How to Choose Roman Shades Like a Designer

In consultation with partners Perennials and KURFI, the Laura U Design Collective has picked the perfect window treatments for our Mountain Lane Show House. From saturated colors to classic prints, the window treatments in our Mountain Lane Show House are bold and moody yet welcoming and serene. While we opted for flowy drapes and pleated curtains in some spaces, our team repeatedly gravitated to Roman shades throughout this project. Both modern and classic, Roman shades can add either whimsy or elegance to a space. They can be sleek and streamlined or ornate and maximalist, soft and relaxed or curated and constructed. Given their aesthetic appeal and many practical applications, onlookers will find these versatile window treatments everywhere in the Show House. Of course, there are many ways to style Roman shades and dozens of patterns to pick from. In this post, we offer a few of our top tips to selecting the right style for your home’s interior. We also outline the different fold styles and pairing options for Roman shades. Follow below to learn exactly how to choose Roman shades like a designer!

What Are Roman Shades?

Most fabric window treatments fall into two categories: shades and drapery. Often paired with drapes, Roman shades are perhaps the most popular type of shades for window treatments. This is because they fit most window types — from bay to casement — and mesh with many aesthetics. Homeowners often confuse Roman shades for roller shades despite a few key differences between the two. In her House Beautiful article “The Right Window Treatment for Every Room,” Hadley Keller explains how the two shade styles diverge from one another.

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Quoting Adam Skalman of The Shade Store, Keller writes that roller shades “‘have a minimalist look and feel.'” Unlike most Roman shades, roller shades are completely flat with no pleats or seams. Because of this, roller shades are often found in minimalist interiors. When found in maximalist interiors, roller shades usually “‘showcase beautiful textures and patterns.'” These prints would otherwise be interrupted by a pleated shade or draped curtain.

Roman shades — on the other hand — “‘blend the softness of drapery with the functionality of shades.'” Uniquely versatile when compared to other window treatments, Roman shades are each “‘crafted to control light and frame your windows in their own way.'” Roman shades can be relaxed and casual, formal and traditional or crisp and contemporary. With many fold styles available, Roman shades can either display a delicate design or boast a bold, large-scale pattern. Without the need for decorative rods, valances or finials, custom Roman shades can fit nearly any type of window.

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Throughout the Mountain Lane Show House, our team opted for clean fold styles that show off the patterns and fabrics of each Roman shade. However, there are a number of other Roman shade fold styles to choose from when designing window treatments. From flat and plain folds to European and hobbled folds, we explain each fold style below.

Soft or Hobbled Roman Shades

Hobbled Roman shades — also called “soft fold” Roman shades — are beloved for the romantic look they create. This billowy effect can be absolutely lovely. However, the extra fabric between each roll can be bulky and overwhelm smaller windows. Because of this, designers usually recommend hanging hobbled or soft Roman shades over windows with deep sills.

Classic or Flat Fold Roman Shades

classic or flat fold roman shades are classic and contemporary
The Roman shades chosen for the kitchen of our Mountain Lane Show House were crafted from Perennials’ Tribal Trellis fabric in Nickel. This acrylic performance fabric was also chosen for the living room pillows.
The shades chosen for Ryan’s bedroom were custom-made from Perennials’ Jake Stripe fabric in Shell.

By contrast, flat fold Roman shades are seamless and most closely resemble roller shades. Because these Roman shades feature a single seamless piece of fabric rather than a series of sewn pleats, they are best for large-scale prints. They usually offer a clean and classic look. However, flat Roman shades can occasionally clump, tilt or shift because the folds are not permanently sewn in place.

Unlike hobbled Roman shades, flat fold Roman shades are perfect for French doors and shallow windows. Most of the shades chosen for our Mountain Lane Show House are flat folded to maintain a sleek, sophisticated look throughout the home.

Plain Fold or Pleated Roman Shades

Pleated or plain fold Roman shades are kind of like a cross between hobbled and flat fold Roman shades. Seamed every few inches, plain fold Roman shades do not bunch unevenly like flat fold Roman shades. Unlike hobbled shades, they do not overwhelm small shallow windows with rolls of extra fabric.

In this way, plain fold or pleated Roman shades are the best of both worlds. We love the plain fold style of Roman shades when working with monochromatic or color-blocked fabrics because the pleats add much-needed visual interest.

European or Relaxed Roman Shades

Somewhat uncommon in 2022, relaxed Roman shades form a slouchy U-shape at the base. You might find relaxed Roman shades in casual settings like kitchens, breakfast nooks and bathrooms.

London or Scalloped Roman Shades

London or scalloped shades resemble both balloon shades and relaxed Roman shades. Both London and relaxed Roman shades slouch in the center. However, London shades have a draw on either side that causes the fabric to bunch on the left and right. London shades are sometimes called “tulip” shades because of the scalloped shape they create along the bottom when drawn.

Balloon Roman Shades

Like London shades, balloon shades are corded. Rather than a draw on either side of the shade, balloon shades feature many pleats. Each pleat curves at the bottom in a U-shape. Balloon shades can be either carefully tailored or casually bunched. This is considered a traditional, somewhat old-fashioned style of folding Roman shades.


When to Choose Roman Shades vs Drapes for Window Treatments

choose drapes over roman shades when dressing large windows
For the primary bedroom of the Mountain Lane Show House, we chose this lustrous Sheen Queen fabric in Seal from Perennials.

Because of the many fold styles available, Roman shades are suitable for bay windows, casement windows, French doors and more. Roman shades are ideal for oddly shaped windows and those in hard-to-reach areas of the home. When mounted inside the window frame, Roman shades show off decorative molding. When one mounts Roman shades outside the frame, they add visual impact an otherwise uninteresting window.

Though Roman shades are incredibly versatile, there are a few situations in which we would typically recommend drapes or roller shades. For example, floor-to-ceiling windows in modern interiors might be better served by sleek roller shades. Conversely, long drapes might be more appropriate for windows in rooms with low ceilings.

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you can use Roman shades in these situations if you pick the proper fold style
In the mudroom of the Mountain Lane Show House, we chose Kufri’s Cusco Stripe in Black. For the bay window in Liv’s bedroom, the LUDC team chose Rough Outline fabric in Blanca from Perennials.

Of course, you can still use Roman shades in these situations if the proper fold style and fabric is chosen. For the bay windows in Liv’s bedroom, our team chose flat folded Roman shades in a zigzag pinstriped fabric from Perennials. The vertical stripes of Perennials’ Rough Outline fabric in Blanca trick the eye, making each window appear longer than it actually is. To further elongate the window, follow advice from New Canaan designer Michelle Morgan Harrison. Quoted by Michelle Higgins in an article for The New York Times, Harrison recommends ​​mounting Roman shades “at least six inches above the casing.” This way, the shade visually extends the top of the window frame. Better yet, “when the shade is up it doesn’t block the light.”

In the mudroom, we took a similar approach – but for a different effect. To create the illusion of a wider window, we opted for the horizontal Cusco Stripe fabric in Black from Kufri. Horizontal stripes are especially stunning in a flat fold Roman shade because the folds line up beautifully with the stripes.

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When choosing fabric for custom Roman shades, be sure to consider various weights, textures and patterns. In his article “Design Tips: When to Use Roman Shades” for Architectural Digest, Tim McKeough explains. Quoting window treatment expert Abby Rodriguez, McKeough writes that “‘light and medium-weight materials are fine’” for any fold style of Roman shade. However, designers and homeowners alike should “‘avoid very heavily embellished fabrics or those that are just too rigid.’” This is because too much ornamentation and/or stiffness can affect the way the fabric folds. 

Rodriguez explains that “‘you want the folds to lie nicely one on top of the other.'” The thicker and stiffer a fabric is, “‘the harder that is to achieve.’” To ensure the fabrics you love are well-suited to Roman shades, Rodriguez recommends folding each fabric a few times. This way, you can see how each “‘reacts to being molded.'” Fabrics that puff up and refuse to lay flat probably are not the right choice for a sleek Roman shade. 

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About Perennials

Laura selecting fabrics at Perennials.
Laura selecting fabrics at Perennials for the Mountain Lane Show House.

Perennials is the leader in the high-performance textile industry making them the perfect partner for the Mountain Lane Show House. Since the company’s debut in 1997, they have been recognized as a designer’s dream fabric for contract and residential applications, transforming gardens, pools, yachts, and casual living areas into enchanting spaces. Year after year, Perennials debuts designs in 100% Solution-Dyed Acrylic that are remarkable for the luxury they bring to fabric suitable for outdoors and perfect for luxurious, carefree indoor spaces. These include designs and designer collections inspired by nature, art and cultures from around the world in prints, wovens, jacquards, velvets and more. 


A leader in the handloom weaving, KURFI textiles are loved for their earthy hues, imperfectly perfect textures and sublime artisanry. Designed in Dallas and handwoven in India, their textiles are unique, genuine and inspiring, like the people that make them, and the people that use them. Specializing in wallcoverings and textiles, Laura was thrilled to use KURFI in her new home. 

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