What is the Best Fabric for Roman Shades?

While floor-to-ceiling drapery is a beautiful way to frame the picture window in your great room or the French doors in your master suite, you know this isn’t your only option when choosing window treatments. In fact, you’ve come to the (very wise) conclusion that with their simplicity, function, and elegance, Roman shades will play a valuable role in your home’s design. As an interior designer, I applaud you on this smart choice! But within that decision resides another looming decision you will need to make: What is the best fabric for Roman shades?

Ironically enough, the answer lies beyond this next question.

What is a Roman Shade?

Before you start sifting through fabric swatches, you need to understand the function and features of a Roman shade. Not surprisingly, the Roman shade was created by Romans…well, sort of.

The original iterations were used in public amphitheaters and arenas throughout ancient Rome, most notably the Colosseum. During an event, a large swath of cloth would be drawn over the crowd to help protect them from the scorching midday sun. In truth, only the wealthiest spectators were treated to this manmade shade. Nevertheless, it was an effective solution that sparked something even more significant.

You see, it wasn’t the piece of fabric itself that inspired an idea. Instead, it was the pulley system. The Romans used a brilliant combination of ropes and pulleys to extend and retract the Colosseum’s shade. This draw-string functionality is what, eventually, led to the creation of Roman shades as we know them today.  (And irony of ironies—despite these roots in ancient history, Roman shades have got a distinctly modern vibe.)

A master bedroom feels expansive with white walls, neutral bedding and off-white Roman shades
Roman shades are the perfect fit for these two small windows, flanking the master bed.

The Function of Roman Shades:

Roman shades draw open and close to either block or expose your home to gushing rays of sun. Their other main function, of course, is to add style to your home. Roman shades are ideal for decorating small spaces or covering small windows, because they won’t take away from other elements in the room.

Take a window with crown molding, for instance. A Roman shade can be mounted inside the window frame, allowing you to shade the room with the molding still completely unobstructed.

A Roman shade is mounted inside to accentuate the molding and craftmanship of this cool-blue rec room.
This Jute, 100% linen Roman shade lets the layered window molding shape the vintage vibe of this rec room.

What is the Best Fabric for Roman Shades?

In order for a fabric to harmonize with the functionality of a Roman shade, it must have two distinctive characteristics.

The 2 Most Important Components of Roman Shade Fabrics:

  1. Weight Unlike drapery, Roman shades are not designed to blow in the breeze. They are cut to fit your windows and hug them tightly, making sure the sun doesn’t sneak through. For Roman shades to stay put, however, the fabric must have some weight to it. Sheer fabrics, for example, are considered much too light for Roman shades. On the other hand, velvet and damask would be too heavy. Think about opening and closing your shades every day. Do you really want to be tugging on a thick slab of velvet? Also note, any floral pattern that has been embroidered will not translate well into a Roman shade.  
  1. Structure – Structure is an innate quality that certain fabrics have and others do not. It’s created by a combination of thickness and stiffness. Most organic fibers naturally have the right stiffness for creating Roman shades. That being said, part of a Roman shade’s structure comes from the lining. You can choose a blackout lining if you want the utmost darkness, or a privacy lining that’s less thick but allows for some light to filter in.
A white-walled nursery has white Roman shades to keep your focus on the blue floral ceiling paper.
When decorating a nursery, choose a blackout lining to keep the room dark for nap time.

With those components in mind, it makes sense that the best fabrics for Roman shades are:

  • 100% linen
  • Linen blends

Why these work:

The main reason linen and linen blends are the best fabrics for Roman shades has to do with the weight and structure they provide.

The other great thing about linen is that it can be transformed into a variety of colors and textures to suit almost any design style.

Honorable Mentions

  • 100% cotton – Cotton is considered a medium-weight fabric, which is ideal for this type of window treatment.
  • 100% rayon – If you have your heart set on a synthetic fiber, choose 100% rayon. It’s a thinner thread than cotton, so it will definitely need a liner to help support it as a Roman shade.
Light, linen Roman shades let the blue-striped rug and patterned pillows pop in this play room.
While these Roman shades are clearly heavier than the drapes, they don’t weigh down the design.

Source Quality Fabrics

Everhem’s linen fabrics are sourced from around the world with quality and durability top-of-mind. As a result, our selection of linen fabrics runs the gamut of light-to-medium-weight. Whether you’re looking for a classic Roman shade or relaxed style, our linens are up to the task.

Need help picking out the right fabric for your room? Reach out to us at hello@everhem.com for design advice and inspiration.