Curtain fabric for maximum light, minimum visibility?
September 27, 2013 6:31 AM   Subscribe

Moving into a new apartment (yay!) with big windows, and I love me some sunlight. The problem is that the apartment is on the first floor and located in a pretty busy area where people will be walking and driving right by my windows a lot. Thus, I want curtains and I'd like to make them myself. My question: what fabric would allow the most light to enter the windows but also provide me with some decent privacy?

Additional issue: I know visibility into an indoor space changes from daytime to nighttime. At night, something sheer will become transparent when "backlit" from inside. Whereas during the daytime (particularly on a bright day), even completely uncovered windows are hard to see much through unless you get really close and do that cup-hands-around-eyes thing against the glass. I'd love a fabric that does double duty -- blocks visibility during the day and night -- but not if it significantly reduces my sunlight during the day. If need be, I can supplement with blinds at night for more privacy. Thank you, fabric mavens of mefi!!
posted by RingerChopChop to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Why just one fabric? If you get a double curtain rod, you can hang two curtains, one sheer for daylight and the other opaque for nighttime.
posted by clavicle at 6:46 AM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Blinds can be angled to let light in from above, while blocking the view in. Lace will obscure the view in during the day, as long as you don't have lights on when it's overcast. I use both for the room that needs privacy.
posted by theora55 at 6:48 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Will you ever want to fully see through the windows? Maybe a combo of translucent window film and curtains to pull at night would work.
posted by scarykarrey at 7:09 AM on September 27, 2013

What about a mirrored from the outside, transparent from the inside privacy film?
posted by rada at 7:24 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Tension rods places three-fourths of the way up the windows. Sunlight floods through the top, but everything below eye level is covered. I have this in my den, which looks out into my neighbor's dining room. Like this.
posted by raisingsand at 7:40 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thirding frosted privacy film. I had a superintendent recommend it to me (...when she discovered my contraband cat...) and it actually diffused the light, bathing the room in a much lovelier glow than direct sun would've done.
posted by mykescipark at 7:47 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was at an auto/ bathroom glass shop, and saw some frost spray in a can. I think it was less than 12 bucks for a can ( I think it was made by Krylon). They had some samples and it looked pretty cool. You can even use stencils for special effects.
posted by lobstah at 8:14 AM on September 27, 2013

raisingsand's idea of having the curtain only part way up is great. As for actual fabric suggestions, muslin is cheap, and lets in a ton of light.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:30 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Films and Sprays do address my concerns about light and privacy, but I'm specifically interested in a solution using some type of fabric -- I just don't know what kind to use.
posted by RingerChopChop at 8:37 AM on September 27, 2013

Muslin as FirstMateKate says is cheap and lets in lots of light. It was a very common curtain material, often used only on the bottom part of the window but sometimes as full curtains, where I grew up. I think it's exactly what you need. You can see out through it but can't see in (when it's lighter outside than in - when it's dark outside it's the other way round so you need second thicker curtains after dark.)
posted by anadem at 9:22 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did this with unbleached muslin (I wanted something a bit less WHITE in that particular space) in an apt that faced a major street. It's cheap and it provided enough privacy. There are various weights available, but with the price of muslin, you can afford to try a few different types out before making an entire set of curtains. Muslin is usually around $0.99-1.99/yard.
posted by quince at 11:21 AM on September 27, 2013

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