Help me figure out a window covering/curtain/other for a small group of glass blocks!
June 23, 2009 12:27 PM   Subscribe

We're moving into a new place in a few weeks, and we've got a nice glass block "window" in the bedroom. We love it, but the boyfriend needs darky darkness in order to sleep at night and there's a street light right outside the window. Help me figure out a window covering/curtain/shade/other!

I don't have a full picture of the glass blocks, but here's a partial one of the bedroom: It's six blocks high by 2 blocks wide. We've since painted the room slate blue and I'm in the process of making some blackout curtains for the main window to replace the gnarly metal blinds (these curtains will be inside mounted on a track).

I'd like to do something that would allow us to see the glass blocks during the day. The wall around the blocks slopes down, but not enough to fit a tension rod. I'm very handy and can make most things, so if you have any ideas, throw 'em my way!

Oh - and our decor is somewhere between vintage modern and granny chic.
posted by bienbiensuper to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster:'s the picture link!
posted by bienbiensuper at 12:29 PM on June 23, 2009

If you have an IKEA near by, you could try doing something with their Kvartal system. Last time I was there they had a whole mess of panels to choose from and you can layer them, so you could have light to dark.

Assuming you're allowed to put holes in the wall.
posted by Zoyashka at 12:50 PM on June 23, 2009

I was able to block most of the light out of my bedroom (I work at night, sleep during the day) by getting roller blinds, and painting the inside of them with black tremclad.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:51 PM on June 23, 2009

Back in the 70s during the first energy crisis, someone came up with the idea of thermal window blinds. Great, except if you raised it too fast in midwinter and cracked the glass. I can't find one on-line to show you but:
- regular blind
- two channels running down the side of the window into which the sides of the blind fit
- hook at the bottom of the blind to keep it flat to the window frame.

There used to be blind kits (or you can take apart a roller blind), or you could make a flat Roman shade. In either case, a pair of channels on the sides of the window to contain the edges of the blind should keep it flat to the wall, allow you to raise/lower it, and keep out the light. I think the metal square U shaped stuff you find in lumber yards would work. You could make the blind with either a black cotton interlining (works really well with a dark top fabric and drapery lining) or buy one of those sunblocker linering fabrics. I'd put a header over the drapes to keep the sun from shining up into the room. Or, you could buy him a sleep mask like my ex used to wear as he couldn't sleep in anything but a pitch black room.
posted by x46 at 12:57 PM on June 23, 2009

I'm not a huge fan of the Wal*Mart, but they have a pretty substantial number of economical choices in their Energy Efficient & Blackout Curtains department.
posted by torquemaniac at 12:59 PM on June 23, 2009

Not precisely what you asked for but....sleep mask? I heart mine, don't sleep without it! And you don't have to change your decor.
posted by tristeza at 1:04 PM on June 23, 2009

Seconding tristeza. Nice ones like these are really very comfortable....
posted by kestrel251 at 1:08 PM on June 23, 2009

I use a sleep mask as well. Not very masculine and it took a couple weeks before I got used to it, but it works like a charm.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:08 PM on June 23, 2009

Best answer: If you don't like Wal*Mart, you can also try the Warm Windows products. They used to be available at Jo-Ann fabrics, but they are not on their website, so they could either be discontinued or only in-store -They have track fittings as well as magnetic. Most fabric stores will also sell blackout fabric in a couple of weights.

If you don't mind painting over a bit, the first thing that came to my mind:

-Get some magnetic paint (Rustoleum makes it).
-Paint a 3-4" border around your window in 2-3 layers.
-Paint walls chosen color.
-Make flat roman shades or use a rolling blind painted the same color as the wall that is 3-4" wider than window opening.
-attach metallic fittings to underside of blind/shade.

You would have to play around with the metallic backing and configuration, but I have done variations on this theme for windows before.
posted by Tchad at 1:16 PM on June 23, 2009

the black out curtains work well

we went the white trash route in our bedroom - spent about 10 bucks and picked up 2 different kinds of fabric, one fairly thick and black and one thinner and blue, 2 layers each, nailed 'em to the wall, and voila! no more light coming in. we tie them with a scarf or sash when we want sunlight streaming in.
posted by nadawi at 1:42 PM on June 23, 2009

I am a freak about sunlight coming in in the morning. Right now I'm in London for the summer and the apartment that we have has the most craptacular drapes. And the sun comes up at like 4:30! In the morning!

But, inn my bedroom at home I have room-darkening blinds bought from Home Depot. They're great. In the family room I have drapes from Ikea.,in purple. They're fantastic, too. My 12-year-old son had a sleepover in that room and the boys all slept in because the room was so dark. They're super easy to "hem" as well.
posted by cooker girl at 1:52 PM on June 23, 2009

Response by poster: Great feedback everyone! it's getting my brain moving in the right direction. I especially liked the magnet wall idea!!

For those who suggested blinds or roller shades, do you think it would look weird, just mounted to the top of the glass blocks?I love the whole streamlined style of window and i feel like it would clunk it up. :(

The sliding panels might work. I could paint the rails the same color as the wall and then either use nice fabric or paint a scene on it or something. It could be a moving piece of art, sort of. Hrmm.

One more piece of info: we can pretty much do anything we want to the place. Our landlord is super cool.
posted by bienbiensuper at 2:06 PM on June 23, 2009

You could just mount a curtain rod that's longer than the blocks and slide the curtains to the side, exposing all of the blocks during the daytime. Cheapie version of blockout drapes - line the drapes with felt, even cheapie polyester felt. It supposedly makes the drapes "drape" better, insulates and blocks the light. I have heard that this works. Haven't persoanlly tried it yet, as my felt is still sitting in a box in my sewing room.
posted by sarajane at 2:26 PM on June 23, 2009

I am a little hesitant to tell you to just stick whatever mount you are going to use right at the top of the window. It depends on what the finish will be on the larger one. It may look ridiculous or at the least clumsy if you have this rod suspended in air when the blind is up.

If you wanted to turn it into something, maybe mount the shade/rod/whatever at ceiling height, have the whole shade go to the floor, and then make it a focal point of some kind when it is down.

I think it would work better with a rolling blind to do this, and you have to be careful - there is a fine line between interesting problem solving and crafty-looking messes. If you want it to look more organic, then stop thinking of it as a window that needs a cover. Think of it as a design element when you don't want light and a regular window when you do. At night you don't have a shade drawn down over the window, you have an 8 foot fabric sculpture or painting where the window is during the day.

Maybe a floor-to-ceiling roller that is made up of two or three panels (backed with blackout) pulling in colors from the room, or maybe a painted canvas that functions as a wall-hanging when it is down. If you really think about what is possible, you will be surprised how creative you can make this and still have it look good.
posted by Tchad at 2:32 PM on June 23, 2009

I second the idea of having the blind fit in channels along the sides. This cuts the side glare a lot, and helps make it darkly dark.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 2:33 PM on June 23, 2009

This is me, every night. This is the "I'm a guy, and I live alone except when my girlfriend is sleeping over" solution:

I bought black foam board and cut it to precisely fit in the window frames. I have four separate pieces. I secure them with tape every night. These warp over time, and I like pitch black. So, on top of that I have a a bunch of completely opaque (i.e., more expensive) blackout curtains that I've binder-clipped together into one massive, opaque sheet. This is attached to a wooden dowel rod that rests in curtain hooks. I take it down and role it up every morning. Yes, I'm crazy. But I sleep very well.
posted by zeek321 at 3:48 PM on June 23, 2009

Best answer: I'd either find a painting or have a canvas stretched to fit over the glassblock window with a few inches overlap on all sides (and then paint or have an artsy friend paint it to suit your style). Then i'd put a couple of brads up there above the window, and just hang the painting when I wanted to block the light.

Minimal damage to the walls, not terribly futzy to deal with, easy to switch out for something else if you get the whim.
posted by padraigin at 5:36 PM on June 23, 2009

Use coat hooks to support your curtain rod (which holds blackout curtains). This is the only way I could figure out to eliminate light leaking from above and beside the curtains -- and it works like a charm.

While normal curtain rod brackets hold the rod several inches away from the wall, with a pair of coat hooks like this
or this, if you rest the rod on top of the top/longer part of the hook, it's flush against the wall. Voila. And it can even look cool.
posted by amtho at 7:22 PM on June 23, 2009

A few different ideas...

Find out who owns or manages the streetlight and discuss options with them. Maybe talk to your neighbors so you can use "We feel that the lights..."

Ask that they be turned off or moved.

Ask for them to install a motion detector so the light only comes on when there's movement. Maybe even offer to install motion detection lights yourself if they agree to move or remove it. These lights aren't as annoying as you might think. Unless they're really bright or he's a really light sleeper, they won't wake him from his slumber.

What else?

Ivy? Potted shrubs or trees? Those would help a lot, but not to the darky dark stage.

I know I've heard of timed curtains/shades (motor with a timer that work automatically), but don't have the energy to search for them, not do I know if they work as intended.

Can you install shutters outside?

On a sunny day, you can go out and de-un-shut-ter them?

Of course, I wouldn't dare recommend you go hunting streetlights with a pellet gun.

That would just be uncivil. :D
posted by foooooogasm at 7:26 PM on June 23, 2009

I'd either find a painting or have a canvas stretched to fit over the glassblock window with a few inches overlap on all sides (and then paint or have an artsy friend paint it to suit your style). Then i'd put a couple of brads up there above the window, and just hang the painting when I wanted to block the light.

Minimal damage to the walls, not terribly futzy to deal with, easy to switch out for something else if you get the whim.
posted by padraigin at 5:36 PM

This is probably perfect. You have the window, you have the cover.

You can then set two more nails near the ceiling two feet over, and hang it on the wall. You could even double-back the canvas with felt or something heavy.
posted by Tchad at 7:50 PM on June 23, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses everyone! I'll try to post an "after" picture with what we decide to do.
posted by bienbiensuper at 10:13 AM on June 24, 2009

Response by poster: Just to follow-up like I promised:

I made some very intense black out curtains for the regular windows in the room, and it turns out once those are covered, the glass blocks let very little light through. The boyfriend has actually been able to get used to the tiny bit of light! Woo!

Thanks for everyone's feedback!
posted by bienbiensuper at 5:25 PM on August 17, 2009

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