Blinds go up and down, but hardly elevate a room’s style

#405 in a series of true experiences in real estate
September 2002, Hills Newspapers

When I was a kid, my parents ordered Venetian blinds for all the windows in the house. A man came to measure, then, later, someone else installed the blinds along with a wooden box valence across the top of each window or, in some cases, a pair of windows.

The blinds were clean and bright and new, white painted metal slats and woven cords to control them. They could be adjusted to let in light or to close out stares from anyone outside.

Unfortunately, the blinds got dusty. My mother had to wipe each slat all the way across its width. Or she used the brush attachment on her Electrolux vacuum cleaner to sweep every one. Cleaning was time consuming and patience-trying.

I don’t think I gave Venetian blinds another thought until I was in high school and my boyfriend and I were looking for ways to make money. We agreed to deep clean a waiting room in a doctor’s office, the windows of which were outfitted with Venetian blinds. Not a problem for us, I thought at the time, because I’d watched my mother for years cleaning the blinds at home. And it wasn’t. We cleaned the office including the blinds and, I think, got paid $10. It did take us awhile.

The next time Venetian blinds came into my life was many years later when my husband and I bought, at different times, several houses with blinds already installed. We didn’t have to talk about the blinds. We both knew without any discussion that they had to go. We took down the boxes across the tops and, after pulling them up by their cords, wrapped the blinds in their cords, storing the stacks of bound slats in our garage.

There they lay for a time until we got around to cleaning out the garage and we had to decide what to do with them. We couldn’t imagine ever wanting to rehang them. They had been cut to fit the windows from which they’d been removed so it seemed unlikely that we or anyone else would re-use them.

We didn’t even like them, outdated and difficult to clean as they were, yet I remember being reluctant to discard them. “I just know we’re going to be sorry we got rid of these,” I said. Maybe I felt that way because by then they seemed to be antiques, products that would never be made in the same way again. Or maybe it was nostalgia for everyday parts of my childhood.

But we did junk them, took them to the dump, and I never was sorry. I never had a moment when I wished I had those Venetian blinds back again.

After that, including today in my own house, I’ve used on some windows mini-blinds, those skinny-slatted plastic blinds from Home Depot. For standard window sizes, they’re stock items typically costing about $8 per window.

They’re not very attractive although they do the same things my parents’ Venetian blinds did – close out view lines into the house or let in the light. But they are a pain to clean, even worse than the old Venetian blinds, because they’re made of less weighty materials that deform easily.

I really should just throw them away and buy new ones rather than try to clean them. But somehow, that never seems like the right thing to do. Vacuuming doesn’t work very well, so I wash them.

I’ve devised a system: Bend the metal guard at the top that holds the blind in place, remove the blind, take it to my concrete patio. Wash with warm, soapy water and sponge, first one side, then, after flipping over, do the other. Rinse, right away, with a hose, find a place to hang the blind up to drip dry.

It works. It’s a pain. I don’t do it often enough.

Guess what? I just noticed in a Home Depot ad that they’re advertising Faux Wood Blinds. They look similar to the ones my parents had, fatter than mini-blinds, but now they come in fake wood or aluminum. I’d have to go to the store to check them out, but it looks like there are different “wood” varieties available and that the aluminum is offered in several colors. How interesting, how “modern” and yet, how old.

Speaking as a person who does not know how to sew window coverings, and who has a very hard time visualizing what will look good on windows, I understand the appeal of blinds. They’re quick, close to instant and inexpensive — the very reasons I have them on some of my windows.

It’s almost too bad that they’re so handy because they aren’t any more attractive today than the old ones were. Blinds still look institutional, too slick and hard and unyielding to be comforting to the eye.

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