Bathroom window help: airflow with privacy?
June 8, 2011 5:12 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to keep my bathroom window open and air moving through, but our bathroom window is directly opposite the neighbor's balcony. So I need some sort of screen or grate or fabric or something that is open enough to let air through, but opaque enough to hide our bathroom activity. Do I use fabric, metal, what? And where do I find it?

There must be a simple solution to this I'm just not seeing. I've tried a few searches for window grates, but that typically pulls up security bars that won't hide anything from the neighbors. Curtains don't work because they block airflow. (Is there a special lets-air-through type of fabric?) I really dislike plain window blinds, and it seems like having them open enough to let air through again reveals a little too much. And finally, we're renters, so can't install too permanent of a solution, and would prefer to spend under $100. Any ideas are greatly appreciated!
posted by lillygog to Home & Garden (21 answers total)
It sounds like you need a Stevenson screen. I'm not sure if they make something like that you could put in a window on a temporary basis. Vertical blinds would probably have the right effect, maybe wood if it's the metal ones you dislike. You'd just need to play with the angles to get it right, and the shape of the blinds might help (lots of overlap). If you have them point up on your side, and down on the window side, it's harder for people to look in and see anything but the ceiling. Keeps the sun from hitting you too.
posted by jwells at 5:20 AM on June 8, 2011

We have a similar problem, so I put a large box fan in the window - that camouflaged most of our potential embarrassing displays, but it wasn't quite good enough. I then took a small thin frame and tacked some white lacy fabric (more open-weave, really) onto it, and that went between the fan and the window screen.

We still have great airflow, because the fan pulls plenty of air through the screen/fabric frame, and no more worries about unintentional peepshows!
posted by HopperFan at 5:30 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have a similar problem but my window glass is opaque. So, I just close the window when I am in the bathroom, and open it when I am not. Is this something you could look into - modifying the glass, or covering the glass in someway?
posted by unlaced at 5:44 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

We just have opaque glass window and then when that's open there's a cafe curtain (off-white). It moves a bit in the breeze but not enough to be problematic.
posted by ejaned8 at 5:45 AM on June 8, 2011

Just hang double layer voiles. They let lots of air through but you can't see through them from outside. This is what we do in our bath.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:46 AM on June 8, 2011

I made a Stevenson Screen out of cedar for our bathroom, which has a large clear plate glass window in the shower. It took me about a day. Do you have a friend/father/father's friend who has basic woodworking tools? (Table saw and mitre saw were all I needed.)
posted by SpecialK at 6:30 AM on June 8, 2011

Is your window made with two vertical-sliding panels? Is there any way you could leave the bottom window closed and open the top window? Ideally the open area that lets the breeze through would only allow the neighbors to see above shoulder level, and you can hang a cafe curtain over the bottom half, or cover the window glass with frosted contact paper, etc.
posted by aimedwander at 6:31 AM on June 8, 2011

I lived in a house where the previous handyman-homeowner had installed a little frame with a piece of frosted glass in it at the bottom of the window, on the windowsill, at an angle. (Like a sneeze guard but in reverse.)

The idea was that you could get to the window, open it and leave it open, and if you were standing up you could see out at a downward angle. But when you were conducting business, you couldn't see out and nobody could see in.
posted by gjc at 6:32 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

For windows, the usual term isn't Stephenson Screen, but rather "plantation shutters," "louvered blinds," or similar. You can diy them or buy them premade. If you do go with the lacy curtains instead, walk outside and check how they work at night -- sometimes things are opaque in daylight but become more transparent when lighted from behind at night.
posted by Forktine at 6:39 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Paint your screen! Bonus points if you paint a picture of yourself using the bathroom.
posted by peagood at 7:13 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

(though there are tasteful options out there...)
posted by peagood at 7:16 AM on June 8, 2011

LOVE the painted screens! If you're not artistic you could paint it a solid color and then use a large stencil or several small ones. Stencils are easy to make and/or cheap to buy.
posted by raisingsand at 7:31 AM on June 8, 2011

I use a vinyl window shade. Up down up down! The same one has been on that window for 16 years. It works great. Up down up down.
posted by snowjoe at 7:42 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd use a rollerblind. They're affordable, easy to fit, and come in a dizzying array of patterns and colours. You can get special bathroom ones that are resistant to milldew.
posted by londonmark at 8:28 AM on June 8, 2011

Painted screens are great, but they'll only block the view during daytime when the light is reflecting off the outside. For night, when the light source is inside the house, you'd still need something opaque like a curtain.
posted by weebil at 8:45 AM on June 8, 2011

Is the window a double-hung? Is it possible you can drop the upper sash to get airflow through the top above the neighbors' eye-level? Then you could put something opaque like a cafe curtain or window film on the bottom half.
posted by weebil at 8:49 AM on June 8, 2011

These are great ideas! I should have mentioned: the window is double-hung, but the top seems to have been somehow painted/nailed shut. I need to figure out what the problem is, but for right not that's not a solution.

I've often felt that curtains don't let enough air through, but maybe the double-voiles would work? The person using the facilities is, in fact, perfectly back-lit at night, so I feel like even double-voiles would still give a nice profile image, particularly of unsuspecting male users.

Is there a darker fabric that would still let air through? Maybe colored voiles or lace panels? I also love the plantation shutter idea, it's just more expensive.
posted by lillygog at 9:51 AM on June 8, 2011

Interesting: there are a few plantation shutters for sale on eBay. That might be a good option, with careful measurement.
posted by lillygog at 9:55 AM on June 8, 2011

I recently saw a window where somehow had made a curtain by cutting small triangular sections out of plastic milk jugs, and then linked them together with metal hardware. It was kind of like a beaded curtain, only the beads where the large, flat opaque pieces of milk jug. They blocked the view but still allowed air movement. Google's not helping me in finding the picture, but it might be a fun and cheap project.
posted by Ostara at 9:59 AM on June 8, 2011

lillygog writes "Interesting: there are a few plantation shutters for sale on eBay. That might be a good option, with careful measurement."

If you have a used building supply place around you might be able to find a louvred bi-fold door the same width as you sash that could be cut down to the right height. You lose the adjustablity of a plantation shutter but it would be a heck of a lot cheaper.
posted by Mitheral at 1:13 PM on June 8, 2011

I think we're going to try some combo of getting the landlord to pry the top part of the window open, "frosting" the glass with removable contact paper, and hanging a sheer curtain over the "frosted" glass. The responses in this thread gave me the oomph needed to really look into getting the top part of the window open.
posted by lillygog at 5:16 AM on June 9, 2011

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