The Window Covering Lady
The Window Covering Lady
talks window coverings and
various window treatments

Roller Shade

A roller shade is a good window covering choice, and combined with other window covering choices, like curtains, blinds or shutters, you can create wonderful window treatments. You can go modern or retro with your roller shade choice -- simple gives a modern look while tatted shade pulls give that wonderful 19th century feel.

The roller shade is a classic window treatment. Also known as a roll-up shade, it is a simple design in which a sheet of light-filtering fabric rolls around a wooden or metal axle in the raised position. In the classic roller shade, the axle is spring-loaded so that loosening the clutch mechanism by tugging down on the shade causes the spring to pull the shade up.


Many modern roller shades have ditched the spring-loaded axle, which can jerk the shade out of one's hand and cause to wrap around the axle far out of reach. Spring-loaded axles are impractical for very wide, heavy roller shades too. Instead, many modern roller shades has a continuous loop chain of metal or plastic beads that is used to raise and lower the roller shade. Motorized roller shades are also popular, but rather expensive.

Roller shades are usually purchased for their excellent light-blocking ability. When properly measured, a roller shade of opaque fabric or vinyl will block out nearly 100 percent of the light. Roller shades provide excellent privacy, too.

But roller shades are also made of less opaque, light-filtering materials. Often you will see such fabrics described as five or ten percent "openness". This means that five or ten per cent of the fabric's weave is open air, allowing that much light to come through. Light-filtering fabrics can be effectively opaque when viewed from outside, protecting privacy, while allowing those inside a cooler, dimmed view of the outdoors.

Roller shades come in many colors and patterns. Bold, solid colors are popular in kitchens and living areas. Stripes and geometric patterns go well with solid color draperies. Pastels often look best in bath and bedrooms.

Fairly sturdy materials are used in most roller shades. Delicate lace and dotted Swiss materials do not work well on a roller shade; they tend to tear during repeating rolling up and down.

A roller shade is often surrounded by valances and swags. The bottom edge of a roller shade need not be plain and straight. Often, it is fringed, tasseled, or scalloped.

You may even see a roller shade that rolls up from the bottom, sort of like a Roman shade. Often, this type of roller shade is found outdoors on patio windows, where the fully rolled up shade disappears into a protective housing at the top of the window. An outdoor roller shade is often made of a heavy-duty plastic such as polyethylene, or from rugged fiber materials like bamboo, rattan, jute, or sisal.

Roller shades can be inexpensive or wildly extravagant. It all depends on the fabric used, the quality of the hardware, and most of all on the size of the window opening to be covered.

When measuring for a roller shade, use a metal tape that won't stretch. For an inside mount, measure to the nearest one-eighth of an inch. Do not allow for the mounting and axle hardware; the supplier will do that based upon your measurements. For an outside mount, provide the exact width of your window opening. You can also specify whether you want the standard or reverse roll; that is, a shade that drops down from the back or the front of the roll. If you buy a continuous loop mechanism, you can specify whether you want to loop chain on the left or right side of the roller shade.

Roller shades are simple and practical. They remain one of the most popular window treatments around.

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