National Trivia Day: Fun Facts About Window Treatments

The Venetian Blind. Impressionist painting by Edmund Charles Tarbell (Source: Pinterest)

We love trivia here at Select Blinds, so we went in pursuit of some fascinating and fun facts about window treatments to share in honor of National Trivia Day (who knew?). Here’s what we found.

Venetian blinds, or what we commonly refer to as traditional slated window blinds today, did not originate in Venice, but were brought there by merchants who carried out trade expeditions with Persia between 1100 and 1500. Well before the time of Christ, the Egyptians used reeds from river banks to craft blinds. Animal hides were also used, because they created a cooling effect after being soaked in water. Tough maintenance of the hides caused shades to evolve into fabrics, which created a similar effect and protection.

Marble (!!!) window coverings were one of the oldest to be discovered and were found in the obliterated city of Pompeii, constructed with slats to divert the sunlight and create coolness. These slats also served the purpose of providing some amount of privacy and protection from inclement weather. The marble slats are believed to have been replaced by wood in later years.

During the construction of the Great Coliseum, the city of Rome turned very dusty. Citizens hung damp cloths over window and door openings to prevent the dust from entering their homes. Later, a retractable canvas called a velarium (a type of exterior shade still used today), was used to shade spectators in the Coliseum itself. This was the beginning of what is now popularly known as, you guessed it, Roman Shades.

Shutters soon made their way to the shores of the New World, and quickly became popular in the New England region of the U.S. To keep cool, mansions in the plantations of the American South had white-painted shutters installed, hence the name ‘plantation shutters.’

First appearing in Europe in Holland, window shades, the predecessor to roller shades (which were first manufactured in New York in 1858), started appearing in American homes and public buildings around 1780. Made of translucent cloth or paper, their decorative, hand-painated designs could be seen by both the building’s inhabitants and those passing by outside. Designs during the mid-nineteenth century were applied to shades by copying, tracing, stenciling, or pouncing (piercing translucent paper over an original image that is later used as a template), which produced higher-quality images. And here’s a truly fascinating fact: Long before he would create his works of art, Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted window shades (although, sadly, none remain)!