Venetian blinds were once a hallmark of high society in America when they arrived Stateside by way of Venice—by way of the Persian Empire—in the mid–18th century. But these days, the slatted window coverings are often overlooked in favor of more opulent (think: Roman shades) or even more minimalist (think: roller shades) options. Which is a shame, really, because they’re highly effective at filtering and blocking out light, letting in the view—and also extremely discreet. “They look nice and serve a purpose, but they aren’t the first thing you notice in the room,” says Olivia Rae James Suárez, a Charleston-based photographer who used them in her many-windowed living room and admits that one of the biggest draws is just how practical they are. Tug on the string and they disappear right into the window frame itself (especially if it’s the same color); let them down, and the light will cast those telltale stripes across the floor and furniture; give the pull a twist, and your neighbors won’t be able to see in while you watch a little Netflix.
Designer Alex Kalita, who opted for Venetian blinds on all the windows in her Brooklyn apartment, says, “I needed something for privacy, but I like the natural light, I like the greenery outside, and I like that I can see the sky.” Venetian blinds—or slatted blinds, if you’re Googling around for a good set that’s not as expensive—did the trick. As much as we like roller shades and bamboo blinds, it’s true that you can’t exactly see the outside world through them. She also appreciates that they add a crisp, modern edge to the prewar architecture—and largely thrift-store-sourced furniture—of her first solo apartment. For the most bang for your buck, look for good-quality wood or even faux-wood sets rather than the flimsy vinyl kind that are prone to snagging and kinking. You can even customize them: Replace the thread cord with jute. The knob with a DIYed one. Paint (or replace!) that strip of molding that hides the mechanism at the top. You could even spray-paint them to match the walls.
Left: Two-Inch, Real-Wood Horizontal Window Blinds by Delta Blinds Supply, $56, amazon.com; buy now. Right: 2-Inch Faux Wood Blinds by Lotus & Windoware, $26, amazon.com; buy now.