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The Difference Between Window Shades and Blinds

The Difference Between Window Shades and Blinds

Window shades and blinds are popular options when it comes to replacing and upgrading your window coverings. Both options may sound similar, but they do differ in more ways than one.

Here are five ways window blinds differ from shades:

  • Materials
  • Opacity
  • Opening and closing
  • Style
  • Designs

Read on to learn more about the above differences and ultimately decide which type of window covering is suitable for your home.

Window Blind and Shade Materials

Blinds are considered "hard" window treatments while shades are "soft." Have you ever seen a movie where a streetlight created a dramatic shadow composed of straight lines on the floor of a private eye's office? Blinds make those shadows! Some of the materials composing blinds include wood, faux wood, and aluminum.

Shades, on the other hand, are made of a single length of fabric hanging from a rod or cylinder. These can be traditional fabrics such as cotton, polyester, or wool, but can also be made from more exotic options including bamboo, grass, and reeds.


The hard nature of blinds means when they're closed, they can block out all outdoor light if the slats are closed as well. The amount of light coming through the window can be increased by merely tilting the slats into a more open position. No similar adjustment can be made with shades.

Shades don't have louvers that can be adjusted, so the light passing through can't be increased without drawing them. With so many different materials available, however, you can determine how much light you'd like your shades to permit when they're installed. You can choose translucent shades that only limit the sunlight entering a room, or go with shades that provide blackout conditions — for a bedroom, for instance.

Opening and Closing

Window coverings such as drapes and curtains are usually opened by hand. They must be pulled apart, and can sometimes be fastened in the open position. Shades and blinds are opened with a drawstring mechanism. They're not as heavy as drapes and curtains, and therefore have a leaner, more contemporary presence.

Most blinds and shades can be opened and closed by drawstrings, but there is a difference. Whereas shades can only be pulled up or down, blinds are comprised of slats that can be tilted when closed to permit more light (without sacrificing privacy).


Like most design choices in a home, the style of window covering you prefer is a matter of personal preference. Blinds can be found in different shades and shapes, but they aren't available in patterns. In this case, shades have more versatility if you're looking for a patterned look or a pop of color. The Spruce offers a solid rundown of the most commonly purchased types of shades.

Blinds usually have less flourish than shades, so they're often considered the modern alternative. Also, because of their effectiveness at blocking out light, they're perfect for bedrooms. It's not uncommon for homeowners to complement blinds with a valance or a sheer curtain to soften their rigid appearance.


While blinds are available in several different materials and colors, for the most part, the designs are all very similar. One way their designs differ is in the depth of their slats. Standard blinds have slats between a half-inch and one inch in depth, while wider slats (usually known as Venetian blinds) can be as much as two inches deep.

There's virtually no limit to the shapes, colors, and patterns available with shades. Among the most popular shade design is honeycomb. As opposed to a flat fabric that rolls up onto a cylinder, honeycomb shades are pleated and available in a wide range of thicknesses from translucent to opaque. If you want to go high-tech, you can opt for motorized shades or UV-resistant solar shades.


So which type of window covering is best for your home? There's no definitive answer. Ultimately, the best way to settle on either blinds or shades is to research the different styles that are available to you and see which one meets your needs and expectations.

There's no reason you can't do both window shades and blinds in the same home. Do a little browsing online or in person, and there's little doubt you'll find just what you're looking for.