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Blinds vs. Shades : What’s the Difference?

opening cordless wood blinds

What’s the Difference Between Blinds and Shades?

It’s easy to tell a blind from a shade. Blinds are made with individual slats—also known as louvers or vanes. These slats can be tilted to block light or to increase privacy. Blinds can be raised and lowered. Shades, on the other hand, are one continuous piece of fabric that rolls or folds up on itself when raised. The simplicity of shades makes them very easy to raise and lower.

Let's dive into some of the key differences and why you might choose window blinds vs. window shades.


Why Choose Window Blinds?

Blinds are hard window coverings, with slats made of metal, wood, vinyl, or composite. They are affordable, durable, and practical. Maintenance is easy: you simply wipe off the slats with a duster or cloth. Blinds also offer more light control options than window shades. You can tilt the slats and adjust them so that juuuust the right amount of light comes in.

Faux wood and composite blinds are moisture resistant, making them perfect for kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. And if you have a uniquely shaped window that needs covering, window blinds can cover that, too. 

Another great benefit of window blinds is their classic beauty. Window treatments are a big purchase, and you want yours to stand the test of time. Window blinds are a great choice that won't box you into a certain style. If you still want to add some color and flair, you can always layer drapes over the blinds.

There's one more major reason why you might choose window blinds: they are super affordable! Prices vary based on the material you choose, but overall horizontal blinds are the one of the most budget-friendly options for window coverings.


Customizing Your Blinds

So you've decided on window blinds...great choice! But you still have some decisions left to make.

1. Materials

Horizontal blinds come in aluminum or textured vinyl. They are the least expensive materials, giving you classic charm on a dime. Real wood blinds are the most beautiful and authentic. Made of North American hardwood, they act as a natural insulator for greater energy efficiency. They're higher priced, but still economical. And right between, faux wood and composite blinds are designed to look like real wood, but made of materials that can stand up to high moisture and humidity.

2. Slat Size

Bali Aluminum Blinds are available in ½", 1", and 2" slats. Vinyl blinds come in 2" slats. For faux wood and composite blinds, you can choose between 2" and 2½" slats. And for real wood blinds, your slat options are 1", 2", or 2⅜". I really like the thicker slats, 2" and above. They're elegant and have a similar look to shutters, at a cost that's attainable for any homeowner's budget.

3. Color

All of the materials above come in multiple colors to fit with your interior design goals. I recommend ordering swatches of your favorites to make sure they will fit with the room as a whole. You can order five swatches for free, and I always take full advantage of that number.

Personally, I like white window blinds for their versatility and timelessness. But horizontal blinds also come in colors ranging from pale to vibrant. The wood and faux wood blinds come in a variety of wood tones and grains.

Tip: Don't feel like you have to use the same color throughout your entire house. Light colors are cheerful and bright in a kitchen or living room, while dark colors create a thoughtful atmosphere in a study or den.


My Top 3 Choices:

1. Faux Wood Blinds in Coconut

We are choosing these for our kitchen windows! Although I love real wood blinds, I knew we needed something that could resist moisture for above the kitchen sink.

2. Wood Blinds in Sugar White

Classic white wood blinds that pop against colorful walls.

3. Wood Blinds in Sandcastle

A medium tone wood that adds warmth and natural character (make sure to order swatches to coordinate with your trim).


Why Choose Window Shades?

Window shades are soft window coverings. Instead of slats, they are composed of one continuous panel of fabric. Since they are made of fabric, there is a much wider range of colors and patterns to choose from.

There are many types of window shades to suit your specific design style. Roller shades are a straight piece of fabric that pulls down from a valance tube. They're streamlined and simple, with clean lines that work well in modern spaces. Roman shades are more sophisticated and luxe, cascading down in folds of fabric.

Cellular shades add the most energy efficiency to your home, with pleated honeycomb cells that trap air and provide insulation. Natural shades bring sustainable style into your home, using renewable materials like bamboo, sisal, grass, and jute. And layered shades combine alternating stripes of sheer and solid fabric for greater light control.

While window shades don't have slats to adjust, you can select the opacity of the fabric or liner to fit your needs. In the living room, a light-filtering fabric will allow natural light to come through even when the shade is pulled shut. This is perfect if you need privacy but still want maximum light.

In a bedroom, nursery, or media room, where your goal is minimizing light, you can opt for a blackout fabric to turn the room into a dark and quiet sanctuary. Window shades are better than blinds at blocking light and providing privacy. They're a bit more expensive, but they're also more energy efficient, which can pay off in the long run.

One thing to consider is that window shades may be harder to clean and maintain than window blinds. You can spot clean them with a soft cloth, mild detergent, and warm water, but you won't be able to run them through the washing machine like you would with other fabrics. For this reason, even though shades are my favorite type of window treatment, I keep them to the living room and bedrooms, where my kids aren't eating food or running around with paint-covered hands. For rooms like kitchens, craft rooms, and bathrooms, I play it safe with blinds.


Customizing Your Shades

Leaning towards window shades? Fantastic! Before you're ready to buy, there are a few more decisions to make.

1.Mounting Style

You have two options here, inside mount or outside mount. I like the streamlined, built-in look of mounting shades inside the window frame. This is especially preferable if you have pretty window trim you want to show off. But outside mount is better if you need the room to be completely dark. Since the fabric overlaps the window trim, there aren't any gaps for light to peek through.

2. Fabric

Bali Shades come in a huge selection of beautiful fabrics in all different colors, light opacities, textures, and patterns. You can filter down the options by light control (ranging from sheer to blackout), or by the color family. I like neutrals for a major purchase like window shades. But if you're bolder than I am, check out all the rich, dramatic, on-trend colors, too. No matter what you're considering, I recommend ordering swatches of your five favorite options. Photos are no substitute for seeing and touching a fabric in person!

3. Lift Control

You have several options for how to lift your window shades. But for those of us with young kids or pets, there are really only two options: cordless or motorized lift. Both eliminate dangling cords, giving you great peace of mind, ease of use, and a streamlined look. Cordless lift is operated by hand. Motorized lift is controlled by the included remote or by integrating with your smart home system. Motorized lift is preferable for large or hard-to-reach windows.


My Top 3 Choices:

1. Classic Roman Shade in Fenton, Glow

This is what we have in our living room. It has a lovely slubby texture, and allows lots of light to filter through even when closed.

2. Classic Roman Shade in Hoehne II, Soft Grey

This is what we have in our nursery. It's beautiful and practical! I love that the blackout fabric makes it easy to darken the room for daytime naps.

3. Cellular Shade in Cosmopolitan, White Lace

We have these on the sidelites in our entryway. They're small windows, so I didn't want a bunch of fabric stacked at the top. The cellular shades are clean-lined and low profile, and I feel good knowing that they're energy efficient, too.


The Bottom Line

So, which do you choose—blinds or shades? Both types of window treatments offer light control, privacy, and insulation. The choice really comes down to aesthetics. What is the look you’re going for? If you’re interested in bold colors and patterns, try a roller shade or a pleated shade. For a soft, elegant look, try a cellular shade. Layered and sheer shades present their own unique horizontal patterns that no other window treatments can offer. But if you’re looking for the classic look of wood, you can’t beat wood blinds. And the horizontal lines of vinyl and aluminum blinds are often the right choice for a room with modern décor. The bottom line: choose the window treatments that you think look great—and you can’t go wrong.