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Blinds or Curtains: How to Choose?

Blinds or Curtains: How to Choose?

New window coverings are an inexpensive way to give a facelift to a room. As you look at options for window treatments, you may wonder what will work best for your decor, blinds or curtains. Both curtains and blinds can be used to modulate heat and light. Both can be used with a number of decorative styles, but each has unique characteristics that will affect the overall look of a window and room. Here are a few pros and cons of each to help you decide what works well in different rooms and with different types of windows. Your choice ultimately comes down to personal preference, your taste and the look you are trying to create. In some instances, you may decide on both.

Curtains: Pros and Cons

There are many ways curtains can be used to dress a window. Heavy draperies in formal settings such as dining rooms and living rooms set a tone. Others, such as blackout curtains, block light. Sheers let light into a room while providing privacy. Layers allow more modulation of heat and light and more versatility in decor. Variations in length add to a look, such as café curtains for kitchen windows or floor-length curtains for bedroom windows. Color, pattern and texture go into the overall look. Finally, the hardware is an important decorative feature in the style and design of curtains.

Curtains are often the preferred choice for patio doors and other large windows. Curtains on a track can be partially or fully opened to regulate light and privacy. Depending on how they are installed, curtains can accentuate the beauty of a window or hide a window's unattractive features.

On the con side, too much fullness at the windows of small rooms can make the space feel closed in. Some people regard curtains as old-fashioned or associated with outdated decorative styles. However, with the number of fabric and design options available, curtains can be an integral feature in a modern design scheme.

Curtains must be laundered or dry-cleaned, and some materials can be damaged by sunlight. Depending on the choices you make, curtains may be more expensive than blinds when you add the cost of hardware and accessories, such as poles, finials, tiebacks, tracks and pulls.

Blinds: Pros and Cons

Blinds are made in many materials, including bamboo, aluminum, wood, plastic, cloth and paper. Wood and bamboo create a warm, earthy feel. Aluminum, other metals and vinyl are associated with an unencumbered, minimalist look. Blinds are available in many colors, making them easy to integrate into the color scheme of a room. Cord and tape running through the slats let blinds be tilted to control heat and light and provide privacy.

There are several styles of blinds. Venetian blinds, the most common type, are fitted with horizontal louvers. Heat and light can be controlled by both the tilt of the slat and raising or lowering the blinds. Several widths are available.

Vertical blinds have slats that hang perpendicular to the floor. Louvers of vertical blinds are usually wider than Venetian blinds. Although slats can be made of materials such as wood, bamboo, plastic and metal, they are most often made of stiffened fabric. Vertical blinds are drawn to the side instead of lowered and raised, making them a popular choice for sliding doors.

Roman shades give an entirely different look. Often made of cloth, the material stacks neatly in folds when these blinds are pulled up. When lowered, a smooth expanse of cloth is visible, much like a curtain. Cellular shades, also known as honeycomb shades, are made of soft materials constructed in pleated layers that trap air. Their insulating properties impede heat exchange between windows and the interior. Some are room-darkening; others diffuse light.

The clean, crisp lines of horizontal and vertical blinds work well with modern décor. They are also popular for children's rooms. Blinds mounted inside the frame next to the window glass provide better insulating value. Installation inside the frame minimizes the window treatment and accentuates the detailing of the window frame. Blinds can also be installed on the frame. This installation has less insulating value.

Unlike curtains that can extend below the sill or to the floor, blinds stop at the top of the sill. The exception is for glass panels that extend to the floor, such as sliding glass doors and patio doors.

Hardware is usually installed at the top of the window. In some cases, such as for living room windows or other rooms visible from the street, hardware can be installed on the sill so that the blind can be drawn up to give privacy while still letting in light at the top.

Blinds are easy to clean. Special brushes and tools are available for easy removal of dust from horizontal blinds. Most materials can be cleaned with soap and water. However, cloth blinds require more care and may need laundering.

There are some disadvantages to blinds. Some people feel that blinds give a stark, sterile feel to a space. Just as curtain material can be damaged by the sun, cloth blinds can also fade. The slats in blinds can be damaged, and the cords can be a hazard to young children or pets.

If you can't decide between curtains or blinds for your window redo, why not go for both? Install blinds next to the window inside the frame. On the exterior of the frame, add curtains. This gives you the most versatile option in décor, controlling light and creating a look that is uniquely yours.

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