The Earliest Window Coverings and How They Have Changed Through the Years

The terms “window blinds” or “shades” is often used to describe all window coverings except curtains. Window coverings have come a long way throughout the years, from animal skins and Venetian blinds to elaborate fabric window treatments, read on to see how the face of window coverings has changed over time.

Venetian blinds patents were first introduced in England, 1760-1769, but the French had been creating and using Venetian blinds long before then. In the 19th-20th centuries, Venetian blinds were used in office buildings; a good example is Radio City Music Hall in New York City, completed in the 1930s.
One of the earliest patents for horizontal window shades is 1888. Vertical window shades were invented in Missouri, and the company was called “Sun Vertical.”
Varieties of window shades include Brise soleil, Holland blinds, jalousies, louvers, mini blinds, micro blinds, pleated blinds, roller and Roman shades. However, curtains are the first window treatments. The first curtains were animal hides. In the Early/Middle ages, heavy tapestries and fabrics were used to keep out the cold. During the Renaissance, glass windows trended and with the invasion of privacy, shutters and curtains.

Early earth dwellers had to choose comfort over beauty; heat and cooling came first. In addition to controlling air circulation, curtains were used (then as now) to define space and privacy. As textiles evolved, linen and flax (ancient Egypt) were followed by wool, cotton and silk.

Handmade curtains were replaced by mass-production in the 1800s. That same machinery changed the fashion industry with ready-made clothing. In the mid-1800s, a separate division between the rich and poor emerged: the middle class, who sought advice from interior decorators and architects. Lace curtains were front and center during this time, and the window treatments’ mantra was, “More is better!”

The 19th century was fussy and complicated, in both fashion and window treatments. Chairs (and rooms) were overstuffed and over-decorated. Synthetic colors were being discovered at the time, influence fabric colors for home furnishings and window treatments.
Curtains have made a big comeback, replacing closet doors and accentuating minimalist decor. Your room is only as high as your curtain is hung — if your curtain rod is near the ceiling, it expands the height of the room. It will be interesting to see what trends arise in the future for window coverings.

Guest post provided by Nichole Knupp


  1. Curtains can really add some spark to a room. I need to look into getting more updated curtains.

  2. We had custom ones made for our patio window, and I'm not sorry we did they add so much more decoration to the room.

  3. We've always used curtains. I like the look of plantation shutters but they are a pain to dust. Curtains I can just throw in the washer and dryer!

  4. I have started thinking it would be better to have just curtains and no blinds. At least you can wash the curtais. Blinds are a pain to clean.

  5. I would love to get some new curtains for my living room. I have very thick curtains that need a makeover.

  6. Really interesting post! I've never really thought about the history of window coverings before. I'm a curtains fan & I'm currently on the hunt for some new ones. I wish more stores sold curtains. <:)

    I've added this page to my StumbleUpon.

  7. Interesting. I'm going to be looking for new window coverings when I move in to our new house.

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