Shadow Curtains: Drapery with a Secret

Shadow Curtains: Things May Not Always Be What They Seem

Shadow Curtains: Things May Not Always Be What They Seem

We were sitting at a cousin’s basketball game waiting for my chatty (ahem… public-relations-building, Catholic Schools marketing coordinating mother) to make her rounds when I asked my dad how to solve my room’s missing wall dilemma. My dad was/is a builder, and I knew he would enjoy sharing his knowledge on the subject. Initially, he suggested constructing a two-by-four framed drywall barrier. A father son project. Unfortunately, drywall is expensive, and kind of a cop-out.There had to be more opportunity lying in this shifty excuse for a third bedroom’s need for a little privacy.

But I tried to stick with the wood because 2×4’s were cheap, stable, and perhaps quickest way to solve the problem. It led to a framed wall atop cinder blocks, harnessed by hooks & cables with something translucent… maybe canvas, maybe industrial plastic wrap. After working in construction for family since I was 14, seeing raw materials in an unfinished state seemed like home and would go nicely with the wall’s adjacent exposed brick wall. Often, a passerby sees a building or a home for the sum of its parts, but I wanted the wall to emphasize its parts and make viewers see a home in a skeletal way.

temporary wall concepting

Based on the topic of this post, the former plan is another idea for another time. Lacking power tools and finances, I needed something cheaper and quicker. A coworker of mine suggested a canvas drop cloth, and as fate would have it, I found one. In fact, the whole project cost me twenty bucks:

  •  $8 for the (gently used) painter’s drop cloth
  • $7 for a porch lamp system’s chain
  • $1 for a paint sample
  • $4 for hooks and a paint sponge

Perhaps the translucent shadow concept came from a curtained Jason Aldean concert entrance I saw last summer, but after living around my curtain wall for a week or two I noticed shadows from my room’s dresser. I had my translucent shadow idea, and I felt the Indianapolis skyline would resonate well with anybody visiting our Indy apartment.


shadow drapes inside view

One can hardly see the paint from the inside, but a viewer can see the skyline from either side because the paint blocks light coming from any direction.  If a visitor enters through our backdoor, they’ll see this view first and may not notice the skyline until they turn around upon passing through.


shadow curtain outside distance shot

The skyline as a slightly impressionistic feel with its rounded edges and its patchy painting. If you notice, the start of a shadow on the farthest left is actually from my dresser and may even seem like another building. Something to think about.


This could work well for anything viewed from multiple directions. Perhaps you want outside viewers to see one thing but see the same elements composing something entirely different on the other. Maybe a sports company uses it with the tagline “it’s what’s beneath that counts” or Gatorade asks if it’s in you. Maybe curtains in front of gym windows so patrons get their privacy while onlookers are curious of the interior shadows’ activities (and perhaps stop in for… a membership!). Maybe it’s a wall running north to south whose message is viewed from the West in the morning and from the East in the evening based on the sun’s exposure, or in a restaurant where the objects creating the shadows have totally different meaning on the inside than the do from the outside…

What’s Next

City Skyline Curtains by Rob Gonsalves


Besides a raw construction materials project, I would do this if I had big enough windows. I’ll leave it to you to take this where you will.

Entire Skyline Shadow Curtain Graphic


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