I get a lot of questions about our curtains. I'm going to do my best to describe them and show how they work .
Smooth: Adam didn't want the look of curtains that pulled to the side
Can be raised: I like to be able to see outside, check out the scenery, be a nosy neighbor 😗
Can open windows for ventilation while still providing privacy
How we solved all of the above
There are several types of curtain designs out there that provide a smooth face and can be raised. Roman shades and roller shades were two styles we liked a lot. I didn't want to spend the money buying a roller shade just to have to disassemble it to get it the right width for the bus windows. I felt confident that with some Pinterest searching, I could DIY a Roman shade but there was the problem of opening our windows for airflow from the top while maintaining some privacy in our skoolie.
The curtains needed to go up and go down. The big problem that created was that there couldn't be any solid attachment point to the wall. Every part had to be movable!
Our curtains span two windows each. This helps with the clean, smooth look. Less breaks in the material give much needed visual simplicity to the small space of a tiny house on wheels. I sewed these from fabric I purchased at a reused goods store (cheap! Like $6 for all of it!) You have to really look closely to notice that they don't all match: three separate fabrics are used.
Two pieces of wood span the top and bottom of the curtains. Two sets of dowel rods with leather loops screwed to the wall behind them are attached to the window frames. The top set allows the curtains to hang fully from the top to the bottom, covering the entire window. We hang them this way to help keep the heat or cold out. The curtains aren't insulated (we thought about insulating them but wanted natural light coming through the fabric when closed) but just having a thin piece of material up there does make a noticeable difference in the interior temperature of the bus.
When we want to let in a little more light or heat to warm the bus up in the morning, we can lift the bottom curtain and hook the wooden rod into the lowest leather strap.
And a little more light... We can roll the curtain around the bottom rod all the way up to either of the two levels of leather straps. During the day, unless it's too hot, I prefer to keep them all the way open like this to enjoy the view and allow me to open and close the windows to adjust the temperature in the bus.
The most specialized feature is the we can also lower the curtains. We kept all of our original bus windows (except for behind the refrigerator and the shower.) In our Thomas Saf-T-Liner school bus, the windows open by pinching together tabs at the top and lowering the top half of the window. There are stopping points in the frame every inch or so as you open the windows.
Instead of attaching the top curtain rod firmly to the wall, we drilled holes in either end and fitted them on the dowels. It had to be a tight fit or they could easily get knocked off. We found that throughout the humid summer in North Carolina the wood swelled and some of our curtains became too difficult to remove but as soon as we got to the arid Southwest, we were again able to remove the curtain rods from the dowels. We typically like to camp in fairly remote, not heavily trafficked campsites but if our curtains are open at night, we are still on full display for anyone who might happen to drive by. So all we have to do to keep our privacy and get some fresh night air is take the top curtain rod off its dowels, roll the curtain twice around it, and fit it onto the lower dowels. Lower the window a bit and there you have it.
Windows cracked open about 2 inches for fresh air
I want to give an inspiration shout out to @therealtiggirl of Instagram. She posted about her curtain design while we were trying to design ours and we were so inspired by her great system for lowering the curtain we had to rip it off! And so, I pass along her great idea to any of you who may be looking for a solution to privacy and fresh air in your bus conversion.
Thanks for reading! And thanks to everyone who asked about our curtains for getting me to get around to writing this post!
Blog post by Elizabeth