Shutters vs. Curtains vs. Blinds vs. Shades

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Window coverings are just as important to your home as the rest of your furniture. They establish the atmosphere of a room and can serve various functions (not just to add to the decor of your room). Windows come in various shapes and sizes these days, and finding the perfect covering for your window can be challenging but also fun.

This guide will show you the difference between shutters, curtains, blinds, and shades. You’ll learn which ones are more decorative or more functional and which ones are a mix of both. Lastly, you’ll also find out the pros and cons of each one so you can decide which one suits your home best.

Decorative vs. functional window coverings

Window coverings can serve several purposes. Depending on what you choose to get, they can serve as either decorative or functional purposes or sometimes a mix of both. Here’s a quick breakdown of what window coverings can do:

  • Add to the decor of your home. With a decorative window covering, you can incorporate your window with your space and add other stylistic elements or a pop of color to your room.
  • Control the temperature of your room. When the weather is cold, the right kind of window covering can be used to cut down a draft. In the same way, when it is too hot inside, it can keep the cold air in.
  • Control the amount of light in your room. If you’ve got windows facing east and west where the sun rises and sets, your window covering can provide shade from the sun and keep your furniture and carpet from fading.
  • Limit visibility from the outside. Privacy is important and some window coverings allow you to control how much can be seen from the outside looking in.

Shutters

Using shutters is one of the most attractive window covering options. They come in various colors and styles and you can get one depending on the overall look of your home. Nevertheless, shutters serve a functional purpose too. Not only are they decorative and provide a beautiful style for your home, but they help protect your home against the sun’s rays and keep your furniture and carpet from fading and discoloring.

Purpose: A mix of decorative and functional.

Curtains

While curtains are functional in the sense that can brighten up a space or control the amount of light streaming in from a window, they are better used in rooms or on windows that don’t need to block out much light from the sun or street lamps. Even the thicker drapes that are supposed to be room-darkening are not always thick enough to completely block out all the light. Curtains come in several different kidneys of fabric, featuring various colors, patterns, and styles so you’ll definitely be able to find something to suit the interiors of your home.

Purpose: More decorative than functional.

Blinds

Blinds do an incredible job of blocking out light as well as limiting how much can be seen from the outside. They keep a home private, but they only come in a few colors and styles. Thus, they aren’t really used to decorate a home. Blinds don’t help insulate a home either, but they can come in various shapes and sizes and can hang in front of windows and even sliding doors.

Purpose: Mainly functional.

Shades

Shutters are like curtains—they come in different colors, materials, and can be customized to fit the frame of your window to match the decor of your home. You can raise them to let the light in or to take a peep outside. Some shades, such as cellular shades, can also be used to insulate your home by keeping the warm or cool air trapped inside. 

Purpose: A mix of decorative and functional.

Shutters

Dark wooden shutters
For more examples, check Amazon.

Shutters are often used to decorate the home as well as to provide an amount of privacy and protection from the heat of the sun. They are made from different materials—wood, plastic, aluminum, faux wood—but the design usually remains the same (slats mounted on a strong frame and installed on a window).

Shutters help protect the interiors of a home from too much sunlight and heat while at the same time elevating the look of a home. They also help regulate energy consumption as you can open them to make a room cooler in the summer or close them to keep a room warm during the cold winter days.

Nevertheless, shutters are a bit more expensive than other window coverings. Plus, they often have to be custom-made to fit the window which raises the price tag even more. They are, however, a perfect option for those who want a lot of control over the light entering a room from the outside.

Pros

  • Shutters can last for several years.
  • Shutters are durable and stable. Even if you experience extreme weather, they won’t warp or change shape.
  • Shutters are easy to clean because they can be quickly wiped down with a rag.
  • Shutters offer additional protection against intruders and give you greater privacy as well.
  • Because of their durability and beauty, shutters add to the value of your home.

Cons

  • Shutters are more expensive than other window covering options. Those with smaller budgets might not be able to afford the more high-quality, durable shutter options that are custom-made to fit your window frame. Plus, having them installed will cost money too.
  • Shutters need to be cleaned and maintained regularly (tightening the slats) to ensure that they don’t become loose.
  • Because shutters are very solid and stay in place all the time, they can obstruct the view. If you want more freedom to access your window as well as to easily look outside, a shutter might not be the best choice for your window.

Curtains

Black floor-to-ceiling curtains
For more examples, check Amazon.

Curtains are window coverings made of fabric and come in various colors, patterns, and sizes. No matter what the theme is for a particular room in your home, you can expect to find curtains for the window to match it—even for kitchens. They usually hang on a rod and can be decorative or plain. You can also choose how you want your curtains to hang from the rod: by rings, grommets, or a sleeve of folded and sewn fabric on the top.

Because curtains only block out minimal light, they are best for rooms that are not under direct sunlight (rooms where the sun rises or sets). For countries where the sun sets late or, during some months, doesn’t set at all, curtains might not do the best job of blocking out light while you sleep.

Pros

  • Because there are so many kinds of curtains, you’ll easily be able to find a curtain to match the decor of your room.
  • Curtains are relatively affordable and come at various prices. No matter what budget you’ve set for it, you’ll be able to find something that will work and make your room look good.
  • Curtains give a house a pleasant, cozy, homey feel.
  • Curtains can help hold heat during the cold winter days.
  • Curtains don’t need special mechanisms to operate them, thus minimizing accidents or damages when children play with them.

Cons

  • Curtains can take up more space as compared to other window covering options.
  • Curtains can make a room look smaller.
  • If you place curtains in humid places, such as kitchens and bathrooms, there’s a chance that they will become moldy after a time.
  • Curtains must be cleaned regularly or they will hold a lot of dust.

Blinds

White blinds covering a window on a beige wall
For more examples, check Amazon.

Blinds are made of several slats of vinyl, wood, bamboo, or aluminum material. They use a mechanism that allows them to be raised or lowered easily and immediately. They can also be tilted open to allow more light to enter a room or tilted closed if you want to block light or keep people from seeing from the outside in.

Blinds are a great window covering option for those who want to have maximum control over how much light or visibility there is coming from the window. They keep a home private but they do not insulate the home. You can opt to get horizontal or vertical blinds and they can be used on windows and sliding doors. Nevertheless, they are rather simple in appearance and only come in a few colors. Several homeowners choose to install curtains on the windows along with their blinds to soften the appearance and integrate it better with the overall design of the room.

Pros

  • Blinds are one of the cheaper window covering options. Whether you purchase one that is more expensive than another, there isn’t that much difference in terms of quality.
  • Blinds give you amazing light control so you can easily adjust the amount of light streaming in from the window.
  • Blinds aren’t susceptible to moisture which makes them ideal in any kind of room, even those that could be humid places, such as kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Blinds are easily wiped down with a dust rag so they don’t have to be vacuumed or taken down to wash.
  • Cordless blinds are available for those who are worried about the cords being dangerous for small children (this will cost more, though).
  • Blinds give a room a clean, finished look.

Cons

  • There isn’t much variety when it comes to color and sometimes the plainness and strong lines don’t appeal to many people who are going for a softer aesthetic for their home.
  • Metal, wood, and bamboo blinds can be very noisy when being opened or closed.
  • Blinds must be cleaned regularly as dust accumulates on the slats quickly. You’ll need to dust or wipe regularly especially if someone in your home is prone to dust allergies.
  • If not correctly used, the mechanisms to operate on the blinds can become damaged.
  • The hanging strings for corded blinds can be a safety hazard for children. If this is your concern, you’ll have to find a way to store the cords out of reach or opt for cordless blinds, a more expensive option.

Shades

Light shades partially covering a window on a gray wall
For more examples, check Amazon.

Shades consist of a soft panel of fabric that is attached to a frame or rod at the top. You can have shades customized to fit inside the frame of your window which will give it defined lines and a neater appearance.

Shades are like curtains. They come in different colors, materials, and sizes. You’ll definitely be able to find something to fit the theme of your room or the size of your window. You can also have shades custom-made if you have windows that are not standard-sized.

Shades need to be raised or lowered to let the light in or to keep the light out. The same goes if you want to take a look outside or give yourself more privacy. This is done by the shade rolling around itself or folding up like an accordion. Shades also do a great job of keeping warm or cool air trapped in the room, thus helping you lower your heating or cooling costs.

Pros

  • Shades are great for blocking out light, whether you want to let only a little of it into your room or block it out completely. If you need to sleep during the day or if you live in a country with a midnight sun, using shades for your windows is a wise choice as they come with room-darkening options that make it possible to sleep.
  • They are durable and if you buy high-quality shades, it will take some time before you need to have them replaced.
  • Shades don’t come with long strings that can be dangerous for a child or pet. Thus, they are very safe to operate. You can even get them motorized if you want.
  • Shades are easy to use. You can give it a slight tug at the bottom for it to go up and then pull it back down without exerting too much effort.

Cons

  • Shades are more expensive than other window covering options, such as blinds or curtains.
  • If you have stacking shades, they will block out a lot of the window as the fabric piles on the top.
  • They have to be cleaned regularly especially if you place them in the kitchen or bathroom where they can develop mold.
  • You let the light in by raising the shades. Nevertheless, there’s no way to control the amount of light you let in.