The Timeless, Stylish Roman Shade

For interior design these accordion window treatments are always in style


Photo by Ramona d’Viola, Ilumus Photography

During Rome’s heyday, when the masses swarmed the Coliseum for their version of a Sunday football game, the powers that be had the decency to shade their gladiator-crazed fans from the relentless Italian sun. This ingenious awning system—called the “velarium”—was controlled by an elaborate system of ropes and pulleys and remains the engineering inspiration for today’s modern Roman shades.

Deceptively simple, Roman shades are the little black dress of any window treatment wardrobe. Timeless, functional, and incredibly versatile, they can be used in every room of the house. Pair them with draperies and turn a window into a work of art—or a stunning focal point. From tailored to feminine, modern to traditional—and every design concept in between, you’re only constrained by your imagination—and budget.

Almost anything with a weave and a weft can be used to make one. Usually constructed from a continuous piece of fabric, Roman shades are designed to hang flat on a window, and cascade into accordion-like folds when drawn. This is the simplest version of the shade.

Where Roman shades come to life is in your choice of fabrics, trims, and accessories. Think little black dress again.

Roman shade construction is simple. So, what’s difficult? Deciding upon the endless variety of textiles and materials. Crisp cottons, flannel woolens, or silky fabrics with lots of drape can set the mood for a variety of interiors from subtle to sensuous.

For interiors inspired by nature, bring the outdoors in with organic, natural fiber shades made from bamboo, hemp, or flax. With their tailored profile, Roman shades naturally lend themselves to contemporary interiors. Try tweeds, woolens, or linens, detailed with trim, for a masculine vibe.

But don’t let that flat expression fool you. Sheer, lightweight fabrics with a silky hand and lots of drape add feminine softness and voluminous dimension whether drawn or not. Top off your window treatments with a valance for a finished designer look.

Enliven any room with bold colors or beautiful patterns; however, keep in mind fabrics with repeats or horizontal stripes need to be “matched” when creating multiple side-by-side shades or wide windows requiring multiple widths.

If you’re working with an interior designer or other décor professional, Roman shades offer the opportunity to create a truly bespoke home. Customize your Roman shades to match upholstery or accent pieces, paint colors, or rug patterns, for a truly cohesive interior design.

For the DIYers who want to make their own shades, it’s important to understand the basics, but once you know, they’re easy to construct, even for a novice. The critical factor is getting exact measurements, especially if you’re making multiples of the same shade. For the more adventurous (or skilled), try pattern matching and decorative trims for a professional look.

Just like curtains, Roman shades can be mounted inside or outside the window depending on the depth of the frame. Inside mounts are recommended for deep-set windows accented with a curtain. Outside mounts work for shallow window frames. Choose from top-down or bottom-up options for privacy and light control.

Just like their ancient counterparts, Roman shades are tapped into today’s smart home ethos. Choose from programmable wireless shades with time-of-day functionality or cordless shades for safety.

Just like that little black dress, Roman shades are a timeless window treatment that never goes out of style.

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