Blinds: A Brief History
As one of the most common window dressing solutions around today, blinds provide a practical and attractive alternative to curtains, adding a touch of class or brightening up any room. Curtains may have been the norm in northern European homes for centuries, yet blinds may even pre-date them by a few hundred years.
In their most basic form, evidence suggests blinds have been in use among nomadic African and Asian desert tribes for thousands of years, as many of them used sheets to block out the harsh midday sun. Ancient Egyptian civilisations also employed window shades, in this case choosing to use reeds to block out light while still allowing airflow (although this luxury would almost always be reserved for the noble classes).
Similar blind use has also been recorded in ancient Chinese culture, with bamboos replacing reeds, while the Persians are often cited as inventors of the first slatted designs. In fact, it was the Persians who brought these blinds to Europe, proving popular at the busy eastern seaport of Venice in Italy. The adjustable slat design remained largely untouched, but slight improvements were made and the model became known as a Venetian blind. It’s hard to put a date on the exact creation of the Venetian style, which saw 2 inch wooden slats hung across fabric ribbons, but early examples seem to suggest around the 1760s.
Myth has it that freed slaves from the area then settled in France, taking their blinds with them, and to this day Venetian blinds are known as ‘les Persienes’. The design spread quickly elsewhere in the world too. The up-and-coming new world nation of the USA were early adopters, with St Peter’s church in Philadelphia covering its windows with Venetian blinds, and a New Orleans resident by the name of John Hampson is credited with devising a system that allowed the user to change the angles of the slats as needed – something that’s still in use today.
Although they became the most popular, Venetian blinds weren’t the first blinds to appear in Italy. Hundreds of years earlier, in the area surrounding the country’s capital, Rome, an innovative and creative way to keep homes free from the dust and dirt kicked up on unpaved, sun-baked streets. Using damp cloths hung over windows proved effective, with the added bonus of protecting occupants from the glare of the Italian summer sun. The style has been embellished over the centuries with intricate patterns and designs, and a method of using a drawstring to fold the fabric away when not in use has also been added.
Roller blinds are similar in design and operation to Roman blinds, but were developed centuries after. The earliest patents of the rolled up style were filed in Glasgow in the early 1700s by Scotsmen James Louis Robertson and John King, and were made from specially processed Holland linen – hence the original moniker ‘Scotch Holland Roller Blinds’. It was again left to the Americans to evolve the design, with the Stewart Hartshorn Company adding a spring-powered mechanism that allowed simple raising and lowering of the roller blind.
Almost all of today’s varied blind designs are derived from the Venetian, Roman or roller styles, and it looks like they will be for many years to come. But what does the future hold for window blinds? One area that’s currently being developed surrounds the use of automatic blinds, with models being designed that can even be controlled wirelessly through laptops and mobile phones!
As one of the leading blind suppliers in the whole of the North West, Gemini Blinds stock a wide and attractive range of made to measure blinds, including Venetian, Roman and roller blinds, with a huge choice of colours and designs to choose from. We provide bespoke, made to measure options for all window types, with Perfect fit and blackout models also available.
Our expert team are on hand to carry out full installation of every blind, with highly competitive rates offered to suit any budget. We even offer free home visits for measurements, advice and quotations, ensuring you get the best possible blind at the best possible price.
So for more information, or to book your consultation, get in touch with the team at Gemini Blinds today.