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Best Window Shades of 2020

Installing window shades for testing in Boulder  CO.
By Evan Johnson ⋅ Review Editor
Friday August 7, 2020
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Seeking the best window shades to add comfort, privacy, or insulation? We researched the 2020 market before purchasing and testing 7 popular models across key categories to see how they stacked up. Our team of experts came up with a rigorous performance assessment regimen to compare all models equally across the same metrics. Testing included installing each model on multiple window frames, rolling and unrolling shades countless times, and assessing their expected longevity. Read through our review to find out which shades are incredible light blockers, the best for tight budgets, and which ones surprised us with stylish designs and silky smooth operation.

1

Best Overall Window Shades


Achim Honeycomb Pleated Cordless


Editors' Choice Award
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$31.38
(43% off)
at Amazon
See It

Install time: 15 minutes | Type: Pleated shade
Double-wall honeycomb construction
Quality fabric material
Smooth adjustments
Great balance of privacy and light filtering
Looks great when internally mounted
Exposed pulley mechanism on the top
Doesn't look as good when externally mounted

Add maximum style to your room with our favorite shades among our test fleet, the Achim Home Furnishings Pleated Cordless. They retract with a smooth, satisfying feel that appears built to last frequent and long-term operation. Install is a snap and adjustable to many different window styles. The honeycomb design with two layers means great privacy from the outside looking in, a nice finished look, and excellent thermal and sound insulation (from the construction next door going on during our testing period). Letting light through, these can make a room still vibrant on a sunny day, but they'll block a bit more than the single-layer models tested.

Although the recoil action feels solid, an exposed top mechanism could lead to debris or dust buildup slowing things down - likely only in situations where you're externally mounting these outside a window frame. Even so, the Achim shades take the top tier for style, aesthetic finish, and maximum privacy. Go for these if you want a quality shade that hides all the tricks.

The cordless Achim shades turned out to be the favorite among our testers. Its smooth operation and the double layer of material make it easy to use and capable of providing privacy without blacking out the room.
The cordless Achim shades turned out to be the favorite among our testers. Its smooth operation and the double layer of material make it easy to use and capable of providing privacy without blacking out the room.

2

Best Bang for Your Buck


Redi Shade Easy Lift Trim-at-Home Cordless Pleated


Best Buy Award
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$21.57
at Amazon
See It

Install time: 5 minutes | Type: Pleated single layer
Peel and stick install
Quality feel and high-end look without the lofty price
Easy cut to fit
Questionable longevity
Single layer filtering

Want the next step up on the peel and stick game plan without spending a lot? Check out the Easy Lift Tirim-at-Home Cordless Pleated Shades. Install is a simple process of cutting through a few layers with a sharp knife and handy (included) cutting guide. After you've cut to fit, just peel and stick the strong foam adhesive wherever you desire shades. The unique design of the retracting mechanism in the bottom housing allows for an ergonomic grab spot to lower or raise them. This product is a great example of getting the job done and looking the part but simply costing a bit less than its competition.

It's a single layer of thin paper, so the light filtering is nice, but a little brighter on the white option. The paper material is less durable than other materials and can stain more easily, too. While a quick and easy install, you do potentially lose a little on the longevity. We're just not sure that the adhesive could outlast some well-placed screws and brackets. Still, we are huge fans for the balanced and clean feel. This model is an aesthetically and financially pleasing solution to your window shades needs.

Measure  cut  and stick this couldn't-be-easier window shade exactly where you want it. The included cutting guide helps ensure you cut a straight line.
Measure, cut, and stick this couldn't-be-easier window shade exactly where you want it. The included cutting guide helps ensure you cut a straight line.

3

Best Roller Shades


Chicology Cordless Roller Shade Snap-N'-Glide


Top Pick Award
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$39.99
at Amazon
See It

Install time: 15 minutes | Type: Roller shade
Ultimate privacy
Super easy to clean
Adjustment is smooth as butter
Install requires higher level of detail
Not ideal for airflow

Rollers from Chicology Cordless Snap-N'-Glide Roller Shades offer maximum privacy with that classic simple, modern look. Pull them down and you're blocking peeping eyes and providing a surface that doesn't clash with other interior design choices. They're easy to hang and feel smooth as butter when unfurled at the end of a long day. The mechanism feels really nice to operate and will likely last a long time.

Install takes a bit more perfection to line everything up and we always recommend using n accurate bubble level to ensure brackets that are mounted externally on a well are plumb. Once on the wall, though, we're confident you'll enjoy the quality and privacy these provide for any room of the house. Whether viewed from the inside or the outside, they look proper, and they clean easily when required. If privacy is your main goal, these roller shades are the easy choice.

Our favorite roller option is from Chicology  which offers smooth operation. Interestingly  despite "Cordless" being in the product title  this model has a pull cord. It can slide horizontally so you can position it where you'd like  but this model is not truly cordless.
Our favorite roller option is from Chicology, which offers smooth operation. Interestingly, despite "Cordless" being in the product title, this model has a pull cord. It can slide horizontally so you can position it where you'd like, but this model is not truly cordless.

4

Best Bamboo Shades


ALEKO Roman Bamboo Roll Up


Top Pick Award
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$34
List Price
See It

Install time: 10 minutes | Type: Bamboo roller
Wooden blinds offer a golden glow of filtered light
Can install with no tools
Big style
Mounting and pulleys aren't hidden
Not intended for outdoor use or humid and wet conditions

Wooden shades give a fantastic glow that's warming and classy. If that's your goal, go with ALEKO Bamboo Roman Wooden Roll Up. They install with no tools needed, although you can use a drill if you'd like to. Screw in the hooks, hang the shades, and roll it on down to fancy town. The screws are shaped so you probably don't need to drill pilot holes, although they're always recommended to save your nice finished walls and window frames. These bamboo roll up shades add privacy and let in just enough light to balance the mood.

You're stuck without a valance to hide the hooks, but we found the look simple and honest. These are untreated wood, and could quite possibly degrade in humid or outdoor conditions, so stick to inside windows and entry doors. Intricate woven thread connecting the slats may not fair well in outdoor conditions either, but the look is hard to match. ALEKO Bamboo Roman Wooden Roll Up is the best option to deck out a room with a classic bohemian vibe.

Installing the ALEKO bamboo shades doesn't require any tools  as the included screws are easy to insert by hand into soft woods.
Installing the ALEKO bamboo shades doesn't require any tools, as the included screws are easy to insert by hand into soft woods.

5

Solid Roman Shade Option


Chicology Cordless Magnetic Roman Shades


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$27.67
(36% off)
at Amazon
See It

Install time: 20 minutes | Type: Roman shades
Lots of filtered light
Classy look
Super easy magnetic adjustment
Less privacy
Mounting is fiddly

Roman shades are a great look and uniquely different from the main go-to choices you see everywhere. Testing Chicology Cordless Magnetic Roman Shades, they look fantastic and the operation is pretty simple. All you have to do is move them to where you want them and the magnets keep it in place. Even through strong winds, they allowed airflow and the magnets stayed put. We are very impressed by the simplicity and soft warm feel they add to a room.

If you're keen on keeping wandering eyes out of your home, then these wouldn't really provide much help. They look great but are nearly see through at night. In the daytime, it's nice to have filtered light and get a view as well, though. Mounting is done with wingnuts, which is different and not as quick as most of the snap and set models. These are great for living rooms and other areas where you may just want to dress the windows up and provide minimal shade.

If you want shades that block the least amount of light  this model from Chicology is a good choice.
If you want shades that block the least amount of light, this model from Chicology is a good choice.

6

A Nice Deal for Blackout Shades


Redi Shade Original Pleated Paper Shade


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$37.69
at Amazon
See It

Install time: 5 minutes | Type: Single layer pleated
Nearly 100% sun block
Easy install
Maximum coverage with cut to fit
Adjustment takes extra time and is noisy
Won't last as long

If you're on a budget, doing the night owl thing often, and ok to set them and forget them most days? Grab the Redi Shade Original Blackout Pleated Shade kit. This six-pack of little beauties block light for that nice deep vampire sleep anytime of day. Install is simple; measure, mark, cut, peel, and stick. These are so quick, you'll have plenty of time to doze off in your dark cave for a quick nap after. If cut tight, they'll block most indirect light and offer maximum privacy.

While they're very affordable, unfortunately the adjustment is basically stacking the paper up vertically and securing with clips. These are essentially stylish thick card stock that won't handle abuse well. Long-term, they'll likely be somewhat difficult to keep folded correctly and make a bit of noise in an open-air window and when folding to stow away. The adhesive foam attachment is easy, but another area where we don't expect much longevity. Additionally, direct light can highlight the somewhat red hue of the black color. Overall, for the price, you're getting a solid quick fix to your sleepless…days(?).

You choose when it's daytime or nighttime with these inexpensive blackout shades.
You choose when it's daytime or nighttime with these inexpensive blackout shades.

7

A Less Impressive Bamboo Option


TJ Global Bamboo Roll Up Window Blind


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$31.99
at Amazon
See It

Install time: 20 minutes | Type: Bamboo roller shade
Extra wood pull handle accessory
Nice woven pattern
Some quality concerns with cracked bamboo
Cord not correctly routed

While we liked the Aleko Bamboo shades a lot, there was a notable second place in the TJ Global Bamboo Roll Up Shade. It comes with an extra wooden pull handle you can use to adjust the shades. They do also have a great look to the woven pattern and offer warm light filtering thanks to the natural wood.

Our testing order arrived with some minimal cracking in the wood and it wasn't very well packaged overall. They also didn't have the recoil roll-up cord correctly routed. They need to first have the strings wrapped around the outside of the whole roll before you can use it, which complicates installation significantly. This isn't easy to figure out and the Tiktok link included for instructions leads nowhere. These work well in kitchens and look good as a second option if the Aleko model isn't available. Just know that you're in for a bit more work.

These bamboo shades from TJ Global aren't our favorite  but they do provide a nice vibe for those looking for this style.
These bamboo shades from TJ Global aren't our favorite, but they do provide a nice vibe for those looking for this style.

Why You Should Trust Us


Primary tester Evan Johnson has long been a huge geek about design inside homes and out. Working on everything from home remodeling jobs to high-end finish work in commercial applications, details are always key for him. Landscape and exterior work rounds out his experience to allow for maximum curbside appeal consideration. Always on the move, he has stayed in many places around the world and has a taste for nice digs. Creative, quick (sometimes temporary) window shades and privacy are always a key consideration when setting up somewhere new.

We combed through massive quantities of sub-par choices and critical reviews before choosing the top choices for testing based on quality, price, and popularity. With summers of high winds and even higher temps in Boulder, CO, the window shades test is always conducted under extreme conditions. After sweating in sunny windows, holding tools above our heads for long periods of time and a few choice words, the blinds were up. Tons of cycles through daily routine and intentional, repetitive deployment and raising the shades, plus nearly tropical winds flowing through some of the windows provided increased durability testing. At the time of writing, our lead tester's home is surrounded by residential construction and very, very active neighborhood walkers. After all the holes are patched from different blinds going up, we came to strong conclusions and trust this review will help you select your new favorite and functional window decor.

Cutting the shades down to size before installing them.
We moved these shades to multiple windows to see how versatile they are  and how much installation time improved once we learned how each one worked.
We looked at these models from all angles. Exposed mechanisms  as shown here on the Achim model  could allow dust and debris to enter and potentially disrupt operation.

Analysis and Test Results


We test every model equally across the same performance metrics; these are Installation, Ease of Use, Durability, Features and Materials, and Privacy and Light Filtering. Below, we go over each metric and highlight the top performers in each key area to help you hone in on the products that best suit your specific needs.

Installation


Most shades come with a kit of small screws, brackets, and some sort of (often unintelligible) scrap of paper listing steps to completion. We checked how well these made sense and sorted out any poor examples. Following the instructions, total install time was measured. Any helpful photos or infographics included were taken into account, too. A moderately difficult install process with a good set of instructions is often easier than a simple install without clear instructions.

Installing the Achim model involves first mounting a bracket that the shade snaps into.
Installing the Achim model involves first mounting a bracket that the shade snaps into.

The easiest shades to install are clearly the Easy Lift Trim-at-Home Cordless Pleated Shade and Redi Shade Original Blackout Pleated Shade for the peel and stick application. Most other varieties will require an assortment of tools and pre-drilling holes. We found the TJ Global Bamboo shades to take the most time to install, about 20 minutes. We found it helpful to read through the entire instructions included so you're thinking ahead about how they'll interact with latches and adjustments on the window itself.

The Redi Shade models offer the easiest installation of the bunch. After you measure and cut them to size  just peel off the back of the sticker and attach is exactly where you want it.
The Redi Shade models offer the easiest installation of the bunch. After you measure and cut them to size, just peel off the back of the sticker and attach is exactly where you want it.

Ease of Use


This category includes checking how well the recoil or retract action felt when adjusting the window shades up or down. Most styles are now cordless, but consideration is made for cords and any safety hazards for small children or pets. Cord-free models are infinitely better for frequent adjust situations, and they also look cleaner. Cords fray, tangle, and wrap around anything they can find.

As far as corded options go  we find the ALEKO bamboo shades to be relatively painless.
As far as corded options go, we find the ALEKO bamboo shades to be relatively painless.

Top marks went to the Achim Honeycomb Pleated Cordless for smooth and quick response to moving the mechanism and cordless simplicity. All you need to do is pull it down or push it up, and this shade obliges your demands seamlessly. We liked the ALEKO Bamboo Roman Wooden Roll Up from the corded side of things. It rolls up to stow away in a neat little package and is a cool alternative to the stacking nature of most shades. The Chicology Cordless Roller Shade is the smoothest roller option we tested, also deploying and retracting the shade with minimal effort and a very smooth action.

Cordless options gain our favor for their tangle-free simplicity.
Cordless options gain our favor for their tangle-free simplicity.

Durability


We checked material and design elements against what may cause these to wear out or become dirty. Inspecting how the parts wear throughout the testing period, and flexing all parts to high stress levels, we are able to project out which is likely to last, and which probably isn't. High winds in open windows tested the ability for these to not only vent but gave way to fragile build quality in some instances.

Shades like the Chicology Cordless Snap-N'-Glide Roller Shades are the simplest and seem best built after cycle testing. We also found the ALEKO Bamboo Roman Wooden Roll Up to be well suited to holding up over time for indoor use due to a simple design and solid construction. Shades are inherently fragile but choosing the right style for your application can make all the difference. More budget friendly options like the Redi Shade models we tested are made of a paper material and could wear down quicker over long periods of time. The paper shade material is more prone to staining if it comes into contact with liquids (especially if colored) and cannot stand up to physical abuse as well as other materials. And despite the simplicity of the peel and stick adhesive foam, we expect the screw-in models to remain attached to our window frames longer. Going with a full wooden option like the ALEKO Bamboo shades means they'll be around for a very long time and can be potentially repaired if needed

Bamboo models generally don't hold up to humidity well  so these are best kept inside the house and not used in a sun room or any area that is more exposed to the elements. Kept inside  and these should last a long time.
Bamboo models generally don't hold up to humidity well, so these are best kept inside the house and not used in a sun room or any area that is more exposed to the elements. Kept inside, and these should last a long time.

Privacy and Light Filtering


Standing outside and looking in, all angles were checked at night and in the day, evaluating the level of privacy achieved while ensuring a clean appearance and curb appeal were maintained. From the inside, we assessed the translucency of each blind to compare how bright or dark a shade makes the rooms it's installed in. These factors are some of the most important, as they are often the main reasons why people want to purchase shades in the first place.

There isn't anything red outside this window. However  red coloring did show up when external light was very bright. Still  this model allows the user to cut it to size  so that you can precisely block the entire window. These shades provide great privacy  too.
There isn't anything red outside this window. However, red coloring did show up when external light was very bright. Still, this model allows the user to cut it to size, so that you can precisely block the entire window. These shades provide great privacy, too.

Maximum privacy provided from solid choices like the Chicology Cordless Snap-N'-Glide Roller Shades or the Redi Shade Original Blackout Pleated Shade is great, but best reserved for bedrooms or street side windows. Fitting the Achim Honeycomb Pleated Cordless allows for the best light filtering through two honeycomb layers, while still preserving more privacy than many other models that only have a single layer. We think the Achim model balances these two opposing functions better than all other we tested. The Chicology Cordless Roman Shades provide the least privacy, becoming nearly see-through at night when the interior of the room is well-lit. On the other hand, it lets a lot of light in during the day, which is pleasant.

The affordable Redi Shade Cordless Pleated is only single-layered  which allows more light in but also doesn't offer maximum privacy.
The affordable Redi Shade Cordless Pleated is only single-layered, which allows more light in but also doesn't offer maximum privacy.

Most shades are available in a wide range of sizes and a small to large range in colors. If choosing a colored option to match a room's decor and vibe, try asking for a sample, or view the color image on different devices to compare. We also recommend that you decide on an overall look for your house and don't compromise on what you want. Some can mix and match, but overall it comes off as tacky to have a different shade in each window. Folks who can pull this off, though — kudos.

Make sure you assess your abilities and the tools you own before making a choice about which model to purchase.
Make sure you assess your abilities and the tools you own before making a choice about which model to purchase.

Conclusion


Finding something that matches your eclectic interior design can be satisfying, and meeting your light filtering and privacy demands is essential to improving the comfort you feel in your home. Window shades are often an inexpensive home improvement product, but getting ones that match and function smoothly will make your investment all the more worthwhile. We've put in the work to distill down the choices, so you can measure your windows twice and order once.

Evan Johnson