Renovations

Privacy Window Options for Bathrooms – Which to Choose and Why

January 19, 2024

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We’re about to embark on a major renovation. In that process, the tub may or may not stay in the same place, but the window isn’t going anywhere. We love the idea of a big walk-in shower, with natural light cascading through the giant window. Sounds amazing, right? Record screech as reality walks in the room.

I recently stayed in a hotel in New York with a window in the shower and no curtain or privacy glass. It was invigorating to look out over the city from so many stories up, knowing no one could see in. It’s a shame this upcoming bathroom project isn’t on the 14th floor :) The big window is beautiful, to be sure, and the light it lets in we do not want to lose. But eyes. Oh, those peeping eyes. Our property has a sidewalk along the back edge of it. And though we have some young screening we planted during our backyard project, it won’t shield much for at least a few more years. The sidewalk is up a small hill and any passersby will have a marvelous view directly into our primary bathroom.

Don’t mind the paint. This photo was from sampling new trim colors for our exterior. :)

This isn’t the first time we’ve gone through this. Our first Idaho home, we added a big window in our primary bathroom. We did the same in our second Idaho home. For both of those, the windows were more elevated, and the sight line more obstructed. We went with a translucent privacy glass, and it felt right for those. But Chris wasn’t sold on that for such a big window in this case, so we’ve rounded up several of the best options we could find, along with their pros and cons.

Chris Loves Julia - Privacy Glass

Gold Knobs | Floral Wallpaper | Marble Title | Showerhead | Rain Showerhead

Shutters

Right now, the window is covered up with shutters that are closed 95% of the time. They would be an option if the window wasn’t going to be inside the new shower.

Pro: No one is looking in the windows. The privacy is absolute. Oh, and they’re charming.

Con: It’s a pain to open them because you have to reach all the way over the tub (Okay, you really have to step into the tub!), and the bathroom is always very dark because we don’t want to take the time to open them.

DIY Window Film – Peel & Stick/Spray

Peel & Stick window film or spray window film are great budget options, or if you want to add translucency to a window that’s already in place. The downside is that they’re still a bit more transparent then is ideal for a shower situation. But we used the film in our very first home in Utah, and the spray on the window for our pantry in our first Idaho home.

Pro: Very inexpensive, easy to apply, and provides privacy.

Con: We won’t be able to see out, ever. The window will just turn into a soft light source during the day. The translucency also isn’t very strong, so in a shower you’ll definitely be able to make out a flesh-toned silhouette.

Curtains/Cafe Curtain

Cafe Curtains | Cafe Curtain Rod | Cabinet Hardware | Faucet | Sconce | Wood Mirrors | Rug | Step Stool (similar)

Obviously you can block a window with curtains. But in a shower, especially a shower in North Carolina, the humidity will do a number on the rod and rings, and you’ll have mildew in the curtains within days of hanging them. You could go for plastic rods and rings, but that’s not cute. And still, mildew. Gross.

Pro: They’re really cute, and you can open it and see out when you want to.

Con: Not gonna work for high humidity applications like a shower.

Privacy Glass

Towel Hook | Artwork | Shower Doorknob

This is the permanent option we went with in the past, but again, the sight line was less direct in these showers, and the windows were smaller. But if you want something like this, the window has to be made with the specialty privacy glass, and it’s permanent from the factory. But with this option, you can decide how much translucency you want, and it will obscure a lot more than the film or spray.

Pro: This solution will stand up to moisture on the daily (the peel-and-stick may not), so it’s great for in-shower use.

Con: You lose the big, beautiful view of all the green trees from inside. And because this is specialty glass, it’s more expensive.

One-way glass

Also called “mirror glass,” you can see out of it clearly, but looking in — it’s a mirror. One side is transparent, and the other is reflective. But that’s only if outside is more light than inside. Once night time hits and the lights go on inside, zero privacy.

Pro: We can see clearly outside, but no one can see in. We’ll get to take advantage of all that lovely light and the view.

Con: For a bathroom it’s not a great option because once night time hits, everything inside will be in full view.

Electronic Glass

This is one of the new-comers to the scene. Not really – it’s been around for a few years. But it is young enough that it can be glitchy. Essentially the window is connected to a switch that, when flipped, toggles between translucent and transparent.

There are two types, one that uses LED technology and one that used liquid crystals that move in and out of alignment when a current is passed through them. The LED version can be finicky, and if you try to take a video in the space when the window is clear, the camera will pick up strobing in the window – the window flashes on the video, even though it doesn’t do that in person. The liquid crystal version (the company I know of that does it is CliC Glass) does not have the same strobing effect, but it also doesn’t allow for any sort of grid pattern on the window, like we currently have. So depending on the style of your home, this one may or may not work.

Pro: It’s clear and looks like a normal window, but the technology allows you to press a button, and it becomes privacy glass. And if the power goes out, it defaults to privacy mode.

Con: It’s the most expensive option. By far. And if it breaks, it’s expensive to replace. Additionally, in video, some versions have a strobe effect, and versions that don’t do not allow for window grid/light separation (which all of our windows have).

So, which version are we going to go with? Drum roll please…. we’re not sure. :/

We still have some things we want to figure out with the bathroom layout that could end up moving the location of the shower. If the shower isn’t there, easy – regular window, curtains, bang, done. But if the shower does end up there, we have a lot to weight out, and some compromises to make.

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What do you think?

  1. Kelly H says:

    We have a window inside my kid’s shower and one next to the shower. Both were treated the same way with nickel finish rods and anti-mildew outdoor grade fabric cafe curtains. Has taken 10 years and the one inside the shower has finally bit the dust.

  2. Pip says:

    I would use permanent translucent or fluted glass up to the height of the existing shutters and keep the vision out of the higher windows.

  3. Melissa says:

    Would love if you’d be willing/able to share prices for each. Totally understand prices are specific to your situation. But still would be helpful! I’m in a similar situation but the window is the very front of my home.

  4. Sheila Brennan says:

    What about going with a new custom window that keeps the same outline but is a full pane of the CliC glass and then adding the mullions over that? Only do that on the bottom 5X3 panes, leaving the beautiful curves up top. Not ideal, but from a distance it could look like individual panes. Just a thought. Whatever you guys decide will be beautiful.

  5. Kaela says:

    We have peel and stick translucent film in our main bathroom – we were worried about it being too transparent as well. We bought one with a little less transparency, and after we put it up, I stood in the bathroom nude and I made my hubby stand outside while we were both on the phone and moved closer and further away from the window. I had to literally press up against the window before he could see even a person-colored blob from the outside, day or night – yay! We’ve had this for years now in a very humid, tiny bathroom and it still works great!

  6. Laurie Charbonneau says:

    Electronic Glass

  7. Cheryl says:

    My bathroom window isn’t in the shower so I’m considering honeycomb type blinds to replace the existing 2″ faux wood blinds. We don’t need much privacy (our house is in the middle of ten acres) but the master bathroom window overlooks our back porch. I had been considering DIY privacy film but that would obscure our everyday view. Honeycomb blinds would be relatively unobtrusive when raised and easy enough to lower on those rare occasions we have company and use the back porch.

  8. How about an electric exterior blind ? I am about to embark on my new build, and will have a very large glass window in my steam shower so doing something inside in not an option because I would like to see out. I’m hoping I can find something.

  9. Talia Rykowski says:

    Have you thought about stained glass or a “bottle glass” window. Something with enough texture to blur the image but still allow light in. Stained glass has so many options, you can even create something that is meaningful to you and Chris. Looking forward to seeing the space progress!

  10. Judith says:

    Have you considered getting a regular pane of glass and then applying a mock-grid to the outside, affixed to the window frame?
    That’s how many houses around here have modern windows but still with the classic gridded optics. It comes factory side (can even be enclosed inside the glass for easiest cleaning), but in your case, it shouldn’t be too difficult to add yourselves.
    I’m kinda surprised the company producing the glass doesn’t offer something like that as a kit or otherwise additional option, tbh. You’re most likely not the only people having to make this kind of consideration.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    We have double hung windows in our bathroom. We did the bottom with privacy glass and the top as clear glass. It allows us privacy from the neck down but the ability to see the leaves in the trees, if it is actively raining, etc. we also open the windows from the top down for ventilation which preserves the privacy and allows for fresh air. Also there is plenty of light since you get full light from the while window. From the outside it is not obvious. I highly recommend this solution and would do it again.

  12. Mandy says:

    During a recent remodel of our bathroom, we added a very large window above the tub. We decided to have a motorized shade made so that I don’t have to reach over the tub to close curtains/shades. There is a pocket built into the ceiling that hides the shade housing. With just a touch of a button, the shade goes up or down and I can see the lovely outdoors or get instant privacy.

  13. Lucia Wilke says:

    We are in a similar situation as you. We are starting our bathroom remodel on Monday and we have windows over the tub and the windows are on the front of the house (our street is a cul-de-sac and has only 3 houses, so not a lot of traffic). We will be swapping where the tub and shower are, thus putting those windows WITHIN the shower. We have wood casement windows throughout the house so we’ve already replaced the soon-to-be-in-the-shower windows with composite fiberglass frame windows so we don’t deal with wood rot later (the best solution for interior “waterproof” that I found to be from Renewal by Andersen). To combat the visibility issue in the shower, I will be adding high-privacy window film to the bottom half of the window. There are a lot of options for frosted window film: from barely obscuring the shapes/colors of what’s behind the glass, to film that completely obscures shapes/colors but still lets in diffused light. Our windows have muntins/grills that divide them vertically, so there’s a delineation where I can start/stop the privacy film. This will leave the top half of the windows as is, so we can see out (mostly the tops of the trees/sky).

    The OTHER solution I saw, that I don’t see mentioned above, is installing a frosted glass door in the shower, but fit into the well of a window. This “door” can be opened as needed to let the view/light in when the shower is not in use or to clean, but closed when privacy is needed. Check this link (remove space in HTTP) ht tps://www.pinterest.com/pin/33284484724015955/

    If we had gone this route, I would have done a half height frosted glass panel in the shower window. This would have allowed us the unobstructed view above the frosted panel, privacy below it, and the ability to clean or see out the bottom half of the window when needed.

  14. Laurie Abbott says:

    Please go with the electronic glass! I’m so interested in this ie cost, installation, maintenance.

  15. Allyson says:

    If you go with the shower in front of the window, you could do the bottom, rectangular section of glass frosted and leave the top clear, just as it is now with the shutters. You’d get more light in than with the shutters and you can still see the beautiful trees through the arch. If you go with a tub in the same spot, I vote for cafe curtains.

  16. Jean Corbin says:

    I had a shower with window and hated it. Water pooled on seal and spotted the glass so it always had to be wiped dry. I would 100% move the shower.

  17. Emma says:

    There are windows with blinds INSIDE them – I have one in my basement door. But maybe they do not exist for wet areas? When it’s down, you cannot see the bind at all: it collapses into the bottom “frame” of the window and becomes invisible.

  18. Laura Gerber says:

    What about those windows that have a blind/shade between the glass panels?

  19. mockginger says:

    I love it when you do these posts that are super helpful for those of us who might be making similar decisions, please keep them coming! However, I do want to point out you may want to correct the spelling of shutters to help people search for this post in the future. I can’t wait to see the new bath design!

  20. Eva Bueno says:

    Have you considered to change the bathroom for the closet ? It would be a lovely big closet …

  21. Elizabeth Young says:

    I have the same design problem. Other options include electric exterior shutters (but you don’t have shutters on your house), or interior electronic waterproof plantation shutters or blinds. Some people have put in retractable mesh screens– I don’t want the ugly roller anywhere visible. I have also seen privacy glass on a hinge, allowing one to open it like a door and allow viewing through the regular window behind. Eh. Wish it were possible to make the two-way privacy glass work at night.

  22. Kristi says:

    So many options. If you put the shower where the bath is, it would no longer be a pain to open and close but I know the shutters are bulky. I’d be in a quandary too. We have 3 windows in our walk in shower that includes a tub but we’re on a hill so no one can really see.

  23. Ally Diaz says:

    When is Alexa going to invent smart shutters that you can close with a voice command 😂

  24. Kristin says:

    Shutters, not shudders. :)

  25. EP says:

    Hard decision to make, for sure! I think for me I would let this window dictate the layout. Having a window that large that you can never see out of would be a bummer.

    By the way, it’s shutters, not shudders. Shudder is shaking or trembling. Shutters are what go on your windows.

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