There's no shortage of choices in window shades! They run the gamut from no-frills, ready-made vinyl roller shades that sell for only a few dollars to handwoven, motorized Roman shades costing thousands of dollars. Although traditional shades that draw up or roll up in tidy or billowing folds are still very popular, high-tech styles continue to make inroads. These newer shades include types with an insulating honeycomb design, and ones made of sheers with fabric slats between that tilt like horizontal blinds.
Function is important in choosing a shade. Consider whether the shade is suitable for the window type and size. Decide whether you want filtered sun, a clear view, privacy, or room darkening, then test the fabric (ask for swatches) to see if it serves your purpose. For energy conservation, pick a shade that covers the entire window surface snugly with no gaps. If you need a shade that's wider than standard for that particular product and the supplier suggests overlapping or seaming, ask to see a sample before you purchase.
A shade should be neatly finished, with no frayed edges. If the shade is unlined, consider how it will look from the street. Be sure the operating mechanism works smoothly: the shade should remain level when you raise and lower it, and it should stay where you stop it. Various mechanisms include standard cords, continuous or looped cords, beaded chains, and battery-operated remote controls. For a shade positioned over a stairwell or other hard-to-reach area, a telescoping pole will allow you to hook onto the cord or onto a ring attached to the end of the cord and pull; automated operation is a costlier alternative.
Inquire about the warranty for a quality shade. Some professionally in-stalled shades are guaranteed to be free from defects for as long as you own them.
Pleated shades. Most draw up in 1-inch pleats, though larger and smaller sizes are also sold. Typically all-polyester, the shades come in many colors, textures, and fabric styles, including lace, antique satin, and faux marble. Some designs cater to kids.
Light options range from sheer to opaque. Some shades have two separate fabrics, one translucent and one opaque, with separate pull cords on the same shade so you can switch between the two. Other shades have a thin metallic backing to reflect damaging sunlight.
Attached to a metal headrail, pleated shades are usually pulled by a cord into a compact stack at the top of the window. For special situations, you can get shades that stack at the bottom or unfold from both the top and the bottom to meet in the middle. For side-by-side windows or sliding patio doors, more than one shade can be attached to the headrail and operated independently. Shades can also be custom-fitted to odd-shaped windows such as semicircles and angle-tops as well as skylights; for the latter, the shade runs on tracks and is crank-operated or motorized.