Privacy Shade Upgrade


Privacy Curtain Updrade

If you've been following our van buildout, you probably know by now that we can't sew. But privacy in our home was one of our top priorities (even higher than having a bed), so a first goal was to make some privacy shades for Pebs.

We had four windows initially: two on the slider door ones and two on the rear doors. Eventually we also added a sunroof, but we like the natural light that it provides so left it mostly clear. (We're looking to add two half slider windows for the bed area...stay tuned!)

We had pretty specific designs in mind from the get go:

1. Complete blackout

We want curtains that are completely black, so if anyone peeks in they won't be able to see anything. This is for privacy and safety, since we have a relatively light tint on our windows and didn't want people to see inside of our van while parked. (Given a second chance, we'd have gone with the limo tint.)

2. No light leak

We use our house lights frequently at night. We also stealth camp a lot. So we wanted to avoid any light leaking from the van in case someone walked by and noticed.

3. Modular

Modular: the coverings and the inside components are separate, in that the covering acts almost as a pillow case. This allows us to swap innards depending on our needs: Reflectix for the summer, insulation such as fleece or Thinsulate for the winter. We can also remove the inside component altogether, allowing us to pack the blinds in a very small space.

Original curtains

To make the curtains, we enlisted our super crafty aunt (Thanks Aunt Nancy!!!).

List of items that we got to make the curtains:

  1. Black vinyl from Joanne Fabric, which is washable, anti-mildew and flame resistant. (Cordova in black looks really nice too, but is a lot more expensive).
  2. Ceramic block magnets from Home Depot. (Not recommended)
  3. Reflectix and matching tape

We first cut a piece of Reflectix to cover the front and rear windows. The easiest way to do this is to measure the rough dimensions of each window and cut out a rectangular chunk. We then taped the chunk to the window and trimmed accordingly.

Take note that the windows have a raised rubber seal, so in order for the curtains to attach to the metal via magnets the shades need to be a little bigger than the actual window (this is where we tripped up...).

The Reflectix then served as a template to make the black coverings.

Our aunt did an incredible job with the pillowcase covering. She added a velcro opening on one side so that we can put in the inside material (or take it out).

We originally used 3M double-sided tape to tape the ceramic block magnets directly on the Reflectix, and our aunt poked a few holes through the coverings to expose the magnets. The tape worked beautifully. The magnets? Not sure much.

The problem

We cut the Reflectix too fitted. After the pillow case went on, and combined with weak ceramic block magnets, the blinds wouldn't stay put because the raised rubber trim on the window was getting in the way. 

We were already traversing Canada at that point, so we didn't have the luxury to stop and fix the coverings. Our immediate solution was to tape more ceramic magnets that we had on hand using Gorilla tape. It worked, but it looked god awful.


Curtain upgrade

We finally had some extra time a year later, and decided to finally upgrade the curtains. 

The main thing was to 1) upgrade the magnets and 2) expand the trim so that the curtains were a bit larger.


1) Fabri-tac permanent fabric glue. I don't sew, so I (seriously) use this exclusively for all of our sewing needs. It's relatively easy to work with and awesome!

2) Pearl 2" fold in half quilt binding, brushed. It's basically bias tape, but because it folds in half it's easy to tack on to an existing edge and adds 1" to the perimeter. Also comes in blue, grey and a bunch of other colors. (I find it pretty useful for trimming other fabrics as well, especially when I'm just using glue.) The material's a bit soft but easy to work with.

3) I also had some extra-wide double fold bias tape laying around, so I used it on the inside of the Pearl trim to give it a little bit more structure.  

4) N52 12mm X 2mm Neodymium rare earth magnets. These babies are strong. Really strong. I bought a bunch of different kinds of "super strong" magnets, and these were the only ones that lived up to the reputation. Also they were the perfect size to fit inside the Pearl binding. 

The upgrade

We first removed the Gorilla tape and magnets. This left some ugly (and sticky) tape residues so I covered it up with the Pearl quilt binding.

I then turned the covering inside out. This exposed the beautiful clean inside of the black fabric, as well as the seam. The seam provided a structure for me to glue the Pearl quilt binding on. 

After glueing half of it on, I then glued the bias tape with the double fold facing out. This way the opening of the bias tape provided a perfect place to glue on new magnets. For the sliding door coverings I did around 24, and 12 for the rear door ones. Holy crap these things are super strong, in that it really allows the curtains to snap into place.

I then carefully glued the other half of the Pearl quilt binding to the bias tape/magnet assembly to cover it all up. This left me with a 1" trim and plenty of magnets embedded inside.

I'm super happy with the end result. Extending the edges by 1" made a huge difference in coverage, and it looks so much better. 

Eventually I may replace the inside face with patterned cloth, but for now this works! (Or curtains. I LOVE curtains.)


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