Great window treatments aren’t just decorative—they add function and form to a space. “Window treatments are a key component of room design in terms of style, color, and texture, and they also control the amount of light that enters a space,” Nicole Torossian, principal designer of Nicole Michael Designs, says. “Without window treatments, a room will never feel truly finished.”
The only problem? There are lots of different kinds of window treatments. So before you can consider things like color and pattern, you have to answer some basic questions—like, are blinds or curtains better for my home?
Meet the Expert
To help you solve this aesthetic mystery, we turned to two interior designers. They walked us through the blinds versus curtains debate, sharing the pros and cons of each window treatment style. They also offer some advice on how to choose the right window treatments for your space.
What Is the Difference Between Blinds and Curtains?
It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between blinds and curtains. “Curtains are hanging fabric,” Sarah Cole, principal designer of Sarah Cole Interiors, says. “Blinds are slats that hang inside the casing of the window [and] that can be tilted to let in or keep out light.”
So blinds are lined with slats made of hard materials—typically, wood or plastic. And since they're hung inside window casings, blinds often cover the exact length and width of a window. Curtains, on the other hand, are made of fabric panels. And since they're hung over windows, they can be longer (or in some cases, shorter) than the window they're covering.
What Are Blinds?
Blinds are a type of window treatment that’s lined with slats (more formally called louvers). To block out light, you can close your blinds by tilting these slats all the way up or down. To let in light, you can open your blinds by straightening the slats. You can also let in light by raising your blinds—pulling them up until they no longer cover your window.
Note: Blinds aren’t quite the same thing as shades. Like blinds, shades live inside window casings. But unlike blinds, shades aren’t slatted. This makes shades a great middle ground between blinds and curtains. Want the style of curtains, but the size and shape of blinds? Try shades.
When to Choose Blinds Over Curtains
Blinds are great when you want control over light or privacy—and don’t need to make a decorative statement. “Blinds don’t contribute much to a room aesthetically,” Cole says.
Because of this, blinds are popular in functional spaces, like bathrooms and laundry rooms. And they’re a great pick when you don’t want to distract from the rest of your space. “If you have a jetliner view in a home, blinds provide a way to control light without visually distracting from the main event,” Torossian says.
Since blinds tend to be cheaper than curtains, they’re also ideal for the budget-conscious shopper. And they’re great when curtains just aren’t right for a window. Got a window right above a radiator, bathtub, or kitchen sink? Pick blinds over curtains.
“When decorating kitchens, bathrooms, home theaters, and laundry rooms, my go-to window treatment is always [blinds or] a shade,” Torossian says. “They can be automated to open and close remotely, which makes them a truly great option for hard-to-reach windows.”
What Are Curtains?
Curtains are strips of fabric that hang over your windows. You can mount your curtains right above your window, just below your ceiling, or somewhere in between. And you can hang a single curtain on one side of your window—or flank your window with a pair.
To keep light out, close your curtain by extending it until it completely covers your window. To let light in, open your curtain by bunching it up on one side of your window.
When to Choose Curtains Over Blinds
According to our experts, you should choose curtains over blinds most of the time. “Curtains balance the room by adding height and drawing your eye up,” Cole says. “They're an opportunity to add mood to a room—through color, print, and texture. [And] contrary to popular belief, the right [curtains] make rooms look bigger because they create a cohesive backdrop for furnishings.”
If you’re trying to make an aesthetic statement with your window treatments, curtains are a must. They’re also great for light control and sound absorption. And they’re ideal for windows and doors that you want to open with ease.
“Curtains are my first choice when dressing large windows or doors, as they stack to the sides, making egress easy,” Torossian says.
When to Choose Curtains and Blinds
Still can’t choose between curtains and blinds? Pick both. Blinds and curtains aren’t mutually exclusive. And pairing the two is a great way to make a surprising statement in your space—while giving yourself plenty of control over ambiance and lighting.
“Drapes and [blinds] together give you the ability to dramatically control the amount of light that comes into a space,” Torossian says. “The two paired together also create a beautifully layered look.”
And Cole especially recommends this approach for renters. “If you live in a rental with blinds already there, hang floor-to-ceiling curtains,” she says. “[This] is a great way to … frame the space and add your own personality.”