DIY: Custom Privacy Screen

DIY Custom Privacy Screen

Hey all!

Living in Brooklyn it can be near impossible very difficult to get some privacy. Case in point – while our apartment has a lovely outdoor space both the stairwell and grassy area are shared with our landlord’s family, meaning people are constantly walking back and forth when I am hanging out on my deck. I love my neighbors, but sometimes you just need a little alone time, ya dig?

I thought a privacy screen would work perfect for this, but I didn’t want to buy a nice asian screen at the flea only to have it destroyed by weather. The solution? Make our own with some hearty pine and lacquer it against the weather. The best part? These beautiful plain wood boards are just begging to be painted with whatever your heart desires. Read on to see how the boy and I made the screen, and how I’ve begun to customize it!

Project Difficulty: Medium. If you use power tools and work with large pieces of wood often this is an easy project, but if not it can be very difficult to line everything up properly and cleanly. Not as hard as making a dresser, but not as easy as making a pipe table.

Cost: Altogether the wood and hinges cost about $70, much less than a traditional or modern screen would cost. Add some lacquer and acrylic paint for customization and weatherproofing and the cost hits right below $100.

Time: Anywhere from an hour to several weeks, depending on how much decorating you are doing.


– Tall wooden boards. The number, size, and wood type is totally up to you. We used a nice heavy pine in 1ft by 6ft boards. We also chose to use 5 so the screen would be a decent size. Choose what makes sense for your space size and budget, but make sure the wood has a decent amount of weight or the screen will not stand up well.

– Door hinges, two for each board joint. For five boards we used 8 hinges (two between each board and none on the edges). You can get whatever hinges you like, but make sure they are heavy enough for a light door and have screws that won’t go all the way through your board.

– Drill. You could feasibly screw in the hinges by hand, but that would not be fun.

Optional: Acrylic paint, varnish or lacquer. If you want it to be inside and plain wood, you don’t need anything but maybe a stain if you’d like. If you want it outside, you’ll need some sort of lacquer to weatherproof it. For decoration the best thing to do is paint with acrylic paint on the raw wood, then paint a varnish over. More on this later.


1. Decide where you want your hinges to sit, and measure the distance on your first two boards. Make sure you like the distance, because you’ll want this to be consistent throughout the piece. Otherwise you could be distributing weight all wacky and that can cause wood splits. We put two hinges about a foot in from either edge, which we marked with a pencil.

DIY privacy screen

2. Using a spare hinge, space the boards apart perfectly and mark your hinge holes for both hinges. You can use a hinge upside down like in the above picture to space the boards apart enough so they will close flat when put away. DO NOT SCREW THE HINGE IN THIS WAY HOWEVER! If you screw the hinge in like this the screen will not close flat. Only use this to space out the screen so you can use a pencil and draw where your hinge holes will go.

DIY Privacy Screen

3. Drill pilot holes for both hinges for your screws using a thin drill bit. This is technically optional, but it prevents wood split and also guarantees your hinge will screw in exactly where you want it to. Make sure the holes only go about halfway through the board.

4. Screw in your hinges using an electric drill, or a hand screwdriver if your wood is soft enough. I still recommend an electric drill for strength and precision. When screwing in, screw both at once. By this I mean, screw in the top two holes of your first hinge, then go over and screw in the second hinge, and so on. That way you guarantee even spacing so your screen will fold nicely. This project seems simple, but precision is really important for a nice piece!

DIY privacy screen

5. Repeat steps 1-4 for all your boards. As mentioned, make sure the hinges aren’t screwed on upside down, and make sure they are all spaced the same for the piece is strong and wont crack. Place the boards side by side in a large open are as you do this so they all lay flat.

DIY Privacy Screen

6. OPTIONAL: Decorate with acrylic paint. I’ve been itching to paint some clean line work for awhile since that’s my favorite style to work in, and this seemed perfect. Since screens like this are traditional in Japan, I decided to go with Japanese Traditional Tattoo style art on one side, with my own style of flower and fish designs on the other. I’ve only just started, so I only have a little bit to show you.

DIY privacy Screen DIY Privacy screen

DIY Privacy Screen

That’s it! I love my new screen; I literally spend every waking moment outside now unless it’s raining. A perfect summer project and a perfect canvas. I can’t wait to keep painting.

As always I’d love to see your projects made from the blog! I see all these hits, but no comments or photos . . . are you ghosts? I hope not. Well ghosts or not . . .


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