How to choose between blinds, shades, curtains, drapes, and shutters?

Choosing the right window treatment can be confusing, especially if you do not know the difference between various options available on the market. My wife and I need to make a selection before we move to our new house. She seems pretty confident with this topic, but I am utterly confused. There are five possible options or combinations of those. Choosing the right one may be beneficial for comfort, not just the style.

When choosing a window treatment, it is essential to establish a specific item’s purpose and then pick one accordingly. After that, the style has to be chosen to match the rest of the house. One more important factor when selecting between blinds, shades, curtains, drapes, and shutters is the price.

I had to do serious research to help my wife with the decision process. I learned that you need to consider the characteristics and usage of a specific item before you make a decision. All of them are listed in the following paragraphs.


Curtains are a classic home decorating item, a fabric “panel” covering the window. They are available in hundreds of different colors, patterns, designs, and length. Fabric can be various, from light and transparent to vivid colors.

How to choose between blinds, shades, curtains, drapes and shutters - Curtains

Curtains can be used in all the rooms, and sometimes they cover only half of the window. That style is mostly traditional and still used in vacation homes or rural areas, frequently in kitchens.

Full-length curtains are more of a decoration piece. They do not block the sunlight, and because of that, they are not suitable for bedrooms. If you would like to have curtains but also to have the ability to block the sunlight, you can combine them with other sunlight-blocking window treatments such as blinds.

Installing curtains is simple. You need to attach a long rod used for curtain hanging and attach the curtain. It is usually connected with different kinds of rings. Those rods can be used as decoration pieces together with curtains; they can be hidden or just made in a simple and not dominating way.

Curtains offer a wide range of possibilities when it comes to style. By choosing different colors and fabrics, they are suitable for all rooms, from bathrooms to offices.


  • Great decorative piece
  • Easy to install and maintain


  • Unable to block sunlight


In a way, drapes are similar to curtains when it comes to a variety of colors and patterns. They are also fabric panels. Unlike curtains, drapes are full-length, covering the windows completely. Drapes are used to block the sunlight completely.

How to choose between blinds, shades, curtains, drapes and shutters - Drapes

You can often see those in hotel rooms. Fabrics used for drapes are thick and heavy, sometimes having multiple layers. They can also be made from expensive, high-end materials.

They can be installed the same as curtains, but keep in mind they are much heavier, and the construction has to be stronger.

Drapes have a formal, official look, unlike curtains that can be playful. Drapes are not suitable for tiny rooms when it comes to style, as they are bulky and big. If you want to block out the sun in small rooms, you may want to use shades or blinds.

Drapes are great for anyone who needs to sleep during the day.


  • Completely blocking the sunlight
  • High-end appearance


  • Good drapes can be quite expensive
  • Not suitable for all home styles and sizes
  • May look like old-fashion to some people


Shades are used to keep the sunlight out. They are made of the fabric where both ends are attached to a rod. The upper end is fixed, and the bottom end can be moved up and down using rollers or some other mechanism. When you lift it, shade rolls around the rod.

Like curtains, a variety of materials can be used, the same as colors and patterns. They are suitable for various home styles, very good for smaller rooms. There are numerous sizes available on the market that fit most of the window dimensions. If you choose plain or cold colors, they may be used in formal business areas too, although they are more suitable for living areas.

Shades are perfect to be combined with curtains; you can have both style and partial or full sunlight blocking options. Installation is easy too.


  • Numerous designs are available
  • Can be combined with other window coverings


  • Not the best option for formal areas
  • The mechanism can break, especially those on the low price range


Unlike the three prior options, blinds are not made of fabric. Blinds function similarly as shades, but they are made of metal, wood, or other solid materials. Some of them have a tit function to let the sunlight in partially. The mechanism used for pulling them up also allows tilting of all the slats that make a window blind.

They are available in different sizes and depths, from mini to normal. They can be used by themselves, or more often, combined with curtains. Different colors are available, but patterns are non-existent. Some blinds are specially made for doors.


  • They can be combined with curtains
  • Can be used in various rooms
  • Very easy to clean without removing from the window


  • Fewer style options
  • Faulty mechanisms in lower price-range


Plantation shutters are a reliable and often stable window covering. The typical plantation shutter’s frame allows light in your room by the closing or opening of horizontal slats.

Shutters are a great option to provide privacy and control the amount of sunlight in your room. 

The slats can be made of wood (most expensive), vinyl (less expensive), and fake or composite wood (cheapest).

You may find it interesting to know that shutters have been around for a while. Louvered shutters were introduced in the middle ages.

These are different from outside window shutters, which are often time fake.


  • Great at keeping light out
  • They are typically durable
  • They are energy efficient: retain heat in cold months and keep heat out in warm months
  • They increase the value of your home


  • Not many materials or textures to choose from
  • Shutters are very visible and hard to hide
  • Some maintenance may be required
  • Shutters are typically more expensive than other options

Common Dilemmas

Sometimes, it is hard to decide which window treatment to choose.

Blinds or Shades?
This choice is just a matter of style preference. Both items have the same purpose and can be combined with curtains. Shades have one small advantage: you can see outside without pulling them up because you can just tilt them.

Curtains or Drapes?
Those two have a different purpose, If you need to block the sunlight go with drapes. If you want a stylish decoration, choose curtains.

If you like curtains, but you want to block the sunlight, combine them with shades or blinds.

Drapes or blinds/shades?
Those are items with the same purpose but different look and style. The best ones to block the sunlight are definitely drapes, but blinds or shades combined with a bit thicker curtains can do the job too. It is a matter of personal preference.

Combining different options

This may be the best option for some people. You will have all the advantages of both items, and you can have any imaginable style you want. Combinations are suitable for all rooms and home decoration styles.

Combining Blinds and Curtains is one of the most common options, and you can’t go wrong with it. Two different materials look excellent if adequately combined.

And there are some practical benefits of the combination. You can remove one for any reason, such as cleaning, and the other one will still do the job. Also, both half-transparent closed curtains or tilted shades provide the option of soft, natural light. That option is impossible with drapes.

For anyone having a dilemma about window treatment, combining two items may be the best option.

Summary Video

I have created a quick summary video for this section. If you like this video, consider subscribing to the House Notebook Youtube Channel.

Selections for Our New House

We finally got our window coverings installed. Out of the many options, we decided to go with shades and blinds. These are our selections room by room.

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