Guide to choosing blinds, curtains, awnings and canopies

Page 1: Blinds and curtains
Page 2: Awnings and canopies

Hannah Shanks - Editor

Windows and doors are a fundamental requirement of any property and the related accessories and modifications must be chosen carefully according to function and appearance. Windows are designed to allow light, heat and sometimes fresh air into a room. Curtains and blinds are used to vary the degree by which they do this, i.e. to provide privacy, security and a means of regulating the temperature in a room. Awnings and canopies are fitted over doors to offer protection from the elements, help to regulate temperature in a house, simply for decoration or to extend the living space.

Blinds

  • Roller Blinds - A simple roller blind is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to cover a window and are ideal if intended for use solely as a black out in a bedroom. They can be rolled out of the way quickly and discretely when not in use and require relatively little effort to install. Given the current rate at which people currently redecorate houses, these cheap blinds, which can be bought and cut to size in the home, are a very popular choice. Furthermore, despite the cheap mass production method (often using cardboard rollers), most will last at least a year or so before they need to be replaced.


  • Exterior Blinds - If the blind is wanted to prevent heat from entering the room, interior blinds may not be suitable however. Once the sunlight has struck the glass, the heat is already in the room and only a small amount will be trapped between the window and blind. To keep a room cool in the summer months, an exterior blind is far more suitable. These absorb and reflect far more of the sun's energy, keeping it away from the window and thus out of the room. This can lead to massive energy savings on air conditioning. Those in rented properties should consult their lease before purchasing such a blind however, as many landlords do not allow for exterior modifications to be made to the building, however beneficial they may be to current or future tenants. Another drawback of exterior blinds is that they are more difficult to open and close, so are not suitable for frequent use. Some automatic mechanisms are available that adjust the blind according to sunlight intensity and temperature, although these are normally intended for climates hotter than that of the UK.

  • Slatted Blind - If it is not necessary for a blind to be completely out of the way while not in use, slatted blinds are probably the most suitable. These can be wooden or plastic and fitted horizontally or vertically, allowing for increased versatility with regard to visibility. Such blinds provide a security advantage in that it is possible to see out of the property without people being able to see in. They also form a physical barrier against potential intruders.
  • Roman and Austrian Blinds – These are traditionally just used for decoration, as they provide few of the aspects described above. Usually comprising of a thin fabric, they are of little use for blocking out light or heat. Frequent use will leave them very grubby and so they would be more suited for a bathroom window that needs to covered most of the time or as a decorative item on an out of reach window that is rarely used. Modern versions of these blinds are attached using Velcro and can therefore easily be removed, washed or interchanged as desired.

Curtains

  • Fabrics - The fabric type, thickness and weight will depend on the curtain's primary function. Curtains are clearly the most obvious way to cover a window and insulate a room. A thick and heavy lining is required to keep out light and prevent heat from entering or escaping a room. Shower curtains require a waterproof synthetic finish, and so designs and patterns are limited, but most companies making custom shower curtains are able to provide a vast choice of patterns, over a thousand in some case. The choice of fabric pattern will obviously depend on how the room has been decorated, but as the minimalist trends of the 1990s die out people are opting for increasingly detailed prints and patterns. Some people choose to use a separate set of winter and summer curtains, either by replacing the entire curtain, or just the lining
  • Curtain Rails - The rails themselves can either be hidden from view while the curtains are closed or displayed as part of the room's décor. This depends on the height at which the curtains are hung and can be varied once the curtains are made up by moving the hooks up and down the lining. Providing the curtain rails are of the appropriate strength they can be chosen to match picture frames or other metallic or wooden parts of furniture. Obviously if the rail is to be hidden, it may be best to go for a subtle style. The rails or runners must be attached to the wall sufficiently to withstand the weight of the curtains and the forces of them being opened and closed.
  • Fastening and opening mechanisms - Tassels, ties and ropes are used to fasten curtains while drawn and hanging and these again should be chosen to match the curtains and the style of the room. These items can also be added for purely decorative reasons. Drawstrings are a useful way of adjusting the curtains, particularly if the curtains are not placed at an accessible part of the room. These range from simple pulley systems which allow the curtains to be moved together with a single cord to motor driven systems which can be controlled by light sensors or remote control, although these are more commonly used with blinds.

 
 


Property pros