Two friends asked about window film at separate times last weekend so I figured that as long as I was gathering the information again I might as well post it again. I’ve mentioned window film before and a lot of this information was previously gathered for this post on window film for my stint as Guest Blogger over at Design*Sponge.
I love window film for a (possibly) inexpensive way to cover windows that don’t have a view of much of anything. It’s a low commitment and easy to remove solution for renters, takes up no space at all for a window that is in a hallway or a door, and lets in a lot of light. I use it in the place of cafe curtains in a few places to only block out the bottom half of some windows.
There are a few options which I’ll list below going from expensive to cheap to unfamiliar to DIY, but first I want to give you a warning. This is the warning: beware using clear contact paper. It seems perfect, and a few years ago I used and removed it easily in my SF apartment. But the second time I used it and went to remove it the @#$%ing adhesive stayed on the glass. I spent a very long day surrounded by Goo Gone, Windex and various scrapers picking that @#$%ing adhesive off three windows. Tears were involved. Arms were unable to be completely lowered to my sides for a time. I think the adhesive formula had changed in the intervening years. So, unless you are ready and willing to go through this yourself I suggest you use one of the options below.
Strossel Design: I have the Geranium film in the window over my kitchen sink, it’s a much nicer thing to look at than my neighbor’s siding. Upside: It doesn’t have any adhesive. Downside: It’s expensive. The height of the panels work out well to block out the bottom half of a window. There are a number of patterns available, white on translucent. Available at Rare Device and Scandinavian Design Center. Strossel Design website.
Maria Liv: I really like the effect of branches just on the other side of the glass. I have not used this one but Ex Libris shows how she used the branches design to block the view in from windows next to her front door on Flickr. There are a number of designs, white or gray on translucent. You can find this at Scandinavian Design Center.
Gila brand film from a hardware store. I see this in the aisle of Lowes that has the window blinds. Most of the designs are less that lovely, but the plain frosted film is fine. Upside: The roll is very, very wide. Downside: The roll is very, very wide. The roll is wide enough that it can be difficult to find a surface big enough to measure and cut the size you need. I currently use this on the window in our office that, sadly, has a view of our neighbor’s holly tree which is encroaching on our roof. (The picture above shows some seams, which is only there because I accidentally cut the film too small and had to create an overlap.) This has a pretty strong adhesive backing, but I’ve had little trouble removing it using the accompanying Gila brand removal spray (you can borrow mine if you need it). Also a plus, the Gila film offers some UV protection. Gila website.
See also: Door Sixteen left a gap around the edges to create some privacy in a bathroom without completely blocking out the window. Megan B at Shelterrific used some film from Window Film World to create a bit more privacy for the sliding glass doors in her kitchen without losing the light. I also really like the modern vertical slat design (first image) created using frosted film in this living room shown off over at Apartment Therapy.
Amorf Frost film from Ikea: I found this in the Bathroom section of the Marketplace. Upside: It’s very inexpensive. Downside: The rolls are narrow and so are better suited to small windows, and the texture of surface of the film isn’t as nice as other films. I currently use this on a door which has a few small windows, and a small bathroom window. Backing is not adhesive, really easy to remove.
Emma Jeffs: I have not tried this, but the description says it has a slightly adhesive backing. It comes in a bunch of graphic designs and a few colors, my favorite is the white pixels. Available at 2Jane, Pure Modern and Design Public. Emma Jeffs website.
Brume: This is a company in the UK and I know very little about the film, but I love the cut out designs they have. With a little careful work with an exacto knife you could likely do something inspired by these designs. Brume website.
Application and removal of window film. I’m going to quote myself from the Design*Sponge post here:
Window film is applied by spraying the window with slightly soapy water. I simply put a drop of baby shampoo in a spray bottle and fill it the rest of the way with water. You don’t want to use something like a dish detergent as this will create too many bubbles which can be difficult to push out from under the film.
Before removing the film backing cut it to the size of your window, you can hold it in place to see if you need to trim a little more off. Spray the window with your soap mixture, peel the backing off the film and apply right away. The back, or smooth, side of the film is statically charged and will attract lots of dust if you remove the backing too soon. The small amount of soap in the water creates just enough surface tension to hold onto your window film, you can slide it into place while it’s still wet, and once it dries it will hold until you remove it. After the film is in place I use a clean, dry cloth to gently push air bubbles to the edges of the film so that they can escape.
Non-adhesive window film peels off cleanly leaving you with a little bit of soap you need to wash away, I used a regular window cleaner. Adhesive backed window film like the Gila film is more difficult to remove, but I was happy to find that the window film remover they sell worked like a charm to remove the film and any adhesive it left behind.
Image by and belongs to All Buttoned Up.
DIY options: There are a handful of DIY window film solutions as well. I really love this option at All Buttoned Up, she used a white-on-white cotton fabric soaked with spray starch to cover a window which turned out beautifully. Laundry starch will clean up easily. (I’ve also heard of people covering whole walls using a lightweight fabric and laundry starch. This frightens me as I imagine the clean up for a whole wall would be messy, but hey, it’s an option.)
Design*Sponge has a post on painting your own designs on window film. (I have to note again that I don’t recommend using clear contact paper because of the trouble I had getting the adhesive off the glass when I went to remove it. Use Gila or the Ikea stuff instead if you can.)
A few last notes on other things I’ve tested: One of the first projects I did on this site, way back in 2001, was testing what sort of DIY window film would work in my tiny San Francisco kitchen that looked out into the uninteresting space between buildings that did nothing but allow neighbors on four floors to see into my window. I used liquid laundry starch (which came in a bottle) to stick tissue paper on my window, a section of small squares of contact paper, as well as a section of various amounts of beer mixed with epsom salt. The tissue paper didn’t stay on the window long, the beer was fun (and can work as a holiday decoration) but the tidiest looking one was the clear contact paper. I used it for a year and a half in a San Francisco apartment and it came down cleanly (again, my later use of contact paper ended with tears during clean up, you’ve been well warned, etc.) Another thing I tried once up on a time was painting gesso directly onto glass. This worked well, and even covered the outside of a shower door without being affected by the water, but clean up was frustrating and I found myself tired of looking at brush strokes after not too long.