Compared to a set of custom Roman shades or drapes, plain roller shades are the steal of the century—a few hundred bucks versus a few thousand, easily—and they beat out café curtains and slatted blinds for looks by a mile. But the turn-offs are real, too: that mechanical roller, sticking out like a store thumb; the plastic-y fabric you wish were more like actual linen; sterile colors and bad patterns only, apparently. It’s hard to decide if they’ll look frumpish or nice (or how to steer them towards the latter) but somehow, designers manage it. So we called on Kevin Greenberg, principal at Space Exploration design, for his best tricks of the trade when employing roller shades, starting with when to use them at all: “We use roller shades in our projects with modern or contemporary detailing because of their clean, discreet look,” he says. “They’re an especially good complement to windows that have deep jambs, and in situations where windows are detailed without trims or casings.”
Mount them inside the jamb
Greenberg always requests that the blinds are installed “within the jamb, rather than mounted to the wall above the window.” It’s a far more discreet, streamlined look—like they’re actually supposed to go there rather than having been tacked on by a novice with a hammer.
Disguise the mechanism
Greenberg points out that when you’re shopping for roller shades, you’ll likely notice an option for an “integrated valence,” which is basically a metal or upholstered box at the top that hides the roller. While these are useful—he suggests matching them to the color of the shade, to “at least conceal the shade and its mechanism from view—an even better option is to have a custom valence built to look like the surrounding wall.
“When we can, we’ll call for an integrated valence to be built flush with the surrounding walls so the roller shades are completed concealed when not in use,” he says. “In ideal situations (usually only if we are designing a house from scratch), we’ll detail a dedicated shade pocket above the window, flush with the surrounding wall.”
Choose a “reverse” roll
If you can’t manage a valance box, at least choose for the shade to come down over the front of the roller, mostly obscuring it, rather than from underneath, which will make it more pronounced.
Select the right transparency
Not all roller shades are created equal—in terms of opacity at least. “When we are helping clients choose roller shades, we make sure to show them a range of opacities, usually in the three to ten percent range,” Greenberg says. If you’re not working with a designer, swing by the store to see the options for yourself—blackout might be best for a kids’ room, but otherwise you’re probably opting for a glowy, diffused effect. “It’s important to understand the different levels of light transmission that these shades allow and what that means for privacy and for filtering the view beyond the window.”
Pick a good color
“Some people think this decision is mostly about how the shades themselves will complement the color scheme of the room when they are in use, but it’s also very important to consider how the color of the shade will impact the color of the light filtering through it,” says Greenberg, which will affect how you see other objects in the room. As always, white is not just white; it can be tinged with gold or clean and blue. Try both (ask for samples!) before you spring for one.
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