Roman Shades Give Old House A Rich Look

It was a 150-year-old farmhouse and we were lucky to get it. The house had been well cared for, but nonetheless was showing its age. It had been more than a quarter of a century since it had been remodelled. The thing that struck us most about the two-story stone and frame structure was that it was so much different than the modern homes in a subdivision that had sprung up nearby. This house had tremendous character.

I am not a decorator and will be the first to admit it. Personally, I didn’t see what was wrong with putting an orange bean bag chair in the living room. I guess it was something about traditional styling and an emphasis on forest green. My wife is only marginally better at home decorating than me, but she emphatically threw out the bean bag.

Fortunately, we have a family friend who is a near genius with decorating ideas. She can pluck items out of the trash and put them together in such a way that Better Homes And Gardens would include them in a pictorial feature layout. Home décor is a hobby for her and she jumped at the chance to take on the challenge of our new old house. I asked her about the bean bag and got only a chilly stare in response.

Our goal was to decorate the house a little differently. We wanted to reflect its character. We wanted the house to be just a little different. We wanted it different, but not too different. We weren’t to the point of Japanese screens and seating ourselves with pillows on the floor. We called on our friend to help out.

When our friend got to the dining room, she suggested Roman blinds, also called roman shades. She ticked off the reasons.

+ First, they were classy and different. The fabric of the shades could be made from the same material as the table cloth and would go well with our antique dining room set.

+ Second, the dining room of the old house had non-standard sized windows. After measuring them she announced it would be hard to find curtains or blinds to fit them. Blinds, curtains or shutters would have to be custom made.

+ Third, the house has beautiful native oak woodwork. We had just finished stripping layers of paint accumulated over the past century. The wood had been conditioned, sealed and finished. It had beautiful graining. We didn’t want to cover it up with curtains or drapes.

+ Finally, she could make them and save us some money. She is very talented at making curtains and shades.

Those reasons sounded good to me. Especially the last one. When you take on the project of buying and restoring an old house, saving money becomes a real test.

A Description of Roman Shades

A roman shade is a rectangle of fabric that can be lowered at will. It rises in even folds. These folds are created by a system of rings, cords and horizontal battens. When the shade is lowered completely down it is a flat panel, although some styles have slight folds at each batten. The shade hangs from a board attached to the top of the window frame and hangs within the window framework. This board can also be fastened to the wall above the window, if so desired.

Our friend chose to line the panels of our shades. She did this to provide some additional insulation for the windows. The bitter winter winds, known to sweep across the fields and forests in our part of the world, rattles the windows and draws heat from even the best built homes. Lined shades were just one more barrier to help maintain interior temperatures.

Where You Might Use Them

Roman shades can be used in almost any room where you might consider mini blinds or some other type of shade or blind. They can be made from almost any fabric and either be lined or unlined. As sheers, they can be used in combination with drapes to give a formal dining room and special touch of grace. In a bedroom they are excellent for room darkening and privacy.

Our friend was able to make the shades for our dining room windows. They hung in folds about eight inches wide, which are about as wide as you would want. Although I did not previously know what roman shades were, I found out there were dozens of patterns available for making them. As a courtesy, I suppose, I was asked for my thoughts on which pattern to choose. (My suggestion was promptly discarded. I think it landed next to the bean bag.)

Anyone with a sewing machine and a little talent can make their own roman shades. Home decorating books, magazines and websites have patterns available, as do sewing supply centres. Talent with a sewing machine is not required, of course. There are also a number of stores and e-stores that have these shades for sale in either standard or custom sizes and in your choice of fabrics and colours.

When our friend got done with decorating the dining room and hanging her shade creations, the effect was just what we wanted. The room had a rich feel to it that went perfectly with the styling of the old house and the furniture we placed in it. The roman blinds were eye catching and different without being strange or out of place. First-time visitors always stopped for a second look and complimented them, which nice.

In the meantime, I hid the bean bag chair in the old barn. I have to admit that it didn’t go with the current home décor, but you never know…

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