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Finishing a home styling, renovating or even just a decorating project means focussing on the small features and details which turn a house into a home. These are the soft furnishings and the accessories which make a living space feel cosy and which turn a bland and two dimensional room into somewhere vibrant and full of life.
One of the most important parts of any room in the house is its source of natural light – the windows – with blinds and curtains providing the framing around these windows which softens their presence and ensures that they are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
As an industry, the blinds and curtains market is primarily built on two main supports: the practical reasons why consumers opt to install blinds or curtains in their homes and commercial spaces, and the decorative influences that consumers look to embrace through their choices of blinds or curtains. Which one of these products a consumer chooses will largely depend on the room they are looking to furnish and the finished effect they are hoping to achieve, both in terms of how the blinds or curtains look when closed and when open – though decisions can also be influenced by the budgetary restrictions of consumer choices, the breadth and amount of material needed to create effective window covering, and the plethora of deals and discounts available through various retail outlets.
Once a decision between blinds and curtains has been made, the industry really comes into its own with a wide variety of colours, materials, fittings and finishes providing consumers with their choice of the ideal tailored finish. Before that, though, consumers must ascertain the value of choosing either blinds or curtains.
The main difference between blinds and curtains, and one which proves to be an overriding factor in the decision making of many consumers, is the amount of light control that each offers: blinds are crafted from horizontal or vertical slats which are strung together and can be turned and adjusted in line with the consumers ideal light setting; meanwhile curtains are either open or they are closed meaning that they either let the light in or they do not.
Beyond that, the differences between curtains and blinds are mainly aesthetic, with blinds tending to sit much closer to the window extending across the inside of the window frame, while curtains are installed outside of the window frame and often take up more room due to the expanse of fabric required to cover the window. In a bathroom, for example, blinds tend to offer a cleaner finish which can be left a little open to let in natural light while still providing privacy, and which are much easier to clean out and dry when compared with the folded fabric of a curtain. Having said that, in a living space, curtains can create a much softer finish in the room when compared with the more solid materials of a set of blinds – meaning that when it comes down to it, the blinds and curtains industry – and which comes out on top in the eyes of the consumer - is largely influenced by the room which is being furnished and how that room responds to and utilises natural light and windows.
One of the primary factors which is influencing the blinds and curtains industry is the change in home building and designing, which requires less and less interior focus on containing heat, and which instead forces consumers to confront the increased need to ensure their own privacy in light of new build houses being so closely packed together. Once upon a time, curtains weren’t merely functional at providing a dark room at night and concealing the interior from those gazing in from the outside; curtains were also a very effective insulating layer, keeping out drafts and chills which could often blow through and around the outsides of windows. However, with homes now being built using double glazed windows and thick insulating walls, the call for curtains to provide extra warmth is not necessary. What modern home buyers are finding however is that homes are being built closer together, especially new build developments, and so while more and more windows are being installed to provide natural light, the views outside of these windows are often likely to look onto other properties and communal spaces – thus elevating the need for curtains and blinds to provide privacy.
In this situation, both blinds and curtains do the job – however for living spaces and large glass patio doors, consumers are often drawn more towards the thinner curtain styles which provide privacy without completely blocking the light out. And this is where another main factors influencing the growth and development of the industry comes into play – the ways in which blinds and curtains are constructed, and how effective they actually are in terms of their various roles in the home.
To break the job of blinds and curtains down, most consumers and retailers would agree that the leading requirements in a modern home are:
Blinds may be effective at providing privacy and creating lighting control, but the inevitable gaps within the slats means that they do not provide complete darkness. Similarly, curtains are perfect for providing privacy and can be super decorative in the right room, however the consumer would have to opt for very thick and very dark – or even blackout material – curtains in order to create complete darkness.
This is where the industry is expanding – creating new and innovative products which give consumers more options with regards to meeting these basic needs, and combining the best bits of both blinds and curtains in order to create the ultimate window covering solution for every style of home.
Contrary to popular belief among consumers, the blinds and curtains market does not start and end with the final product which they install in front of their window. In fact, the industry as a whole is made up of a great many departments and focus points, drawing on the usability and importance of each component of both blinds and curtains in order to continue to develop new and improved products. For blinds, this includes the cord used to pull the blinds up and down – the stick used to twist and open and close the blinds when they are pulled down – the mount used to fix them to the wall from the top. For curtains, the industry includes the curtain pole along the top and the installation mechanism used to fix the fabric to that pole. It also includes the hook or fabric holder attached to the side of the curtains which holds them open, and it includes any additional accessories used to push and pull the curtains across the pole.
When we look at these other accessories and products within the blinds and curtains industry, we can see that most are designed to enhance the user experience and ensure that the main products deliver on the four key tasks identified above.
For consumers seeking either blinds or curtains for their home, one of the best retail sectors to head to first is the homeware and home styling market – the ideal shopping solution for those consumers who need a little inspiration to guide their selection and purchasing. It can be very easy to enter a store with an idea in your head, however consumers often find showrooms and stores a good opportunity to see different blinds and curtain styles in situ – with Ikea providing a great example of a store which is built almost entirely on showrooms and the basic concept of inspiring consumers into various purchases.
Other examples of homeware stores which feature and advertise various curtains and blinds include:
More than one of these retailers works via an ecommerce store presence only, highlighting the importance of understanding your requirements and window measurements prior to reaching out to the retailer to order a certain product.
Another top retail sector to focus in on is the soft furnishing and fabric industry, which is renowned for bringing different pieces to life using consumers’ own fabrics and ideas. These are the ideal retailers to head to for tailormade curtains and blinds, whether they be for oddly shaped windows or made using specific materials. These stores providing tailormade products tend to be community and standalone stores rather than chains, utilising the skills of local crafters rather than engaging the high turnround of larger stores.
We have already ascertained how the industry is driven by both consumer demand and the expectations around the four key goals designed to be met by blinds or curtains – or both. The fact is that very few curtain and blind designs are able to match all four goals, and this is where the other trends within and around the industry come in: the trends which guide consumers towards selecting products based on how they will make the room look and feel when it is finished, and the trends and extra accessories which help a decorative set of curtains become effective as a blackout window covering.
The rise in blackout curtain layering is becoming increasingly popular across all manner of rooms in the home, particularly across children’s rooms where curtains provide an ideal opportunity for characters, themes and colours to be brought into the room for the child’s enjoyment. Blackout layering provides a way for even the thinnest of curtains to be made more effective and ensures that sleep is regulated efficiently. Meanwhile this is a great option across other rooms in the home which benefit from complete darkness, for example adult bedrooms and living spaces – especially if your family is into movie nights.
Another trend taking over the blinds and curtains industry is the use of different fabrics and materials, and the way that retailers are consistently updating the designs of their window coverings not just in terms of the colours and patterns available to consumers, but also through the use of different textural fabrics. Velvet is a great example of a fabric which exudes opulence and grandeur and which, when used right, can really elevate a living space or dining room into more of a formal setting. Meanwhile, linen and other more translucent materials and voile curtains seek to provide much more of a light and airy finish which is ideal in a large and very neutral living space. While both of these examples show how curtains can create and bring different finishes to any given space, blinds can also be subject to different material finishes – with wooden slats providing a very natural and clean finish which is conducive with any modern home space, while fabric blind slats and full blind coverings are often found in commercial office buildings and community spaces due to their affordable nature.
The other trend which is particularly prominent within the growth of the blinds and curtains industry, is the rise in technology – not just in supporting the functional use of some modern blinds which can be opened and closed with a button or voice activation, but actually supporting the way that consumers can shop for and trial different blinds and curtains through interactive virtual set ups. This concept operates on the idea that blinds and curtains can look completely different in the home when compared with their appearance in store, and so what it does is promote the use of virtual reality to let consumers place ecommerce offerings onto an image of their own home space – effectively trialling how a set of curtains or blinds might look, all through clever technology and imagery.
For information on which retailers in the industry operate different deals and discounts across their range of blinds and curtains, head to our Blinds and Curtains page.
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