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What are Roller Shades?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Roller shades are window coverings that have a rolling mechanism. The top of a roller shade fits at the upper part of the window. Cloth or vinyl is attached to the shade's top as well as its bottom bar. In a standard rolling type of shade, the window covering rolls out from the back in a downward motion. In a reverse rolling roller shade, the fabric rolls from the front to create a more streamlined look.

Cassette head rail roller shades have a valance or decorative top section that covers the top bar. A roller shade may be accented with a bottom pull, fringes or scalloped edges. A small tugging motion with the hands on the bottom of roller shades causes the rolling mechanism to roll the shade up to reveal the window pane. When pulling the shade down, stopping halfway will allow the window covering to remain half open; pulling it downward all the way, closes it completely.

Black-out, semi-opaque, sheer and semi-sheer are the main types of roller shade available today. Black-out roller shades offer the most room darkening properties. This type may be preferred in babies’ rooms as well as in the bedrooms of adults who work nights and need to sleep during the day. Black-out shades block out 99 percent of sunlight, but it's important to remember that some light will seep in through the sides of the shade. Choosing the type of black-out shade that mounts inside the window frame may reduce the amount of light from the sides.

Semi-opaque roller shade styles block most of the incoming light. These may feature two layers of densely woven fabric. Only shadowy lines rather than a silhouette are usually visible when looking from the outside in to windows covered with semi-opaque roller shades. Sheer roller shade varieties are completely transparent and permit a clear view while letting in maximum light. Semi-sheer shades filter light and produce only silhouettes when seen from the outside.

Roller shades are both practical and stylish. They not only provide easy to use window coverings, but can add color, design and texture to a room. For example, a tropical print fabric on a roller shade would nicely compliment a decor with rattan furniture, while neutral solid tweed could be used in traditional interiors. Roller shades tend to be budget-friendly and often cost less than window blinds. Whereas window blinds tend to bend easily, a roller shade doesn't have slats, so bending isn't a problem.

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Discussion Comments
By sputnik — On Mar 18, 2011

Roller shades used to be much more popular at one time than they are today. Probably it is because we have so many more options for window treatments these days, including shutters and blinds.

I have just installed room darkening window roller shades. They do eliminate maybe 90 percent of the light. One important point to consider before buying and installing roller shades is to really measure carefully the window opening.

Consider where you want to install them,

in between the window opening or on the wall itself. In between the window opening might have a little disadvantage, because the top and the sides might let some light go through, especially if the window is all glass, with very little wood, or other solid material as the frame of the window. That will make the room mostly dark but not completely dark, especially if that is the objective of roller shades installation to start with.

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