Blinds and shades do double duty when it comes to your windows. These treatments are a great way to add attractive accents to a room’s decor, but they also allow you to control your privacy and the amount of light that enters the space. Here’s our primer on buying blinds and shades.
Before you buy blinds and shades
If you’re thinking about blinds or shades for your windows, determine what you want these window treatments to do before you buy. Do you need blinds or shades to provide privacy, darken a bedroom for sleep, insulate your windows and/or protect your furnishings from harmful UV rays? Or are you mainly interested in the decorative possibilities these window treatments provide? Knowing what you need your shades or blinds to do will help you decide which window covering is best.
Blinds cover your windows with slats that you can open and close to control your privacy and how much light enters your room. The slats can be made of a variety of materials. Vinyl is generally the least expensive choice, while wood is the most expensive.
While they usually look best when fitted inside your window frame, most blinds can also be mounted outside the frame.
You can choose from several different types of blinds.
- Mini blinds. These have narrow horizontal slats.
- Plantation or Venetian blinds. The wider horizontal slats of these blinds can help make your windows appear bigger.
- Vertical blinds. These are a good choice for windows that are wider than they are tall.
If your windows are a standard size, you can likely find blinds that will fit them in stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot. Stores like these can often cut their blinds to fit windows that aren’t a standard size. Otherwise, you can have custom blinds made to fit your windows. You’ll find custom blinds in big-box stores and online retailers specializing in window coverings. Custom blinds are more expensive, but you’ll find more looks to choose from.
Shades, which are made of a single sheet of flexible material, give windows a warmer, softer look than blinds. You’ll find shades in cotton, linen, vinyl, polyester or a natural material like bamboo. Here are the various types of shades.
- Roller shades. These cloth or vinyl shades unroll manually. Roller shades look best mounted inside the window. These shades can block light or filter it.
- Roman shades. Made of panels of fabric that draw up in horizontal pleats, Roman shades look good with various design styles. Custom Roman shades allow you to choose from a wide range of decorative fabrics. Roman shades can be light-blocking if lined with a special material or light-filtering if they are not.
- Bamboo and woven shades. These shades filter light and bring a natural touch to your room’s decor.
- Cellular or honeycomb shades. Available in light-filtering, light-blocking and blackout styles, these thicker shades can help keep warm air out in the summer and inside during the winter.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission says corded blinds and shades are one of the biggest household hazards to children. Fortunately, you can buy cordless styles. Look for the Best for Kids certification, which is granted to products that have been deemed safe for homes with young children. If your window treatments have cords, ensure children cannot reach them.
Some blinds and shades can be controlled with remote control or smart home systems. These cost more but offer convenience.
Measuring for blinds and shades
Careful measurement is essential to ensure your blinds or shades fit your window. Here’s what you need to know about measuring for blinds and shades.
- If you want an inside mount, you’ll generally need at least two inches of depth to accommodate the hardware. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to be sure you have enough space.
- Use a metal measuring tape, not a cloth one.
- Round measurements to the nearest eighth of an inch.
- For an inside mount, measure for width at the top, middle and bottom of the window interior and go with the narrowest measurement. For length, measure the left, right and center of the window’s interior. Choose the longest of these measurements.
- For an outside mount, measure the window’s height and width. Buy a blind or shade that’s wider than the window to make the window look bigger. This will also allow additional space for mounting hardware.
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