Single family homes on spacious lots may feature unadorned picture windows to provide an unobstructed view from the bathtub, and city dwellers with an exhibitionist streak sometimes leave their windows bare. But most people whose bathroom windows face the street, neighbors, or even just the great outdoors prefer a bit of privacy in a room devoted to attending to hygiene. Choosing the best window treatment to add privacy to your bathroom will depend on your budget, the style and type of windows that you have, and how much privacy you require.
“Adding privacy to a bathroom is key, especially when you're trying to create the ultimate oasis at home,” says Stoneside Blinds and Shades design consultant Jason Miller. The bathroom is also the wettest room in the house, making the choice of materials an issue. “The most important aspect to consider is moisture resistance as you want to ensure the materials that offer privacy to your windows won't mildew.”
Miller likes using roller shades with light-filtering fabric in the bathroom, which has become a go-to in many modern interiors. “A roller shade is like a frosted window, it lets in some natural light,” Miller says. “PVC or fiberglass materials are extremely easy to clean and will resist mildewing.”
Interior designer Erin Williamson of Erin Williamson Design likes to incorporate light filtering roller as well as roman-style shades. “Polyester blend materials don't sag with humidity, but they still offer a bit of softness in what is typically a hard edge room,” Williamson says. “Before ordering, check the view from the exterior at night to ensure total privacy.”
Roller shades range from simple white to highly decorative custom-made shades in any pattern, color, and various levels of transparency. They can be installed with drawstrings to open and close, or automated for push-button convenience. For a less expensive option, you can install roller shades in materials such as bamboo that will filter light while being light on your wallet and the environment.
Blinds and Shutters
Another popular shade for bathrooms are inexpensive slatted blinds in materials that range from painted metal to wood and can be adjusted to let in more or less light according to the season and the weather. These won't win any beauty contests, but they can get the job done if the rest of the bathroom is well decorated and you keep them clean and neat. You can also install durable wooden shutters for a more elevated and classic look.
If you are renovating or building a house from scratch, the ultimate fix for preserving natural light but adding privacy to a bathroom—if preserving the view outside isn’t a priority—is to choose semi-opaque glass for bathroom windows.
“Bathrooms are by nature private spaces, but natural light is important both for aesthetics and to combat mold growth,” says Williamson. “Finding a way to dress windows for both privacy and light can be tricky, but there are many types of obscured glass that will do both.”
If you’re a renter or a homeowner who doesn’t have the desire or the budget to change the windows, Williamson suggests “cost conscious window films that are so much better looking than the old school films you may remember.” Inexpensive, hard-working window films can be cut for a custom fit. They come in a range of options, from plain to decorative, and some help block UV rays.
Curtains and Drapery
Installing a lightweight or gauzy half-curtain in the bathroom is an easy and time-tested way to add some privacy without blocking out too much light. But many experts caution against hanging drapery, particularly if it skims the floor. “You want to avoid drapery in a bathroom,” Miller cautions, “as the humid environment means it is prone to mildew and it won't provide as much privacy to the space either.”
If you're looking for a quick or temporary fix, there are plenty of creative DIY options for adding privacy to your bathroom window. Depending on the bathroom layout and available floor space, you can create privacy using a lightweight free-standing decorative screen or room divider in materials such as woven natural rattan or cane that will create privacy while allowing some light to flow in.
You can also create an eco-friendly, mood-lifting green screen made of plants. Add a ton of plants if you want to completely obscure the view, or just a few strategically placed pots on the sill depending on how much you want to block the view.
A deep-set window can act like a shadow box for a display that will double as a privacy shield. For example, you can install glass shelves and line them with glass bottles containing perfume, liquid soap, or loosely woven baskets that will still allow some light to penetrate while adding privacy.