Blinds and shades are designed to fit more tightly around a window than a drape or curtain. There are several different kinds, each offering a different degree of coverage.
Roller shades, or roll-up shades, have a reputation for being troublesome. Many of us have probably dealt with a stubborn roller shade that just won't roll, while others have been scared to death when a roller shade snaps up in a split second. Typically made out of vinyl, they operate via a spring mechanism that rolls quickly and neatly around a cylinder when raised by a pull cord. Roller shades are available in a various fabrics such as polyester, laminated cotton and vinyl.
Roman blinds are made from fabric with horizontal slats at several intervals down the length of the fabric, which gives the blind some structure and ensures it raises and lowers evenly. They are manipulated using three cords which are threaded through rings on the back of the fabric. When the cord is pulled and the blind is raised, it gathers from the slat at the bottom of the fabric up to the top slat in controlled pleats. This is the same basic design that was first used during the Roman Empire. Some innovative designs use wood or bamboo to create an earthy feel.
Venetian blinds are a system of narrow slats that overlap to provide full coverage. They are usually made of aluminum, vinyl or wood. A stick on a cord and pulley system operates the blinds. The slats can be adjusted to different angles to allow different degrees of light into a room and to afford different levels of privacy for those inside. This style of blind was first used in the Far East, but was discovered by traveling Italian merchants in the 17th century. It was, of course, the Venetians who popularized the blind style.
Wood blinds are available in various stains with decorative accents that can coordinate with any room. Bamboo, oak, basswood or linden wood are the most frequently used woods used to create natural wooden blinds. Real wooden blinds need to be treated regularly to prevent warping and cracking, and they can't be hung in humid environments. Faux-wooden blinds resemble natural wood blinds, but won't crack, fade or warp because they're made of composite materials such as hardwood and durable polymer. Faux-wooden blinds can be used in humid areas like bathrooms or basements without the risk of deterioration.
Traditional window shutters are hinged solid panels that can be folded across a window like double doors to diffuse light and add privacy. Many older homes, especially Plantation-style homes, still have operable, hinged-wood exterior shutters that were meant to be closed for security or when a storm was brewing. Today, exterior window shutters are usually added for looks rather than for function.