By Thomas Pretty
Blinds are prevalent throughout the modern world, used in the commercial world extensively and present in many homes. They are a practical and elegant form of window covering that gives the user ultimate control over the light being let into their interior; as such they also provide high levels of privacy. Blinds are available in a range of different styles from horizontal venetians to fabric roman shades and roller blinds that effectively block all light coming into a room. But where have blinds come from? What is the history of this variety of window covering?
Forms of blinds are evident in many civilizations throughout the evolution of the world. It is understandable that the more modern varieties do not resemble these early blinds in form, but in function the similarities are startling. Desert civilisations are believed to have used wetted cloth to cover their windows. Fundamentally these kept out the fierce heat of the desert sun; the reason they were wetted was in order to cool the warm air being passed into the home and to keep the sand out. Essentially this method of window covering acts much like the air conditioning units we use today.
The use of blinds in desert civilizations was eventually passed onto one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known; Ancient Egypt. As with many items in this civilization reeds were used in manufacture. Reeds were laid in to mats and then hung over windows. These reed mats could be raised and lowered when necessary and resemble the modern roller blinds used today, it is even possible to pick up reed window coverings today, standing testament to practicality of this type of blind.
It was not just the ancient Egyptians however that were using a type of blind for window coverings. As with many inventions attributed to the western world the ancient Chinese can lay claim to some of the earliest blind varieties. In China instead of reeds an equally prevalent natural material was used in the manufacturing of blinds, bamboo. These window covering were controlled in much the same way as their reed counterparts and in many parts of Asia are still used today. Bamboo has also become an increasing popular material in interior design during modern times.
The Romans also developed a form of window covering that differed somewhat from reed and bamboo varieties. Roman shades, popular today in many homes are constructed using fabric and organised into overlapping slats, today they epitomise Mediterranean styling and are still frequently used in many countries across southern Europe.
This article has only touched upon the history of blinds and has predominantly focused on their development in ancient times. Today this heritage is plain to see with all of the varieties discussed above still available to the buyer today, naturally material and manufacturing processes have evolved with the times but modern variants fundamentally carry out the same purpose as their ancient ancestors.
Thomas Pretty is an expert in the field of interior design and studies the use of blinds in some ancient civilizations.