Best Window Shades of 2020
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 withstand frequent and long-term operation. Installation is a snap, and this model is adjustable to many different window styles. The honeycomb design with two layers means that there's 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). These still allow vibrant light through 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. If you want a quality shade that hides all the tricks, we'd suggest you go for these.
Want the next step up on the peel and stick game plan without spending a lot? Check out the Easy Lift Trim-at-Home Cordless Pleated Shades. Install is a simple process of cutting through a few layers with a sharp knife and handy cutting guide they've included. After you've cut to fit, just peel and stick the strong foam adhesive wherever you'd like your shades to go. 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 is more susceptible to stains, too. While the install is quick and easy, you could potentially lose a little on longevity. We're not certain that the adhesive would outlast some well-placed screws and brackets. Still, we are huge fans of the balanced and clean feel. This model is an aesthetically and financially pleasing solution to your window shades needs.
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 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 an 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 if needed, they clean easily. If your main goal is privacy, these roller shades are the easy choice.
Wooden shades give a fantastic glow that's warming and classy. If that's the vibe you're looking for, go with ALEKO Bamboo Roman Wooden Roll Up. You can use a drill if you'd like to, but they install with no tools needed. 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. The wood is untreated and could quite possibly degrade in humid or outdoor conditions, so stick to inside windows and entry doors. The intricate woven thread connecting the slats may not fare 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.
Roman shades are a great look and uniquely different from the main go-to choices you see everywhere. We were impressed with the looks and simple operation of the Chicology Cordless Magnetic Roman Shades. All you have to do is move them to where you want them, and the magnets keep it in place. Even during 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, we don't think these provide too much help. Although they provide filtered light and a view in the daytime, they are practically see-through at night. 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're a night owl on budget and you don't mind setting the shades and forgetting them most days, grab the Redi Shade Original Blackout Pleated Shade kit. This six-pack of little beauties blocks light for that nice deep vampire sleep any time 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 pretty much stacking the paper up vertically and securing them with clips. They won't handle abuse well, as these are essentially stylish thick card stock. Long-term, they'll likely be somewhat difficult to keep folded correctly. They also 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 block bright daylight.
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. The woven pattern gives them a great look and offers 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 included a Tiktok link for instructions leads nowhere. These shades 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.
Why You Should Trust Us
Primary tester Evan Johnson has long been a huge geek about home design, both inside and out. Details are always key for him, whether working on home remodeling jobs or high-end finish work in commercial applications. 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.
Before choosing the top choices for testing based on quality, price, and popularity, we combed through massive quantities of sub-par choices and critical reviews. 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, 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 that this review will help you select your new favorite and functional window decor.
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.
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, the total install time was measured. We also took into account any helpful photos or infographics included. A moderately difficult install process with a good set of instructions is often easier than a simple install without clear instructions.
The clear choice for the easiest shades to install is 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. At about 20 minutes, the TJ Global Bamboo shades took the most time to install. We found it helpful to read through the entire instructions included so that you're thinking ahead about how they'll interact with latches and adjustments on the window itself.
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 situations that require frequent adjustments, and they also look cleaner. Cords fray, tangle, and wrap around anything they can find.
Top marks went to the Achim Honeycomb Pleated Cordless for a smooth and quick response to moving the mechanism and cordless simplicity. All you need to do is pull it down or push it up, obliging to 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 very smooth action.
We checked material and design elements against what may cause these to wear out or become dirty. We can project which is likely to last (and which probably isn't) by inspecting how the parts wear throughout the testing period. We flexed all parts to high-stress levels. 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 hold 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 paper material and could wear down quicker over long periods. 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.
Privacy and Light Filtering
Standing outside and looking in, we checked all angles at night and in the day. We evaluated the level of privacy achieved while ensuring that 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 are some of the most important factors, as they are often the main reasons why people want to purchase shades in the first place.
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 provides the least privacy, becoming nearly see-through at night when the interior of the room is well-lit. On the other hand, it lets in a lot of light during the day, which is pleasant.
Finding something that matches your eclectic interior design can be satisfying, and meeting your light filtering and privacy demands are 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