Window Shades: Tips and Tricks

Learn about the different types of window shades and how to decide what window coverings will work best in your decor. Fabric shades can work with or in place of draperies for practical, stylish window treatments, whether you buy off-the-rack shades or opt for custom window treatments.

All About Fabric Shades

Fabric window shades can be decorative, functional, or both. These versatile window treatments come in a variety of styles and can be store-bought or tailor-made. When shopping for window shades, determine your needs: Do you need shades for privacy and light control? Or do you simply want to dress up your windows? Explore these options to help you find the right window dressings for your rooms.

Roman Shades

Roman shades are a versatile option because they are simple, yet introduce fabric to a window. These fabric shades work well for almost any window and are ideal for situations where full-length drapes or curtains aren't feasible, such as window seats, windows above a kitchen sink, and in bathrooms.

Trims for Roman Shades

Customize store-bought Roman shades with ribbon or trim. Lay the shade, fully lowered, on the floor or a flat surface. Attach the trim with fabric glue. Or use fusible web.

Balloon Shades

Where softness and finish are desired but complete coverage isn't, fixed balloon shades (sometimes called London shades) can introduce just the right touch of a favored fabric. A fixed balloon can also conceal a shade or blinds that can be lowered when light control or privacy is needed.

In this sitting area, the trimmed balloon supports, but doesn't overshadow, the stunning leaf print that covers the bench cushion. The striped fabric belongs to the happy blue color family that dominates the space.

Operational Balloon Shades

Balloon shades that can be raised and lowered will cover one-third to one-half of the window when raised. Be mindful of the tucks and gathers created by a balloon shade when choosing a fabric. The gathers can make the pattern hard to distinguish. Select a solid or a fabric with a small scale print, or plan so the pattern repeat falls on each “balloon” and is visible, rather than hidden in the creases.

London Shades

If you don't want the fullness of a balloon shade or the simplicity of a Roman shade, try a London shade. These middle-ground models only have two gatherings, which give a hint of volume.

Roller Shades

Unlike Roman shades, roller shades have the advantage of rolling discreetly out of the way so that the view out the window is completely unobstructed.

Roll Up Window Shades

Also called a Swedish shade, this simple shade doesn't require a lot of fabric and is a budget-friendly option for windows.

Honeycomb Shades

Honeycomb or cellular shades feature two layers of fabric that fold in opposite directions, providing additional insulation and increased protection from ultraviolet rays. They come in light-filtering or light-blocking versions. Be sure to select the right kind based on your needs. Honeycomb shades can also be installed to rise from the bottom of the windowsill, providing privacy for the lower portion of the window and a partial view above the shade.

DIY Fabric Shade Tips

Purchase decorator fabrics, not garment fabrics. Although more costly, decorator fabrics have a higher thread count and tighter weaves for longer wear. Decorator fabrics are sold in 54-inch widths and garment fabrics in 45-inch widths, so you'll need less yardage. Be sure to order all your fabric at the same time to ensure a perfect color match.

Lined Shades

Linings provide additional light blockage and can help insulate the room. The extra material also helps the shades hang better by adding fullness to the folds.

Shades and Draperies Combo

Fabric shades can also work in tandem with draperies for a richer look than shades provide alone.

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