We recently covered the basics of Roman Shades in a blog and also released a resource card for easy access to some of the most pertinent information. That being said the most difficult problem with Roman Shades is that they are still complicated and we often see mistakes in spec writing that lead to Roman Shades being manufactured and installed in a way that does not suit the reality of a space or the design intentions of a designer.

So in today’s post we’ve highlighted what we believe to be the 3 most common mistakes in specifying Roman Shades and how to avoid them. We will be using vocabulary introduced in that last blog entitled “Roman Shades” so if you have not taken a look at that we definitely recommend it. We hope that the below will be extremely beneficial to every design team as they seek to add these classic window treatments to their next project!

1. Outside Mount with the Fabric off the Front

Outside mounted Roman Shades offer a great look. So does having the fabric waterfall ‘off the front’ of the dustcap and therefore avoiding the usage of an extra valence. That being said this is a bad combination. Why? Well if a roman shade was outside mounted and fabric was spec’d to waterfall off the front the end result would be large gaps (at least 4.5” = to the width of the dustcap) on each end of the Roman Shade where light would pour into the room even when completely closed.

Solution: When outside mounting Roman Shades fabric should always be oriented to come off the back of the dustcap, flush with the wall. This solves for the gap at the end of each roller shade and therefore should cut down on light pouring in from the window. With the fabric off the back this does mean that a Valence or other top treatment should be specified in order to hide the lift mechanism.

This is an example of a Soft Fold Outside Mount Roman with the fabric oriented off the back and an added Valence.

This is an example of a Soft Fold Outside Mount Roman with the fabric oriented off the back and an added Valence.

If you are insistent on the fabric coming off the front of the dustcap then you would need to specify side panels mounted in front of the roman shade with returns back to the wall or install a blackout roller shade with side and sill channels inside the window.

See the picture below as an example of a roman shade with side panels.

Roman Shade with Side Panels


2. Inside Mount with the Fabric off the Front

Making a Roman Shade inside mount with the fabric off the front seems like it would be a great idea. Why? Well this makes the front of the roman flush with the wall and creates a undisturbed look. This may be exactly what you want but what is sometimes over looked is the fact that when fabric is off the front the chain pull is hidden. This can be very confusing to customers and even when they know the chain pull is back there, they are going to have to physically handle the roman shade in order to access it. With the shade being extended and arms reaching behind it, rarely does the long term operation of this style treatment go well. The wear in tear at the least is extremely heightened.

Solution: In order to avoid confusion over the location of the chain pull or keep guests from having to physically move the roman shade in order to access the chain pull we recommend that when inside mounting a roman shade within a window you orient the fabric off the back and specify a valence to cover the lift mechanism!

3. Specifying an Inside Mount Roman with a coated blackout fabric, expecting complete blackout conditions.

A Roman Shade when inside mounted and fully closed looks very similar to a roller shade (especially a flat fold roman) what this means is that there will be a small amount of light leakage around all of the edges (especially the sides). The roman will have to be made slightly smaller than the window width so that it can function properly and that will leave a small amount of room for light to seep into the room. Roman Shades also require us to sew thru the face fabric, which may lead to pin holes. The difference between a roman shade and a roller shade is that side and sill channels to not exist for Roman Shades and therefore that light leakage cannot be eliminated unless it is redesigned.

Solution: There are two different options here. One you could outside mount the roller shade (we recommend with an overlap of at least 6”) to eliminate most all of the light bleed. Two you can outside mount the romanshade at the width of the window opening and inside mount a blackout roller shade with side and sill channel.

4. Weight & Size Constraints

Problem: The heavier the roman shade the more difficult it is to manually retract and potentially the greater risk that it will not work properly. The true factor is weight, but a roman shades size (width & length) usually constitutes how heavy the roman shade is and is the factor that you as a designer are specifying. So while weight is the factor that can cause the overall problem our solution is stated in size (width & length).

The most important aspect to consider is the overall weight of the fabric. Coated overdrape fabric weighs more than a regular overdrape. Blackout lining weighs more than an interlining. When you use different fabrics together you are consequently adding weight to the lift mechanism and without assistance (such as motorization) it becomes increasingly more difficult to retract. If the shade is made too large and therefore too heavy the mechanism at the worst may break or at least will wear far faster than normal.

Solution: While there are not any official weight and size constraints this is a point where much thought should be given. We therefore, recommend that the maximum size of a roman shade be 72” wide x 72” in length or a combination that equates to a similar square footage. We are not saying that roman shades cannot be made larger, rather that you must know the potential of overly heavy shades which are naturally harder to retract. This rough standard will keep you out of that overly heavy category.

On the other side of things it should be noted that the minimum width of a roman shade is 18”. As well due to Child Safety Regulations the pleat spacing on the back of roman shades should not exceed 6”. This and more we will discuss in a future post.

5. Artificially Stopping the Shade at a Predetermined Height

Problem: Roman Shades function in much the same way as Roller Shades. Meaning that when you pull the chain the shade either retracts or lowers, the only difference being that with a roller the actual fabric is spinning onto the roll, where as with a roman it is simply the string. Nevertheless, when a Roman or Roller is installed 'bead stops' may be placed on the chain to set limits upon how far the shade can lower or be raised. At a recent project we saw the customer specify that a ceiling mounted roman shade should have a artificial stop 4-ish inches from the top of the window (accomplished by a bead stop), so that in this case the inside mount roller shade bracket would remain covered. The designer wanted to make sure 20" of wall space above the window remained covered when the Roman shade was retracted to it's 'artificial' limit. A guest in the room did not understand this 'artificial limit' though and subsequently would yank on the chain attempting to have the roman shade retract all the way up to the ceiling. The effect of this was that many chains broke and a few lift mechanisms even became disconnected from their brackets.

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Solution: DO NOT SPECIFY BEAD STOPS WITH ROMAN SHADES. ARTIFICIAL STOPS CAUSE MAJOR PROBLEMS. The further moral to this story is that you must think thru how the customer will use the treatment and what they will perceive to be fully retracted and fully lowered. The simple solution here was simply to remove all the bead stops. This meant that the Roman Shade retracted completely, the Roller Shade was seen in the window, and some wall space remained uncovered between the roman and the window but in kept further chains from being broken, which is a huge win in this case.


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