Roman Shades are a classic treatment that can add elegance to any guestroom. That being said Romans are both complex treatments to make and to specify. Our sales and production teams receive questions about the construction and elements of Roman Shades possibly more than any other treatment type. Therefore we are taking a concerted step towards offering some insight into the construction of Roman Shades and some important design elements to consider.

Roman Shades are essentially a drapery fabric that hangs over a window that can be raised and lowered via a lift mechanism much like a roller shade. The elegant folds of fabric seen when the roman is fully opened cap any window extremely well.

A Basic Description

Every roman shade begins with the lift mechanism being attached to the bottom of a ¾” thick piece of wood, at least 4.5” wide, wrapped in 2 pass blackout, referred to as a ‘dustcap’. This is the foundation of the shade. From this fabric is hung either off the front or the back of the dustcap to the length of the window. A metal bar is inserted in the bottom edge of the roman and connected to the lift mechanism via string. These strings also pass thru rings inserted on the backside of the face fabric at each pleat. When the roman shade is drawn up the strings are tightened and as the metal bar comes into contact with each ring set the corresponding pleat folds onto itself.

The Components

  • Dustcap: ¾” plywood board wrapped in 2 Pass blackout to which the lift mechanism is fastened. This must be at least 4.5” wide to accommodate the lift mechanism.

  • Lift Mechanism: Much like a roller shade this mechanism functions off a pull chain and is used to raise and lower the shade.

  • Face Fabric: The fabric of the roman shade with its pleats. This may either come off the back or front of the dustcap. Ring sets are inserted along the backside and this is fitted with a metal bar in the bottom hem.

  • Valance: A band of fabric with at least a 8” drop sewn to the top board and used to cover the lift mechanism. Only needed when the fabric is oriented ‘off the back’ and another type of top treatment is not specified.

The Styles

  • Flat Fold: A style of roman in which hard plastic ribs are inserted horizontally across the face fabric, creating a much more rigid and sturdy aesthetic.

Flat Fold Roman Shade
  • Soft Fold: A style of roman in which the face fabric is pulled up from the back to create loose, looping folds. When the roman is raised we see looping U-shaped ends.

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  • Off the Front: A roman where the fabric is oriented to come off the front of the top board. This makes a valance obsolete as the actual face fabric hides the lift mechanism. Usually specified when roman will be inside mounted.

  • Off the Back: A roman where the fabric is oriented to come off the back of the top board. This style requires a valance (if another top treatment is not specified to hide the lift mechanism).

  • To learn more, see our blog post “Roman Shade Styles”!

Design Notes

There are a few items that may not be considered when specifying a roman shade unless you have some experience. In this section we’ve given some quick bullet point tips to help you out.

  • Roman Shades may be made with sheer or overdrape fabric.

  • Roman Shades made with an un-coated overdrape fabric are typically lined with a 2 Pass blackout.

  • Roman Shades made with a coated blackout are still recommended to have an extra lining especially with flat fold Romans as inserting and tacking the horizontal ribs may create pin holes.

  • Lift Cord can be specified either left or right.

  • The Lift Cord will fall in front of the face fabric when it is specified ‘off the back’ and behind the face fabric when it is specified ‘off the front’.

  • The horizontal ribs of the ‘Flat Fold’ roman shade will alter/distort the pattern repeat of any fabric.

  • Soft Fold Romans have a larger pattern distortion due to the fullness being hidden behind each pleat.

  • Soft Fold Romans are typically made to 200% fullness.

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