Myths and legends about window blinds

The Old Days of home ownership, like most Old Days, were largely mythological. Those who remember living without air conditioning and suffering through murderously hot summers will also remember the fact that they felt like they were living in ovens. The window blinds didn’t do much but keep the heat in. The alternative, however, was getting dazzled by the sun from various angles, and watching the furniture change color.

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That’s now changed mainly thanks to technology, but you could be forgiven if as a consumer you’re still seeing the same old products being sold to you on the basis of “tradition” or “authentic home design”. Some old window blinds barely qualified as safe, let alone able to block sunlight and heat.

The myths about these products are almost amusing, to those who know better:

Long life cotton drapes- These were the traditional, all-purpose window shades of the past. The cotton may last forever, but the prints don’t. They fade, relentlessly. Cotton, uncolored and bleached, is a good material, but it’s not designed to do much more than hang off a curtain rail. It can’t block heat, and it can only block so much light.

Plastic blinds- In the 60s and 70s, plastic blinds came on the market. These bizarre things were actually used, believe it or not, as bona fide sun screens. It’s hard to imagine anything less able to do the job. The plastic conducted heat, rather than blocked it, and if anything they were more of a fire hazard than any sort of protection. There were endless varieties of these horrors, which usually managed to look even tackier over time as the sun and heat destroyed them.

Bamboo/matchstick curtains- By far the best and well ahead of an appalling bunch, these curtains were concertina-style screens on curtain rails, thin single parallel sticks and lightweight. They were also expensive at the time, and although they could filter light and weren’t heat conducting, they could only do so much. They couldn’t really block heat, just provide shade. (They’re much better as outdoor privacy screens for areas like verandas, etc.)

The kitchen blinds saga- Kitchen blinds for some reason were usually the worst of the lot. They came in various forms, typically in remarkably tasteless machine print styles, in various synthetics. Cheap, yes. Useful, no. They were, almost universally, utterly useless. It was actually necessary in some cases to put curtains behind these “screens” to try to keep the heat out, meaning they actually cost more anyway. The kitchen also happens to have internal as well as external heat to manage, and the “blinds” did a great job of preventing air circulation, raising the internal heat even more.

So when you hear someone talking about “traditional” window blinds, be very skeptical whether that person has any idea what they’re talking about. They were originally absolute rubbish, and they’re now hopelessly out of date compared to modern blinds, which actually do what they’re supposed to do.

It’s debatable why these inferior products are even still on the market, but they are. To avoid them, simply compare them to the modern products. There’s simply no comparison. Let the Old Days rest in peace, and stick to quality.

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