Home Decorating For Dummies
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Shades, blinds, and shutters are hard window treatments, as opposed to curtains, which are soft treatments. When used alone, hard window treatments provide crispness to a Contemporary room. For clarity’s sake, we call the old-fashioned roller type (up and down) shades, and the newer verticals and horizontals (once called Venetians) blinds.

Shades, blinds, and shutters (solid, louvered, or novelty) do a great job of blocking out light. Traditionally, they were installed next to the window and then were topped with a glass or sash curtain, a draw curtain, and finally an overdrapery. The differences (and advantages) among shades, blinds, and shutters include the following:

  • Shades are generally an inexpensive (but, surprisingly, not the least expensive) way to solve light and privacy issues. Now, they come in a wide assortment of materials, including novelty weaves and fashionable colors. They may come trimmed or decorated for custom looks. These shades can be installed to roll up from the bottom or down from the top, depending on your light control, viewing, and privacy concerns.

  • Blinds have come a long way since simple wooden Venetian blinds, including wide-slat and thin-slat aluminum blinds. Clothlike materials in different weights and textures introduce a new softness that’s more compatible with Traditional interiors. They offer protection from UV rays that damage textiles, woods, and art objects. Blinds may be set close to the window inside deep reveals (protruding frames with recessed areas that allow for inside mount), or on the same plane as the wall in an outside mount. Study your situation to be sure what effect you want and what your situation allows.

  • Shutters come in conventional (2 5/8-inch) width slats used in Traditional settings, as well as large-scale (4-inch or more) California or Plantation slats that are compatible with Contemporary and sophisticated Rustic interiors. Shutters add visual interest and a sense of drama to otherwise boring windows, rooms with bad views, and architecturally deficient rooms. Look for a variety of textures (plain, wood-grain, and so on), materials (wood and wood-look plastic), and colors (including unfinished that you can paint yourself). Whether natural wood or painted, shutters supply excellent energy efficiency.

Before you go shopping for blinds, consider the types. Many blinds manufacturers and catalogs offer several options, including decorative fabric trims and clatter-controlling devices. Give the following blinds a good look (and don’t get confused by their names or misnomers):

  • Matchstick blinds (a kind of roll-up shade originally made of split bamboo or other tropical materials) add the spirit of the tropics, energy efficiency, and some privacy to a room. But they don’t totally block out the sun or create a sense of privacy unless they’re backed with light-absorbing material.

  • Venetian blinds (usually horizontal) are made in vinyl, metal, and wood. You can control light and privacy by tilting the slats or vanes. Use them in almost any style interior from Traditional and formal to Contemporary and casual.

  • Vertical blinds, a must for sliding doors, come in metal, vinyl (that can look like wood), and fabric and can be coordinated with other types of shades, throughout your home, for complete harmony.

Are you more interested in decorating your windows with shades? Don’t think that all shades are alike. Remember, the words blinds and shades are used in various ways. Consider these types of shades:

  • Balloon or Austrian shades, with extra volumes of material, are great choices for Romantic interiors. These kinds of shades are more than beautiful: They provide energy efficiency, light control, and sound absorption.

  • Cellular fabric shades offer energy efficiency, UV light control (some styles totally block out light, but others don’t, so check the manufacturer’s light-control grading), sound control, and a unified look (the cords and controls are hidden).

  • Natural fiber shades made from mesh add rusticity. Just like with matchstick blinds, back natural fiber shades if you want total privacy.

  • Roman shades come in various degrees of fullness from almost flat to very full and are very decorative. Light control and privacy depend on how much you let them down. Roman shades work well with a wide range of styles but are tailored and more masculine.

About This Article

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About the book authors:

Katharine Kaye McMillan, former senior editor of a New York City-based national magazine, is a writer whose work appears regularly in magazines and newspapers. She is a contributing writer to internationally circulated Florida Design Magazine. She is the co-author of several books on decorating and design, including Sun Country Style, which is the basis for licensed signature collections of furniture and accessories by three leading American manufacturers and importers. A graduate of the University of Texas in Austin, she holds a masters degree in psychology and is a doctoral student in psychology at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida.

Patricia Hart McMillan is a nationally known interior designer, whose interior design work for private clients, designer showcases, and corporations has appeared in publications worldwide, including the New York Times and USA Today. Known as a trend spotter and for clearly articulated views on design, she is quoted frequently and extensively in both trade and consumer publications. She a ppears on TV and talk radio. A prolific writer, she is coauthor and author of seven books on interior design and decoration, with Sun Country Style signature collections of furniture based on two books. She has taught decorating courses at several colleges and conducted numerous seminars across the U.S. She is decorating editor for Christian Woman Magazine and reports on design trends for The Sun-Sentinel, a Tribune newspaper based in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She has been editor-in-chief of two publications and was head of a New York City-based public relations firm representing some of the most prestigious names in home furnishing and building products. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with a minor in art history (with an emphasis in architecture), from the State University of New York (New Paltz). She was awarded a certificate from The New York School of Interior Design.

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