Our homes are supposed to be sanctuaries. Places where we can get away from the stresses of life to unwind. They are meant to foster a sense of calm, relaxation and security tucked away from prying eyes.
However, modern architecture, which strips our homes of walls and limited space, has done a tremendous job in undermining our privacy. It is no longer unusual to find yourself unintentionally staring into your neighbour’s living room from your house. Most homeowners try to compensate by building perimeter walls around their homes.
And while they sometimes do the job when it comes to blocking views, they are not always practical, are costly and can be isolating.
Gloria Kawuma, an interior designer, shares ways to keep your home private.
Drapes, shades and shutters can make a room dark and totally private. “For maximum effect, combine thick and lightweight curtains. The thick curtains or draperies will block out the view both inside and outside, offering you total freedom from the outside world. And when there is need for natural light and you have to draw them, the lighter ones will still be in place to offer some protection,” explains Kawuma.
Another way is to use frosted glass. This will allow you to keep light coming in while allowing you to still have a partial view of the outdoors.
You can also incorporate tinted windows, which are available in different styles. “There are those that limit visibility from the outside and those that limit visibility both ways. You can buy already tinted ones or you can do it yourself, which gives you a chance to be creative with the material used,” adds Kawuma.
Or, you can try exterior shades, which are installed outside a home’s windows. Made from durable weather-resistant fabrics, exterior shades can block a lot of heat and light at the push of a button.
Micheal Nsubuga, a landscape designer with Front Lawns Limited, advises on using plants to improve your home privacy.
“Plants are a popular privacy strategy because they are perceived as being more natural and gentle than walls or fences,” Nsubuga explains. He advises homeowners planting shrubbery around a home so that the trees and other greenery obscure anybody from being able to see inside.
This will add an element of privacy, as well as improve your home’s aesthetic appeal.
Evergreens, with broad leaves and thick branches that keep their leaves year-round, top the list.
Taller trees, or trees with large canopies, can be used to screen houses at a higher level such as in a storied home. A landscape plan that combines different evergreens with some deciduous varieties, which lose their leaves annually, can achieve privacy goals and be visually appealing. Nsubuga recommends holly, evergreen, bamboo, royal palms or hedge barrier.
Dense vines such as grapevines and kiwi fruit can also be grown on a fence to completely obscure visibility.
If you live in a storied apartment, try adding medium-height potted plants on the balcony railing. You can also create a potted plant border or vertical garden by securing planters on top of a low concrete or brick wall.
Another privacy strategy is the use of a courtyard or even a double courtyard, which can make the front of the house more private.
High walls and narrow, closed or locked entrances allow light into the home through existing windows, but discourage unwelcome visitors and spying eyes.
Paul Tiboti, an architect, says to keep your neighbours from snooping, place your windows in such a way that they are offset from your neighbours’.
“It does not provide a cheap solution for an existing home, but a window that’s higher, lower or farther left or right can give privacy,” he advises.