Hunter Douglas
window shades

The History of Window Shades

Once upon a time, window shades didn’t exist. Now no one can imagine a home without window shades. There are endless varieties and styles and colors of window shades to choose from to give your home privacy when you need it, light when you want it, and décor that matches you own personal taste all the time. 

Until the 1700s, window shades were unheard of, and windows, if they existed, were simply open to the outside or glassed in. Most of the time the glass was clear, but in some cases, homes also used the stained glass that is common in places of worship to decorate their homes and get some privacy from the outside world. 

But mostly stained glass – and glass windows, for that matter – in a home were an outward symbol of wealth and success. Many people simply couldn’t afford windows until the 18th century, and, even then, most windows were found only in homes in urban areas. 

As glass-making got less expensive and windows began to be a common feature in homes, window shades came into extensive. They were both functional and decorative.  

The first window shades were roller shades that were usually made of paper. Artists would draw or paint elaborate scenes and designs on translucent paper, which would be made into a roller shade. When the shade was down, the artwork could be seen both inside and outside the home.  

By the late 1700s, decorative window shades were used in most public buildings in the United States, but it wasn’t until later that they were common in American homes. 

By the 1800s, during the Industrial Revolution, windows shades went from being hand-produced to being manufactured in volume. This change brought in new materials and a new type of artistry for decorative designs. Rollers shades, which were still extremely popular, underwent a transformation, including the addition of spring-loading for easy opening and closing. 

As the 20th century dawned, the popularity of roller shades as window shade for American homes waned, replaced by heavy drapes and venetian blinds, which emulated, in the case of drapes, the style of high-society Europe, and in the case of venetian blinds, the practical style of window shades that Italian immigrants brought with them to France, England, and America. 

Throughout the 1900s, types, designs, and styles of window shades grew. Much of this growth came from customers who wanted customized window shades and from, during World War II, more exposure to different kinds of window shades around the world. As America surged in post-war prosperity, buying houses was now within the reach of many Americans (who had previously lived in apartments or rented houses). Window shades – and the right window shades – were part and parcel of home ownership. 

Styles, designs, and types of window shades are still evolving, with ease of use, durability, and safety being the areas that window shades manufacturers focus on in their manufacturing processes. Most recently, cordless window shades were developed as a response to a need for increased safety for small children, who could get tangled up in the cords of corded window shades. 

If you’re looking for window shades, you can talk with our experienced team at McNeill Palm. You can visit our showroom at 1191 N. Elgin Pkwy, Ste. C, Shalimar, FL 32579, or you can call us at (850) 613-6228. 

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