Bottom Up Roller Blinds – are they the answer?

We’ve recently been discussing with an interior designer the best way to tackle a bathroom window on a redevelopment that she’s working on. Client wants privacy without substantially diminishing the amount of light coming into the bathroom. The bottom up roller blind solution was suggested – but is it really the best solution to this vexed problem?

So what is a bottom up roller blind?

Well, it’s basically an upside down roller blind. It’s fixed to the window/sill/recess and is rolled upwards. You secure the blind at the right height either by cleating it off (if you have a pulley and cleat system – as featured below) or by  sitting the blind in fixing brackets secured at an appropriate height on the window frame.

Diagram showing the way a bottom up roller blind operates
A Bottom Up Roller Blind

Advantages of bottom up roller blinds

Practicality:  It’s a fact of life that, particularly in built up areas, your bathroom will be overlooked by your neighbours to some degree.  The beauty of bottom up blinds is that you can raise or lower them to the exact height you’re after, to achieve the desired level of privacy. Because they raise from the bottom of the window, they don’t blank out the skyline, letting in lots of natural light and giving your room an unclaustrophobic, airy feel.

This sounds like a really practical solution – so what’s the catch?

Well, bottom up roller blinds are admittedly a very practical solution. However we see a few problems with this very practical product:

Looks: Bottom line – this product isn’t going to win any beauty awards. Practicality has in our view been achieved largely at expense of looks.  The blind rolls into a boxed cassette (known as a headbox), as above, or simply rolls around a mechanism. The mechanism or cassette is fixed to the window sill or recess – which in itself creates rather an incongruous look. When the blind is fully down, the mechanism looks rather like a loose end, or something the  fitter plonked onto the window sill and then forgot to put up. It also takes up valuable space that you might otherwise adorn with your beauty products etc etc.

More significantly, the perfect bathroom is typically characterised by clean lines and minimalist aesthetics. But your bottom up roller blind needs a pulley and cleat mechanism to operate – so you get two very conspicuous wires travelling up your window, round two pulleys attached to the ceiling and down to a cleat fixed somewhere on the wall.  You can instead sit the blind in fixing brackets/ cups fixed at an appropriate height on either side of the window but this is not a very elegant look.

Price: As a made to measure product, bottom up roller blinds are not cheap. Novatec’s Eclectics range retail at £185 plus p&p, and John Lewis also stock bottom ups, ranging from £56 to £202 depending on size and fabric.

So what are the alternatives?

Window film: window film, or frosted glass – in the appropriate window panes, is one way to achieve the desired privacy without all the mechanisms and other paraphernalia that accompany bottom up blinds. If you’re going for window film, you might want to get this professionally fitted (tempting though the DIY alternative is) to ensure there are no unsightly bubbles left under the film.  Brume (0136473090 has a wide selection of patterns and shades.

Frosted Window Film from Brume
Frosted Window Film from Brume

Voile roman blinds: in conjunction with window film/ frosted glass in the bottom section of the window, a voile roman blind would be a great way to achieve privacy without sacrificing style or diminishing the light coming into the room.

Voile roman blind
Voile roman blind

Shutters: are probably the most elegant alternative to bottom up blinds. Cafe style shutters can be fixed to the bottom half of the window. The shutter blades can be tilted to maximise light coming into the room, or shut for maximum privacy, and unlike frosted glass, the shutters can be opened when you want uninterrupted views out of your bathroom window. The shutters featured below from The New England Shutter Company (TNESC for short) are full height – so for cafe style, imagine just the bottom section. They can be painted in AC waterproof paint to cope with bathroom conditions.

Shutters from the New England Shutter Company
Shutters from the New England Shutter Company

For a typical window 112cm wide x 90cms drop TNESC cafe style shutters will cost in the region of £375 plus £172.50 for installation.  So they’re not the cheapest option, but you are paying for an elegant stylish product that will last, and for a room that you will be spending a lot of time in,  you might consider it a false economy to compromise!