Window coverings serve a multitude of functions. They can be used for light and heat control or to provide privacy. They can make a house feel more inviting from the outside and add a level of protection on the inside. Decoratively, window coverings can add architectural interest to a space, or add softness, color and texture. Window coverings can be feminine or masculine, or a mix of both, and they can be made from fabric or wood. The sky's the limit when it comes to styles, shapes and colors.
Drapery panels are the most traditional of window covering ideas. They are often thought of as formal, but they don't need to be. Drapery panels can be made in silk, cotton or linen and can be sheer or heavily lined. Drapery panels can block out the sun (great for late sleepers!), provide warmth and protection from drafty windows and add a level of privacy with the use of sheer panels. Decoratively, drapery panels provide a vertical line in a room, drawing the eye upward and making low ceilings look taller.
Valances are generally non-functional coverings for the tops and upper sides of the windows. Also known as "toppers," window valances add color and texture to a window and can cover any exposed hardware of other coverings, like blinds or roller shades. Valances can be wildly formal with lots of tassels and trim, or they can be as simple as a ticking stripe linen dishtowel hung jauntily from hooks.
Shades, as the name implies, provide shading coverage of a window opening. Shades can be installed inside the window frame, or on top of the frame. One of the most versatile window covering ideas, shades cover the gamut from the basic rollers made from paper or vinyl to more hi-tech solar shades, which block out harmful UV rays and heat while letting in filtered light. Generally speaking, window shades move up and down and when lowered, cover the entire window opening. There are beautifully designed and ornate fabric shades that look more like a stationary window valance, but can be raised and lowered.
Shutters are usually the most architectural type of window covering ideas. Shutters can be made from wood or a wood composite material and are integrated into the woodwork of a space. Shutters provide excellent light and air control when the louvers are positioned accordingly. A drawback of a window shade is that when fully lowered, it often blocks the exchange of air, and light cannot be directed. Shutters, a popular choice in hot climates, can keep direct sunlight out without impeding airflow.
Blinds are a combination of the window shade and the shutter. Like a window shade, a blind can be raised or lowered to a specific position and like a shutter, blinds have slats that can be positioned for light and air control. Blinds come in vertical and horizontal configurations. Vertical blinds are usually used on windows and horizontal blinds (which are similar to drapery panels) work best over sliding doors. At the moment, horizontal blinds are not particularly "in," but they are functional and work well in offices and public settings.
There are many window covering ideas out there; it's just a matter of determining the needs of the space and using the right type of window covering that is both functional and attractive.