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Making Room for Privacy in Modern Architecture

So many trends of the past 50 years of home design — open floor plans that blur the lines between spaces and functions, abundant natural light through large windows, indoor-outdoor living that opens up to the back and front yards — work against the goal of privacy, both from those you share a home with and neighbors or passersby.

When designing a custom home it’s easy to feel caught between the desire for protection and peace and the luxury of not feeling boxed into a fortress while living your daily life.

Architects and engineers have developed several workarounds so these competing goals can coexist and even thrive in a modern or contemporary home. When balancing them with other factors like highlighting the best views and controlling heating or cooling costs you’ll be able to find the options that work best for you.

Interior courtyards and skylights

One way to build more sunlight into your home without putting your household onto a stage in front of anyone who happens to walk or drive by is to insert one or more courtyards into your floor plan.

These can be paved over or left with a natural grass or hardscape surface and opened or closed to the rest of the house as they allow light to flood into the center of your home without the use of giant windows across the exterior of the structure.

Skylights can be fantastic for this purpose as well, with solar ones that reflect sunlight into your home down a tube connecting to a small window on the roof affording the most privacy.

Walls large and small

You may not want to or be able to build a high wall around your front yard to shield your interior from onlookers, but a partial wall can visually block the front door while creating a pleasant partial courtyard around your entryway to welcome visitors and create another outdoor living space.

Landscaping and décor can turn this into a delightful space, but it may need some kind of shade structure if it gets uncomfortably hot at certain times of day.

If you’re building a custom home in a neighborhood with flexible design standards, you can try putting the entrance on the side of your home as long as the path to your “front” door is easy to find.

Screening on and in front of windows

We’re all pretty familiar with the traditional window covering choices of curtains, shades and blinds, but newer products such as window film and smart glass let you enjoy your windows without constantly adjusting them to keep yourself comfortable.

Some luxury homes have large windows covered with exterior screens such as horizontal or vertical slats to allow light in while shielding them from outsiders’ views. Others have attractive ironwork over the glass or use stained or frosted glass to make the window itself opaque.

Frosted glass panels also can be installed on or next to the home to obscure windows or semi-enclosed outdoor spaces while allowing plenty of natural illumination.

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