Shutters vs blinds – what you need to know to dress windows beautifully and practically

Discover the pros and cons of shutters and blinds and make the right choice for your home

(Image credit: Aimée Mazzenga/Future/Jackson Warren Interiors)

In the head to head of shutters vs blinds, it can be hard to know which will prove to be the better solution for your windows.

Both shutters and blinds can be chic and practical window treatment ideas for many different rooms in a home but it’s important to make the best choice for each window for sufficient light control, to create the privacy level needed, and to maximize style.

Design pros have extensive experience of choosing window treatments for their projects, so we asked them what you need to know to make the best pick every time and, below, are their guidelines.

Shutters vs blinds: the ultimate guide

Window blind ideas can be super functional and elegant ways to dress a window. On their own or combined with curtain ideas, they can introduce texture and color to add interest to a room as well as filtering or blocking light.

But shutter ideas are increasingly popular for their sleek good looks and functionality. They’re great for rooms that need privacy and allow good light control.

What do the pros recommend you pay attention to in the shutters vs blinds debate? This is their advice.

Textural appeal

Bedroom window with drapes and grass shade, desk and chair in front and bed to one side

(Image credit: Jackson Warren Interiors)

Aileen Warren of Jackson Warren Interiors has a preference for swapping out shutters.

‘In pretty much every home we have worked on recently, if the room has shutters we are replacing them with grass shades,’ she says. ‘Grass shades offer a softer look and allow for more layering with drapes on top.'

‘Shutters feel a little cold and you don’t get an opportunity to introduce another texture or fabric layer – it limits your design,' she adds.

Pictured from left designers Aileen Warren and Kiley Jackson of Jackson Warren Interiors
Aileen Warren

Aileen Warren (left) is co-founder of Jackson Warren Interiors, a full service interior design firm based between Texas and Alabama. Aileen earned a bachelor’s in art history and a master’s in social work from Tulane University before deciding to pursue a lifelong love of interior design by returning to school at The George Washington University to obtain a master’s in interior architecture. Aileen began her design career working at an established Houston interior design firm where she learned the nuances of high-end residential design.

Impact on budget

Arched window with shutters, two facing blue armchairs and coffee table

(Image credit: Two Navy Lane Photograph: Christy Kosnic Photography)

Your budget counts when choosing between shutters and blinds, and even when choosing the material either is made from, points out interior designer Stacey Dobrovolny.

‘For shutters, you can expect to pay a different price point for wood (stained or painted) and vinyl composite. The most popular shutters are vinyl shutters because they are less expensive.'

Shutters could be worth the extra money though. ‘A big selling point to shutters is that they are the only window treatment that adds value to your home from a resale standpoint,’ she adds. ‘Your return on investment can be as high as 75 percent for the cost paid.'

‘With mini blinds, there are a few types to choose from,’ she continues. ‘You have aluminum, wood, and faux wood mini blinds. While aluminum blinds are not used as much as they were in years past, there are certain environments where they make sense from a cost perspective, as they are the least expensive.’

Even if you don’t choose aluminum, however, you can save. ‘The cost for blinds is considerably less than plantation shutters,’ she says.

Stacey Dobrovolny
Stacey Dobrovolny

Stacey Dobrovolny is the owner and principal designer at Two Navy Lane. Celebrated for her energy, enthusiasm, and Rolodex of resources, Stacey stands as a beacon for luxury design in Northern Virginia. She has worked at leading design firms, contributing to the designs for high profile projects such as The Four Seasons Mandalay Bay, 15,000+ square foot private estates, and federal government buildings in Hawaii. An NCIDQ-certified designer, Stacey leverages this world-class experience to benefit each home and family she works with.  

Ease of installation

green living room with a floral couch and sheer window blinds

(Image credit: Alexandra Kaehler / Photography Aimée Mazzenga)

It’s important to know the difference in ease of installation when picking between shutters and blinds.

‘Plantation shutters are a bit more difficult to install because each shutter requires precise measurements to fit properly within the window frame,’ explains architect and interior designer Priyanshi Jain.

‘They require heavy and specialized tools to drill into the walls and install mounting brackets. Blinds are easier to install, as they come with pre-drilled holes and require minimal drilling and screwing for their installation.’

Style results

A bathroom with a standing claw foot bath and open shutters

(Image credit: Future)

Weigh up whether shutters or blinds will better suit the style of the room they’re planned for as well as the effect they create in themselves.

‘Wood shutters, just like wood flooring, can add a rich and warm tone to any room,’ says Stacey Dobrovolny. Note her caution, though. ‘Wood is not always the appropriate choice due to sun exposure or moisture.’

The slat size should also be considered. ‘The slat size choice should be based upon both the window size and if you are going for a more modern or classic look,’ says Stacey. ‘The larger slats generally lend themselves to a more modern aesthetic.’

Slat sizes also matter for blinds. ‘The type and slat size of blinds chosen would also come down to the window size and look you are going for,’ she says.

Stacey agrees with Aileen Warren, above, that layering is an advantage with blinds. ‘Drapery side panels, valances and cornice treatments can be added to the window to add pattern, softness, and visual interest to a space without having any impact on the operation of the mini blinds,’ she says.

Maintenance needs

bedroom with white bedding and white venetian blinds

(Image credit: Sophie Allport)

How easy shutters are to care for in comparison to what you need to do to clean blinds might weigh into your decision.

‘Window treatments get dirty, and shutters are so much easier to clean and maintain,’ says Rick Berres, owner of remodeling specialists Honey-Doers. ‘They’re easy to wipe.’

Joseph Passalacqua agrees. ‘In terms of cleaning, plantation shutters hold a slight advantage,’ he says. ‘Their wider slats are easier to dust, and they don’t require frequent adjustments to maintain their appearance. When it comes to blinds, those with thin slats can be more challenging to clean and tend to gather more dust. As someone who runs a cleaning service business, I’ve noticed that clients who choose plantation shutters are generally more satisfied with how easy they are to maintain.’

Light and privacy control

modern kitchen with dark cabinetry, light oak floors and soft yellow window shutters

(Image credit: Hilary's Blinds)

It’s always worth thinking about how hard shutters or blinds will have to work in controlling the light that enters the room, and in terms of maintaining privacy.

‘Shutters lend themselves to controlling light and provide privacy well,’ says Stacey Dobrovolny. ‘But visually they take up a lot of space due to the thickness of the slats.’

As for blinds? ‘The light adjustability is nearly the same as with shutters, however, since the slats are considerably thinner, they tend to “disappear” more in the line of sight so that you can see more of the outdoors,’ she says.

‘They can be fully raised and lowered (or anywhere in between), which is an advantage they have over shutters which either have the adjustable louvers or completely open.’

‘You will also get more light blocking with mini blinds, since the louvers are curved and nest on top of one another.’

If you like to change the look of your rooms frequently, blinds are an easier update than shutters or try another window treatment trend that designers favor for a new look. For a summer update, think sheer window treatments, and get in the know about the window treatment mistakes to avoid to ensure whatever you choose is a success.

Sarah Warwick
Contributing Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.