting to unearth enough space to hang curtains, and soon some photos/art! 
We need help with storage and textiles in particular. Justin likes to keep an extra blanket on the bed when we’re not home to keep it from getting swathed in dog hair, and we’re in the market for a new one because I don’t like the color of the current one.  Also, the bench cushion is in really rough shape and I’d love to cover it. I know he’d prefer a solid (in corduroy if possible) and I’d love a muted pattern, even though our bedding has stripes. I’d love for it to be a rougher texture – wooly, or woven, or nubby. 
 
We’re trying to stay responsible and not buy new everything, and that’s tricky since my previous style leanings and Justin’s are pretty different. Thankfully nowadays we both agree that we really like the looks that West Elm has going, it’s modern enough for Justin and fits enough with my funky taste (fair isle navajo more patterns yes!) and plethora of instruments.   I have given in to cool colors in the bedroom, although that’s not natural for me. 
 
Here’s a video:
As this is a rather large task, I’ve decided to break this up in to a two-parter.  Today I’ll focus on the bedroom and in our next post we’ll take a look at the dressing room area.
For the bedroom, let’s break this down in to each area to tackle:
  • New throw blanket for their bed
  • New nightstands & lamps
  • Fabric to recover bedroom bench
  • Storage solutions
  • Add some much needed Ali flair in terms of styling

bed

Let’s start with the bedding.  They’re sticking with the above blue-toned striped duvet cover.  Adding another pattern in to this mix will be tough; I’d recommend a solid colored blanket with a woven texture for visual interest and to soften up the hard lines of the current bedding.  Seeing as Ali always prefers warmer colors, I’d go with a chocolate brown to really give it an inviting feel and coordinate with the stripes of the duvet cover.  As this blanket will be used primarily to prevent their dog Dakota from creating his own version of a blanket on the bed, I’d opt for something machine washable.

LLBean Vintage Matelasse Bedding - Chocolate Brown

My recommendation: the LLBean Vintage Matelasse Coverlet in Chocolate Brown.  It meets all of the above criteria and although it’s a little more expensive than something at Target or a comparable big box store (this guy clocks in @ $129 for a queen size), it’s made by a company that prides itself on quality so you know this puppy will last.  They also sell matching pillow shams so Ali could turn it into a true bedding set if she wanted, instead of it just being a barrier between Dakota and the bed.

West Elm Lexington Quilt & Shams

Or for a slightly more modern pattern in a lighter brown, I’d go with the West Elm Lexington Quilt + Shams in Clay would be a nice alternative.

West Elm Embroidered Blue Dot Pillow

To top off the bed, I would finish it with a throw pillow or two.  The West Elm Embroidered Dot Pillow Cover in Dusty Blue is a great option that is simple enough to coordinate with the current bedding, the LL Bean or West Elm coverlets and still gives a bit more of an organic feel to the bed.  The handsewn embroidery with its slightly uneven lines helps to soften the rest of the lines of the bedding.  The blue accent thread will tie in with the blue of the duvet.

Next up are the night stands.  For the left side, once they unpack some more boxes, they’ll have a decent amount of space over there.  As they’re hurting for storage, I would go the untraditional route.  Do NOT buy another nightstand.  I would go more with a cabinet or small dresser that sits at the right height.  It will give them more storage space and Ali a larger tabletop for things like her stacks of books, the lamp, etc.  And by going with something that is more unique, you won’t have to worry about it matching your pre-existing furniture.  My biggest pet peeve is quickly becoming bedroom sets that are too matchy matchy, including my own (what can I say, you live and you learn).

World Market Single Shutter Doors Sideboard

The Single Shutter Doors Holbrook Sideboard from World Market is a perfect example of something totally unique but serves all of the purposes Ali needs.  And it would add some much-needed eclectic style to the room.

Target Threshold Captains Mirror

Then above it, you could always hang a mirror, like this bargain – the Threshold Round Captain’s Mirror from Target (I still can’t believe this is $29.99 – I’m dying to get one for our place) to help reflect light from the nearby window and hang hooks on either side because as Ali puts it “We literally need a place to hang our hats.  We have so many hats!”  Spoken like a true Renaissance woman.

Ikea Bran Lamp

For styling purposes, I’d go with a ridiculously simple lamp on that side of the bed.  The BRÅN base and JÄRA shade from Ikea will do just the trick.  And because it’s basically clear glass and a white shade, there are a ton of ways to customize it if Ali so chooses, such as adding color to the glass base or sprucing up the shade.

On the other side of the bed, you could go with a coordinating lamp such as the Target Room Essentials Solid Shade Ceramic Silver lamp as Ali and Justin prefer more of a brushed silver look.

Target Room Essentials Solid Shade Ceramic Silver Lamp

But back to the nightstands, if Ali decides to work with what she’s got, I would recommend a little DIY.  The easiest trick to perk up those existing pieces is to swap out the knobs.  Anthropologie and even World Market have a TON of options to choose from.

Anthropologie Mini Bubble Glass Knob

Ali could also bust out a can of paint and really customize them to her linking.  She and I were never afraid to get a little dirty (or crazy) back in the day.  Obligatory college photo here:

Mal & Ali

Back to the nightstands again – depending on how crafty Ali wanted to get, I’d recommend something a little like this DIY from Megan over at Craft Habit.

Lastly, Ali definitely wants to get crafty with her bench.  She’d like to recover it with a durable fabric.  I’d recommend something a little heavier weight, such as upholstery fabric.  You could go solid, but I’d take the opportunity to bring in some more organic lines with a subtle pattern, such as the Waverly Strands/Sterling fabric from Joann Fabrics.

Joann Fabric Waverly Strands

So there you have part 1 of Ali & Justin’s GREAT MERGE.  Check back next week for Part 2!  I’ve also included the full mood board below, including a few pieces of art, the curtains, and the run they already own.

Ali's New Bedroom v.2

So what do you guys think?  Anyone else facing the Great Merge these days?  I learned a LOT from when Jefe and I did it– namely that I’m a hoarder and he’s a minimalist.  Somehow we’ve managed to meet in the middle.  For now 😉

Q & A: Anne’s PreWar Starter

Hey Mal,

What I’d love your help with is some ideas for how I can break up the institutional whiteness of the walls and the monotony of the furniture to complete the look we have going.

As you can tell, I’m into contemporary design (fine, IKEA and CB2), but have been trying to mesh that with some classic/shabby chic elements – probably just the piano bench, really, but I’m mentally trying! It’s a pre-war apartment (1926) with hard wood floors and some pretty nice molding features, so incorporating some vintage or classical elements would probably bring the room together.

Specifically, the boyfriend and I have talked about getting some bold, cool pieces for the top of the wall unit, painting an accent wall, a new lighting fixture, throw pillows, maybe some additional window treatments. . .just as some starting points. We’ve thought about a rug for the area by the couch, but I think I’d rather not do one.

Look to the painting, which is by an artist from Austin, Texas, the Pittsburgh and Cincinnati bridge photos, and the piano bench, which is from an artisan we met locally (The Divine Chair) for the color palette.

Let me know if you have questions or need anything else. Thanks so much!

Anne

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(These are now hanging above her piano)

First off, I would suggest Anne starts in the living room area. She needs some more colors to brighten up the space. Although she’s hesitant, I would seriously consider an area rug. You can bring in color, pattern and texture through one single piece. And with gorgeous yet budget friendly options from places like World Market, Overstock.com, CB2 and One Kings Lane, she could easily find one that fits the space and her budget.  I would go with something like the Confetti Rug from CB2:

CB2 Confetti RugNow, let’s bust out the paint cans.  Anne mentions painting an accent wall, which could be great.  If that’s the direction she wants to go, I would suggest the small wall by the dining area so it doesn’t compete and helps delineate that area as separate from the rest of the living space.  I would also suggest moving the painting to that wall – the white canvas against a colored backdrop will really make the art pop.  Here’s an example of different, primarily white pieces of art against darker walls:

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(Courtesy of Houzz)

Alternatively, you could paint the ceiling beams to really highlight the architecture.  You could even include the little lip of the wall that juts out and meets the ceiling.  Below’s a prime example of how you can give white walls a lot of visual interest with just a little bit of dark paint on ceiling beams:

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(Courtesy of Onekindesign – I’m totally obsessed with the rest of this house tour too!)

Now let’s talk about the windows.  Although Anne gets some great light from the windows at the end of the room, it’s still not a huge amount.  So the first thing I’d keep in mind when hunting for new curtains is to avoid blocking light in any way.  Next suggestion is to rehang the curtain rod high & wide – it’s a common used technique by most designers to make both your ceilings seem taller and your windows seem wider.  This way, the curtain hangs in front of wall when they’re pulled the whole way open and not blocking ANY of the window.  As for a fabric, I probably wouldn’t go white.  I’d pick something with color that corresponds with that rug I’ve convinced Anne to buy like West Elm’s Linen Cotton Grommet Drapes in Desert Marigold to really brighten it up and add texture:

West Elm Marigold Linen Curtains

Anne also mentioned a new light fixture.  The easiest DIY in a rental for one of those infamous boob lights is to hide it with a shade.  Jefe and I did this in our last place (so unfortunately it was pre-blog = no photo), but I based it off of John and Sherry’s tutorial over on Young House Love.  I’d go with a shade that has some color so it does not blend in to the ceiling but I would avoid a pattern as it would directly compete with the piano bench below.  I think a fabric drum shade with a great texture is the right way to go, such as this one from Lamps Plus:

Drum Shade - Grey Burlap

Now let’s talk accessories.  First thing I would do is to add a plant on the window sill.  The green leaves will add another element of color and I always like to have a plant or two in a space to give it some true life.  And as orchids hold a special place in Anne and my’s heart (thank you college sorority), I thought a nice white one with a graphite base could be just the thing that window sill needs:

Potted Orchid

To finish up, I would add some color that coordinates with the rug and curtains through the accessories. I’d suggest some simple pillows from Crate & Barrel

hayward-green-18-pillow tilly-24x16-pillow

…and add some baskets to the lower shelves of the Expedit tv unit.  Then on the upper shelves, I would mix a combination of picture frames , small vases, decorative bowls, books, and other accessories.  A great example of a perfectly styled Ikea Expedit (although without a tv) is below:

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( Courtesy of Meredith & Gwenyth, The New Yorkie)

Lastly,  she already has a great start on the walls with that painting and the gallery wall above the piano.  My one suggestion here is to actually rehang  the gallery wall so the space between the frames is just a bit tighter.  It really helps to make it cohesive.  Below are some great examples, all with black but very different frames:

Dumican Mosey Architects Gallery Wall

(Dumican Mosey Architects)

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(The Lettered Cottage)

So Anne, there you have it.  Your room revamp courtesy of the Sledge.  Please keep us posted on your progress and share an after photo!

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Coming Attractions

Here’s just a sneak peek at what I have coming for you this week:

-A new reader Q & A from my friend Anne about her gorgeous pre-war apartment in Manhattan revolving around some modern art:

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-A progress post on Gloria and Harry’s office and guest bedroom (and here’s a sneak peek!):

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-A reveal of our newly updated kitchen!  So stay tuned for some exciting new stuff coming your way this week; I can’t wait to share!

You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers

So we’re starting a new segment over here at SWS.  Since the start of this little blog, I’ve had quite a few friends reach out about various design challenges they’re facing in their own homes.  So I figured what better way to help than by creating a new weekly feature where I’ll answer reader-submitted questions.

To kick things off, I had the following email from a college friend, Kate:

My brother just bought a house in Fort Worth and instead of looking for an apartment for myself, I decided to rent from him.  He travels so much it’s helpful for him to know someone will always be there, and I get wildly cheaper rates than pretty much anywhere but the slums. Win win.
 
Now to the tricky part – he’s doing a lot of repairs before we move in. Unfortunately, it’s not my house, so I have pretty much no say in all the fun design stuff. However, I do get to advise on my soon-to-be-bedroom. It’s on the small side and it has two small closets that he’s opening up to make one large (ish) one. Last I heard he wants to put bi-fold doors in. EW!!! So I’m trying to work out how I want to get around that… Please help!
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Here’s what Kate & I have to work with…
An additional challenge Kate mentioned to me was that sliding doors were not an option and there will not be enough wall space to create pocket doors.  My first instinct is to nix the bifold doors idea.  I’d suggest convincing Kate’s brother to find an alternative.  I’m currently crushing on something similar to the option below, which offers both style and function:

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(Photo courtesy of Tatertots & Jello)

But Kate said that regular doors may actually be too small once the two closets are opened up.  So we discussed what other options there are if bifold doors, sliding doors, pocket doors and REGULAR doors are not an option.

Curtains it is.  This could be a great solution while Kate lives there.  It could be temporary and then her brother can install the much-hated bifold doors once she eventually moves.  But the trick is to not have the curtain look temporary or like a college dorm room.  Trust me, Kate and I have been there and done that.

So below is a compilation of some sophisticated curtain options.  Some look more permanent than others.

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(Photo courtesy of The Design File)

These offer nice, clean lines.  Similar curtains could provide a pop of color and when hung at the appropriate height, just skimming the floor, would give a clean and polished look.  Grommets only add to the clean lines by allowing the curtains to fold up nicely when opened.

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(Photo courtesy of I Heart Organizing)

These are a great way of simply hiding the mess behind the doorway.  They can also provide a pop of color and/or pattern to the room and based on the way these are hanging (presumably a rod above and behind the doorways), you barely see them scrunched up on the rod, creating a nice flat panel of fabric.

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(Photo courtesy of Loft & Cottage)

First, let me get over the beautiful, lust-worthy molding around the door frame…. ok, now that that’s done, let’ talk about this option.  These curtains provide a great combination to the existing design style and color palette.  The pattern is a great compliment to the bedding, wall colors and the posters of the bed frame.  And unlike the above suggestions, the scrunched up curtains actually work in this more traditionally styled space.

As for the hardware, that will really depend on how wide the closet doorway is and how temporary or permanent of a solution Kate wants to go with.  A tension rod would be the easiest to remove, but it leaves a lot to be desired in visual appeal.  A traditional curtain rod could work, but then you’re drilling holes in to a brand new door frame or fresh drywall.

So Kate will have to keep us updated on what she’s decided!  Hope the suggestions help in convincing your brother that bi-folds are NEVER the answer.