"Now take your eyes, why they're the windows. Showing you every view in the sun. Honey, you've got a house, your own little house, and it's better than anyones. So just keep outside shined up, and the inside free from gloom..." from the 1951 movie, Here Comes the Groom
The apartment we lived in when we first got married apparently was a pretty cool place to live....in the 70's......it had a pool, raquetball court, game room, etc. By the time we moved in 30 years later, the pool had been filled in, the raquetball court turned into a wall of mail boxes, the game room turned into an office, and we later learned that the apartment complexes across the road had all kinds of illegal activities going on... On the inside, one of the worst features was the windows. Perhaps it was the cracks in the walls around the windows, or perhaps it was the metal framework of the windows. However, the apartment was in our budget, and it did have a lot of closets! I learned very quickly that window dressings can do a lot for the windows in an apartment!
My favorite kind of curtains are valances. They require the least amount of material and are very easy to make even if you are brand new to sewing! The other great thing about valances is that you are only limited by your imagination! I always start by deciding what fabric I am going to use because that is where the real expense can be. I don't typically walk into a JoAnn's to find the right fabric. Usually I look in my stash of fabric I have collected for free or cheap over the years and see what will match. Then I figure out how to style it so it goes in my room. However, if you do not have a fabric stash, you could very easily find a full dress at a thrift store, an old quilt, or even smaller pieces of fabric that could be sewn together or something really different like men's ties or old t-shirts! If you are able to find a full skirt at a thrift store, then you may also have the added bonus of trim already attached to the bottom of your valance! I don't usually use trim just because it can be rather pricey, but it can be fun...especially if you get it for a great price!
Once you settle on your fabric, then it is time to decide on the style for your valance. There are many different ways to make a valance: gathered, ungathered with a decorative edge, ballooned, etc. If this is your first or one of your first sewing projects, you might appreciate using a pattern, but don't buy it at full price at a JoAnn's. Wait until they are on sale for $.99! (Or Susie, in your case you could always call me or Aunt Beth). For a very basic gathered valance, you simply: 1) Cut a rectangle at least 2 times as wide as your window and a couple inches taller than you want the finished project to be. 2) Hem all four edges. 3) Bend an inch or so at the top towards the back of the fabric and make one long seam across. This makes a loop that you string through your curtain rod.
Two valance patterns I have acquired over the years. They are great when you haven't a clue what you are doing, but once you've made a few, you should be able to figure it out yourself!
The great thing about gathered valances is that while they take a little extra fabric, they also hide more of the wall, hide any imperfections in your sewing, do not require a lining, and do not require any fancy curtain rods. Those cheap metal curtain rods will do just fine! Another plus is that unlike their floor-length counterparts, valances let it lots of light and really open up a small space....a definite necessity in a small apartment!!! Also, if at some point you move, oftentimes the curtains can be used again on different sized windows....or you can even cut up the curtains to make other things because it just a long rectangle of material!
Note: Long, thick curtains can help keep your home cooler; however, in my experience, no window treatment is going to make that big of a difference in an apartment. Usually the insulation is just not that fabulous. You are better off trying to get an apartment on the middle floor!
Once you have your window measurements and a color scheme (I always go with primary colors because you never have to worry about whether or not something with match!) for your apartment, you are now ready to start hunting up fabric treasures!! Don't forget to check antique stores as well....I have found several fabric stashes for cheap at antique stores!