How To Get Natural Light Without Loosing Privacy in an Urban Setting

Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker Residential

window shadows

When you live in the big city, how do you get natural light into your home without loosing privacy?  Great big windows let in light, but it also makes it possible for the neighbors to look straight into your house.

The very first thing to consider is how the home is situated.  If the majority of the windows are north-facing, your home will always be dark. If the home faces south, then the back half of the home will always be dark because it faces north and no direct light will ever come in those windows.  A home that faces east or west tends to have light all day.

Obviously, I have an opinion about light in the built environment.  I sell houses and condos and townhomes in an urban environment...  Dallas inside the loop.  I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of windows, window treatments, views, no views, dark name it.  If you need something in The Metroplex, generally, just let me know.  My website is here.

Skylight, solar tubes and clerestory windows  are all good ways to bring natural light into your home without loosing privacy.  There are trade-offs with all of these light systems.  Skylights are always going to eventually leak. Think about it.  A skylight is a hole in the roof covered with plastic or some other clear substance.  Notice the part of that definition that includes the word "hole".   There are maintenance issues with skylights.  Also, there is always an interior well that leads up to the skylight.  Those wells are notorious for creating issues with heating or cooling.

I don't like solar tubes.  The light they put off doesn't have the look of natural light, not to me.  The actual "fixture" part of the system looks a lot like a light fixture.  My first thought when I see a solar tube during the day time is "someone left that light on".

Clerestory windows are a great solution for how to introduce light into the built environment.  For a great explanation about Clerestory windows check out this link.  The only drawback to them is that someone has to get up there and clean them eventually.  My recommendation is that homeowners with clerestory windows consider developing a relationship with a window cleaning service.  I have a 2nd story condo.  I have the phone number of a window cleaning service on my speed dial.  I suggest that solution to anyone with clerestory windows.

Building codes have rules about putting windows on walls that are within a certain number of feet away from the walls of another home. I have seen glass blocks used in those walls to introduce light without loss of privacy.

So, what do you do if the windows of your new home line up with the windows of the house next door?  My favorite window treatment are top-down-bottom-up blinds.These are blinds that either open from the top or the bottom.  It makes it possible to cover the bottom part of the window, having the top part of the window uncovered.  That way you can see the sky but not your neighbor or the cars in the parking lot adjacent to your home.

For an article that shows how to make your own TDBU blinds, see this link

Living in an urban area has certain trade-offs, but that doesn't mean that you have to give upyour privacy to get natural light!  You just have to be thoughtful about how it is done.



***Photo courtesy of  via Creative Commons

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Allen 2222
Austin, TX

Hi Judith. I love the look of clerestory windows (didn't know that is what they were called) both on the inside and the outside. I do wonder, though, how to get up there to clean them! A window cleaning service would be a must!

Jun 12, 2011 05:47 PM #1
Kathleen Vetrano
RE/MAX Gateway - Falls Church, VA
Helping YOU Achieve YOUR Dreams

Judith,  I enjoy reading your posts, they offer information I don't see other places.  Thank you for providing professional and pertinent information.

Jun 12, 2011 05:48 PM #2
Eric Crane -- Your Full Service, Discount Fee Realtor®
DPR Realty LLC - Gilbert, AZ
Greater Metro Phoenix Arizona

Interesting review of some of the options out there -- I, too, am a fan of the adjustable window blinds (that give you a top down option to let in light from the top, but maintain privacy on the bottom portion).  very cool idea!

Jun 12, 2011 06:49 PM #3
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