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Blinds vs. Shades: What is the Difference?

If you’re still learning about the different types of window treatments on the market, you may be using the terms “blinds” and “shades” interchangeably, which is a common misunderstanding. While both are wonderful window coverings, there are some notable differences between the two. Even though blinds and shades both offer light and privacy control, and can enhance the interior design of your home, they operate differently, and each looks strikingly unique. The ability to discern the difference between blinds and shades will help you decide which window treatments are best for your home.

All About Shades and Blinds

The difference between window blinds and shades starts with the actual look of each window treatment. Blinds are classic window coverings that have been in fashion for decades because of their signature slat design. It’s easy to control these slats by moving them up or down, depending on how much visibility and light you want in your room at any given time.

There are various types of blinds you can use on your windows. One key factor is the material used to craft the blinds. You can opt for real wood, or, instead, choose faux wood or composite blinds. The latter two are generally easier to clean and are ideal for bathrooms or other areas where high humidity is an issue. Regardless of the fabrication, you can buy blinds in any number of colors or wood stains that will complement your home’s design. You can also customize blinds by choosing from an assortment of slat widths as well as lift options such as cord loop or cordless. Finally, for larger windows or glass doors, you can use vertical blinds—as the name suggests, the louvers are vertical instead of horizontal.

Shades, on the other hand, serve a similar purpose as blinds but are fundamentally different in appearance. They are constructed from a long, flat piece of material and can be raised or lowered with a cord or a pull tab on the shade’s bottom hem. The variety of fabrications available means there are several types of shades to select. This gives shades incredible versatility.

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Roller shades can be crafted from vinyl or fabric, with interesting textural or patterned elements. Roman shades, meanwhile, are made solely from fabrics, ranging from casual cotton to sumptuous silk. Solar shades have a special weave that helps guard against UV exposure coming into your home through the windows, and they are rated by their openness factor—the more open the weave, the more light will be let in.

Then there are window coverings that play off the simple structure of shades in innovative ways. Cellular shades have a honeycomb pattern, and the cells inside the shade serve as insulation to help maintain the temperature inside your home. (Vertical cellular shades are also available.) Transitional shades are similar to roller shades, but use two pieces of fabric instead of one—the result is a signature horizontal striped pattern that can alternate between sheer, semi-opaque, and opaque.

Although there are differences between blinds and shades, there are some similarities, too. Both can be customized with automated systems that are ideal for convenience and can be programmed to operate your window treatments seamlessly to your specific schedule. Blinds and shades can also help make your home more energy efficient by reducing the heat entering your home through the windows. Certain types of blinds and shades can be adapted for commercial use. And all types of shades and blinds can be specially tailored with decorative elements for a unique finish, or modified with blackout material to increase privacy and light control.

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How to Choose Which One is Right for You

It helps to understand the differences between window blinds and shades as you are shopping for window treatments. Which one you end up choosing may be a matter of personal preference and what your room requires.

A lot of it has to do with your own sense of style, and the interior design of your home. For instance, wood blinds add a warm, cozy feeling to a farmhouse-style dining room, while streamlined roller shades may be a better fit for a space with industrial or minimalist decor. Faux wood blinds work well in bathrooms, while kitchen windows that get a lot of morning or afternoon sun will benefit from solar shades.

Stoneside simplifies the decision-making process for you. During a consultation, our design expert meets with you and can discuss the various aspects of blinds and shades, your customization options, and which kind of window treatment would deliver the greatest effectiveness in your home. We also supply fabric swatches to give you an accurate representation of how the final product will look in your rooms. Plus, we double check all window measurements before submitting your order. All of our blinds and shades are manufactured in the United States and professionally installed by our in-house team. There may be differences between blinds and shades, but there is one major thing they both have in common: the ability to transform your home. To learn more, contact your local Stoneside office.

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