Roman shade guide; the inexpensive readymade and the “worth it”

Snookie is a mother. “Friday Night Lights” is not coming back. Roman shades are expensive. These are all universal truths we just have to accept as a person in this world, and it’s hard. Why, oh why are roman shades so flipping expensive you ask? Yeah, I’ve asked that question a million times and the answer is always this:

“To make a roman shade precisely and long-lasting, pull after pull for years, is VERY detail oriented and labor intensive” … and therefore expensive.

Once you accept that fact, life gets way easier, your daily stress level will go down, and you’ll save a lot of money on your psychiatrist’s bill because like me I’m sure you are sitting in your shrink’s office shaking your head and mumbling ‘Why, Doc, oh why are roman shades so expensive? WHY?”


But the thing is that Roman shades are kinda the best because they are modern and sophisticated and super functional. They keep the room feeling light. So here are your options:

1. Ready-made Roman shades from big box stores or online. I highly recommend that you don’t order from somewhere random because you’ll have no recourse for returning if and when they break. Because with Roman shades, you get what you pay for and often the cheaper ones break with a lot of use. BUT at the same time, sometimes buying that $70 shade makes you happy for the two years it lasts, so it might be worth the purchase even if it’s not going to last forever.

1. Bed Bath and Beyond. Even the picture kinda looks shoddy, but they could be good in person. I haven’t tried them, but the good news is that BBB has a very flexible return policy so if it looks not so awesome or breaks quickly, at least you can return it. Meanwhile, you’ll have only spent $49 – $99 so that’s not a crazy investment and might be a good risk if that’s within your budget. But I wouldn’t use them anywhere “high use.” For instance, in my office I pull the shades up in the morning, down at 3pm when the sun is blaring, up after sunset, and down for night time. That’s a lot of use. So if these were cheap, they would break pretty quickly unless you are a very ginger puller.

2. JCPenny. Again, I haven’t purchased these myself, but they are a very inexpensive ready-made option with the return option. They range from $30 – $55. This is a pretty good option for a bathroom or a window that won’t have a ton of use. Think guest room or kitchen — somewhere where it is normally up or down because at this price I can’t imagine it will last for seven years.

3 and 4. Pottery Barn Kids. I used these at the lake house and they are pretty great. They have blackout lining so that’s awesome, and are mid-range in price ($149 – $229) with lots of fabric options. I liked these when I used them AND if they break you can take them back to Pottery Barn. I would think they would at least replace them for you.

5. West Elm. It looks like these guys might be final sale, but they look good anyway. Get ‘em while they are hot, $79.99 for now.

6. Country Curtains.  I’ve used these now for three clients. I like them. They are a good, simple mid-range option. They aren’t super beautiful, but they’re functional and quiet. Out of the 13 that I’ve ordered, we’ve only had to send back one of them to be replaced, and they replaced them pretty quickly. They range from $69 – $199. The main bummer is that the white is the only good color option — the other two are sage and brown. But for white ones, I do recommend them.

So the next option you have is custom Roman shades, which will start to run you about $300 – $1,000 a piece. Yes, that is a pretty 14-carat gold penny. But custom anything is expensive, and again, you get what you pay for. My philosophy is if you are going to go custom, go with a company that is reputable, has great custom service, and is lifetime guaranteed. You might have some local decorator resource in your town that can come out, measure, and advise you, which I highly recommend. For my office I went with The Shade Store, and I was very happy with them. They had a ton of beautiful fabrics to choose from, tons of options to choose from, and it came fast and was super easy to install.

I chose the box valance at the top to make them look more high end. I chose an outside mount so it didn’t block any of the window and instead make the windows look even taller. I chose flat panel so when they are down they are totally flat, which looks more modern, less traditional than one that is pleated.

So below are all the different popular styles you can choose from:

1. Aventura Roman Shade. I like these, I do. They kinda have a Japanese feel to them. The horizontal stripes add texture, just make sure your room can handle that extra busy-ness.

2. Pleated Roman Shade. I love these for a more traditional look. I used these in a client’s house, and they look beautiful, elegant, and romantic, but not dowdy — if you keep the fabric more modern and simple. AKA, a frilly pattern in these shades can go more grandma, so stick to a simple linen or raw silk.

3. Cascade Roman Shade. This style is a mix between the Aventura and the flat panel, which a softer horizontal seam.

4. Flat Panel Roman Shade. This is the most modern and simple. I prefer these as outside mounts so they don’t disappear so much at the top of the window. Instead, they make a statement above the top of the window. Otherwise, it’s too simple for the amount of money you’ll pay. If you go custom, stay away from anything that looks too ready-made.

5. Relaxed Roman Shade. For the romantic or the Tuscan villa.

6. Tulip Roman Shade. Can be so cute in a girl’s bedroom or pretty powder room, but it’s definitely not for the bachelor pad.  I want it for my cabin in South Carolina, in navy linen. And just because it’s frilly doesn’t mean it’s old fashioned.

Now before you get all “what about Etsy” on me, I’ll just say that I’ve ordered from Etsy twice and both times I’ve been kinda unsatisfied with what I got. One time I had to get rid of the shades and eat the cost of the fabric ($140), although I got the cost of the labor returned to me. The lines weren’t straight and the seams were crooked. If you have your own fabric and it’s a pattern and it’s for yourself on a window you don’t use that much, then it might be OK and a good way to save money. But if you want a standard fabric, it’s for a client, on a high use window, then know you’re taking a risk.

I would LOVE some Etsy recommendations, though. If there is an Etsy company that is selling good quality Romans at a reasonable cost, then please tell me, I’d love to know. Until then I’m going with a lifetime guarantee like The Shade Store or ready-made for my less important rooms.

Ultimately, here is my Roman shade philosophy: Pay for what you can afford. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that $500 a shade is where you should splurge in your life. Don’t save up five years to get Roman shades in your family room; it’s simply not a very sexy $2,000 purchase. But I will say that if that’s what you can afford, then it will be worth it and you won’t regret it.  Don’t pay for it you can’t afford it, but do if you can. Sounds obvious, I know, but it’s the only way it really makes sense.

Any and all Roman recommendations are welcome. I can only vouch for what I’ve used before, but I’m sure the world would be grateful for even more secrets, resources, and tips. Let ‘er rip.

  1. Hey Emily,

    When would you use a roman shade vs using drapes?? Do you find that a roman shade breaks up the room more? Makes the room appear smaller?

    x Bianca

  2. Trista

    The first four sentences of this post made me laugh out loud. Then when I realized I'll never see Tim Riggins again, my heart broke a bit. Thanks for the bittersweet moment. :)

  3. This is so comprehensive and fabulous. Thank you! Seriously. xo

  4. patty blaettler

    I am turning my son's bedroom into a guestroom. I would buy those Harper Shades so fast it would make your head spin if those stripes were black. But they appear to be navy. Oddly, there is no color description or option listed. hmmm. What to do?
    p.s. I am and always have been a big user of roman shades. They pretty much always look good.

  5. Taryn

    I neeeeed a matchstick/grass cloth/natural weave roman shade for a 12 foot window. And I don't want to spend much! Where!?!

  6. Nancy

    Great post on Romans. Ive had custom shades made at $100-400 ( labor) and the added costs are when you exchange the cord for the more automated versions of plastic continuous cord loops ( very easy to use) but cordless is more and more appealing. My cats are crazy about the dangling strings!
    xo Nancy

  7. Leslie

    Thanks so much for this. I feel so cheap sometimes, but window coverings are so expensive! I would love a good Etsy custom recommendation from your readers, because my daughter and I found fabric we both like to make shades, and I need to strike before she changes her mind!

  8. Rose

    Thanks! For a year now I have been thinking about making a proposition to my landlord to go halve-sies with me, to replace the awful vinyl horizontal blinds all throughout the 1930s cottage I rent. It would be such an improvement, but I wonder for a rental if it's a good idea? I had settled on JC Penny because that's within my budget for 11 windows, but glad to have the other recommendations : )

  9. Kay

    I could really use a recommendation for pre-made roman shades that can be cut down in width. My windows are all weird sizes!

  10. Amy L

    We purchased custom sized bamboo roman shades from JC penny. Took 7 weeks to get them, but they are very nice. We use (up in the morning, down in the evening) them everyday and they hold up great.

  11. Man, I'd love new window treatments, but I'm still in the camp of "$50/each is expensive". So we stick with the ugly things the previous owners put up and pray for a magical windfall.

  12. Julia R

    Why you so funny for? Love reading your posts! :)

  13. We have the JC Penney cheap option and they're great. Granted they haven't even been up a year yet but have gotten tons of use and don't seem shoddy in person at all.

  14. Sally

    I made my own roman shades for my living room, a total of four windows. I did it the real-est way I could manage, not using pre-made shades and attaching fabric. I will tell you what, those fancy-ass shades are worth every penny. It took me nearly a month of evenings and weekends to do each one. The last one I had to take apart and put back together like four times and I nearly ripped them all down and burned the fabric, they were so hard to get straight and nice. I love them, but I would also totally pay $2000 to never do that again.

  15. Dina

    Would you share where that fantastic light fixture in your office is from?

  16. Rachel Dorsey

    I'm loving the way you mounted your shades high. They look amazing!

    I went with Etsy for Roman shades, and yes, the quality isn't great but the labor was $65 and I supplied a curtain panel from z gallerie as the fabric. Really cheap way to have a custom look of coordinating panels and shades in two adjoining rooms.

  17. Laura

    OMG where did that wonderful ceiling pendant come from?!!

  18. I have roman shades from JC Penney in my sitting room and my son's bedroom. They have been there for almost 10 years and have held up great! I chose a really simple shade for my son's room and he is definitely NOT gentle with them. He's had them since he was 5 years old but he does not lower and raise them every day. The one I chose for my sitting room has been discontinued but they had two different fabrics in one shade; a sheer and an opaque. I LOVE these. If I (or my clients) can't afford custom curtains (or expensive ready-mades) JC Penney is always the first place I look next because they have such a variety of styles and most of the products are good quality. They also have a great return policy.

    Have you tried Smith & Noble? I love their catalog and their web site but I ave not tried to order roman shades from them yet.

    Thanks for the great post. Very informative. It would definitely help me explain roman shades to some of my clients.

  19. Gwen

    I agree. If you pay peanuts…

  20. Thank you, thank you for this post. I taught myself over ten years ago how to make them and through trial and error I am finally VERY good at sewing them and having them look amazing. Now that I know what I'm doing I can safely say these are difficult, require precise math, perfect measuring with the right tools, etc. And yet so many friends ask me to teach them so I wrote a blog post that I can refer them to and wash my hands of that tricky situation. So be honest with yourself and your skills before attempting such a project. If you are brave and don't care how crappy they turn out, go ahead and make them. And by the time you make 5 more shades you'll start to begin to know what you're doing and they'll look halfway decent. Or just pay the money–this is the smarter decision.

  21. Debbie

    Just FYI my Shade Store Roman shade broke after a year. The threading came undone so it is all uneven.

    I don't think much of the company anymore. I think they spend all their money on catalogs and not product.

  22. Cathy

    Great post Emily! Thanks for the ideas and advice. Custom window treatments are expensive, but you're right – totally worth it if you can afford it!

  23. Karen

    I actually have the J.C. Penney ones and have been pleased. They looked and worked awesome in my previous apartment. They got a little creased when we moved (the kind of creases that will never come out since they're cheap material) but I still have 1 hanging in my office and one in hubby's. They don't look as nice as they used to, but still do the job. I've been toying with the idea of using them as a base and adding a new fabric on top to refresh them. Definitely got my money's worth on them and would recommend for budget roman shades.

  24. Emily

    I have a question about outside mounting a flat panel Roman shade. I have a Victorian era home with pretty, decorative, wood casing at the top. Should I still do outside mounting, even though it will cover up the woodwork? I'd love any help from designers! I'm a wardrobe stylist, so I'd like to think I have good taste, but I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to decorating my home!


  25. Michelle

    Great post Emily. Just wanted to say we purchased drapes from JC Penny's a few years back and they have held up nicely – pinch pleat, cotton blend. Then, we went with Smith and Noble for blinds (several, custom). The blind that gets daily use has a broken pull string and the loopy things that direct the string are falling out. Pretty crappy for the price. We were surprised.
    On another note, could you do a post on covering options for a sliding door? That would be super helpful. Love your blog!

  26. Alicia

    Restoration Hardware partnered up with The Shade Store and now sell Roman Shades through their catalog/website, pretty good pricing as the cut a deal
    With them to sell. Nice fabric options (no patterns) but good neutrals and very good quality fabrics.

    Would recommend reading up on how to measure properly or hire an designers assistant/installer to measure for you so you get it right!

    I think there are 3 different styles, frequently on sale as well! You can order fabric Swatches at no charge on RHs website :)

  27. Mrs. B.

    I would be wary of PBK for something that could break, their customer service is atrocious. Twice for me.

  28. I just ordered some roman shades from Restoration Hardware Baby and Child and they are fantastic! We have only had them a few months, but they are in my son's room and get used multiple times a day. They roll up beautifully and appear very durable. The prices were fantastic, right around $200, because when you order from RH Baby and Child, they only have four preset sizes, no custom. It cut down on the cost alot if you have normally sized windows.

    I would high recommend!

  29. jahid alam

    So beautiful and brilliant idea.It is a very innovative concept in which a window can work as a door also with the help of shades.
    It prevents the extra sunlight causing glaring problem.There is a variety of shades available in the market so a buyer is free to pick and choose the color and design of their own.

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  31. Thx for this post
    Great post this post is so benefitfull for me now i know which blind is good for my home

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  34. Good views added to add elegance to your home with good design styles to your room at cheap rates in the above discription. They are durable, eco-friendly & safe to use. also you can do it through online process and order them at special prices.

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