Renter-friendly and budget-friendly window privacy

August 15 | Guest post by Alissa

The thing I love most about my apartment is its location. Central enough to walk to work, grocery stores, and downtown — but this means there's a lot of pedestrian traffic going by. The second thing I love most is all the windows means lots of natural light. Put those together and there's not a lot of privacy.

I went to the home improvement store and found semi-transparent adhesive window films, but they cost $20 per window! With three windows to cover, I knew I'd need to find a cheaper option. In fact, I found a way to do it with just stuff I already had so the whole project was FREE! Here's how to put it up AND take it down.

Put it up


Supplies needed for application:

  • Tissue paper — the less wrinkled, the better
  • Mod-Podge
  • Paintbrush
  • Scissors

Step 1
Examine the size of your paper and the size of your window pane. My window panes were all slightly larger than the paper I had and one was okay height-wise but a little wider. I decided to center the paper leaving a one-inch gap around the sides that I could peek through. Don't cut it before; it's easier to cut it later.

Step 2
Apply a thin layer of Mod-Podge to the window. It doesn't need to be perfect. If leaving a gap around the edges like I did, apply only where you're sure the paper will be covering it; Mod-Podge on the glass with no paper will be hazy.

Step 3
Carefully apply the tissue paper by starting at one end and gently smoothing it across the glue. Tissue paper is so thin that it will be difficult to accomplish the application without a few wrinkles (sorry, perfectionists); if you choose to use something a bit thicker like rice paper or art paper, this probably won't be as much of a problem.

Step 4
Dab a little more glue under the edges of the paper if needed.

Step 5
If your paper was larger than your window, score the edges with scissors or a utility knife to trim the excess.

I only papered the bottom panes of my windows so I can still see the sky and trees out the top. I have privacy from all the pedestrians, but still light and a view.

Take it down

I wasn't sure how well this would work, so I actually put it up on the windows for a few months, then took it down and reapplied it to write this tutorial. Clearly, it was a success.

Supplies for removal:

  • Liquid in a squirt bottle
  • Plastic card

Step 1
Saturate the paper. I sprayed one half with white vinegar and the other with cleaning solution to see if it made a difference. It didn't, so you could probably do this with just plain water, too.

Step 2
Scrape the paper and Mod-Podge off with your card.

This is so easy, it makes me regret waiting four years to do it. I obviously used plain white paper, but this could be fun with colored or patterned paper — especially in a kid's room!

  1. What!? This is one of those "Why didn't I think of that?" moments for me. Brilliant!

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  2. I did something similar with polka-dot tissue on my laundry room window, but I used spray starch and it didn't hold up very well in the steamy environment. I might redo it with ModPodge.

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    • I was just going to ask how this would hold up in a bathroom that got steamy! Any insight, Alyssa?

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      • Hmm, good question! I didn't do this in my bathroom because the window is up really high so that solves the privacy issue. What if you tried putting another layer or two of ModPodge over the paper once it's up? That might help seal things.

        (Sorry for the late reply. I was out of the country and just got back!)

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    • Pretty much the same as that photo from the inside. :)

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  3. I did something similar with cheesecloth and liquid spray starch: saturate the fabric, slap it on the window and press out the wrinkles. Once it dried it was on for good… but moistening it with water released it and sponge and water helped for the cleanup!

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    • What a great idea! I've heard you can also do the fabric-and-starch thing to put fabric on walls as temporary wallpaper, but I have yet to try it out.

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  4. I'm gonna do this to my dining room! My fiance has been on me since the day he moved in because the neighbors house is 5ft away and that can see in if they wanted. My center window is way bigger than a sheet of tissue paper though, maybe I can work out a design with a couple different colors….

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    • Stained-glass with tissue paper? I used to do this all the time with glass jars for candles, and it looked great. You don't even have to do a design; random, ripped-up pieces in different colors and patterns looks great too.

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  5. I did this in my bedroom in my apartment with different colored paper. The coolest part is there's a really bright street light outside the window which makes it look like stained glass at night.
    Here's a picture:
    http://i.imgur.com/E3H2c.jpg

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  6. This is awesome because those adhesive window films? Are terrible. I put them up in my first apartment and loved them for three years but when it came time to move out and take it down it was a nightmare. It took a couple of hours of scraping (plus a $10 removal kit) to get all the glue off. This is such a better idea!

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    • I'll admit when I first put it up I was worried how well it would come off – which is why I waited several months to actually write this as a tutorial. I was extremely pleased at the minimal amount of elbow grease required to clean it up. Though my thin, lil' REI card is now a bit bent. Should have used the thicker Qdoba card. :)

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  7. I wish I had seen this before I purchased my window film. Despite having purchased the film several months ago, I still haven't applied it, so I think I will try this first.

    My bedroom has an oval shaped window in it (right next to the bed) that I can't really put a curtain on.

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    • Hope that the paper thing works for you. I would think it would be easier to fold and mold thin paper (and score the edges afterward) than thick plastic to the shape you need. Good luck!

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  8. This is absolutely brilliant! And I'm definitely going to try it. My daughter always yanks her curtains down, not to mention how much cat fur always clings to our curtains. Having this up would be great.

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  9. Australian here, what sort of glue is mod podge? I've never heard of it so I'd love to find a similar alternative here. We are about to move into a new rental, it has a great big window into the loungeroom that looks straight over the common driveway, parking area.

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    • Mod Podge is decoupage paste. And you can make it yourself.
      You need:
      Elmers Glue (PVA)
      Water
      Container

      Empty the glue into your container. Add Water. You need it to be 50% glue and 50% water. Shake it up.

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  10. I used epsom salts and beer for my windows, it comes out with that beautiful frosted window look. It also comes off your window with some soapy water.. and gives a pretty surprised look on my guests' faces when they see the frosted windows in the middle of summer ;)

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  11. Velum tacked on would also work. With that I'd use a Glue Dot in each corner or even just a bit of clear tape. We did that at my mum's on her front door so she could have some privacy through the rectangular window but also be able to still look out if needed. Plus velum comes in pretty patterns and colours.

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    • Vellum was totally going to be my plan B if this didn't work out. I may still end up doing it one day if I get bored of the white. :)

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  12. I wonder if wax paper with a little rubber cement would work?

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    • Hmm, probably! I just grabbed these because it's what I found first. If you try it, could you let us know? I would imagine that with those ingredients it would be pretty easy to peel the paper away when you're ready to take it off.

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  13. Just did this to the bedroom windows of our new place since my hubby works graveyard and everything helps and the main window faces the morning sun. Also using silver emergency blankets to cut down on light and heat until i get longterm curtains up (we spent our first night last night)

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  14. This would be a good idea for a short term privacy solution, but not a good long term solution. My mother in law does housekeeping for a living and has seen the glue and other materials from projects like this cause permanent fogging on certain types of windows.

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  15. What about using that glad press and seal junk? You know the stuff that's like cling wrap but sticky??

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    • That would probably work, if you like the little pictures of a hand pressing it onto a bowl or something that are all over it.

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  16. Thank you so much! I have been racking and racking my brain on what to do with my French bedroom door leading out to my porch. Finally can't wait to do it! =>

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  17. CAN NOT WAIT to try this. I may even try to make it wrinkley (is that a word) on purpose. Thank you so much for posting this. I had the idea of Mod Podging tissue paper, but many of my ideas go astray. So, thanks to you, I know that it can be done!

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  18. Great idea! I found some "plasticy" tissue paper at the dollar store. I originally used it for gift bags at Christmas. However we recently moved & had no curtain for the bathroom. This plastic tissue paper actually static clings to the window, so you need no glue and can change it out with the seasons etc. I did however glue it down so I don't know how well the static holds in the humidity etc. You may want to give it a try. Mine is frost w/ aqua snowflakes.

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