Your Complete Guide to Choosing the Best Types of Shades for Each Room

Your Complete Guide to Choosing the Best Types of Shades for Each Room

Literally referred to as “soft” window treatments, shades could be considered the cushier and more amenable, yet still refined, cousin to the harder and more ridged blinds. Technically speaking, blinds are made of hard materials such as wood and faux wood, while shades are created from an infinite number of materials that range in texture–from linen to silk and vinyl and even bamboo. Whereas blinds contain a set of slats, or louvers, that can be moved up and down to control light filtration, shades are comprised of a single piece of material that can be raised or lowered. The rivalry between blinds and shades is one that has been long held and well fought on both sides, the deciding factor typically depending on the homeowner’s personal style preference. Should shades triumph, the next step is deciding which type to choose according to a room’s specific function and existing design.  


Think About Functionality

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Before even picking out fabrics or designs for your shades, there are a couple of things to take into account. You must first ask what their purpose is. For instance, do these shades need to be sheer to allow a clearer view and better light, or do they need to be blackout to preserve privacy and help with sleep? Are they meant for a specific room like your kitchen? If so, are you looking for easy upkeep or a fabric that can endure heat?

kitchen with white blinds

Another determining factor is how much fabric you will need. When ordering custom shades, measurements have to be precise, meaning you will first have to decide if your shades should be mounted inside or outside. From there, you will have to measure the space accordingly. Inside mounted shades will be installed just under the window frame so that they are tucked into the window. Outside mounts are placed on or just outside of the window casing. Again, you must ask what purpose your shades will serve. Are they simply ornamental—a way to complement your interior without drawing too much attention or taking away from any noteworthy features, such as the window’s architecture? In most cases, shades are mounted inside for a cleaner look that will also showcase any elaborate ornamentation the window frame may possess. However, when windows are shallow but still need some dressing up, outside mounts are the appropriate option.    


Minimal and Smart

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Taking note of where and why from the forefront is essential in finding the perfect shades. This, in turn, will also help you to avoid ordering shades that may eventually need replacing because they weren’t suited to their task. If you are selling your home soon, keeping things basic can also attract buyers.

Roller Shades

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Aside from being the most affordable option, roller shades provide the perfect crossover between style and function. If the room you intend to outfit them for already has a lot going on, tucking roller shades into your window casing is an ideal solution. The material, which is spun around a dowel, is spring-loaded and can be pulled up or down to your pleasure. When pulled all the way up, the headrail is barely noticeable. This is a unique feature when compared to the majority of shades, which tend to collect at the base of the upper casing. Even when the roller shade is pulled down, it keeps its sleek and fitted appearance so that it does not distract from features of the room—or even features of the window itself, should it be a statement piece worth talking about.

roller shades graphic
The roller shade is a more versatile option of window treatment and can be styled in many ways. The wide selection of neutrals helps in keeping the shades more subdued if they are merely for functional purposes; however, they can also be used for design. Adding layers to a room is the best way to keep things interesting. Whereas you might add an accent pillow and throw blanket to complement a sofa, pairing roller shades with beautiful draperies or curtains works in a similar way to create depth. But roller shades can also work in the reverse, should you have a simpler decorative scheme. Roller shades can be custom made from an endless variety of materials, a benefit allowing them to be as loud and striking as you want. These shades also give you the option to choose the amount of light filtration, from sheer to blackout for rooms that call for the occasion. Zebra shades are a more streamlined alternative to horizontal blinds. With just a pull of the shade, you are able to transition from sheer to opaque with a modern approach.

Solar Shades

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Solar shades operate in the same fashion as roller shades and are offered with just as many design choices, from distinguished patterns to more muted tones. The central difference between the two is that solar shades are fashioned from a special material that reflects ultraviolet rays that can be harmful to you and your furniture. But they also contain an openness factor that dictates how close-fitted the weave is, thus influencing the shade percentage. The more open the weave is, the more light and visibility is allowed through on both ends. While a looser weave may offer a better view, you might also have to forfeit a bit of your privacy. A tighter weave, on the other hand, offers exceptional shade and protection from the sun. Because solar shades reflect light, they do a superb job at keeping the house cool while virtually eliminating glare. These features make solar shades a suitable option for homes that might be on the water or in warm and sunny regions, as well as for rooms that serve as studies, media rooms or even just areas of the home that receive maximum light. Another attractive feature of both roller shades and solar shades is that they are nearly maintenance free. Whereas many shades contain grooves prone to collecting dust and grime, these shades are comprised of one slice of material often in regular use and easy to wipe down if necessary.  

closeup blinds in house

Dimension with Insulation

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Pleated Shades

One of the more recently popularized shade options, pleated shades are easy to use and can be just as easily matched to suit any room. Similar to roller and solar shades, the accordion shape of the pleated shade, which is operated by being pulled or lifted from the bottom, pairs well with drapery to offer the quintessential layered appeal. Pleated shades are typically placed inside of the window frame for a smart design but work well in longer rooms, such as lofts and rooms that may already feel a bit cramped. The pleats, which can be tailored to different lengths, play on the eye to elongate the room and add dimension. This is better enhanced when the window takes up a significant amount of space, or if you have multiple windows placed next to each other. When perfectly aligned, the shades can make an astounding difference in helping to open up your floor plan.


For both pleated shades and cellular, or honeycomb shades, fabric options are once again endless and materials can be designed according to light filtration preferences. While cellular shades retain the same accordion-like appearance, they provide a second layer of fabric, which administers extra privacy and some of the best insulation of any window treatment. The science is in the structure—each individual honeycomb contains a small channel at the center which traps any air that may leak in through the windows, working to regulate the temperature of the house. This feature makes cellular shades ideal for homes in cold areas or for rooms where heat escapes easier, such as attics, basements and bathrooms.  


The Natural Look

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Bamboo Shades

Fastening tufts of grass together to create a layer of protection from the sun has been in practice since the ancient Egyptians plucked reeds from the Nile to line the openings of their homes. This method, though perhaps more refined and mass marketed, is still an excellent choice for its utility, as well as for its natural appeal. Operationally speaking, bamboo shades can range from working as roller shades to having to be manually lifted and tied when adjusted in the old school fashion. Bamboo, although technically a grass, works as an amazing, as well as an eco-friendly, alternative to putting up classic wood.

bamboo shades graphic
There are over a thousand species of bamboo, providing us with an unlimited number of bamboo window treatment options ranging from the sizes of individual bamboo to color and texture combinations to the various woven patterns. While bamboo shades, or similar woods and grasses, offer a soft and natural piece of décor, they are also fitting for rooms that encounter a lot of heat and humidity. Whereas true wood can become warped and fabric can become heavy when exposed to humidity, bamboo is naturally resistant to water, mold and mildew, making it the perfect low maintenance option for bathrooms and kitchens.


Classic and Romantic

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Unlike the majority of shades which retain a sleek and modest presence, roman shades demand attention and are the best way of adding a bit of drama to your windows. With a swift pull of the attached cord, the fabric gathers into tailored pleats at the base of the headrail, creating a lush and classic ensemble. Drapery has long-standing notoriety for adding extravagance to a room; however, sometimes it is not always a feasible option. By substituting inside mounted roman shades, you gain a more refined trim without losing any of the drama draperies provide.

roman shades in bathroom

There are dozens of styles of roman shades and just as many names for each of them. While the exact terminology is disputed, these are four of the most distinct styles:

Flat or Plain Fold

The difference between these two roman shades is pretty modest. Flat fold shades are made from one piece of fabric that lies flat when pulled all the way down, not unlike a roller shade. Because of its minimal and streamlined appearance, flat fold is the ideal candidate for shades adorned with larger prints. While flat roman shades are seamless, plain fold has seams running through every few inches that could potentially obstruct the pattern of your shade. They are, however, the best option for rooms where light filtration is often adjusted because of their mobility.

Soft Fold/Hobbled/Teardrop

Alias not withstanding, this shade has loops of fabric that meet at the seams to create a cascading row of teardrops when viewed from the side. This is a perfect option for windows that need some added depth and because the fabric is layered, the shade offers an extra measure of privacy and insulation to rooms that may need it.

roman shades graphic


When raised, this particular roman shade bows at the bottom to create dainty folds worthy of any sitting room. Though the term “relaxed” may be appropriate for the overall appearance, this shade can sometimes be vexing to maneuver. Once initially installed, the shade should be kept raised for a few days so that pleats can set in. The difficulty lies in getting the pleats back to their established position should you ever adjust it. For this reason, European shades are best used as a decorative element, rather than a frequently operated piece.


Similar to the European shade, the balloon or tulip shade also bows at the bottom, though more exaggeratedly. Once raised, the fabric builds up and puffs outwardly to add a soft bulk to the window. The shade can contain one balloon or multiple to produce layers reminiscent of Victorian-era opulence. Of all the roman shades, the balloon style is the most eye-catching so it must be displayed with careful consideration as to not overpower the room.

Shades come in all shapes, textures and sizes and can be custom made to look exquisite in any room. All you need to ask is what role you want them to play in your home. Whether you are shopping for your bedroom, bathroom or kitchen, shades provide any number of functions with the added element of style.

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