Advice for daytime privacy with light?
August 16, 2017 11:57 AM   Subscribe

We just moved to a ground-level apartment with lots of foot traffic close by. I want ALL the light I can get and if possible the ability to see out, but also privacy from casual viewers. I'm considering making curtains from cheesecloth. Will low-grade (e.g. grade 10) cheesecloth work for this, or would I need to get a denser weave? Any other suggestions welcome.

We do have blinds, but angling them for privacy cuts a ton of light and means I can't look at pretty leafy things.
posted by moira to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I use frosted glass window cling decals. They're not cheap (but online for larger sizes) but they're easy to put up and take down. You can also put them up halfway so you can see out and above people but at eye level they aren't looking in.
posted by raccoon409 at 11:59 AM on August 16, 2017 [11 favorites]

I have gauze curtains from Target, like these (in white, bought ages ago). They let in almost as much light as having no curtains. You can't see clearly through them, but you can definitely make out shapes (like, enough to identify someone you know). I ended up installing a blind behind them, because at night, with the lights on, you can clearly see inside from outside.
posted by slipthought at 12:08 PM on August 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

A useful search term might be "cafe curtain" or "half curtain".
posted by bimbam at 12:12 PM on August 16, 2017

I saw a beautiful example of this using tension rods and hand-made paper. The artist measured the lower half of a large window and folded down the ends of the paper to fit the appropriate dimensions on the top and the bottom (the hems were wide enough to slip the tension rods through.) She secured the hems with hot glue, slipped the tension rods through the hems and positioned the paper curtains within the opening. This allowed her to move it up or down depending of the season. It blocked out the lower portion of the window but she could still see the sky and leaves from trees without people peering inside. It wasn't very expensive and she could change the paper whenever she tired of the pattern.
posted by IndigoOnTheGo at 12:19 PM on August 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

What about applying one-way film to your windows?
posted by TrinsicWS at 12:43 PM on August 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

For a friend, I installed patterned* frosted glass decals halfway up, and gauzy white curtains made from a cotton/linen blend a bit heavier than cheesecloth, but still cheap. During daytime, this allows bright sunlight to come in, and they can see the tree crowns and the sky outside. When night-time comes, the curtains are drawn to prevent people from looking in from a distance (there are tall buildings 500 meters away, from where one might be able to look in at night).

You can use cheesecloth for this, but the upkeep will be difficult. Remember curtains can last 15 or more years, and it's worth paying a little more for a quality that is easy to wash and iron, or just hand over to the cleaners every other year. Cheesecloth shrinks in unpredictable ways and is hard to iron out.

*you can get a lot of patterns, and many do something really nice with the light without letting anyone look in.
posted by mumimor at 12:45 PM on August 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I really like how these look and was planning on making some for my windows. But it does look like a lot of work.....

I'm pretty sure you can buy special stuff to paint on the window, just the lower half if you like, to make it sort of opaque.
posted by kitcat at 12:45 PM on August 16, 2017

I use frosted window decals from Home Depot/Lowe's on the bottom half of our windows. They let in plenty of light (albeit a bit defused), but afford a great amount of privacy. And were cheap! (A roll was like, maybe $20, and filled up several windows.)

I then hung loose-weave linen cafe curtains on top top half of the window that can be open and closed as needed for additional privacy or darkness. A++ will do again.
posted by RhysPenbras at 12:49 PM on August 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Those cheap Target gauzy curtains as mentioned upthread: I have them, and they're perfect. From inside, where I'm sitting in my office right now: from inside, sitting at a desk that's set against the window. And From outside, at a closer distance than I'm sitting in the first pic.

I'll be happy to take a pic tonight when it's dark outside and light inside, because that does change things, but if letting daylight in is what you're interested in and keeping curious eyes out at night is also what you're looking for, then go for a double-hanging rod and put blocking curtains up as well that you can open during the day and close at night, like I did!
posted by erst at 12:49 PM on August 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

I like lace curtain panels, which you can often find cheap at thrift stores. Or if near an Ikea, these are a decent budget option.
posted by veery at 2:23 PM on August 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

During the day, you could use one-way film, but it won't give you nighttime privacy, so you will need curtains as well.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:32 PM on August 16, 2017

I had a front door with all-those-little-panes of glass, and no interest in putting up curtains or blinds. Nope, didn't want someone walking up to the door and seeing me on the other side.
I went to the party section at Wal-Mart and got a thin plastic table runner with a camo-leaves design and cut out rectangles, then dampened each pane and stuck the plastic on it from the inside of the room. It worked fine, pretty much stayed in place, and if it began to peel down I just rewet the glass and stuck it back in place. Surface tension is a nice thing.
I don't know if this would work if the glass is exposed to sunlight. I'm guessing that the plastic will not make a shadow design on the glass that is hard to remove once the plastic is gone.
I did consider using different solid colors for a stained glass effect, but the camouflage leaves were pretty, and I arranged them as if there was a tree outside with that pattern. Nice.
posted by TrishaU at 3:14 PM on August 16, 2017

Besides the fact that they don't work at all for privacy at night*, one-way film will block (well, reflect) a significant amount of incoming light during the day. I think you'll do better diffusing the light with privacy curtains or whatever.

* One-way film is not actually one-way, which would violate a principle of physics. One-way film is merely partially transparent and partially reflective. So when you're on the brighter side, it's hard to see what's on the dimmer side, because the reflection is dimmer than the reflected light. This is true with regular glass or eve screens too, just to a lesser degree (those need a bigger difference in lighting before it gets hard to see through them).
posted by aubilenon at 3:21 PM on August 16, 2017

I've used sheers from Ikea for this. In another place I used this window cling film. Honestly I bet buying cheap sheers would be less expensive than sewing your own out of cheesecloth. I'm a "must have daylight" type of person and these worked for me.
posted by purple_bird at 3:30 PM on August 16, 2017

I have those LILL sheers from IKEA and they're inexpensive, easy to clean, and perfect for this application. They're also designed to be trimmed to fit, so you don't have to hem if you don't want to.
posted by quince at 4:35 PM on August 16, 2017

A ridiculously low-tech and inexpensive (if you have the right stuff around) way to get privacy while keeping windows transparent is with bubblewrap. Cut to window size, spray window lightly with water, press the flat side of the wrap into the window; the water should act as a mild adhesive.
posted by jackbishop at 6:02 PM on August 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

Lace fabric with flour paste is what I'm planning to use.
posted by kjs4 at 9:56 PM on August 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Why not just buy net curtains?
posted by jenjen23 at 3:14 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

We use these in several windows. They let in plenty of light and would give a similar effect to cheese cloth. We have one window we only want to block the bottom half of so we put the blind in across ways. They are cheap, easy to install, fold up if you want to look out the window.

In another window we also have these curtains. They are probably only slightly thicker than anything you'd make from cheese cloth & let in a lot of light and offer complete privacy and hang nicely.
posted by wwax at 8:50 AM on August 17, 2017

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