Blinds or Shades: Which Is the Best Choice for You?

by Jennifer TuohyMarch 2, 2017

We all love light — welcoming the sun into our homes is good for the soul and the energy bill. But of course, we often have to block it out, whether it’s to sleep, get a better view of the big game on TV, or because we’d rather not give the entire neighborhood a front-row view into our living room.
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When it comes to buying the perfect window coverings, however, the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming. Whether you just want some privacy or are looking to transform the decor of your home, the number of options is seemingly limitless. Here, we’ll look at the two most practical—blinds and shades—and help you decide on the best window covering for your needs.

Define Your Needs

First, let’s understand the difference between the two: Blinds are hard window treatments with slats that can be rotated to open or close. Shades are soft and are opened by rolling or folding.

Next, we need to consider our priorities. Do your windows have a spectacular view, or do you look right into the neighbor’s living room? If it’s the former, you’ll want to choose a style you can open completely to welcome in the view. If the latter, you may not need a totally flexible option.

Do you want the utmost privacy, or are you keen to have the most light whenever possible? Light-filtering shades are a great option, but blackouts will keep prying eyes out 24/7.

Do you have a specific style to your home decor that you want to stick to? Shades offer more versatility in styles, fabrics and colors, but the simple nature of blinds means they can be more easily dressed up with valances and drapes.

Do you have children (or plan to)? If so, cordless it the way to go due to the strangulation hazard presented by those dangling cords. Thankfully, almost all of today’s shades and blinds have completely cordless options, making it easier for you to choose your favorite style.

All About Blinds

Blinds come in two main styles, vertical or horizontal (known as mini blinds). Made from wood, faux wood, aluminum or vinyl, the chief advantage over shades is that blinds can be tilted to control the amount of light entering the home.
Vertical Blinds
As the name suggests, vertical blinds run from top to bottom and are good for large windows and sliding glass doors, as they can offer floor-to-ceiling coverage. Generally made from vinyl, vertical blinds are a good alternative to drapery for less cost and a less “heavy” look. Newer styles incorporate fabric such as linen or rattan — which are softer and quieter — complementing less-austere decors.
Mini Blinds
The style you are probably most familiar with, mini blinds, have horizontal slats and are designed for regular and smaller-sized windows. While traditionally made from aluminum (the higher the gauge the thicker the blind and less likely to bend or snap), today’s blinds are mostly vinyl. These are inexpensive, versatile and will fit almost any window. A wide array of available colors means these can fit into almost any interior design.
Wood and Faux Wood Blinds
Made from real hardwood or “faux wood,” wooden blinds are more expensive than their vinyl counterparts, but if you are looking for a classic and elegant look with the versatility of a blind, then this is a great choice. Wood is more expensive than faux wood and requires more maintenance, while faux wood is better for humid climates as it won’t warp or crack.

All About Shades

Shades offer the most versatility when it comes to decor, as they are available in a wide range of materials, styles, colors and designs. However, they offer less adjustment for light than blinds do, as they’re either open or closed.
Cellular (Honeycomb) Shades
As the most popular type of shade, cellular shades double as excellent insulators due to their construction. They trap heat to block out the cold in the winter, and cool air to block out the sun in the summer. This helps regulate your indoor temperatures. In fact, a cellular shade can reduce the sun’s heat by about 50%. Available in single, double, or triple cell (which can be very heavy), and a large selection of colors, cellular shades can be cordless and hide well when fully open. This makes them perfect for sleek, minimalist looks, or as an added layer of light- and temperature-regulation to other window treatments, such as drapes and valances.

Depending on how much light you want in a room, you can choose shades with various levels of light-filtering, from blackout to sheer. Also, the ability to lower from the top as well as raise from the bottom means you can welcome in the light any way you want throughout the day. Blackout shades are great for bedrooms, media rooms and children’s rooms, whereas the sheer options, which still allow in a warm light, are ideal for living rooms and kitchen areas.
Roller Shades
Incredibly economical and very easy to use, roller shades can be paired with solar screen fabrics to filter light, reduce glare and help control solar heat gain as well as protect furnishings from UV radiation. They boast a minimal look with a smooth and simple operation. Light-filtering and room-darkening options make them suitable for use in any room in the house.
Roman Shades
Roman shades, once extremely popular, went through a slight downturn in popularity but are now roaring back into style. Essentially flat pieces of material that fold up when pulled by a cord (either hobbled — retaining soft folds when extended — or completely flat), Roman shades add a distinctive decorative touch, more elegant and akin to drapery, but with the convenience of a lifting shade. As with almost all shade options, Roman shades can have blackout or UV filter liners installed to help with light control.
Bamboo and Natural Shades
The eco-friendly material and natural look of bamboo and natural (woven wood) shades makes this style highly popular with interior designers. They bring a feeling of warmth and comfort to any room and have a distinctive look from the exterior. They are light-filtering, but for added darkness linings are available. (However, adding liners will diminish the effect from the outside.) is the place to dream and discover your ideal home! Are you starting to get the itch to look for your first or next home, but don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place! Browse our real estate and lifestyle blog for home buying tips, mortgage guides, DIY ideas, interior design, lifestyle topics, general home inspiration, or just some homes fun. We are sure you can scratch that itch and find all the information and tools you need to help in your home search. Want to start looking at available real estate right now? Head to our home page and check out homes for sale or rent listings all over the country.

Happy house hunting!

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About The Author
Jennifer Tuohy
An award-winning journalist, Jennifer Tuohy has 15 years’ experience in newspapers, magazines, marketing and online content. She writes on a variety of subjects, but her passion lies with technology, sustainability and the intersection of the two. For more information on window treatments that can impact energy savings, visit

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