My new place has sheer blinds. Seems weird?
January 13, 2014 10:49 PM   Subscribe

I just moved into my new place I'm renting - a beautiful loft, part of a nice, quiet-seeming community generally composed of 30-somethings, with huge, 10" windows along the outside-facing wall of a 20" ceiling place. Everything is great except for one thing. I didn't realize it when I checked out the place, but it turns out those huge windows have sheer blinds on them.

During the day, you can't really see inside because of the way the sunlight outside works. However, at night when I have the lights on, the sheer blinds don't do much to block the view inside. It's facing outwards into a courtyard and there are opportunities for people to see a full view of my open floor plan living room / kitchen space. The bedroom is lofted and hidden (I think) and bathrooms are hidden.

I'm someone who has generally valued his privacy and felt piece of mind from it, but I'm trying to put a positive spin on this since I just signed a year-long lease. Is it something I'll get used to, am I making a big deal out of nothing? Will people generally not be voyeurs? Or if there are voyeur neighbors, I'd think they'd HAVE to eventually get bored watching me wash dishes, play video games and veg out to Netflix - right?

I don't really even understand why someone would put up sheer blinds. This has me blindsided (ugh sorry) but maybe you can talk me though it.
posted by naju to Home & Garden (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Buying curtains would be perfect in your situation. You can get them cheap from Target.
posted by littlesq at 10:53 PM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Curtains would need to be installed as permanent fixtures, though, right? Since I'm renting it's unclear whether that's allowed. I would have to convince the owner.
posted by naju at 10:58 PM on January 13, 2014

In densely populated areas, I would say that we all get used to the polite fiction of ignoring the fact that sometimes our neighbors can probably see or hear us and vice-versa. I don't worry about it overmuch, don't milk it for exhibitionism, and don't stare.

If there's a little more space, and your windows are unusually large and stand out among similar visual "noise," it may be kinder to everyone to dim the temptation to notice the potential night show through your window.
posted by desuetude at 11:04 PM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If curtains won't work, you might get room dividers and stand them up in front of the windows. That would at least block to above shoulder height.
posted by HermitDog at 11:07 PM on January 13, 2014 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Room dividers might be a good idea. I could use them anyway to break up the flow of the room.

It seems as though these 3M metal hooks use a strong adhesive to attach to walls - I guess this is one way people put up curtains without drilling holes?
posted by naju at 11:13 PM on January 13, 2014

If you're worried about installing something you could use curtain tension rods instead. Super easy to use and doesn't leave holes.
posted by littlesq at 11:16 PM on January 13, 2014 [14 favorites]

Tape decorative paper to the lower part of the windows. Pick something that will look nice from the outside, and have the blinds over it on the inside.
posted by yohko at 11:40 PM on January 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I used something like the 3M metal hooks you linked to, to create a room divider, although mine were white plastic to blend in with the ceiling. I bought the heaviest weight hooks available, and positioned them perfectly on the ceiling so the curtain rod sat on them neatly, and it supported the curtain too.

I call them 'renters hooks'.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 11:52 PM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Window frosting film up to whatever height makes you feel comfortable. You can get static cling stuff that peels off easily when you move out. The budget option (which I use in my somewhat fishbowly apartment) is bubble-wrap: mist the windows with plain water from a spray bottle, apply with bubble side towards glass. Helps keep the heat in during winter too.
posted by pont at 11:52 PM on January 13, 2014 [14 favorites]

You just need to put up curtains. A few screw holes to hang a curtain rod is no big deal, easily filled with Poly-filla or similar when you leave.
posted by Flashman at 3:29 AM on January 14, 2014 [8 favorites]

I think this is actually something you could bring up with your landlord. Needing to install curtains for privacy isn't unreasonable. I would ask to install (cheap) rods with the understanding you would leave them and not be charged. You won't be the only renter they have who has an issue with this. You might even be able to get your landlord to pay for them.
posted by whoaali at 4:04 AM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think if you had light sources directed at the windows, people couldn't see past the light sources. Basically creating a 'wall of light'. Of course if you kept your interior lighting brighter than the 'wall' of light', then it wouldn't work.
posted by herox at 4:15 AM on January 14, 2014

You can create a second curtain rod with a bungee cord. See here. I am not sure if they make bungee cords long enough for your big windows.
posted by Fairchild at 4:41 AM on January 14, 2014

I'll second tension rods as a solution to hang curtains. It's what I do in apartments all the time. No installation or holes required!
posted by Gneisskate at 4:43 AM on January 14, 2014

Are the blinds mounted in brackets? Are they a standard width? If so, just buy opaque blinds in the same size. You can remove the sheer blinds from their brackets without damaging anything and then simply use the existing brackets for your new opaque blinds. When you move out, put the old blinds back in their brackets and no one will be the wiser..
posted by payoto at 5:11 AM on January 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

Do your windows have a ledge at all? If so, you could place shutters on the ledge during the night for privacy. No installation required.
posted by Young Kullervo at 6:20 AM on January 14, 2014

Nthing the 3M hooks and curtains. But really, what I'd do first is turn on whatever lights you have on at night, then go into the courtyard and look in, so you know EXACTLY what people can/can not see. I'm also a very private person, and moved into a house with no curtains and felt super-exposed...until I realized that unless my neighbor is literally standing on their roof, they can't see into my room, and that anyone passing by can only see about a 2 foot section of my bedroom ceiling. I ended up hanging curtains anyways, but the urgency with which I did so was greatly reduced.
posted by csox at 6:29 AM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Or if there are voyeur neighbors, I'd think they'd HAVE to eventually get bored watching me wash dishes, play video games and veg out to Netflix - right?

My very first apartment was in a small downtown area and on the 3rd floor of a building shaped like a C. I could directly look into the apartment that was the mirror of mine one floor down. They were grad students. It wasn't so much as voyeurism, really -- it was more like having goldfish. And so that's what we called them: the goldfish people. You'd just look over from time to time to see what they were doing, an endless cycle of making dinner and studying and watching tv and folding laundry.

So, no, I don't think people who might see you would watch you in a focused way. Probably more in a goldfish way.
posted by mochapickle at 7:12 AM on January 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

Adhesive hooks often cause a bigger paint mess coming down than a half-dozen screwholes do, in my experience. Hooks can tear away a substatial chunk of paint when removed, or need to be taken off with a scraper. Repairing the results leaves a largish white patch on the wall, which then needs a repaint.

A few screwholes, however, can be filled with your thumb and a two dollar squeeze tube of plaster filler on move-out day. When the filling dries, they're usually much less noticable. You can even use toothpaste if you're doing the cheap and nasty.
posted by bonehead at 7:46 AM on January 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

Just to make sure, your sheer blinds don't louvre to give more privacy, do they? Hunter Douglas makes those. - the horizontal fabric pieces flatten out and are more opaque than the really sheer front and back panels.
posted by cecic at 9:17 AM on January 14, 2014

I'm an apartment manager and I'm okay with tenants installing curtain rods. I just expect them to remove them completely when they move out.

In fact I usually ask the tenants to allow my maintenance tech to install the rods because he knows where the studs on the walls are and has the right tools to do a good job. I'd rather he spend 30 minutes doing it then than an hour patching a bunch of nail holes on move out.
posted by vespabelle at 10:06 AM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sheers in the living room are normal, especially if your living room is raised due to decking or porch. I have these and they do not bother me in the least, and I face a street with frequent pedestrian traffic in summer months.

Sheers in the bedrooms are bizarre and no you will not get used to it. Your bedroom will never be totally dark. Please follow advice above to install something that will block light.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:29 AM on January 14, 2014

Response by poster: Keep in mind these are huge, unusual loft windows / porch doors, so I'm thinking finding the right size curtains and/or tension rods would be more of a project than I care for.

I do like the idea of using a room divider when I feel like I need some privacy. So far my best option appears to be this 4-panel shoji screen from Hayneedle. It's around 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide, and seems priced right at $90. Once I'm home I can measure my windows to make sure they're adequately covered, but it seems nice and affordable, and I can also use it to break up the room when I need to.
posted by naju at 11:13 AM on January 14, 2014

Have you actually tried to look into your unit at night from the outside?

I'm wondering if they are in fact, sheer, or are some special, magical blind that obsures a view at night.

If not, I stand corrected, but if you haven't tried it, what's it hurt to go look from the outside in?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:33 AM on January 14, 2014

Response by poster: That was my first thought too, Ruthless Bunny, and I did check it out from outside. It's a light-diffusing material and not opaque at all, except during the day. Since I'm on the 2nd floor, people walking in the courtyard don't really see much, but the units across the courtyard can see everything just fine.
posted by naju at 11:49 AM on January 14, 2014

Just popped in to say that filling in holes from a curtain rod is not a big deal.
posted by cnc at 12:46 PM on January 14, 2014

Here's a thought question: in the time you've been there, how often have you hung out and watched your neighbors? I'd bet not more than the occasional glance (like the goldfish idea above). That's how often they're looking at you. Living in a dense development is about developing a personal bubble such that you live your life in minimal intersection with all the rest.

I wouldn't race to throw up something more to block your windows. Most folks won't look in, and even sheers block enough detail that you're probably safe doing anything other than constant living room nudist parade. Try living with them for a while and see if your skin thickens a bit to all the imagined staring. Part of growing up is often realizing how little other people actually watch or care about our little lives.

Just my two cents.
posted by acm at 1:15 PM on January 14, 2014

You probably want to install curtains or (different) blinds. Check your lease and/or ask your landlord before you do, although usually it is allowed. I installed curtains in my last apartment, where the lease specifically stipulated that I could do so, so long as I removed them and patched up holes when I moved out. I did and there were no issues. In another apartment I lived in, the lease said I could install any kind of curtains or blinds as long as they "appear white when viewed from the outside of the building," however in that apartment I felt the installed blinds were sufficient.
posted by tckma at 2:15 PM on January 14, 2014

Does your landlord know that the blinds do not provide privacy? Unless you want to invest $90 in shoji screens, I'd offer to them that you split the cost of better curtains that you would leave behind when you move out.
posted by slidell at 2:16 PM on January 14, 2014

Response by poster: So it looks like the bedroom is kinda visible to some units too? That's basically the tipping point, so I called the owner and was firm about it not being an acceptable situation for me, and I said "maybe we can work something out and share the costs." He seems amenable to getting some new blinds in, so I'm cautiously optimistic...
posted by naju at 4:50 PM on January 14, 2014

As a short-term fix, could you clothespin a bedsheet or shower curtain to the blinds?
posted by Comet Bug at 8:12 PM on January 14, 2014

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