DIY Privacy Curtain Alternatives

Big windows and lots of light are at the top of most homebuyers must-have lists, but privacy is priceless. If curtains aren't an option, there are a few DIY alternatives.

I love curtains. They're easy, they're simple to install, and they help a room look finished in a flash. BUT - there are some instances where curtains just won't work. Recently, I had  this exact dilemma in two different scenarios. Ugh. What does one do when one needs privacy, but curtains won't cut it? I have two DIY curtain alternatives, one semi-permanent and one temporary, to give you a little more privacy without breaking the bank.

THE PEEPING NEIGHBOR PROBLEM

I love a house with lots of windows. I love an entry way with a ton of natural light. But take a look at this:

That's the view through the transom window flanking our front door. No big deal, right? You can see a window upstairs, so what? Welllllll, here's the view from the room that contains that window you see above: 

Yes. That's the bathroom. And while a closed door should remedy the privacy problem, I have a three year old. Any parent with small children knows how rare it is to use the bathroom with the door closed. And, to make matters worse, because of our morning schedule, I often find myself stepping out of the shower to a child who's just awoken, meaning I need to finished getting dressed with the door open. Not a peep show I enjoy putting on for anyone who knocks on the door. AND - even with the door closed, there's another privacy issue in the bathroom. Oh, hello, neighbors....

We tried sheer curtains, but it just didn't work in the space. So, I did a little research and found this product at my local Lowe's.

I remembered reading about it a couple times over the past few years on Young House Love, so I knew it was legit. John and Sherry had similar bathroom privacy issues and from the sound of it, the Gila Window Film installation process was simple, fast and gave great results. I set up a little prep area and got to work. To my relief, it was easy.

I used the application kit, which included a cleaning/installation solution. It was as simple as cleaning the windows thoroughly, cutting the film to size, wetting down both the window and the film, and squeegeeing the window film into place with the included tool. A few quick trims with the included cutting tool, and the windows were done. Ta-da! Privacy without losing any natural light. Gila is good for up to 10 years, which means it's a fast, inexpensive and long lasting DIY alternative to curtains. 

Next up, a privacy problem that required a removable solution...

THE PEEPING PASSERBY PROBLEM

A couple months ago, I moved into a new studio in a renovated mill building. I love it. The ceilings are high, the exterior windows are huge, the light is gorgeous, I have great neighbors, and I have plenty of space to work on projects. BUT - the space came with two interior windows that looked into well-traveled hallways. Within an hour of my first day in the space, I began to feel a little like I was working in a fishbowl. Lots of people would pause as they passed by, give my space a good look and me a wave and then continue on. Great for meeting new people, not great for productivity. I tacked up some sheer curtains, but I hated that I lost the "window" effect by covering them up. And, I wasn't a huge fan of how the yellow cast of the light fixtures in the hallway seeped in to my nice, crisp white space. Yes, I'm visually picky. 

Enter some good old fashioned Pinterest research. I found this pin that gave instructions for using cornstarch to adhere lace to a window pane, with the added bonus that you could easily remove the lace by wetting the window down with hot water. That got me thinking... What about using white tissue paper and cornstarch to create a DIY removable frosted window pane? But first, I got permission from my landlord to paint the grilles a nice clean white to match the rest of my studio.

After the paint dried and I cleaned up the window panes with a razor, it was better already. I measured the panes and cut my tissue paper to size.

Then it was time to mix up my potion with my special ingredient.

Take one tablespoon of cornstarch and mix with one tablespoon of cold water. Then mix that into 3/4 cup of boiling water. Instant paste.

Paint on a thin coat of the cornstarch mixture directly on the window pane.

Then smooth on the tissue paper, gently pressing out any bubbles. Next, gently paint another coat of the cornstarch mixture over top of the tissue. Allow to dry. You can see the slightly frosted effect of one sheet of tissue paper in this photo.

To check the privacy factor, I gave it the peeper test. Eh. Better, but I knew I was still going to feel...observed. And I could still see the yellow glow.

I repeated the process, layering on one more sheet of tissue to each pane. In the photo below, I'm actually behind the window, but you can barely see me - and that's before the second coat dried. 

The cornstarch/tissue treatment gets more opaque as it dries, so as you can see below, by the time it was fully dry, there was no shadow of passersby, and no yellow glow. Score one for a temporary fix for a privacy problem! And at the cost of $0 to me, that's my kind of solution. (If you have to grab cornstarch and tissue paper, you're still talking less than $10.)

I'm feeling much more comfortable in both spaces, now that my privacy is restored, and my bank account is happy with me for having found two solutions that didn't set me back $$$$. How have you solved a privacy problem when curtains weren't an option?

Next Up

Embellish Your Curtains for a Custom Look at Home

A designer shares how to personalize your curtains, shades and valances.

How to Rewire a Vintage Lamp

Learn how to gently clean and rewire an antique brass lamp.

Make Your Campfire Magical with a DIY Swedish Torch

Host a shindig with a campfire that will burn, baby, burn with little maintenance. S’mores, anyone?

See What the Buzz Is About: Make a DIY Wasp-Catcher

Upcycle an old wine bottle into a pretty wasp trap that can adorn your porch or patio this summer.

Cheap + Easy DIY Ideas for Dreary Dorm Rooms

Real college students offer their best ideas for planning your fall dorm decor.

DIY Wedding: 1 Napkin, 3 Ways

Design custom napkins perfectly suited to your wedding style.

DIY Backyard Fire Pit Ideas + All the Accessories You’ll Need

Give your backyard s'more love and add a cozy fire pit. 

DIY Sparklers Craft

Learn how to create these fun, whimsical—and safe—sparklers for this year's Fourth of July celebrations.

Mid-Century Modern Planter DIY

Learn how to make this mod planter from copper plumbing supplies, a glass orb and some low-maintenance succulents.

Make Dad This DIY Pasta Measuring Tool

For a dad who loves gadgets, a customized pasta measuring tool is an easy and fun DIY gift this Father’s Day.

What We're Loving Now

Blogger Halloween Challenge

Five of our bloggers faced off in a craft-pumpkin decorating competition. See the results and vote for your favorite. 

Tell Us What You Think

More From the Archives

Browse through our archives to discover "why-didn't-I-think-of-that" projects, cool hacks and  genius DIY ideas.

Read Our Previous Posts

Meet the Team

About the Team

Get to know the crafty, creative writers and editors behind DIY's Made+Remade blog. 

Go Behind the Blog