1913 balcony: how to add privacy screen (vinyl mesh?) for period?

theresseApril 15, 2010

Hello -

My main question is this: can this be done in a way that won't be an eye sore and will look like it's pretty much always been there - w/ the exception of vinyl mesh retractable (manual) screens? The only screen that will stay up year round would be the one facing the neighbor's bedroom, and I imagine it would be a cream-color.

I was thinking it could be a pergola-like structure only without the beams going across since I want the top open. It will go on the side balcony above our sunroom, and the balcony's just outside our bedroom and faces straight into our neighbor's bedroom. It's a pity cause I feel like I can never use it and it gets great sun and also is a great place for sky-observing at night w/ telescope. I

It's a 1913 colonial revival house, w/ craftsman details, in a neighborhood that will expect it to look period-appropriate. Our house trim is white so this would have to be painted white, too, and it would have the necessary craftsman looking details/molding on the two corner pillars to help it fit in. The sunroom's only 6x12' so the balcony which has some overhang is probably about that size or a little smaller.

There are companies out there that make retractable screens that come in different colors, e.g. the one in the link below.

Thank you so much. Any feedback, opinions or experience (ever seen anything like this?) would be much appreciated.

Here is a link that might be useful: Retractable vinyl mesh screens like these...

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Recently, I saw screening done (on an antebellum house porch)that was virtually invisible from more than 3-4' away; I believe it could be fitted into any frame as needed so I don't see why retractable couldn't work if that's what you want. I'll look around tonight to see if I can find the maker. I'm not easily impressed but this was revolutionary.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 5:03PM
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Wow - thanks antiquesilver! When you wrote virtually invisible, does that mean that it didn't provide enough privacy but just helped keep out bugs or strong sun or something? I want to completely block out my next door neighbor's house from view.

Thanks! And thanks for responding at all; this is a pretty uninteresting topic to most it seems (I tried posting about it in another forum to no avail) so I'm happy to have your response! ;)

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 9:13PM
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You probably don't care to know, but privacy on porches was originally achieved with lattice, roman shades or full-height shutter panels.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 9:21PM
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Just a question here, about the total visual obliteration of the neighbor's house. Are you wanting to put something in place which stays permanently without raising it? And what about any air circulation? Do you have a western sun exposure? Do you have an exterior ceiling fan?

I would not want to be staring back at my neighbor's bedroom either, so I just wondered if you were going to leave them down/up all the time.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 9:38PM
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Theresse, apparently I responded without thoroughly reading your post. I'm in the South where screening automatically means bug proof but nobody in a historic district wants to actually see the screens! The 'invisible' screening I'd seen is called the Screeneze system but it definitely will not give privacy. Sorry.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 12:59AM
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I think Casey's ideas sound pretty cool. What about some sunbrella roman shades?

I'm confused. I live in a neighborhood with lots close to 1/4 acre, and I can see my neigbors' windows, but it just seems normal, and I don't think I'd screen a balcony unless I wanted to use it for natural sunbathing. How many feet away would you say your neighbor's bedroom window is?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 7:47AM
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Hi all and thanks for the responses! I'm annoyed cause yesterday I wrote a response to each of you and I came today to find it never posted - aargh!

antiquesilver - no worries! ;)

sombreuil and slateberry - A friend told me he was concerned that anything too much like a real wall (e.g. wooden shutters, cool as they might be) might be considered a real wall and therefor might have different code restrictions/issues and also with how windy it sometimes gets up there, it might be too noisy. These vinyl mesh things I was looking at are known for being able to tolerate pretty high winds and they can be secured very tightly (taught), or so it appears, and also when taken down/rolled down they don't take up much room, I think; I want something that will avoid as much excess when folded down (not up) as possible just cause the excess would collect dust, rain water, etc. as well as take up more space so I want as thin a material as possible.

Slateberry - those sunbrella shades look nice! I still worry there are too many things that could go wrong, having more parts (I could be wrong)...and also I'm trying to avoid the "room" look and am aiming for more of an outdoor pergola look. I think the more fancy and "indoorsy" the screen looks - of whatever material - the more potentially awkward it could look when only one side is left up (closed) and the rest open, if that makes sense (?).

If I'm standing on my balcony as far as one can walk toward my neighbor's house, I'd say there are about maybe 15-18' of space between that spot and their windows. Our house is just a little higher and it's a VERY clear view from our french door windows and our bedroom and the balcony, to their bed! (I keep the blinds closed so much of the time because of this, and our room's really dark). Add to this the fact that they're honestly very unfriendly people and I feel psychologically as if I'm five feet from them.

Moccasinlanding - My plan - if we actually do something like this - is to keep the screen up at all times that faces South (toward their bedroom) and to keep the other two sides down/open the rest of the time for the most part. If you step outside our french doors and onto the balcony, to our right is the West and to our left is the East. So it's a great, all-day sunny spot. Having no real typical pergola "ceiling" (no beams running across the top but just two horizontal beams on each side, connecting the tops of the pillars to the house), I imagine it wouldn't get much hotter that way and wouldn't require any sort of ventilation because - again - only one side (the South side, at that) would be screened. The screen is also a natural sun screen - not just privacy provider.

I was thinking I'd like the screen (uses a hand crank) to to from the bottom, up. That way if it was a time of day when I wanted more sun from above and the screen was in the way, I could at least have it go up part way to have some privacy (more than without the screen anyway).

Did any of you see the link to those screens? If I had an old-fashioned, sort of craftsman structure (consistent w/ our front porch's look), painted white, w/ corner square pillars and had those screens from that website or one like it, would/could that look like it goes w/ the rest of the house well enough do you think? Would it look better if all the screens were down most of the time and I'd only have the screen up when I wanted to use the balcony or let in more light into our room on occasion? How could I make it look better? Maybe if I kept the southern side's screen up, kept the two other sides down and then put some tall plants in there to call to mind more of a balcony garden which would take the focus off the one screen being up so much of the time?

Thanks again everyone, very much! I'm going to try and put a picture or two of our house up so you can see what I'm talking about...

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 7:11PM
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I'd use plants.

Morning glories grow like crazy in the summer (this is when you'd be using the balcony most, and wanting to open those bedroom windows) and they can be grown in a window-box type planter.

Here is a link that might be useful: morning glory vine

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 1:43PM
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