10 January 2012

Darkening The Room: Midnight Naptime

Yesterday, I wrote about how to reduce household sources of light that may interrupt your sleep or keep your kids distracted from falling asleep.  The biggest pain, however, tends to be sunlight (or streetlight, in some areas).  There are countless possible solutions, and after darkening a total of 6 rooms across two homes, I've learned a few tips for choosing and installing many of them. 

For a room where the occupants only sleep at night, getting either a darkening or blackout curtain or shade is often sufficient.  If you are looking to make a room dark during sunlight hours, it becomes challenging, but for naps and summer bedtimes, I find it valuable to block light in my boys' rooms.  They are less likely to play or get distracted when it comes time to rest.

Darkening and Blackout shades come in many styles, but I have yet to find mini blinds that do the job well.  All those individual pieces just increase the chance for light to get through, whether the problem is manufacturing or just what happens when a kid plays at the window.

  • Roller shades are the cheapest way to go when you don't want to do it all yourself.  However, most roller shades, when mounted inside the window casing require a gap between the shade and the side of the windows.  This small gap can make an enormous difference in how much light gets through.  If you are looking to use a roller shade to black out a room, get one that is installed outside of the window casing.  For either mounting case, you will want the shade to roll off the back as close to the wall or window as possible. (you do NOT want 'reverse roll' as American Blinds describes it- see their ordering page for more details).  
    • I thought it would look nicer to have an interior mounted shade, and the casings on our windows are quite wide- twice as wide as the gap.  However, lots of light still comes through those sides.
  • Roman Shades are a nicer looking option, but with all the extra cords, it isn't an ideal nursery choice.   Like roller shades, some styles have a large enough gap between the shade and the window frame that an outside mount, fully covering the window frame, would be necessary to fully block light.
    • The ones I bought were full of warnings, and to make them kid 'safe', I had to effectively take off the pull cord entirely, and I can only raise the shade by fiddling around with a metal ring on the inside of the shade.  It isn't worth the hassle, and I wish I hadn't spent money on Roman Shades.
  • Cellular Shades, my first choice for light blocking, are more expensive, and little hands can damage the papery fabric material.  Cellular shades can be made to fit very closely to the sides of the windows, so there won't be much light coming in around the sides, even when they are mounted inside the window frame.  Depending on the size of your windows, you can even get shades that have no cords at all. 
    • I purchased a light blocking, double cell cellular shade from American Blinds (house brand) that is no longer available.  It worked beautifully!  Naptime, even on a sunny July afternoon, was still dark and peaceful.  However, they still offer many options, and I have been happy with every American Blinds' branded product we tried.  When we buy a home this year, I plan to see what they have available, and I hope to find a blackout, double cellular shade for all of our bedrooms.
  • Easy DIY Shade:  You can get very reasonably price blackout fabric from your local fabric store.  I really like the 'budget blackout' fabric I found at JoAnn's Fabric.  I sewed 4 plastic rings to the top, and another few down each side.  I then used small picture hooks (like these without the plastic inside) to hang the fabric around the window.  To keep it from drooping at the top, I hand sewed a pocket at the very top, just below where the plastic rings were sewn, and slipped a 3 foot long, small diameter, wooden down through the pocket.  The dowel wouldn't be necessary for smaller windows- the one I did it for was over 50" wide.
There are more details for curtain selections, so I think I'll post that another day.  Let me know if you have any questions.

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