During the 1830’s and 1840’s, many homes did not have the elaborate curtains and costly draperies seen in too many museums. Instead, English and Americans often had blinds. Four distinct types were shutter blinds, Venetian folding blinds, Venetian shutters and Venetian blinds. American homeowners or this period seem to have favored other techniques to exclude insects, such as "short blinds" placed in the lower half of windows. These curtains were hemmed at top and bottom and gathered onto brass rods fitted into brackets on either side of the window. It wasn’t until the 1880’s that wire window screens finally started to be manufactured.
Perhaps the most common window covering throughout the 19th century was the "roller blind". It was inexpensive, could be made at home, blocked direct sunlight, offered privacy, and gave some protection from insects. Window shades were designed with landscapes. Patterns at first covered the entire shade but by the 1840’s decorative borders commonly framed the central design. Mid 19th century shades employed borders and centers instead of the overall landscapes. The borders were often complicated arrangements-architectural moldings entwined with flowers or Rococo patterns with decorative motifs in each corner. There were basically three types of shades. One was generally made of fine linen and came in a variety of colors however, critics preferred white, buff, or gray to avoid tinting the light entering the room. The material could be embellished with fringe at the hem. Another alternative was the transparent shade made of artist’s tracing cloth. And lastly the shade made of oilcloth, which was opaque.
The last decade of the century saw a variety of cloth window shades. Spring-operated roller shades, much like those available today, gradually replaced the older pulley-operated systems. They were available in plain, striped, or patterned linen. An English critic suggested placing the patter of decorative shades toward the glass; "when the light shines through it, the pattern will be seen very distinctly in the room, whereas the wrong side would look very bad from the street.
Beginning around 1890 grilles were used at windows and doorways, especially for rooms receiving little sunlight. Decorative grilles were placed at the top of the frame, with curtains below. It was also suggested grilles could replace stained glass panels.
A rekindled interest in gothic design resulted in an increased use of stained glass in homes during the last quarter of the century. It was especially favored for stairways, vestibule doors and side-wall dining room windows.