With roller shades gaining more and more popularity among designers, property owners and even guests, it’s no wonder that drapery manufacturers are seeing an uptick in roller shade specifications. In turn, textile manufacturers are increasing the availability and range of roller shade-specific fabrics coming into the market. This is great news because with the broadened scope of fabrics comes the ability to further nuance the design of a guestroom or a public space. There is only one negative to consider and it comes in the form of what is called ‘overchoice’. Overchoice, is a term first introduced by Alvin Toffler, and is loosely defined as a difficulty associated with making a buying decision, produced by the abundance of seemingly similar options. We would daresay all of us in America face this on a near weekly basis just in going to the supermarket. When you are faced with a choice to pick a single salsa, for example, out of a 30 plus options, how do you decide?

This phenomenon has expanded into so many different realms and could be considered within the fabric industry as well. The key to overcoming overchoice though, is knowing the differentiators and arming oneself with knowledge that helps segment and narrow the choices down into subsets. So, if you know that you want to choose a green salsa, then you can narrow choices down from 30 plus to 12 that fit the subset category of green salsas. For our case in point, we want to narrow down roller shade fabric options into the three main subsets and offer a little guidance on where to use what.

Roller Shade fabrics are typically categorized into three subsets; blackout, sheer & basketweave. These subsets each have particular uses, particular strengths and particular weaknesses. Knowing what those are can help you cast aside one or two of the other subsets and focus on just one type of fabric in order to make an easier decision.

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The most important use of blackout roller shade fabric is to block out light. Similar to drapery fabric, blackout shade fabrics are made with a coating that is impenetrable to light. An important element to all hospitality guestrooms is light fastness. This allows for a guestroom to be made completely dark at any time of the day. So regardless of whether guests stayed up all night, are on a long lay over, or just want to sleep in, they can be assured that their guestroom will remain dark for as long as they would like. Blackout roller shades should always be designed in a way that allows for complete darkness. As we wrote in our recent blogs “How Do I Eliminate Light Bleed with Roller Shades?” and “The Differences Between L & U Channels on Roller Shades”, it is important to pair blackout roller shade fabrics with the adequate accessories to fully accomplish the job.

Blackout roller shade fabrics should also be considered as an alternative to blackout drapery in meeting rooms where presentations may be shown. The sleek, more commercial look of roller shades may be a better complement for a meeting or board room setting and can accomplish the same effect.


Sheer roller shade fabrics are, as they sound, sheer, meaning a ‘very thin or transparent texture’ (according to Merriam-Webster online). Therefore, we should always expect for sheer roller shade fabrics to allow the highest levels of light through and into a room when the roller shade is considered closed. Sheer roller shade fabrics may be considered one of the most decoratively appealing. They are often produced with complex designs, a great amount of variation and can be extremely attractive to the eye. Sheer roller shades are often times used in guestroom settings in partnership with a blackout roller shade fabric in a dual setting or, within a window, coupled with a blackout out drapery that traverses across the window.

Sheer roller shade fabrics should be used to create a warm setting as light permeates through them, yet enough light is blocked to keep a room cooler and without the intense glare or rays of the sun coming in. Sheer roller shade fabrics should also be high on the list for public space windows, as most rooms in public areas do not require any light fastness, and should be seen as treatments that augment the views from a lobby or dining space rather than disturb it.


Finally, the basketweave family of roller shade fabrics is rather a unique bunch. Produced with a traditional pattern of interwoven threads, large enough to be seen by the naked eye. Basketweave fabrics let light through and into a room at varying degrees that are often set forth by the manufacturer. You may see descriptors of light allowance written as openness (i.e. a fabric is considered 5% open or 10% open). What manufactures are trying to communicate through this language is the amount of sunlight let through by the particular fabric. This can be a difficult thing to test and may be seen as a rather subjective fact or, at the least, loosely interpreted.

We would recommend that you not make any design-altering decisions based upon a written openness, but always use physical samples to make this decision. The same 5% openness fabric may be great for your design with full undisturbed sunlight, but may cause rooms to be far too dark on rainy days or even a partly cloudy day. Basketweave fabrics can be used in guestrooms as an alternative for a sheer roller shade fabric, but should not be considered as a replacement for blackout fabrics. The most common use of basketweave fabrics is in public spaces such as lobbies, dining areas, bars, fitness rooms etc.

We hope this explanation of each roller shade fabric subset is helpful to you. Overchoice is real and can make decision making overwhelming. Knowing what subset of fabric you should consider for a certain area, or to accomplish a certain goal, can make your decision easy enough. Just pick a color and a pattern and you should be good to go!

Take a look at other roller shade specific blog posts and resources by clicking the links below and remember, an informed buyer, designer or property owner is usually the most successful.