The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide to Blinds and Curtains

Blinds, Curtains, For the home

Dining RoomWhether you’ve just moved house or you’re giving your living room a spruce up, brand new blinds or curtains can be a great way to not only improve the look of a room but also how you use it.
Curtains or blinds

Living Room

Will your room look best with curtains, blinds, or both?

When deciding how to dress a window, one of the very first decisions you’ll need to make is whether you want curtains or blinds – or both! In small rooms, or rooms with lots of windows, a full curtain can be slightly overwhelming.

Curtains look lovely on big windows, blocking out light and keeping in heat really effectively. For a smaller window, or a less formal room a blind can be a simple and stylish solution. They’re also really easy to clean.

When choosing which type of window dressing will be right for you, start by having the following in mind:

  • Function
  • Level of privacy
  • Light blocking ability
  • Room type

There are plenty of ready made blinds and curtains available, but if you want a well-fitted window dressing in a specific fabric, made to measure blinds or curtains might be best for you.

And sometimes the flexibility and the added insulation of having both curtains and a blind can be the best combination of all!

What’s different about made to measure blinds or curtains?

Made to measure blinds and curtains are a very simple concept. Either you, or the company providing the window dressing, measures the window size and calculates the size you’ll need depending on how you’d like them to look when finished.

Often the measuring service will also include a consultation, so you know all the different types available.

When you buy ready made blinds or curtains, you’re likely to have to compromise on some aspect of the design. Windows aren’t all one size, and so you might find you can only buy something which is far too long – or not wide enough – for your particular frame.

By buying blinds or curtains made just for you, you’ll be guaranteed that you won’t have to make any adjustments. Everything will look just right first time and you’ll be able to pick specific colours or patterns to suit you rather than just having to go with what is available.

Recess or exact size blinds

How you’d like your made to measure blinds to be fitted can impact quite heavily on how you measure for it. If you’d like the blind tucked neatly close to the window (a recess blind), you’ll need to measure the window itself. If you’d like a blind to fit outside the recess, which will give the impression of a larger window when closed, you’ll need to measure for the size you’d like, and therefore slightly bigger than the window itself.

When making this decision, look at the window. If the recess is fairly shallow, and the window has large handles, you may be unable to operate the blind properly if it is placed too close. In this instance, you’ll be somewhat limited, and have to choose exact size made to measure blinds instead.

Measuring for blinds

While some companies will measure for blinds for you, this will require a home visit and many will also charge for the service. At Norwich Sunblinds, we will come to you at a time which is convenient and provide this completely free.

If you’d like to measure for yourself though, you’ll need a good quality metal tape measure. The fabric versions can stretch and give inaccurate measurements. You’ll also need a pen or pencil to

Take the measurement of the drop, and the width you’ll need. You should record the width and drop at three different points to account for any variation. Use the smallest measurement you take, as this will ensure that the blind will be able to function fully within the window recess. Measuring twice can also save you from making costly mistakes.

Measuring for curtains

Living Room Curtains

After you’ve fitted your curtain pole or track, you’ll need to measure the drop to get your sizing just right.

Just like with blinds, always measure in three different places for curtains. For curtains, rather than measuring the window, you’ll need to know the size of your pole. There are a few more things to think about as well.

Measuring for a pole

  1. If there isn’t already one, you’ll need to pick and fit a curtain pole or track. Start by measuring the window recess.
  2. Next, you’ll need to decide how far you want the curtains to overhang the wall – normally about 20cm per side will allow the curtains to open fully and let in the most sunlight possible.
  3. Add the overhang amount (remembering to account for both sides) onto the recess measurement you took earlier.
  4. Find a pole of this size in the style you’re after, and fit it above the window recess.

Keep a note of the pole size you’ve bought.

Choosing and calculating gather

Normally you’ll want about 2 times gather, but the exact amount will depend on both personal preference and the fabric itself. 1.5 times gather is also common, as is 2.5 times. If you use a particularly heavy fabric you may not need as much gather, for example.

This table, which uses an example pole size of 200cm, shows how you calculate how big each curtain will need to be to give the desired gather when hung:

Gather Required

Pole Size

Curtain Width (gather required x pole size÷ 2)

1.5

200cm

1.5 x 200 ÷ 2 = 150cm wide curtains

2

200cm

2 x 200 ÷ 2 = 200cm wide curtains

2.5

200cm

2.5 x 200 ÷ 2 = 250cm wide curtains

With readymade curtains, you might find that there isn’t a size which is the same as your pole, and so you won’t be able to get 2 times gather. In this case, you can choose to have slightly more full curtains by selecting the next size which is greater than your pole length, or a less full curtain by picking the smaller size.

If you buy made to measure curtains, you can decide how much gather you want.

Measuring for drop

The length of curtains is entirely your choice. Generally. though, your curtains will either fall down to the window sill, just below the sill, or down to the floor.

You’ll need to measure from the top of the curtain pole down to the desired length.

If you would like your curtains to sit on your window sill, generally you should measure to 1.5cm above the sill. This will prevent the fabric dragging on the sill.

For curtains which go below the window sill, around 15cm tends to look about right – but this personal preference and you might also want to adjust it if you have a radiator beneath your window.

Floor length curtains should be measured to 2.5cm off the floor. Much like sill lengths, this will prevent drag and ensure your curtains sit well.

Write down the drop measurement you’ve taken. If you’re using header tape or tab tops, this will be the final length of the curtain. If you’re going to use eyelets, you’ll need to add another 4cm.

Your curtain size is the width we calculated from the pole length and desired gather and the drop you’ve just measured.

Evaluate your window

Sofa

A huge factor in whether made to measure blinds or curtains (or readymade varieties) will be most suitable for you is the window itself.

If you have a south facing window – and therefore one which receives a lot of sun throughout the day – some fabrics will be far more suitable than others.

In rooms like this sometimes it’s most appropriate to use a combination of window dressings. The light may need tampering during the day to protect furniture and reduce glare, but as a rule of thumb, if you can see through a drape or blind in the day, others will be able to see in at night. In this instance we’d suggest either light voile or a Venetian blind. Both options will let light into the room and give a degree of privacy, but it will only be partial. To fully block light in the evening and also give you more privacy, a heavy fabric curtain can be used as well.

Silk fabrics and anything delicate can also become bleached if constantly exposed to the full force of the sun (which is also being magnified through glass). Having a conversation about appropriate fabric choices early on in the process can prevent you becoming attached to a fabric which won’t be suitable.

In north facing rooms which get little sunlight, you might want to choose a blind or drapes which can be opened fully to make sure you get as much light into the room as possible. If the room gets next to no light, you might just want to think about insulation and making the room feel as warm as possible. Beautiful roman blinds or full drapes can look really lovely in these types of room.

Different types of blinds

Despite different fabrics and headers which affect the appearance of a curtain, they are fairly straightforward and the end product won’t look that much different or have different properties. With blinds, however, there is a lot more choice available.

Each blind will look different and provide a slightly different function, so, to make sure you get the best from your made to measure blinds, here’s a rundown of the types available.

Roller blinds

Roller Blinds

Roller blinds are very simple, yet effective. They are available in a wide range of colours or patterns to suit any room.

If you pick a roller blind, you’ll have a lot of choice in a pretty simple design. You can choose a plain colour, or a pattern to give your window that little bit of je ne sais quoi.

A neutral colour choice doesn’t necessarily have to be beige, feel free to use a muted or deep tone of one of your favourite colours as an accent, or to compliment colours already used in your décor.

Roller blinds offer full privacy when closed, and can block light effectively.

Roller blinds can also be produced with a decorative scalloped edge, so that the blind looks really striking and individual when they’re down. While this edge will prevent the blinds from being effective at blocking light out and impact slightly on the privacy level, the finished product will have added interest.

Vertical blinds

Vertical Blinds

Vertical blinds are practical and functional and can be used to add colour to a room.

Vertical blinds can be used as an effective alternative to a net curtain. They’re much longer lasting because the fabric is sturdier than the lace, and can be cleaned easily. They also offer varying degrees of privacy as they are fully adjustable.

The fabric can be either black out or a lighter weave to temper the light rather than remove it all together. The combination of privacy and light, as well as the contemporary designs available make these blinds a popular option.

Venetian blinds

Venetian Blinds

Venetian blinds can be used to allow a lot of light into a room, whilst still offering a degree of privacy.

Venetian blinds are quite similar to vertical blinds, except they sit horizontally. They can be angled to let in more or less light and when closed offer a lot of privacy.

Wooden venetian blinds are the most popular choice, and not only come in a range of finishes; they also come in different slat widths. This will affect the size of the blind when it’s up and also determine how much light is let in when the blind is closed.

In general, the bigger your window, the larger slats you should choose. You’re essentially scaling the style so that it suits the room and the window. Hundreds of tiny slats will look crowded on a big window, and are far more suited to smaller windows.

The wider the slats, the further they’ll stick out from the window, so they might not be suitable for a particularly shallow recess.

Aluminium blinds are really great for the kitchen. While wooden blinds can become warped in damp condition, aluminium or PVC venetian blinds are resistant to this.

Roman blinds

Roman Blinds

Roman blinds are like a hybrid of curtains and blinds, with full pleats but the ability to pull a cord to open and close.

Roman blinds work particularly well in living rooms. They’re made from woven fabric, so again you’ll have plenty of choice about colour, style and even texture. Dowel is sewn into the sides of the fabric, pulling the cord will give a consistent and attractive pleat.

Your made to measure roman blind can be produced with a shaped fascia at the bottom, a trim, piping, or a combination of fabrics. Speak to your made to measure blinds consultant, who will be able to advise you on the options available and what might look best.

Pleated blinds

Pleated Blinds

Pleated blinds are often used in conservatories or sky lights because they fold away incredibly tidily.

Pleated blinds are made of a stiff fabric which, when raised, fits neatly at the top of the window. Because the fabric is so thin, when open only the fixtures will be visible. This makes them extremely popular for skylights and conservatories as they’re so neat that they don’t impair light – but can be used to add a splash of colour to a room (and they’re also pretty good at providing additional insulation).

Woven blinds

Woven Blinds

Woven wooden blinds allow for both ventilation and a high degree of privacy.

Woven wooden blinds don’t block out a huge amount of light, but they are both stylish and contemporary.

Wood has the benefit of working with most colours, and so if you redecorate your room, the blinds won’t need to be changed.

They work particularly well in hot rooms because they block out the sun somewhat, while still allowing for a lot of ventilation.

Perfect fit blinds

Perfect Fit Blinds

Perfect fit blinds clip neatly into PVC window or door frames, and are especially effective on doors.

Perfect fit blinds do just that; they neatly fit into the frame of a PVC window or door.

They are common conservatory blinds because they move with the door or window when opened, and so don’t get in the way. They are available in roller, pleated and aluminium venetian styles.

They are completely child safe because they don’t use cords or pulls of any kind.

Picking colours or patterns

Picking colours or patterns

A combination of colour and pattern can give life to a neutral room.

Be careful with colour. It can add a lovely dimension to a room but if you pick the wrong shade next to a light coloured wall it can look somewhat overwhelming.

Small or self-patterned fabrics tend to work best in smaller rooms because they don’t overpower the rest of the space.

Large prints and bold colours can look amazing in larger rooms, and work very much like a feature wall.

Plain coloured options might be the safest option you can go for. Neutral colours will work with a range of colouring, and next to intricate wallpapers, or statement sofas, they can be most effective.

Think about the existing decoration in the room, and whether you’re likely to be changing things around anytime soon. There’s no point buying made to measure blinds which will look out of place within six months.

Which blinds are right for which room?

Most blinds can be used in the majority of rooms, but there are certain types which will suit some rooms more than other.

In a kitchen, you’re unlikely to choose a roman blind. The heavy fabric can be tricky to clean, and it’s more likely to hold on to a variety of cooking smells which will linger. A plastic or aluminium venetian blind will be easier to clean.

Wooden blinds have the potential to warp in rooms with a lot of moisture such as shower rooms and kitchens. They are attractive and long lasting – the slats won’t bend in the same way metal ones can. They can also end up quite expensive, so you might only want to use them in rooms where they’ll be on show.

Roman blinds are like a compromise between the benefits of both blinds and curtains. They’re really good at blocking out both light and keeping in heat due to the heavy fabrics they tend to be made from.

How to clean blinds

How to clean blinds

There are plenty of different ways to clean blinds, and to some extent, it will depend on the type of blind you have.

Venetian blinds can be particularly challenging, as the multiple surfaces will likely get dusty quickly, and the large surface area can be time-consuming to clean. Tumble dryer sheets are designed to attract dust, and so work really well on a Venetian blind.

Alternatively, fully close your blind so that the slats are facing you and no light is let in. Wipe over them using a damp cloth (or a soapy solution if they’re very dirty). Then turn the blinds the other way so the other side of the slats is exposed. If the dirt is really ingrained, take the blind down and hang it over a bath or outside so you can get it a bit wetter. Remove excess water with a microfiber cloth to prevent unsightly watermarks drying onto the surface.

Remember not to use a lot of water on wooden Venetian blinds as these can warp.

You can also get specially made Venetian blind dusters which hug each slat to clean both sides in one movement.

A Venetian blind duster can make light work of the otherwise tricky job.

Some fabric blinds can be cleaned at home, but others might need to be dry cleaned. Generally these won’t get too dusty or dirty if used regularly, so it will end up being a major – but not too frequent – task.

Speak to the company which supplied your blinds to find out what they recommend, and whether you.

Special fabrics and finishes

Curtains and blinds can be both be finished in ways which give the product extra properties. If you have single glazed windows, a thermal lining on curtains with solar reflective-backed can help

Blackout finishes are perfect for bedrooms. Blinds can be manufactured with a blackout treatment to make sure that no light comes through the fabric. If you have small children, it can be much easier trying to get them into a bedtime pattern when you’re tucking them up in a dark room – especially in summer.

Blackout fabric can also be used to line made to measure curtains and prevent light entering (or leaving) a room. Blackout curtains are often used in photographic laboratories where it is paramount that there is no light at all during the initial development process. They are also popular in bedrooms for the same reasons as black out blinds.

You will be able to improve the insulation of a room with any window dressing, but an interlined curtain or roman blind will be especially effective. Just like clothing, the more layers the better. An interlining will often help thinner fabrics to hang better as well.

Things to consider

  • If you’re covering a particularly large window, several blinds may be more effective than one giant one.
  • By placing the blind closer to the glass, you’ll maximise how much insulation it gives. Heavier or thermal fabrics with multiple layers will also help.
  • Keep cords out of reach of children either by requesting a short length or by using a cord cleat places high up the wall.
  • Request larger samples where possible to give you a better idea of how your chosen materials will look in your room.
  • Don’t settle for the first blind you see – there is a lot of variety available, both in the type and the fabrics or materials you choose. Made to measure blinds offer all the options you could imagine.

 

If you need help making a decision or with measuring and fitting blinds contact us or book a visit using our online appointment form.