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How To Make a Decorative Black Window Frame Insert

by - Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Before I get into today's post, I'd like to thank all of you for the kind comments about our basement remodel for the One Room Challenge! The ORC is a challenging project in the best of times but add in trying to source and access products during a pandemic, and this was probably one of our most stressful renovations ever!

But, I LOVE the end result so it was all worth it. I wanted to share more about the details so I'll be writing posts about a few of our DIY projects. Today, I wanted to tell you how we made the decorative Black Window Frame inserts for our interior basement windows.

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DIY Black Window Frame


I've been struggling with what to do with the basement windows for a while. I gathered inspiration (see this post for 10 Ideas for Basement Window Coverings) but still, none of those ideas seemed quite right. I've long mentioned to my husband how I love the look of steel black frame windows. Their clean lines and simple design work in almost any space, from farmhouse to modern. Painted window frames help accentuate the architecture of a space and become a focal point themselves.

Carter Kay Interiors

Although steel black frame windows are currently on trend, it's a look that has been around for hundreds of years. You'll see them adorning warehouses, factories, greenhouses as well as modernist buildings designed by today's architects. These kinds of windows can be very expensive, especially if they are truly made of steel, though you can get a similar look with vinyl, aluminum, or even black painted wood windows.

For our basement windows, I was looking for an easy and stylish solution. I didn't want to replace these windows; I just wanted to make them more attractive. When my husband suggested we create faux DIY steel black window frame inserts, I knew this was the perfect idea! The modern windows would look great with our modern coastal basement.

These fake windows would be purely decorative and non functioning. The plan was to have them sit in front of the original windows; they would be a tight fit and would just sit inside the window recess. The inserts could be easily removed and the original windows would be left intact behind them.

Let's remember where we started:


Our windows were pretty typical of basement windows: small, high up on the wall, and with an unappealing view. I tried a few different options before we decided on the black frame windows. 

Basement Window Treatment Options:


First, we tried to see if putting a frosted film on the windows would be enough of an improvement.

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We used the same frosted film we used in our powder room. It did a good job of obscuring the view of the window well and garden debris, but the white vinyl window frames were problematic against the dark navy wallpaper.


We wrapped the wallpaper onto the left and right sides of the window recess. My next thought after frosting the windows was to paint the remaining visible parts of the wall and paint the vinyl window frames in navy blue to match the wallpaper. That would minimize contrast with the wallpaper but it wouldn't make the windows themselves any more attractive.

Time to find a better solution!

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Adding DIY black window frame inserts would be a more seamless solution. It would make the windows look attractive and it would suit the style of our now contemporary basement.

Once we decide to pursue this idea, our first task was to decide on the window style. How many divisions did we want? Did we want both vertical and horizontal muntins? We created different mockups in Powerpoint and ultimately decided on a 3x2 style.

A note before you try out this project: acrylic sheets can be very expensive. Estimate how much you'll need based on the size of your window(s) and then decide if you want to move forward with this project!

I don't have any photos of the frame being constructed, but here you can see how the wood frame and muntins relate.

black window frame, diy black steel frame window, basement window covering, diy window frame


Butt joints were used to make construction simple. You'll note that the muntins were made of two longer vertical pieces and three shorter horizontal pieces.

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Since the muntins are made of thin wood, they are prone to flexing or bowing. Using shorter pieces in your construction will ensure they sit straighter. Here's an example to illustrate cutting options:
black window frame, diy black steel frame window, basement window covering, diy window frame

black window frame, diy black steel frame window, basement window covering, diy window frame

The acrylic was affixed to the frame using hot glue. Note that you don't want to apply the glue in between the plastic and wood, as it might spread onto the face of the plastic. Applying a bead of glue along the outer edge of the plastic is enough to secure it.

black window frame, diy black steel frame window, basement window covering, diy window frame

black window frame, diy black steel frame window, basement window covering, diy window frame

The finished product looks clean and modern. I love how the black window contrasts against the white walls. You can see that the light still shines through but the view is obscured. The frame is not secured in any way - it just slides in and stays in place because of the tight fit.

black window frame, diy black steel frame window, basement window covering, diy window frame

How To Make A DIY Black Window Frame 

Materials:

  • 1"x 2" pine or trimboard (for the outside frame)
  • 1/2" x 1" pine (for the muntins). You can cut down your 1"x2" pine to this dimension using a table saw.

Tools:

  • tool for cutting plastic (handsaw, tablesaw, jigsaw, or mitre saw)

Instructions:

  1. Take measurements of your window size
  2. Cut four pieces of the 1"x2" wood for the outside frame. Cut them "a hair" bigger than actual measurements so they will be a nice tight fit when assembled. You can always sand them down to make them slightly smaller. Also, no need to mitre the ends. A butt joint is fine.
  3. Use Gorilla Glue to adhere the outside frame pieces together
  4. Use corner clamps and let the frame dry for at least one hour.
  5. Cut your pieces for the muntins. Make your cuts so that you minimize the length of any one muntin piece (see example above). 
  6. Use Gorilla Glue to adhere the muntins to the outside frame. The muntins will sit back from the front of the frame. The back of the frame and the muntins should be flush. Let the glue dry.
  7. Dry fit the insert in the window. Sand down any high edges. 
  8. Paint the frame. We used a tester pot of black paint in a satin finish.
  9. Allow first coat of paint to dry then give a light sanding. Apply second coat of paint.
  10. Cut your acrylic/plexiglass sheet 1/4" smaller all around than the dimension of your window frame.
  11. Apply frosted film to one side of the plastic. Wipe off any excess moisture on the face of the film.
  12. Place the acrylic on the back of the frame, frosted side in. Place some weight on the plastic. Using a hot glue gun, apply a bead of hot glue along the outside edge of the plastic frame, where it meets the wood frame. Let it dry for 10 minutes.
  13. Place the insert into the window. Set it back slightly to look more realistic. 

black window frame, diy black steel frame window, basement window covering, diy window frame

black window frame, diy black steel frame window, basement window covering, diy window frame

You can see how good the windows look in repetition. They complement the nautical wallpaper and blend into the wall more. 

I think this is a great solution for basement windows, but you can use it any situation where you want to dress up an unattractive window or opening.

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