Q: My kitchen window looks straight into my neighbors’ house. Since we moved in it was never much of an issue because the view was their rarely used back hallway. They remodeled and now we have a very clear view into their new bathroom! They have some lightweight shades or something, but we can still see shapes of people moving around. Our kitchen is dark so we do need the windows to be open. Is there a way to respect their privacy as well as our need for light?
A: Do you really need window treatments for yourself or is it for others? Sometimes, it’s your neighbors that need more privacy! Any good window treatment helps you control the light and your own privacy as well as helping regulate the temperature inside, as well as enhance the decor. They also can enhance a view — or shield undesirable ones. Busy roads, brick walls, factories or industrial areas, train yards, all might be interesting enough in their own right but hardly a major focal feature. Unfortunately, in today’s dense cities and awkwardly planned subdivisions sometimes the undesirable views we need to control are right next door.
Generally a layered approach to window treatments keeps things simple and is less to clean or update. Heavier fabrics or blackout liners are great for rooms needing privacy such as bathrooms or bedrooms, or in brightly lit city neighborhoods. If you need something on the windows at all, light colored or white panels help increase the light and add a breezy, airy look. Windows in these rooms are often large, and heavy fabrics in dark colors can feel overwhelming in the summertime but cozy in winter.
A sheer panel layered under heavier drapes provides light-filtering and privacy during the daytime. So do natural reed shades or mesh sunshades, along with translucent panels, shades, or thermal honeycomb style shades. At nighttime however, the tables turn. What works great during the day to keep out prying eyes becomes useless at night. Take a walk after dark through your neighborhood to see what works and what doesn’t!
Slatted shades and plantation shutters are beautiful and versatile. These could be the solution you need when you want to filter a view, such as your neighbors, and retain light. By angling the slats in a particular way, you can block the view below or across the alley, and still see the sky. Or if it’s too bright outside, angle the slats a different way. Or, consider shutters on just the lower part of your window if that is all you need. Or maybe plant a large shrub or install a window box full of flowers outside your kitchen to help filter the view in a natural way!
It’s hard to say if your neighbors know that their blinds aren’t offering complete privacy, or maybe they don’t care. Use your judgment if you’re thinking of letting them know. Are you friends? Would they think you’re nosy or rude? First, work hard to find a solution that makes you feel comfortable. You can only control what is on your property.