Window shades are a popular type of window treatment that consist of fabric that pulls up and down with a cord or lifting mechanism. Unlike blinds, shades are made with a solid piece of material rather than slats, which rotate open and closed to adjust the light. Most rooms can benefit from added privacy, and window coverings are a great way to seclude your space with a pop of style.
Window treatments can consist of blinds, curtains, drapes, shades, and more, but there are also a few key differences between different types of window shades. Available in several different styles, materials, and a nearly endless range of colors and patterns, there’s a shade to suit every decorating theme from casual to formal, rustic, or contemporary. Some styles roll up and down while others are manually tied, but all window shades can be installed easily.
Along with the expected functions of blocking out light and providing privacy, window shades are a simple way to add a shot of color, texture, and pattern to your room without taking up any floor space (and without breaking your budget). You can add even more style by topping your window shades with a valence or window swag.
Below, learn about four common types of window shades to choose the right option for your space.
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- Best for: Affordability and simplicity
Roller shades are the simplest type of shade used on windows, fitting inside the window casement and operating with a pulley-type system that rolls the shade up and down (usually with a cord). These shades are typically durable and should last for many years with standard use.
Simple white plastic roller shades can be purchased inexpensively at any home improvement center. Roller shades that are more expensive often have a cordless lifting mechanism. Along with plastic, roller shades can be made from a wide range of stylish materials, including bamboo, burlap, and a huge selection of fabrics or color options. There are lots of ways to further accessorize these versatile window treatments, such as tassels, trim, and painted designs.
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- Best for: Unique appearances and DIY options
The tie-up shade, also known as the stagecoach style, consists of fabric hanging flat from a rod or mounting board. Instead of using a roller or cords, these shades can be lifted by hand to the desired height and tied with the attached ribbons or ties. This gives the window treatment a graceful drape along the bottom.
While tie-up shades have the most unique appearance, they also require the user to roll or unroll them while tying ribbons to adjust the shade. This can be inconvenient, so it's common for tie-up shades to be used as a decorative touch over roller shades or blinds. These shades work well in many decorating styles, especially glamorous, formal, and traditional looks.
Because their construction is so simple, tie-up shades are both durable and affordable. They also make great DIY window treatments for those that are handy with a sewing machine, and there's a world of fabric colors and designs available that offer unique looks. Tie-up shades are especially great for decorating with patterns since much of the fabric is visible.
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- Best for: Classic, versatile style with durable fabric
Resembling something of a hybrid between balloon shades and roller shades, Roman shades hang down flat when they are closed, but pull up into deep, horizontal pleats when lifted with the attached cord. To achieve the crisp pleats, Roman shades are normally made of durable fabric, although bamboo is another popular option.
As long as you choose a complementary fabric, these stylish window treatments will work with any decorating style. You’ll find them in a large range of colors and patterns. Roman shades are also a great choice for bedroom window treatments, as their heavy fabric is effective at blocking out sunlight. While Roman shades come in many options from budget to luxury, most styles can be purchased for a moderate price.
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- Best for: Formal and decorative shades
Balloon shades have cords running through rings on the back of the shade. When pulled open, the shade’s fabric gathers into cascades of billowy poufs, giving the window treatment a romantic, formal, and somewhat old-fashioned appearance. You’ll find balloon shades made from the sheerest of fabrics all the way up to lined, heavy materials that block out all light. Typically, however, balloon shades are made from sheer or silky fabrics that drape gracefully and easily (which should be handled gently to prevent damage).
This isn’t the window covering for every decorating style, but depending on the fabric chosen, it works well with themes as diverse as cottage, Tuscan, French country, Hollywood glamour, or traditional looks. Since balloon shades tend to be formal, their prices can be higher than other common window shades.
Choosing a Window Shade
Always measure your windows before purchasing shades, as some windows may require custom coverings. Standard-size windows can usually accommodate a variety of covering options from most home improvement, discount, department, and online stores.
When choosing a type of window shade for your home, it's helpful to consider how often you adjust the lighting in the window of your choice. If you're planning to install shades on windows that you adjust often (especially in rooms like the bedroom), roller options or Roman shades can be beneficial to open and close the shades easily. Decorative shades can have a stylish impact in shared spaces like the living room or dining room, and because they are typically left in place, tie-up and balloon shades are attractive choices for these rooms.