The Skinny on Buying Roman Shades: Custom Vs. Standard

I love roman shades.  I use them on pretty much any & every window that needs privacy.  (Shutters are beautiful too but we'll get into those another time.)  There are so many different types and price points that I thought it might be helpful to break it down. 

1.  The main materials that can be used for roman shades are

{A room by Steven Gambrel}

 and natural woven materials:

{Image Source unknown via Little Green Notebook}

2.  There are many cases when roman shades are beautiful/ functional on their own & should be used alone.  It offers a clean, simple look.  Here in the kitchen, is a kid-friendly solution (i.e. no food mess on curtains) with custom natural woven roman shades with privacy lining:

{Our breakfast nook, smith + noble tortoise shell bamboo waterfall shades}

 A client's living room (pictured "before" below) had a set of french doors on the left side and a double window on the right side.  When I first arrived, I knew we needed to fix the imbalance of having curtain panels on one side and not the other:

{Client Living Room Below}

Because the door wouldn't have been functional with curtain panels, and because I wanted balance, I used roman shades only (no curtains) on both sides.  I wish I had a better view of this room, (I still need to go back for finished photos)  but I had custom pleated balloon shades installed behind the newly added crown molding for a seamless casually elegant look:

{A client's living room.  My task was to keep all existing furnishings, artwork, etc. and update it.}

3.  I also love to layer roman shades with curtain panels. It's functional (panels can remain stationary and roman shades go up & down for privacy) and beautiful (You get 2 opportunities to add texture/ pattern to a room instead of just 1.)  It adds layers & creates a warmer look than curtains alone.  They can be mounted inside the window or outside the window. 

I often have them mounted above the window and outside of the trim ("outside mount") to allow as much of the window to show as possible and to give the illusion that the window continues higher than it really does which visually heightens the entire room.  (It makes smaller rooms feel more spacious and large-medium rooms feel grander.)  I did this in a client's living room here:

{A client's living room:  custom lined linen curtains & custom natural woven roman shades with privacy lining}

In my own living room, (below) I used non-custom cotton roman shades from Sears.  (The color I used was "natural" and it looks like a warm white.) I mounted them outside the widows (again, to give the illusion of larger windows and also to hide the window frames on my old 70s window) and I paired them with "custom" (I made them myself because I couldn't afford to have them made) unlined white linen curtains. (I went with unlined linen because I love how the light shines through & it's a natural, relaxed look.) 

{Our dining room}

Here (below) I used the same non-custom Sears roman shades in "white" in our family room with no curtains.  Because of our budget, in our house I try to use non-custom shades wherever I can.  The cost difference between custom and non-custom is amazing.  (Approx $30 for the noncustom Sears shades below and maybe around $150-$250 or so- depending upon fabric- for a custom version.) 

4.  Custom vs. Standard Fabric shades:  Let me be frank: you get what you pay for.  The ONLY reason I don't have custom shades on every window in my own home is because we can't spend money there right now.  I love the look of certain standard shade styles but there is a difference in quality.  Custom shades pull up & down smoothly & evenly, whereas I have to play with some of my my non-custom shades to get them to hang right & evenly.  (Sears' larger sizes - 48" and up I think) are much of a better quality than their smaller sizes.  They use a metal chain pulley system and go up and down smoothly but I've noticed there's a slight varience in the color of the fabrics between the large and small sizes--- arggg.  But the price was right.  My advice is to buy the best you can afford.  Consider the non-custom shades to give you the look you want and plan on upgrading in the future if you want/ need to.  Custom fabric shades are made to order so you you can use any fabric you like and the style selection is practically endless.  Use a local shades fabricator to get the exact fabric and style you need.  (If you don't have one, consider hiring a decorator/ designer to assist.  Calico Corners also makes custom shades.)  This typically costs more than going with a company like smith + noble who has a limited selection of fabrics to choose from. 

5.  Custom vs. Standard Natural Woven Shades:  If you simply want the look and won't be using them often (in a space where you don't really need the privacy) I recommend the non-custom shades for a great look without the expense.  In our toddler's room we went with the non-custom unlined natural woven shades from Home Depot (for around $40) because he's so short anyone looking in wouldn't be able to see him anyway when he's not dressed.  (And of course because these shades would have been close to $400 if they were custom.)  The shades are also over the bed & so would be a pain to open & close whether they were custom or non-custom, but I love the look of these Home Depot shades for anyone who wants "the look" without the functionality & privacy needs:

{Our toddler's bedroom}

Again, you get what you pay for.  If you need high-quality. smooth & easily operables shades, then you will need to pay more. 

6. Tips for non-custom natural woven or "matchstick" shades:  Most non-custom companies sell their natural woven shades unlined.  A few have liners you can purchase and add on separately.  You could also attempt adding your own lining if you're crafty.  The unlined shades significantly darken the room and filter the light but at night they're virtually see-through from the outside when your interior lights are on.  Just google "natural woven roman shades"/ 'matchstick shades" and a bunch of options will pop up.  (Target, Home Depot, Sears all have them online.)

7. Tips for Custom natural woven roman shades:  I love smith + noble's selection of natural woven roman shades.   Different materials vary in prices.  There are a lot of other amazing brands out there but I simply used smith + noble first and loved theirs.  I've heard great things about many other companies and will surely be trying some out in the future.

The decision to go with fabric shades or natural woven shades depends upon the feeling you want your space to have.   Go here to check out some different styles of fabric roman shades.   

I hope this helps & good luck!!


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