Choosing the right window shades for your home or office can seem overwhelming with so many options to consider. The shade you select should complement your room’s decor, provide the right amount of privacy, and control light effectively. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the key factors to evaluate when shopping for window shades. Learning what to look for will ensure you end up with the ideal shades for each window in your space.

Measure Your Windows Properly

Accurately measuring your windows is a critical first step in the process. Even if you plan to hire a professional installer, you’ll still need to provide precise measurements for each window when ordering shades. Follow these steps to measure correctly:

  • Use a steel tape measure for maximum accuracy. Cloth tape measures can stretch and provide inaccurate measurements over time.
  • Measure the width in three places: across the top, middle, and bottom of the window frame. Note the smallest measurement, as shades should be slightly narrower than the window to operate properly.
  • For the height, measure from the top of the window frame to the sill in three spots: left, right, and middle. Again, go with the smallest measurement.
  • Round your final measurements down to the nearest 1/8th of an inch. Most shade manufacturers require this level of precision.
  • Measure inside any obstructions like window trims or handles that shades will need to clear.
  • For specialty windows like arches or angles, consult an expert for guidance on measuring.

Accurate measurements ensure your window shades will fit perfectly and function as intended. Having these figures handy also makes the ordering process smoother.

Consider Your Room’s Light Control Needs

The amount of light filtering offered by various shades can vary significantly. Consider when and how much light control you need for each room. Here are some common factors to evaluate:

  • Privacy – Bedrooms and bathrooms often require complete privacy. Blackout shades that block all incoming light are ideal for these spaces.
  • Glare Reduction – Shades with sheer fabrics that diffuse light may be preferable for home offices and living spaces prone to glare.
  • Nighttime Darkening – If you need darkness for sleeping, but still want some daylight, opt for shades that black out most, but not all, light.
  • UV Protection – Rooms with extensive sun exposure should have shades made from materials that block UV rays, which fade furnishings.

Take stock of each room’s unique needs. Rooms used at night may need different shades than daytime spaces. Consulting with a shade professional can help weigh all the considerations.

Choose a Style That Fits Your Decor

Window shades come in a diverse range of styles to complement your home decor. Consider which shade types best match your existing color scheme, furnishings, and overall aesthetic:

  • Roller shades – Offer a clean, streamlined look and are easy to raise and lower. Available in fabrics ranging from room-darkening to sheer.
  • Roman shades – Have a classic drapery look when lowered and stack neatly when raised. Provide softness to rooms.
  • Cellular shades – Feature honeycomb-like rows that trap air to insulate. Filter light well. Come in crisp fabrics like linen.
  • Wood or faux wood blinds – Offer natural warmth and are versatile for many decor types. The slats tilt to control light and privacy.
  • Vertical blinds – Best for wide windows and sliding doors. The long, hanging fabric vanes provide adjustable privacy.
  • Shutters – Bring beautiful architectural detail. Made from materials like wood, composite, or vinyl.

Visit showrooms to see swatches and get a feel for each style in person. Order samples to test shades in your home before fully committing.

Select Durable, Easy-to-Clean Fabrics

The fabric you choose affects the shade’s longevity, functionality, and maintenance needs. Evaluate these characteristics:

  • Durability – Fabrics like vinyl and polyester resist cracking, discoloring, and texture changes over time. Check the manufacturer’s ratings.
  • Stain resistance – Treatment makes roller and roman shade fabrics repel liquids and stay cleaner between washing. Look for stain-proof ratings.
  • Light blocking – Specialty fabrics and layered construction opacify shades for bedrooms and media rooms.
  • Insulating – Cellular and honeycomb shades trap air to help insulate windows. This can reduce energy costs.
  • Easy to clean – Fabrics that are wipable or machine washable make upkeep simple. Check if cover removal is required for cleaning.

The fabric ultimately impacts how well shades hold up. Discussing options with a shade professional can point you towards long-lasting, low-maintenance materials.

Match Shade Operation to Window Type

Consider compatibility between your window type and the operational style of various shade options:

  • Roller shades – Offer the greatest flexibility as they work on almost all windows. Their simple raise and lower mechanism is universally effective.
  • Cellular shades – Are ideal for larger windows thanks to their sturdy honeycomb construction that withstands size and wind pressure.
  • Vertical blinds – Are purpose-built for sliding doors and wide span windows. The control wand rotates the vanes for adjustable privacy.
  • Shutters – Are mounted alongside window frames on hinges. Best for standard rectangular windows. Available in louvre, panel, and tilt styles.
  • Roman shades – Have a traditional look and stacking operation well-suited for smaller, standard windows. Options like hobbled Roman shades accommodate arched windows.

Measure your windows and note specialty shapes before deciding on shades. This ensures you select the styles optimally designed to fit.

Account for a Shade’s Top Treatment

The top treatment defines how shades mount above the window and impact their appearance:

  • Cassettes – Enclose and protect shade fabric when raised. Provide a streamlined, elegant look.
  • Exposed rollers – Leave the shade fabric barrel visible. Offer a minimalist, industrial vibe.
  • Valances – Cover the top of shades with a decorative fabric box. Coordinate with room decor.
  • Cornices – Square, built-out structures conceal shade hardware. Provide a finished, built-in look.
  • Trim – Molding and architectural details complement shades and tie into room style.
  • Rod pocket – Fabric tops hold poles for a softer, draped look. Typically used on Roman shades.

Evaluate your room’s decor and windows when planning top treatments. They significantly impact the overall aesthetic.

Control Options Based on Window Location

The shade’s control mechanism should be easy to access and suit the window’s location:

  • Cordless – Ideal for bedroom and bathroom windows located out of reach. Shades raise and lower with gentle pushes and pulls.
  • Wand – Allows controlling hard-to-reach shades from the floor. Effective for skylights and ceiling-level windows.
  • Corded – Pull cords give full control of shades located in sight lines. Consider cord cleats or tension devices for safety.
  • Motorized – Electric motors automatically raise and lower shades. Allows remote and timed operation. Great for large or frequently adjusted window treatments.
  • Smart – Integrated motors with app, voice, or smart home control provide convenience and scheduling.

Have a shade professional evaluate your window placement and recommend control types that balance function and aesthetics.

Order Samples to Guide Your Decision

The shade buying process benefits tremendously from evaluating fabric samples:

  • They accurately show the color, quality, and opacity of different fabrics and materials. Photos on websites can be misleading.
  • You can test how much light actually filters through light-blocking versus light-filtering samples.
  • The size allows you to assess how the shades will coordinate with your existing furnishings and decor.
  • Samples can be tested on the actual window the shades will be installed on.
  • They help narrow down your preferred styles and provide confidence in the final decision.
  • Samples are often free or low cost. The investment is worthwhile to ensure satisfaction.

Don’t rely solely on photos or descriptions when choosing window shades. Order samples from retailers early in the process.

Hire a Professional for Specialty Windows

For specialty window shapes like arches, angles, and trapezoids consider hiring a professional installer:

  • They have experience properly measuring irregular windows and ordering custom shades sized correctly.
  • Professionals can expertly install shades on unusually shaped windows for optimal fit and operation.
  • Many offer services to integrate motorized and smart shades into home automation systems.
  • They provide options like hobbled roman shades that conform to specialty window forms.
  • Experts will ensure any adjustments or corrections needed after install are handled promptly.
  • Ask for referrals and verify they are licensed, insured, and bonded.

While regular rectangular windows are usually DIY-friendly, specialty shapes often benefit from a professional touch.

Install Inside or Outside Mount Based on Window Position

Windows have two basic mounting positions for shades:

Inside mounts:

  • Offer a built-in, seamless look as shades are installed completely within window frames.
  • Provide optimal light blocking since shades can overlap the window edges.
  • Require sufficient frame depth to recess shades. At least 2 inches is needed.
  • Allow windows to open and close without obstructing shades.

Outside mounts:

  • Recommended when window frames are too shallow for recessed mounting.
  • The installation fastens to walls or molding around windows.
  • Shades will not obstruct window operation.
  • Light leakage can occur since shades don’t fully overlap window edges.

Measure frame depth and consult with an installer before deciding between inside or outside shades.

Have a Budget in Mind

Window shades range greatly in price from basic roller shades under $25 to custom-made shutters over $1000. Set realistic expectations by having a budget in mind:

  • Measure your windows and calculate their total area. Pricing often depends on square footage.
  • Basic vinyl or polyester blackout shades cost about $3 – $8 per square foot.
  • More specialized shades like cellular, woven woods, and faux wood blinds run $8 – $20 per square foot.
  • Shutters, motorized, and commercial grades shades cost $25 – $50+ per square foot.
  • Add about 15% extra to the material cost for professional installation services.

Knowing general price ranges helps gauge budget friendliness of different shade types. Having a clear budget also guides cost-benefit decisions.

Follow Safety and Cleaning Tips for Best Results

Once installed, proper use and care ensure your shades look great and function properly long-term:

  • Check shades annually for signs of wear and cords in need of replacement. Repairs prevent bigger problems.
  • Dust regularly with a soft brush or compressed air. Spot clean stains. Avoid harsh scrubbing.
  • Lower shades periodically to maintain even sunlight exposure and prevent fading in the lowered position.
  • Use shade manufacturer recommended cleaning methods only. Machine wash removable fabrics gently.
  • Keep cords, wands, and motors out of pets and children’s reach. Consider cordless shades in kids rooms.
  • Adjust shades to appropriate positions while away to deter home break-ins.

A few easy habits prolong the life of your window shades and keep them looking fresh.

Final Considerations When Choosing Window Shades

Shopping for shades may seem complicated initially, but taking it step-by-step makes the process straightforward. Focusing on each key decision point will lead you to window treatments with the right mix of style, functionality, and quality. Measure meticulously, choose durable low-maintenance materials, and select shades suited for each room’s needs and windows. Test out samples at home and get professional help for specialty installations. Follow through on these steps and you’ll no doubt end up with window shades you’ll enjoy for years to come.

What are the main types of window shades?

The most common types of window shades available include:

  • Roller shades – A simple fabric shade that rolls up and down through a spring-loaded mechanism. Offer great light control.
  • Roman shades – A classic window shade that forms soft folds when raised or lowered. Provide a traditional elegant look.
  • Cellular shades – Feature honeycomb or cellular rows that help insulate. Filter light well and are energy efficient.
  • Wood blinds – Made of real wood or faux wood materials in horizontal slats. Adjust slat angles to control light entry.
  • Vertical blinds – Long hanging fabric or vinyl vanes. Rotate vanes to adjust privacy. Suited for wide windows.
  • Pleated shades – Shades with accordion-style pleated fabric folds. Filter light well and provide insulation.
  • Sheer shades – Lightweight, see-through shades that gently filter sunlight. Available in several sheer fabrics.
  • Shutters – Timeless architectural shades made from materials like wood, vinyl, and composite. Feature adjustable louvres or panels.

What factors should I consider when choosing window shades?

Some important factors to consider when selecting window shades include:

  • Room use – Consider when you need light filtered or blocked. Bedrooms may need darkening while living spaces may need glare reduction.
  • Window sizes – Measure all windows to get accurate dimensions. This ensures proper shade fit.
  • Style – Choose shades that match your interior design style – modern, traditional, rustic etc.
  • Durability – Select fabrics resistant to sun damage, stains, and wear/tear for long life.
  • Easy cleaning – Shades that wipe clean or are machine washable simplify maintenance.
  • Child safety – Cordless shades or cord tensioners reduce risks in homes with young kids.
  • Energy efficiency – Cellular shades provide insulation to reduce heating and cooling costs.
  • Budget – Prices range widely based on materials and operation. Set realistic expectations.

What are the pros and cons of various shade fabrics?

The most common shade fabrics each have unique advantages and disadvantages:



  • Durability – Withstands moisture, mildew, and daily wear-and-tear
  • Easy cleaning – Vinyl wipes clean easily with soap and water
  • Affordability – Typically the most budget-friendly option


  • Light filtering – Provides less light diffusion than fabric shades
  • Sound – Can be noisy when raising and lowering



  • Light control – Provides excellent light filtration and blackout options
  • Aesthetics – Has a soft, elegant look and feel
  • Versatility – Available in a wide range of textures and opacities


  • Wrinkling – Cotton prone to wrinkles from handling
  • Fading – Susceptible to fading from long sun exposure
  • Dust – Tends to collect dust that requires regular cleaning



  • Durability – Withstands moisture, mildew, and resists shrinking/stretching
  • Energy efficiency – Available as insulating cellular shades
  • Color fastness – Maintains vibrant colors without excessive fading


  • Texture – Has less rich texture than natural fabrics
  • Eco-friendly – Often made from non-biodegradable synthetics



  • Natural material – Made from biodegradable flax fibers
  • Light diffusion – Provides soft, diffuse lighting with texture
  • Beauty – Has elegant, chic look perfect for contemporary spaces


  • Wrinkling – Linen prone to wrinkling during operation
  • Moisture – Absorbs humidity so not ideal for bathrooms or basements
  • Cost – Among the more expensive shade fabric options

What features make window shades easy to maintain?

Several shade design elements contribute to simpler long-term care and maintenance:

  • Stain-resistant fabric – Special coatings allow many stains to be easily wiped off the shade surface.
  • Antimicrobial treatments – Help restrict bacteria, mold, and fungi growth on shades in humid environments.
  • Removable fabric covers – Allow easy removal of the shade material for cleaning or replacement.
  • Cordless lifting – Eliminates dangling cords that can fray, tangle, or break over time.
  • Dust-resistant materials – Vinyl, synthetics, and wood blinds repel dust better than most fabrics.
  • Simplified hardware – Shade designs with minimal movable parts require less periodic adjustments.
  • Quality materials – Shades made with resilient fabrics, metals, and composites endure wear well.
  • Machine washability – Removable fabrics that can be machine washed simplify cleaning.

Consult with shade retailers on these low-maintenance features so you can worry less about care over time.

How do I choose window shades for a child’s nursery or bedroom?

Here are some tips for selecting optimal nursery and kids bedroom window shades:

  • Use cordless shades or shades with cord cleats for safety – reduces strangulation risks.
  • Pick durable, stain-resistant fabrics that withstand messes and frequent handling.
  • Include blackout shades to darken the room for daytime naps and nighttime sleep.
  • Choose playful colors, prints, and decorative styles that complement the room’s fun youthful theme.
  • For older kids, provide some privacy with room darkening cellular shades they can lower when needed.
  • Opt for easy cleaning shade materials like vinyls and machine washable fabrics.
  • Use motorized or remote control shades if the windows are high up and out of kids’ reach.
  • Mount specialty shades like whimsical rainbows or moon/star shapes over accent windows.
  • Consult shade retailers for kid and pet friendly options to find the safest, most practical choices.

What types of materials work well for window shades in bathrooms?

The humidity and moisture common in bathrooms make certain materials preferable:

  • Vinyl – Waterproof vinyl is a great bathroom shade option as it resists mold and will not warp. Easy to clean.
  • Aluminum – Metal blinds