I want more control over the light coming into my bedroom
July 27, 2006 7:37 AM   Subscribe

Please help me block all light through my bedroom's sliding glass doors - without damaging them, violating my community's rules, or using anything ugly or smelly. Blinds and shutters aren't opaque enough.

There's a street light that's visible from our bed through the sliding glass doors in our bedroom. Curtains block it a little, but I want complete darkness. I know about the special light-blocking fabric one can buy, I bought some, but the plasticky smell was awful (I know it will dissipate over time, but I really didn't like the idea of that fabric in my bedroom) -- and again, curtains aren't going to block all the light, just most of the light.

I have an idea that someone's solved this before, but haven't figured out good search terms for Google. I did find this thread here, but it focuses on curtains, drapes, and shutters (also not opaque enough).

I'm willing to get some lumber and construct some kind of insert, or even a structure to go in front of the sliding glass doors, but I'd also like these features:
  • ability to still open the (left) door and go in/out sometimes;
  • ability to reveal only the top of the panes (so they're more like windows)
  • a ledge or shelf at the "window" base so my cat or some plants can hang out there;
  • edges that seal out light completely when any movable part is "closed".
I could just design this myself, but perhaps someone has done it already? I'm not that experienced with carpentry, yet, and since my desired feature list might involve hinges or something I'd love some input.

One more thing: if the solution is some kind of removable thing, it needs to store easily; I don't have a shed or basement or anything -- we're in a condo.

Anyone seen anything like this? Ideas for good search terms?
posted by amtho to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I had a similar problem, and solved it with a combination of: Dual layered curtains (white on the inside, heavy velvet black on the outside), a cover for the top of the curtain rod, and double-sided tape for the side-edges. With the dual layering, the curtain toward the window absorbed most of the light, acting the same way a primer does for paint.
posted by thanotopsis at 7:41 AM on July 27, 2006

"All light" requires a solid panel of some kind -- no drape or shade is going to do it. Build a hinged set of panels, split top and bottom like a dutch door, seal all edges with weatherstripping, and screw to the frame. Easily removed and patched up if you move out. I'd make it out of plywood and paint or stain it to look decent.
posted by beagle at 7:41 AM on July 27, 2006

Are your current curtains lines with blackout fabric?
posted by Leon at 7:46 AM on July 27, 2006

lined. damnit.
posted by Leon at 7:47 AM on July 27, 2006

The first option you have is calling the city to place some sort of light block on the street light. I've worked for different DPW's and this type of request is commonplace and easily done.

The second option is similar to the solution many people who try to create a photo darkroom use. I like the thick black plastic sheeting method as mentioned midway down on this forum thread but there are other solutions out there.
posted by JJ86 at 7:49 AM on July 27, 2006

Response by poster: Leon - blackout fabric is the plasticky fabric that I did try; it was opaque, but I think curtains in general are not enough here.

Thanatopsis - the dual-layered curtains might work, and would be easy-ish, but it's still enough trouble that carpentry is attractive. Not sure how I feel about black velvet in my bedroom...

beagoe - that's kind of the direction I was thinking, but in an ideal world I'd love to see a picture of something like that.

JJ86 - Darkroom solutions may be the research avenue I want. Thank you! I didn't see anything yet that looks perfect, because:

I want to be able to let light _in_ easily during the day. I don't think I spelled that out clearly enough. I also like the idea of being able to use just the top of the window.
posted by amtho at 8:02 AM on July 27, 2006

amtho: odd, the blackout-fabric I have here is thick and cottony. Anyway, I was going to suggest two pairs of heavy curtains with a dual-pole curtain rail (if the link dies, it's a "Double Pole Set with Ash Ball Finial").
posted by Leon at 8:13 AM on July 27, 2006

Why wouldn't a combination of no-light blinds and black-backed curtains do the trick? Blinds are available at Home Depot of all materials and price ranges. I had custom curtains done for one room at Calico Corners - blue curtains backed with white fabric, but you could do it with black. They did a good job, but were a bit pricey.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:19 AM on July 27, 2006

It's probably against the community rules to use tinfoil, but if you put up blinds and put tinfoil behind them (on your side) I doubt anyone would notice. Has the benefits of being cheap and easy to remove.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:22 AM on July 27, 2006

The blinds that I have experience with is one with two regular fabric blinds separated by a rigid bar. The top is a semitransparant white material, the bottom is a colored material with black-out fabric sandwiched in between.

It is a honeycomb blind, with the bottom-up top-down feature. Both pieces of the blind have this feature. 100% black out, 100% open, 50/50 open/blackout, 50/50 semitransparent/blackout, 50/50 open/semitransparent, or anywhere in between, all possible.

The blackout portion of the blind is slightly heavy and needs to be held up by a cleat that is installed at the level of the bottom of the window -- you just wrap the amount of cord around it to secure the blinds in any position.

This experience is with a very large 8ft x 5ft bay window, which is why the fabric was so heavy. The product really works, but it was quite expensive. The fit has to be just right or there are light leaks around the edges. It was put up one day, and the company came back to adjust a few days later (this was planned, a time issue with the installers). There were leaks on the top and bottom of the blind after the initial installation, but total black-out after everything was adjusted for the curvature of the window frame.
posted by silicon.pyro at 8:25 AM on July 27, 2006

Instead of focusing on blocking the light from entering the doors, how about just block the light from coming to your bed?

I'm thinking something along the lines of a canopy bed with drapes on all sides? It sounds like other than when it's nighttime/sleep time you rather enjoy having the doors there.
posted by o0ll0o.o0ll0o at 8:30 AM on July 27, 2006

I forgot to mention, they entire set-up just looks like a regular honeycomb blind, especially from the outside. I also forgot to say that I can't remember the exact brand/model, but searching the internet, I found at least one result that is very similar.
posted by silicon.pyro at 8:36 AM on July 27, 2006

Whatever route you go to create the frame or hang points, you might want to use duvateen as your blackout cloth.

It's a lot like black felt. Specifically used for blackout in theater and production environments.
posted by tomierna at 9:08 AM on July 27, 2006

Just pick up some "room-darkening shades" (they come in different levels of opacity) at Home Depot.
posted by callmejay at 9:27 AM on July 27, 2006

Opaque window film might be a good solution. The link goes to a particular dealer, but googling "opaque window film" gives a plethora of options.
posted by jefeweiss at 9:47 AM on July 27, 2006

I once saw someone on a home improvement show stick paper to their windows with a simple egg white wash.
posted by Sara Anne at 10:27 AM on July 27, 2006

You can lightly affix fabric to the windows with starch, mixed according to directions, sprayed on liberally, then add dark fabric. Won't leave openings for the cat, or occasional desire for light, though.
posted by theora55 at 12:10 PM on July 27, 2006

In Alaska, where the midnight sun is a problem in summer, I've seen people use foam boards (the ones I've seen were some kind of insulation material, like this, but you could perhaps also use some kind of foam-core "poster board.") They would cut the foam board to the dimensions of the window, insert it into the frame at night, and remove it during the day.

You could spray paint this to make it more attractive, and it would be easy to remove and fairly easy to store (being thin and lightweight.) You might even be able to rig up windows by cutting out an insert in the top half, which could be removed or replaced as appropriate. Not sturdy enough for cats, tho.
posted by fermion at 1:31 PM on July 27, 2006

I bought "blackout curtains" like this at Bed, Bath and Beyond. They work marvelously well. They have various different lengths and don't cost much.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:34 PM on July 27, 2006

I think fermion is on the right (quantum?) path. Some sort of rigid panel, cut slightly larger than the opening, with a rubber/foam gasket around the opening. The panel is pushed against the gasket and then held in place with several latches (like the back panel of a picture frame). For maximum coolness, take a photo of the interior of your room from the outside, blow it up and affix it to the outside-facing side of the boards.

I'd go with luon or thin plywood, assuming you have a dresser/wardrobe/couch to slide the panels behind when not in use (maybe even under the bed if not otherwise occupied by monsters, etc.).
posted by Rock Steady at 3:15 PM on July 27, 2006

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