Blinds are the most popular window covering based on the results of our ongoing poll. 58% of people polled prefer blinds out of all window treatment options (750 people polled).
It’s not surprising. They’re highly functional and they can look great. They’re a bit difficult to clean but the benefits outweigh the cleaning hassle. The next question is which type of blinds do you want? We can help with our epic blind buying guide set out below.
The Blinds Buyer’s Guide
The complete buyers guide to blinds and shades for your windows.
A. Understanding Different Window Treatments
More often than not, the term ‘blinds’ refers to both blinds and all different types of blinds and shades serve the same basic function, there is a fundamental difference that separates the two. So, before we go any further, let’s make sure we understand what makes them different.
Blinds come in a variety of different types, materials, and sizes. All blinds have individual slats, which adjust up and down. Blinds can also tilt from side to side, which allows you to control the amount of light entering the room.
For most blinds, a cord located on one side of the blinds allow you to adjust the blinds up and down. A rod located on the other side of the blinds controls the tilt of the blinds, allowing you to open the slats, or close them.
Shades also come in many types, materials, and sizes. Unlike blinds, they’re made from one piece of material, instead of individual slats. For this reason, they can be adjusted up and down, but not side to side
B. Different Types of Blinds
1. Vertical Blinds
Vertical blinds have individual slats that run along a track at the top of the blind. Depending on the style, vertical blinds either open from side to side, or by parting in the middle. These blinds are a popular choice for patio doors and floor to ceiling windows. But, they can still be used over smaller windows as well.
2. Venetian Blinds
Venetian blinds are the most popular style of blinds. They feature horizontal slats which attach with string or strips of cloth known as tapes. As Venetian blinds are raised, the bottom slat is pressed into the slat above it.
3. Mini Blinds
Mini blinds are very similar in operation to Venetian blinds. But, they feature slats of a smaller width than traditional Venetian blinds. The slats are usually about 1” thick.
4. Micro Blinds
Micro blinds are an even tinier version of mini-blinds. These types of blinds feature slats which are ½” thick.
5. Panel Blinds
Panel blinds are another popular choice for patio doors, as well as very large windows. Panel blinds feature sections which move along a track, which allows you to open and close them.
6. Pleated Shades
Pleated shades feature a piece of material that’s pleated so that the shade forms an accordion-like pattern which can be raised or lowered. These shades have a similar look to Venetian blinds, while also “softening” the look of the window. But, they cannot be adjusted from side to side, like blinds. Pleated shades are usually made from fabric or paper.
7. Cellular Shades
Cellular shades look similar to pleated shades and are also made from similar materials. However, unlike a pleated shade, cellular shades are made of two different pieces of material. The front and back sections of cellular shades are open in the middle, which creates a pocket that provides insulation. Cellular shades are available in a variety of different cell sizes designed to fit the needs of different windows. These shades are a great way to help your home stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Cellular shades also provide sound insulation, as well.
7. Roman Shades
Roman shades are a very traditional window covering made from fabric or materials like jute or seagrass. There are several different styles of Roman shades available, but they all share one thing in common: As a Roman shade is raised, it folds into itself, similar to how a Venetian blind operates. Since the fabric of a roman shade continues to fold into itself, it can create quite a large stack of fabric at the top of the window when they’re raised completely. So, while Roman shades offer a beautiful and timeless look, they do remove a portion of the viewable space of your window when raised.
Roman shades are available both lined or unlined to suit different needs. The linings often offer additional features, like blackout and thermal linings.
8. Roller Shades
Another popular shade option is roller shades. Roller shades are usually made from synthetic or natural fabrics and can be rolled up or down to suit your needs.
Roller shades are available in several different styles that mount to the window in a variety of different ways. The most economical roller shades feature an external system that allows you to see all of the different mechanisms and mounting hardware of the shade.
More stylish options are available which features valances, cornices or fascia’s which hide all of the components of the shade and provide a more polished look. Like Roman shades, roller shades are available in a broad range of natural and synthetic fabrics and often have additional features such as thermal or blackout linings.
10. Tie-Up Shades
Tie-up shades are sort of like a cross between a shade and a curtain. Tie-Up shades are available in a broad range of materials. These shades are constructed from a piece of fabric which features ties that extend beyond the bottom of the shade. You can raise the shade by rolling it up and then tieing the shade in place. This style of shade offers a casual or country look that blends seamlessly with many styles of decor.
11. Solar Shades
Solar shades are very similar to roller shades. Their purpose to reduce the amount of sunlight, glare, UV rays and heat entering the room from outside while preserving the window’s view. Solar shades are like sunglasses for your windows.
12. Outdoor Shades
Outdoor shades are usually made from heavy duty, weather resistant materials. Outdoor shades are used on patios and decks to reduce the amount of sun exposure and heat that’s entering the area. Outdoor solar shades are especially popular.
13. Skylight Shades
Skylight shades are available in many different styles including roller, pleated and cellular. These shades are designed to cover difficult to reach skylights. Cellular shades are especially popular for skylights because of their insulating properties. Skylight shades usually feature a largely removable rod that’s used to raise, lower or adjust the shade. Sometimes, skylight shades are raised or lowered with a handle instead of a rod. Automatic versions are also available.
14. Smart Blinds
They still may seem like something out of a science fiction novel, but smart blinds are becoming increasingly common thanks to smart home technology. Smart blinds and shades are available in many traditional styles, as well as new, high tech styles.
Smart blinds sync with a smartphone application and can be controlled in groups or individually. They can also be programmed to open and close at certain points during the day. Not only are smart blinds some of the most visually attractive on the market, but they can also help you save on energy costs.
If you’re interested in smart blinds but don’t want to shell out the cash to retrofit your home with them, there are also smart controllers available. These smart controllers allow you to outfit your existing blinds with the same type of smart technology that pricey smart blinds use.
C. Blinds Materials
Not only are blinds and shades available in a wide range of different types, but there are also a wide range of materials they can be constructed of as well. Depending on the room you’re installing the window coverings in and your personal taste, the material the window coverings are made from will likely be important to you.
Wood blinds are a popular choice for most applications. They offer the natural beauty and warmth of wood, and they’re available in many different stains, types of wood and colors. Wood blinds are a strong choice for most rooms in the home, however, in rooms or areas where humidity and moisture are a concern, they aren’t the best choice. Since wood is a natural material that can expand and contract over time, wood blinds are susceptible to warping, splitting, cracking or breaking.
2. Faux Wood
Faux wood blinds provide the same beautiful look like wood. However, they’re made from synthetic materials, which makes faux wood blinds more economical than wood blinds. Since they aren’t made from natural wood, they can be used in areas and rooms with higher humidity, like bathrooms. Since wood blinds are so durable and affordable, they have become a very popular choice for any application.
Plastic blinds are the most economical of all materials. They’re available in many different colors and sizes. They’re well suited for all applications; however, they don’t provide the same luxurious look that you see with other materials such as wood. Since these blinds are made from thin plastics, there is a chance they can become damaged over time.
Metal blinds offer a similar look to plastic blinds and are available in an even larger variety of finishes. They’re resistant to moisture which makes them a great choice for bathrooms and humid environments.
Metal blinds are often available in different gauges. The smaller the gauge, the thicker and more durable the slats. Since they’re made of metal, these blinds tend to be the noisiest variety on the market which may bother certain people.
Paper shades are a popular and economical choice for many different decor styles. Paper shades are most commonly available in pleated shades. Paper shades are usually a solid color, but occasionally they feature beautiful decorative motifs, pictures or paintings. Graphic shades are especially popular in Asia and can make a beautiful and unique addition to your home.
6. Natural Fabrics
Natural fabrics are a popular material used to produce shades. But, the availability of different synthetic fabrics has cut into their market share a bit. The most common fabrics you’ll see used are cotton, jute, and seagrass. These fabrics are usually available as tie-up, roller or roman shades. Natural fabric shades are relatively easy to clean, and they’re durable. However, they aren’t resistant to fading and can take quite a pounding from the sun’s UV rays over time.
7. Synthetic Fabrics
Synthetic fabrics are the most popular material used to produce certain types of shades like tie-up, roller or Roman. Like natural fabrics, they’re durable and easy to clean. But, synthetic fabrics are usually highly resistant to fading and tend to maintain their beauty for longer, compared to natural fabric shades.
D. Production Method
How a blind or shade is produced will likely be a major consideration for you as you search for the perfect window covering. Depending on your budget and the amount of time you have, you’ll need to choose between made to measure and ready made options for your window coverings.
1. Ready Made
Ready made blinds and shades are made in most popular window sizes. Usually, they can be adjusted by the customer to provide a more custom fit for their windows. Ready made blinds are much cheaper and in most cases, the store can deliver them the same day you order them.
Usually, these blinds are installed in the home by the customer.
While ready made blinds offer a fairly wide range of options and styles, you won’t be able to fully customize the look of your window treatments in the way you can with made to measure blinds or shades.
2. Made To Measure
Made to measure blinds are custom made for the customer by the manufacturer. With made to measure blinds, the customer can customize every single aspect of their window covering including color, finish, material, hardware configuration, and additional features. There are many different benefits of choosing custom made window coverings.
Made to measure options are best for customers looking for the perfect option for their home, without the compromises you’d usually be forced to make with ready-made options. They’re also the best choice for homes with odd shaped windows that aren’t readily available in ready-made sizes.
Depending on the level of customization desired, it can take a week or more for the manufacturer to produce made to measure blinds. Once manufacturer delivers the blinds, they’re usually installed by the manufacturer or a trained professional. As you’d imagine, made to measure blinds and shades are considerably more expensive than the ready-made varieties.
E. Blinds Features
All blinds and shades serve the purpose of providing privacy and limiting the amount of natural light that enters a room. But, some window coverings have additional features which add to their versatility and usefulness.
One of the most popular additional features of different shades is blackout fabric. With this fabric, external light is almost completely blocked by the shade. This feature is a popular addition to shades that are used in bedrooms, as well in rooms where privacy is key.
Another popular feature that you’ll find in many shades is thermal fabric or thermal insulating pockets. Usually, the thermal fabric is sewn onto the back of the decorative fabric. In some cases, there is a thermal lining or a foam-like material inside of the blinds. This additional layer helps to insulate the window which helps keep the room cool in the summer and warmer in the winter.
Sheer fabrics can be added to shades to provide an additional level of functionality to the product. Sheer shades serve the same purpose as other shades, but they feature slats like blinds do, which can be adjusted to increase or decrease the amount of light entering a room. Sheer shades offer the soft look of shades while providing the additional level of functionality that’s typically reserved for blinds.
This feature is especially popular in homes with small children since there is no cord for children to break, or hurt themselves with. With cordless blinds and shades, the cord is eliminated completely, allowing the window covering to be adjusted with the touch of your hand, as opposed to with the cord. By eliminating the cord, the blinds also become much easier to operate. Because let’s be honest, does anyone really know how to work the cords properly?
5. Top Down Bottom Up
The addition of top down bottom up functionality is a great way to add visual interest and increase the versatility of your shades. These systems can be raised or lowered from the top, as well as the bottom, which offers the customer even more options for light control and privacy. Top down bottom up shades are especially useful in rooms with many windows, as they can be adjusted individually to create interesting and visually appealing configurations, like in the photo below.
Despite the fact that top down bottom up shades feature a more complicated design, they’re actually incredibly easy to install and maintain. Many varieties of top down bottom up shades can be installed without so much as a single screw.
Thanks to the wonders of technology, a new consideration for you to make has been introduced. Now, blinds and shades are available in their traditional configuration, as well as automatic versions as well.
Manual blinds and shades adjust by hand. Traditionally, a cord located on one side of the blinds or shades controls the height of the blinds. Pulling on the cord will cause the blinds to be raised or lowered. With blinds, a rod on the opposite side of the controls allows you to control the orientation of the slats to control how much light can enter the room.
New automatic systems add a touch of sophistication and cool to your blinds or shutters. With these systems, a hidden motor is added to the top of the blinds or shades, and they can be adjusted by remote control. These systems come at a price, and they’re considerably more expensive than manual varieties. Check out this video of an automatic blinds system in action.
II. Where To Buy
Now that you’re armed with all of the information you’ll need to select the perfect blinds or shades for your home let’s take a look at some retailers who specialize in window coverings.
1. Ready Made
If you’re interested in ready made blinds, you can purchase them practically anywhere. Big box retailers like Target and Walmart sell several different types of blinds and shades. Home improvement stores also have blinds and shades available, and they tend to have a wider variety of styles available.
There’s also plenty of brick and mortar and online specialty stores with an even wider range of choices and styles available. Here’s some stores you can shop online or in your area for ready made blinds.
2. Made To Measure
If your needs call for a more custom solution, and you’ve decided to go the made to measure route, you may want to consider where you shop more carefully. There’s a strong chance that there are many custom blind and shade stores in your area. These stores can walk you through the entire process of selecting your window coverings and options. They can handle all of your installation needs.
There’s an even wider variety of online retailers that can service your custom window covering needs. But keep in mind that with these services, you’ll probably need to arrange installation yourself once you’ve received your order. Here are some of the most popular and reputable custom blind and shade stores online.
III. Additional Considerations
Since there are so many different blinds and shades available, there’s also a pretty broad range of prices, as well. There are several factors that go into determining the price of window coverings. These factors include things like the style, material and any additional features the window covering has.
Another huge factor that goes into determining the price of window coverings is how they operate. Manual blinds and shades are considerably cheaper than fully automatic systems.
Finally, the final price factor is the construction of the blinds. Blinds which are ready made and available off the shelf are considerably cheaper than blinds which are custom made for your individual home.
2. Measure Twice, Cut Once
The adage measure twice, cut once is particularly important when it comes to blinds, especially if you’re going to be handling installation yourself or if you’re shopping for custom blinds online.
With ready made blinds, you’ll want to measure accurately, so you’ll be able to achieve a polished finished look once your window coverings are installed.
If you’re custom ordering online, measurements are arguably even more important. Since the manufacturer will be creating your window coverings to the exact measurements you provide, accuracy will be key to ensure a perfect fit in your home.
If you’re uneasy about the idea of doing your own measurements, it may be a good idea to consult with a custom window covering shop in your area. That way, their trained staff can walk you through every aspect of the process and also handle the measurements.
With so many different types of window coverings available, you’ll have no problem pinpointing the types of blinds that are going to look best in your home. But, if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the different options as you search for new window covers, check out these interior design tips, or search for some inspiration on Pinterest.