How to close in a very small porch?

SoulMate and I live together, play together, and work from home together in a two bedroom apartment in Atlanta. We see each other twenty-five hours a day and, even though she’s the love of my life, sometimes I like to go sit on the porch by myself and enjoy the solitude.

The solitude…

There is no solitude.

Our apartment building is set up like a large square. The units with the fancy people on the outside of the square get sweeping views of the city and/or ghetto, while us dregs on the inside of the square all face each other. That means my porch looks directly in to about twenty other apartments, and all of their windows look out onto my porch. It’s a little like being on stage, and it is certainly not relaxing.

I am going to convert this porch into a man-cave by somehow closing it in. This is where I need Doper assistance, as the only idea I had to do this is on the verge of striking out.

Let me describe this porch as best I’m able:

I am saying porch to make myself feel better; what we really have here is a recessed balcony. Imagine a rectangular chunk cut out of the side of our building and you’ve pretty much got it.

The porch’s floor is shaped like a rectangle, 54" deep and 86" across. There is a metal railing, flush with the side of the building, that keeps you from tumbling out. From the ceiling to this railing is 72" while ceiling to floor is 113".

When you open the door onto the porch, you are on one of the short edges of the rectangle and all eighty-six glorious inches are laid out before you like a tiny little gray carpet going into the world’s most mediocre awards show. To the left is the inside of the apartment square and the railing; straight ahead and to the right are the walls and windows of our own apartment.

Yes, it’s tiny, but it’s mine!

So, as you can “see,” my porch has one very open side that faces way too many people. I want to be able to selectively close this side off while I’m out there. Ideally, the covering would totally obscure the entire open side, but any open space between the railing and the floor can be overlooked if necessary.

Privacy and the ability to move the covering aside are the primary concerns, and in that order of importance. I do not want people to see me when I am sitting on my porch. Frankly, some of the people in my apartment complex are batshit crazy and have taken to screaming at me while I’m out there. Not in a mean or threatening way, don’t get me wrong, but it’s still really weird and does not help one relax at all. One girl just stares at me. Just sits and stares. I have never seen her blink, and believe me, I’ve been watching for it. Another one narrates everything I do, while calling me “cracker.” For example: “Hey, cracker’s reading a book! Cracker’s having a beer! Cracker got a new chair!” It’s awkward.

One notable neighbor simply stands naked in front of her window and watches TV for hours on end. My wife has assured me that I don’t like this, either.

I want to be able to move the covering aside or otherwise out of the way when I’m not out there so that SoulMate doesn’t go nuts.

Anyway, I had the idea to simply put some roller shades up there. Problem is, there is no such thing as an 86" roller shade that I can find - there’s a gap between 72" and 96" with nothing in between and no option to cut them down (the rolly bits are too close to the edges on every model I’ve found). I have several calls out to custom window treatment shops trying to get an 86" set made, but I think they’re going to come back pretty expensive.

I am not sure if getting wooden 96" blinds and cutting them down would work or not. The mechanics of it are fine; I’m positive I can lop 5" off of each end with a fine-toothed hacksaw, I’m just worried about the slats warping afterwards with the exposed ends there to soak up moisture. I guess I could dunk 'em in sealant afterwards.

I could easily be overlooking a more obvious and elegant solution. Do you guys have any better ideas for how to create a (re?)moveable privacy screen over the open side of the porch?

How about two sets of roller shades in a smaller size next to each other?

I’m having a little bit of trouble visualizing the set-up, but I must say that imagining Soul

made opening this thread worthwhile. :slight_smile:

In re: the OP — What about some sorta sideways pergola type thing? With wood?

My initial reaction was “what do you do with the two floating ends not anchored to a wall?” Then I realized you’re much more intelligent than I am; anchor them to the ceiling and not to the wall, and this isn’t a problem. This is also actually going to be much easier to do because of the setup out there (it’s tough to get a ladder set up correctly with such a narrow base).

Damn. That was easy.

Ellen, I should have posted this originally: I can’t do anything that goes sideways because it will prevent either a door or window from opening properly, depending on which way it goes. I like the idea, though. Also: thank you for the compliment :slight_smile:

Do you get wind in your complex, or were you planning to use the porch when it rains, etc? I would be worried the gap between the two shades would be problematic, in which case you might want to go with the custom treatment.

Do be careful not to run afoul of apartment building rules or general ATL building codes. A relative got himself in into a bit of a situation altering his balcony (different way, same privacy desired concept).

I can’t really picture the setup (can you take a picture). But how about a few pieces of plywood around the perimeter? Just high enough that you can sit in a low chair and not be bothered by whomever is bothering you. Either zip tie it to the railing or just lean it on the railing and then move it back when not in use.

The box shape prevents virtually all wind and rain from bothering us at all. That’s actually a rather nice aspect of the layout, so it’s not all negative.

Good call on the building codes. While I am not worried about the apartment rules (they are extremely lenient), I didn’t consider your point. That’s certainly worth a look!

I’ve lived in apts. like this - I can totally picture the setup. My first thought was that you need something like this. Check your local big-box home improvement or gardening store. My second thought was that you need to very carefully re-read your lease - some complexes even prohibit things like potted plants or clotheslines on balconies. (Some don’t give a shit. YMMV and all that.)

Go to and search on Outdoor shade. You probably want to see them in person to see how much visibility they block. The ones I’ve seen are not totally opaque, but that may be enough to block sight into your cave, while still letting you have some visibility out.

I’m thinking curtains. Might be annoying on windy days, though.

I was also thinking curtains, but with ties at the bottom to tie to the base of the railing to keep them from blowing around.

So get the 72" shade and put up a 14" wide panel to take up the remaining space.

Privacy lattice zip-tied to the railing for the bottom and then another vote for curtains for the top. Curtains could be hung from a rod at the top and then you could use some sort of fastener on top of the lattice piece (hooks, velcro, ties, etc.) to secure the panels in place. Then use some sort of similar fastener on the ceiling so the curtains can be fastened up out of the way when not in use. Or roll them up and bungee.


No, really.

Shutters. Go to a salvage yard and rummage around for some shutters. Get the really skinny bifolds and link them to make them into a custom room divider. Sort of like these, but since you got them from a salvage yard, cheaper. All you should need to do is wirebrush them a light sanding then painting.

Leave them folded up when you arent out, unfold them and place across the opening when you are.

The bigger question is where are you going to mount the flat screen tv? I won’t be a true man cave without one.

I tried to take a picture for you guys, but the damn porch is so small that I can’t back up far enough to actually get a good one. I tried to solve this by just taking a picture of one of my neighbors’ porches, but since the only thing I have is my iPhone camera they’re too far away to show up in any way that helps at all.

I just spent ten minutes trying to draw a diagram to explain it, but after looking at it I am no longer certain myself how my porch is configured. I will spare you.

Using two overlapping roll-up shades is going to do the trick out there. I got a pair today and put one side up, then realized that the brackets I got were too weak and were already starting to bend out of shape just from being tugged down once. This seems much less than safe, so I took them back down and am going to go get some better ones tomorrow. It works as proof of concept, though.

You guys have been a tremendous help; thank you all!

Edit: curtains are out because I would prefer not to use fabric. I do a lot of stuff out there (like painting, grilling, smoking cigars, etc.) that creates fumes; I am worried that the fabric will absorb all of those odors and make my wife angry. I should have mentioned this originally, but honestly using curtains hadn’t crossed my mind.

Omar, sadly, there will be no room for a TV out there. Thankfully, my mini-fridge will fit nicely.