06 November 2023
7 min read
Curtains and blinds play a crucial role in the aesthetics, comfort and energy efficiency of a home. As Graeme Rose, Managing Director of Window Treatments NZ explains, Kiwis have embraced both in equal measure, showing there is merit in these two leading choices.
“Currently, approximately 50% of window furnishings in New Zealand are covered with blinds and 50% covered with curtains. Over the last five years, sales of curtains have risen in popularity and it is now very common to have both curtains and blinds on one window, for example, an unlined sheer curtain in addition to a blind or blockout curtain.”
Given the split in the market, a closer comparison is warranted, looking at the influencing factors of each to help you decide which, or if indeed both in unison, are best for you.
“Most customers already have decided on which product they prefer by the time they contact us but these preferences often change during the consultation process. Commonly asked questions include insulation, privacy, mould resistance, fade resistance, longevity, functionality, aesthetics and automation.”
The appearance and styling of window treatments are an important part of a purchasing decision. While curtains arguably offer more options in terms of interior design with choices of fabrics, textures, colours and patterns, there are also different types of blinds (Venetian blinds, Roman blinds, honeycomb blinds, and roller blinds for example) which allow you to tailor your look. The one you go for might also be influenced by the style of your space and home.
“Obviously, the aesthetics between blinds and curtains differ remarkably so choosing between these products is most often influenced by the age, design and construction of the property. Properties with a mix of blinds, curtains, and even shutters, in different areas of the property are now very common and this is driven by both aesthetics and functionality. Curtains are often preferred for bedrooms to provide privacy, darkness and insulation whereas blinds are selected for living areas where more light and heat control are required along with minimalistic aesthetics.”
The light control and privacy needs are vastly different from person to person and room to room so it’s important to think about this aspect quite specifically with respect to your own situation. Broadly speaking, blinds with slats (or shutters) allow you to fine-tune the amount of light that enters a space in a way that curtains do not. Conversely, you’ll find few better options for privacy than thick, heavy drapes. For the best of both worlds, Rose says many opt for both blinds and curtains in the same window to control light during the day and have complete privacy at night.
“There are sometimes special requirements for a customer who is a shift worker who sleeps during the day or someone who needs absolute darkness and privacy. In these cases, a 'Blocco Roller Blind’ is supplied which has side channels fitted to the window frame along with a head rail cassette to give maximum block-out and privacy possible. Lined curtains provide a similar result but lights can enter the room at the sides, bottom and top. However, provided the curtains are manufactured wider and higher than the window opening, this issue can be mitigated.”
The insulation properties of blinds and curtains can have a big impact on the warmth and energy efficiency of a home. Most would be inclined to say that curtains with thick fabrics are the best for this which is why they’re so frequently used in living rooms and bedrooms. While this holds true in some respects, the actual reason is slightly more nuanced.
“Irrespective of which window covering is chosen the most important ingredient to achieving good insulation is to reduce airflow between the glass and the window covering. Most blinds will have light gaps at the side which allow airflow but this can be averted with blinds which are made with side channels such as Roller Blocco’s or Blocco Honeycomb Blinds. To achieve good insulation with curtains we recommend that the curtain is made wider and higher than the window size by around 35% of the square area.”
As it happens, the insulating properties of the aforementioned honeycomb blinds defy expectations more than you might think, says Rose.
“Consumer NZ circulated a study two years ago on window coverings to identify which type of window coverings provided the best insulation. Honeycomb Blinds proved to be the best insulator, 20% better than all window coverings including curtains. Honeycomb Blinds have a cellular structure which traps air flow hence this result.”
Most homeowners prefer low-maintenance furnishings in their homes wherever possible. Blinds and curtains will individually have different requirements depending on the type and materials used so are best addressed according to this. While some can be maintained by the homeowner fairly easily, others may require the work of professionals which presents an additional future cost to bear in mind.
“Most roller blinds can be cleaned by specialist blind cleaning companies and most other types can be cleaned or spot cleaned by the homeowner. Some curtain fabrics, such as fabrics with a flocked backing, cannot be washed,” says Rose. “The most important advice to all homeowners is to keep the property well-ventilated to avoid mould and keep the dust off blinds and curtains.”
The infusion of technology and new features allows the best products to evolve and curtains and blinds are no different. This has led to some fascinating innovations that have added another layer of functionality, making their use much easier and more convenient.
“Home automation or remote control is becoming more common in New Zealand to operate lights, heating, and air conditioning together with blinds, curtains and now even shutters. This means that the blinds or curtains no longer need unsightly cords to operate, removing the risk of injury or worse. Automated blinds and curtains can be operated with light sensors and pre-programmed timers via your smartphone. Rechargeable battery-operated blinds (with or without solar panel charging) are also becoming the most commonly used option as this means that no electrical power supply is required.”
When deciding between any two types of products, many would naturally compare the price points and lifespan in order to determine which might offer the best return on investment. However, with such a broad range of products on both sides, there is almost a cancelling-out effect of these factors. The environmental impact is also less significant than one might think.
“The cost and long-term maintenance between curtains and blinds are very similar so generally doesn’t factor too much in the decision-making. In domestic situations, environmental considerations play a small part but more in commercial situations where sometimes PVC coatings are not acceptable and/or fire retardancy is a requirement.”
With the key points covered, the decision then becomes a matter of understanding your needs and priorities and matching them against the characteristics described above. In some cases, curtains might be the more suitable choice while in others, blinds might make more sense. As described earlier, there’s also a compelling case in many situations to go with both, an option that many Kiwis are turning to.
Whatever you decide, so long as you’ve thought specifically about your own requirements and understand how your potential options will work in your environment, you’ll be best placed to make a choice that serves you well in the short and long term.
“It’s important to ensure homeowners have a clear understanding of the features and benefits of which product they have chosen and that the features and benefits match, as closely as possible, to their own set of priorities.”
Learn more about Window Treatments NZ Ltd’s products.