Window treatments fall into two categories. Part 1 will cover hard products which include shutters, blinds and shades. All are primarily used for privacy and/or sun control and my descriptions are about custom-made only because ready-made never really fits correctly. (I know this from personal experience in my pre-designer life!) Next week, Part 2 will discuss soft products or anything sewn of fabric that includes draperies, sheers, panels, top treatments and soft shades. Selected for style and beauty, they are the necessary finishing touch to a well-designed space.
Function, cost and visibility of the treatment will help you make your decision. The two styles I suggest the most are shutters and woven wood shades (shown above). Yes, both are higher on pricing but are the only hard products that are sometimes able to stand alone in casual areas without soft treatments. Shutters, blinds and woven woods are usually mounted on the outside wood trim but blinds and some shades may also be mounted on the inside of the window space, most commonly seen in drywall openings. Specialty window shapes are available in most categories but may not be operable.
In 2018 compliance was mandated by the Window Covering Manufacturers Association on new standards to prevent danger to children and pets by removing accessible cording on hard products. There are still imported products available so please note that safety features should include cordless operation, breakaway tassels, covered inner cords and secured loop controls.
Probably the most purchased hard products are blinds. They can be made of metal, vinyl, wood or a composite of wood pulp and polymer known as faux wood. The slats can be horizontal or vertical, ½” to 3 ½” wide. For homes, I would not recommend metal or vinyl blinds and only in rare circumstances would I use a vertical blind. These are your least expensive options and they have a commercial look. Wood and faux wood horizontal blinds should have slats at least 2” wide however your view will be better with larger slats. Wood warps with moisture so faux wood is a great alternative in high humidity areas like over sinks, in bathrooms and garages. Pricing on blinds starts on the lower end but special finishes and options will increase the cost. Also, blinds are fairly easy to measure, order and install with a drill.
Most companies offer cordless lift blinds for ease of use and safety. A tilt wand or cord will still be needed to open and close the slats. Horizontal blinds are not recommended if you want to raise and lower daily. On windows over 36” wide, they can be heavy to lift and have a high stack at the top window which will block the view. Blinds will be the same finish on the inside and street view.
A clean, classic look, shutters will give you partial or complete privacy, sun control and increase your home value because they are considered a fixture. Disadvantages include high price and blocking more of the light and view. If it fits the window, a larger louver size can increase both light and view. Shutters are made of wood with stain or paint choices. Faux wood selections only come in a painted look. Shutters are made like doors on hinges and to fully open, you need to be aware of nearby furniture. (If you have tilt-in windows for cleaning, a wider shutter may need to be ordered for access to the tilt function.) The shutter louvers tilt with 2 options: a tilt bar, for a traditional look, or invisible tilt which looks more streamlined and modern. The tilt may also be split for privacy below and light above (like photo at top). Shutters will also be the same color on front and back. Expert measuring, ordering and installation is recommended.
There are many different styles and fabrics available within each company’s offering but these are not the same as custom sewn shades. Each style has different size restrictions and applications. A good method of judging how much you will be able to see in your windows at night is to hold the fabric to the window during the day. What you can see out, you will see in with the light reversed.
The woven woods that I mentioned as a favorite can operate like a roman shade. There are hundreds of woven fabrics in many colors and they are available lined for privacy. I prefer them unlined to enjoy the natural beauty of the weave. Even unlined, there are weaves that provide good opacity and are available in top down/bottom up for café style coverage (like photo at top). If unlined, the fabric will be the same on the street side.
Roller shades have made a comeback and are not the same as Grandma’s. Light blocking capability and privacy should be considered in selecting the right fabric. Solid vinyl provides room darkening and solar fabrics reduce heat and glare. There are many decorative fabrics as well. Roller shades can operate on spring tension (cordless, like Grandma’s but improved) or have a continuous loop cord to raise and lower. Some offer decorative cassettes to hide the roll at the top of the window and some fabrics can be white to the street view.
Honeycomb shades are the only hard product that provide an insulating factor at the windows. They come in various pleat sizes, fabrics and colors, always with white lining to the street. One of their biggest selling features is that they collapse to a very small stack at the top of the window for full view and, with cordless, all but disappear. Honeycomb shades are also available in top down/bottom up.
Other popular styles are variations on a fabric vane between 2 sheers that roll up into a cassette. Again, the street side is always white.
Most hard window products are available with some kind of motorization: hard wired or battery operated. (On 2-story windows, it is almost required or you will have 2-story cords to wrangle!) The most economical time to consider hard wiring is when you are building or remodeling. Some companies offer apps to operate with a smart speaker or your phone and they can be programmed to open and close at specific times. It’s pretty “Jetson’s” to lower the shades with a voice command!