Getting new window treatments is exciting — and you know it will make a big difference in your space.
But there’s a lot to consider when choosing the right blinds or shades. You find yourself facing questions about what kind of light control you need or want.
But how do you know how much light control you need? What are the differences between room darkening and blackout shades? Is light filtering the same thing as sheer?
Don’t get overwhelmed — Stoneside’s got all the details to help you figure out exactly what you need.
These three are sometimes used interchangeably, but all three mean different things. So let’s get clear on the difference between them.
Light filtering: The term ‘light filtering’ refers to blinds and shades that have the ability to manipulate light coming in from outside. With light filtering window treatments, sunlight is filtered through the window treatment to produce a softer glow.
The amount of light transmitted has a large range dependent on the openness of your window treatments. (We break down openness factors farther down in this post.)
Light filtering can also describe the level of light control that your window treatment achieves. For example, sheer, room darkening, and blackout are all examples of light filtering levels. If none of those describe what you’re looking for, referring to “light filtering” window treatments implies you’d like more opacity than sheer drapes, but don’t necessarily need window treatments that are room darkening or blackout.
Room Darkening: If sheer were on one side of light filtering, room darkening would be closer to the “blackout” end. Room darkening window treatments made of softer material like vinyl or fabrics have a tighter weave (and sometimes a liner) that darkens rooms much more effectively when compared to other light filtering window treatments. The purpose of room darkening window treatments is to create a room with less light coming in while increasing privacy.
Blackout: This is the far end of the spectrum, with window treatments whose primary function is to block out as much light as possible. Blackout shades and blinds are specifically designed to be tight fitting within your window frame and made with an extremely tight openness factor to ensure no light penetrates the window treatments.
Keep in mind that even though being “blackout” is the goal, because of the necessary components of the window treatments, a full blackout (with no gap between the treatment and the window frame) isn’t always possible. However, because of the design and high quality, most Stoneside blackout window treatments are extremely effective.
Sheer window treatments allow in the most light, and therefore have the lowest level of light filtering options available. That being said, sheer window treatments can help reduce glare and produce a softening effect that many find aesthetically pleasing.
Sheer window treatments are a fantastic option for spaces where privacy isn’t a top priority, or where your preference is to layer your window treatments. (This could include living rooms, dens, and bedrooms.)
As we explored above, room darkening and blackout shades are similar, but not the same. The biggest difference between room darkening and blackout shades is the level of light blocking capabilities. Room darkening and blackout shades are both preferred for limiting light entering a room, but blackout shades will block out almost all light, whereas room darkening still lets in a very low level of light.
What you need from your window treatments depends on the room you’re upgrading. Here are some examples many of our clients experience.
A bedroom that’s mostly shaded: Sheer to room darkening Bedrooms primarily need privacy, but if that isn’t a priority, anything from sheer to lower levels of light filtering will work just fine. However, if you want a little more privacy and higher level of light control, go for a medium or room darkening window treatment.
A bedroom with a lot of a direct light: room darkening to blackout For high levels of direct light — especially from street lights or your neighbor’s motion lights above the garage — consider heavier levels of light control like room darkening or blackout curtains. If you have east facing windows, you might want to consider room darkening or blackout shades to ensure morning light doesn’t disrupt your peaceful mornings.
A nursery: sheer to blackout Again, you’ll want to consider the positioning of your windows. Is there a lot of direct light? What about sound and insulation needs? In terms of simple light and dark, consider how much light you want your little one to endure during naptime and bedtime.
Sheer drapery is lovely in a nursery, but many parents prefer more light control to help maximize those precious Zzzz’s. If that’s the case, consider layering sheer or lightweight drapes with blackout shades underneath. It’s the perfect blend of form and function for a beautiful space that promotes good sleep habits.
Living room: sheer to medium light filtering Living rooms don’t usually need quite as much privacy as bedrooms or bathrooms, so most levels of light filtering can be adequate. Determine the level of light you’d ideally like to have enter your living room, and then consider other needs such as insulation and convenience to help you determine which shades will be appropriate.
Bathroom: simple light filtering Privacy and convenience are the key factors for bathroom window treatments. Sheer light filtration is often not appropriate, as most bathrooms require more privacy, but light filtering window treatments will give you a slightly tighter weave. You’ll get subtle light dispersed into your room, without sacrificing your privacy.
Blackout and room darkening window treatments aren’t typically needed for most bathrooms but do offer high levels of privacy.
Light is a huge consideration for home offices. In fact, we’d argue it’s the highest priority. The right amount of natural light is crucial to productivity and efficiency, as light can be a massive distraction and inconvenience, not to mention having a major effect on comfort levels. No one wants to constantly adjust their seat to avoid the light streaming in between the blinds, or having to shut their blackout shades to deal with the unwanted light, only to be left in a dark cave.
For the best level of comfort, we recommend solar shades, transitional shades, or layered drapes. There are other options that can address needs that arise in home offices, but these window treatments are some of the best to offer light control in your home office.
Solar shades have different openness options which give you optimum light filtering capabilities. With a higher openness factor, you can even reduce glare and unwanted light without sacrificing your view. Transitional shades also allow you to manipulate the shades to keep your view while still filtering out light. Layered sheer drapes are always a good option for a softer look, and they help reduce glare.
It depends. Light filtering includes various levels of light control, so what really impacts whether or not you can see through light filtering shades at night is the openness factor (opacity) of your window treatments.
Low levels of light filtering will allow more light to enter from outside. At night, people looking into your home may be able to see some shadows, but won’t be able to see details. For example, sheer window treatments such as sheer drapery would allow individuals to see more detail than other light filtering options.
Window treatments that are room darkening and blackout offer much more privacy. The light control works from the outside as well as from the inside.
To understand how window treatments offer different levels of light filtration, take a look at how and what they’re made of. The amount of light control of a window treatment depends on a few key factors:
All three of these factors directly influence the level of light filtering abilities. For example, vinyl or composite woods will block light more effectively than a sheer fabric. A solar shade made of vinyl can have a higher openness factor — allowing you to filter light but still see through the treatment.
On the other hand, a solar shade with a lower openness factor effectively blocks your view. In that case, the treatment is still made of the same material and design but has a different result.
Certain types of window treatments give you the option to have a light blocking liner, which would result in a room darkening or blackout window treatment.
The good news? You don’t have to make these decisions alone. Every Stoneside client receives in-home consultation to help discover their best window treatments. When you speak with your expert design consultant, you get the opportunity to discuss what type of light control you’d prefer. Then, your consultant will explore the best possible window treatments to achieve your goals and style.
While light may be your main concern, you should also consider other areas you need your window treatments to address. For example:
Your window treatments need to check off all the necessities from your list, so make sure you aren’t letting only “light control” run the show.
Good news on that front — your window treatments can be wonderfully mismatched, so you don’t need to commit to a single type of treatment for the whole house. And that applies to more than just different rooms. You can thoughtfully mismatch your window treatments even in open concept spaces!
Here at Stoneside, we have all the top options. From sheer to blackout, our window treatments give you the exact light filtration you need and high quality.
But that’s not all you get.
When you become our customer, you also get exceptional customer service from the #1 window treatment company in America.
Welcome to the family. We’re excited to find the perfect window treatment for your dream home. Schedule your free design consultation today.