The Ups & Downs of Roman Shades

One of the features I love most about our newly remodeled bedroom is the roman shades. I grew up here in Alaska, and it used to be that in mid-June when we have 20+ hours of daylight I would slumber blissfully in a sunbeam all night long.  But in my dotage I require a darkened room for the chance at a few solid hours of sleep, so good window-wear was a priority in our new bedroom.

On the windows behind our bed, the window trim meets the peaked ceiling at the top corners, which makes hanging drapery next to impossible.  I’ve loved the look of roman shades for a long time, and they were the obvious choice here.
Red House West || The Ups & Downs of Roman Shades

I custom ordered our shades from Smith & Noble, and I’m really happy with them.  They are flat roman shades, but you can also choose classic roman shades, which have more pronounced boning at the fold points, or relaxed roman shades, which have a slight swoop at the bottom edge.  Here are three things, good and bad, I’ve learned about roman shades since installing ours.

1.  They Really Work–Almost Too Well

Because of our long hours of summer daylight, I ordered our shades with blackout linings.  When they’re fully down, it’s pleasingly dark in our room, although there are slivers of light visible on the sides.

Red House West || The Ups & Downs of Roman Shades[Cromwell requests that we all take a moment to recognize the depth of his sacrifice in service of this GIF.  It took him at least one full minute to get back to sleep.]

The flip side of how well they block light is that when the windows are open but the shades are down, almost no air gets through them.  I’m sure we’ll be grateful for how insulating they are during the winter, but for now we’ve been leaving the shades open a crack at the bottom to let a little breeze through.

2.  Cordless is Best

The three larger windows in our bedroom have cordless shades, but the shades on the two small windows have cords.  Maybe other companies are different, but Smith and Noble can only make roman shades cordless when they’re over a certain width.  I thought that the cordless controls would be like those on honeycomb shades, where you just apply a little pressure upward and they lift.  Instead they are like the controls on roller shades–you pull down and release.  This makes me a little nervous because we took ancient roller shades out of this room as part of the remodel.   Most of the time they wouldn’t retract all the way no matter how gently or vigorously you pulled down on the mechanism.

So far these seem solid and work reliably, and I’m hopeful that they’ll hold up because I really prefer them to the cord control versions on our two small windows.

Red House West || Roman Shades

The cord control versions don’t have a self-stopping mechanism, so the cord has to be wrapped around a cleat screwed to the window frame.  This isn’t a big deal, but pulling the cord to the outside of the shade to loop it around the cleat does make it a little harder to keep the shade folded neatly and evenly when it’s all the way up.

3.  They’re Not Great for Small Windows

Apart from the closet construction, the biggest remodel-ly thing we did in the bedroom was to add this tiny, south-facing window.  It has to be tiny because of the way the roof slopes, but it lets in a ton of light, and was totally worth it.  That said, I wish I had figured out an alternative to the inside-mount roman shade for it.  The window is only 18 inches tall, and the shade takes up almost 6 inches.  Plus I think because it is so small, it doesn’t fold up as cleanly as the others and always looks a little schlumpy.

Red House West || The Ups & Downs of Roman Shades

If your windows are small, or if they’re set low in the wall (with the top of the frame close to eye-level) I wouldn’t recommend inside-mount roman shades.   They cover too much of the window, meaning less view and less light. Any suggestions for other window coverings for this bitty window?

Despite a few drawbacks, I am overall very pro roman shades. They do the job, and to me they look tailored and unobtrusive.  What do you think?

7 responses on “The Ups & Downs of Roman Shades

  1. Bonny

    We solved the problem of blocking light from a small window with a piece of bead board cut to fit the opening precisely and slip-covered (I just pinned the fabric into the bead board) with an attractive fabric scrap. When not in use, it leaned against the wall looking smart, but we could easily have had placed a tiny nail on the wall beside the window and hung it during the day. A small delicately framed piece affixed to the front would also work.

      1. Bonny

        I am delighted you can use my idea…. I so appreciate all the artfulness you both bring to your homes. It is always a treat to read what you have to offer.

  2. Alienor

    Lovely. Did you have other examples while preparing? I have large doors that need such blinds and have been looking for elegant options…

  3. Carol Bryner

    I love your little “time-lapse” photo of the shades and Cromwell. I’ve never been a huge fan of Roman Shades, although when we bought our place in Portland it came with them on most of the windows. Their big advantage, to me, is that they don’t cover the nice woodwork around our windows. I think yours look very attractive and simple and work well with the tailored look of your bedroom.

  4. Lea

    Our bedroom has a narrow and not particularly tall window near the head of Steven’s side of the bed. Over the years, we have tried several approaches. First there was a sheer curtain, that we left permanently down to filter the light and the view of our bedroom by the neighbor whose second floor kitchen looks at the back of our house. Come summer, it wasn’t sufficiently light blocking and I would drape black out fabric over the curtain rod at night and remove it in the morning. Kind of a hassle. Then I mounted a swing arm curtain rod and hung from it a double faced panel lined with block out fabric. To light block at night, swing so the panel covers the window. To let the sunshine in, swing the arm to uncover the window. In closed mode there was slight leakage around the edges as exterior mounted panel didn’t sit tight against the window opening. And in “open” mode we had a window panel on the wall, not necessarily a lovely look. Currently, I have an interior mounted cordless honeycomb shade in a pale neutral with a blackout layer inside. Down for night, the shade blocks light like your roman shades, leaving just a rind of light at the sides. Most of the time it’s in the “up” position and the window is small enough that the shade tucks up quite close to its thin top rail and doesn’t look schlumpy.

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