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Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I co-host the Your Home Story podcast and believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!
New mom to baby Otto born April 2018!

Budget-friendly alternatives to custom window shades

Window coverings can be so tricky and you can spend a LOT of money (and time!) figuring them out. Curtains, curtain rods or clips, where to hang them, when to use blinds or shades instead of curtains or in addition... so much to think about!

I had no idea what I was doing when I chose blinds and a shade for our first house, so I ordered them custom and it was a good experience since I only had two.

At our next house, I wanted all matching bamboo shades. I ordered them custom which worked out fine, and I was glad it avoided the pooling of too-long shades.

For our current house... I didn't know what type of shades I'd want on allllll the windows at once. I couldn't deal with a $1,500+ blinds order for the whole house, all custom. Also, I really wanted features like top-down and cordless--once you start adding those on to some custom products, it adds $30-50 per blind.

I find that slatted or cellular blinds often look dated or apartment-ey, and roller shades can be fine for bathrooms and kitchens, but I wanted something a little dressier in our living room and bedrooms--especially because I'm not planning to hang curtains on top of two in our living room.

I also wanted inside mount--because we have big, elegant trim and big windows. (Outside mount is appropriate if you don't want to block ANY light when the blinds are open, or if you don't have adequate room within the trim for the brackets. But I prefer inside mount whenever possible to show off the trim!)

Non-custom linen look Roman shades


So I did a bunch of online shopping and research. There are lots of Roman shades you can find online (I wanted a linen look Roman shade), but once you narrow it down to top-down and cordless, the options narrow and actually can be pretty expensive--like $100 per window.

I searched and searched, and...THIS linen roman shade was exactly what I needed. It comes in natural or white color linen-look, it's lined with a white thermal backing, it's cordless, it does the top-down feature (great for when you're close to a street or neighbors)... and it's $60!


Here it is on the other living room window; we change the position depending on the day and light.

Mounting Roman shades


THESE blinds install like the custom bamboo ones I've used before do--with two small metal brackets per shade. You screw them in upside down (drill pilot holes for your sanity, please) and then the metal bar of the shade just clicks on in a satisfying way.

With both the custom bamboo blinds I used (mostly on trim-less windows, so screwing into drywall with drywall screws) and these, you need about 2" of trim to bolt into. Now, this can be difficult for smaller windows... one option is outside mount, but you know how I feel about that. ;) (If you have an old house where the windows have been replaced with vinyl or aluminium, you may have an extra piece of trim around your windows and only 3/4" or so of flat surface, so you may not be able to use any inside mount blinds.)

We had a weird trim arrangement on just our two living room windows, which you can see below. Just a narrow piece of trim not flush with the upper sill. So, we glued (and taped) a filler piece of wood under where each bracket would go and screwed into that!

Then business as usual. Great way to make a modern method work in this old window.

Non-custom Roman shade length


The main issue I see with non-custom blinds/shades is that you usually can't select the length. You can pick the closest width to what you need (ours are 29", for reference), but they often only come in one long length and so they pool at the bottom even when closed.

For our living room windows, this isn't much of an issue since they're 60" tall and the the shades are 64" long. I love them so much I bought them for our bedroom, too; those windows are only 53.5" tall. I think a 10" difference is probably about the max you'd want to go in extra length. They work just fine and we only close them all the way at night, not when we're showing off the house or anything!, and the extra length doesn't bother me--but I do think if you had very short windows you wouldn't want them the full standard 64" long.

We have three of THESE shades in our bedroom, too, including one without curtains over. I LOVE them!

We have windows just like this set in two other bedrooms. In Otto's nursery (not quite finished!) I ordered two more of the linen look Roman shades, plus curtains/rods/rings just like these. The upstairs bedroom is nowhere near decorated yet and doesn't need privacy like these downstairs ones do, so it just has curtains for now.

Cordless, top-down shade construction


Here's a close-up. The valance velcros across the top. You can see the thermal liner. I love having pure white facing the street--looks so much better from outside. (Seriously, notice that next time you're driving past a bunch of houses with their blinds/curtains closed--the white ones look best!)

On these windows, we had about 1.5" of depth in the window frame so we screwed the brackets in directly, with just 1/2" or so sticking out.

The shade is magnetic so it sort of snaps back up to the top when you get it 99% of the way there. Or, you can just pull it down and leave it at whatever position you want.

Roller shades


I didn't choose linen-look Roman shades for all our windows, though. We haven't redone our kitchen yet but we did need a blind there for privacy, and the roller shades in the breakfast nook were functional (kept out sun on the hot summer mornings, and provide privacy from the street) but were probably 40 years old and very dirty and ivory. So I also wanted to update the window coverings in the breakfast nook (you can see it here with no shades) and kitchen, at least for now.

I went super budget on these. You can order custom Roman shades, which are also cut to the right length as well as width. They're not too expensive ($30, on a discount site, maybe?), but I wasn't ready to commit even to that, and we did need 5 so it still adds up.

Instead, I bought this room-darkening roller shade. I tried to order custom widths on the website, but it wouldn't let me complete the purchase. I called and everything, apparently it's an error in the system--you can only get them cut to width in-store.

Going into a Home Depot or Lowe's is a pain for me, with a baby with me most of the time and precious little alone time for shopping otherwise. But, I took my measurements and went in, and got 5 blinds cut.

I'll spare you the drama, but... those didn't work. I took different measurements and went in again, but then they told me I measured the wrong place. Then they were sold out of them cause I'd just bought and had 5 cut.

I went back 5, possibly 6 times to my local store. It was awful. These dang blinds. In the end I was having them cut 1/4" off one, and one of them they just cut wrong so I had them copy the one they had just trimmed down. OMG.

Finally, they all fit. Now, the issue is they don't always roll all the way back up. Here's as short as they got when I took this picture without some tweaking.

To get them to roll all the way up again, you have to take them down and twist the straight/rectangular peg there to re-tighten the spring. Then they bounce back better.

Also, I re-used the roller shade hardware (pretty standard, cheap brackets)--but they were installed backwards, so the shade rolls over instead of under. Unfortunately this shade has a right and wrong side, so they're inside out if you look close! I might move them someday, but there is probably lead paint under there so I don't want to disturb them.

I imagine this could happen with custom roller shades as well. And if you ordered custom ones and the dimensions were off even a little, it would be even harder than going back to the store. But, still I am not super happy with this experience and wouldn't whole-heartedly recommend you go this route for roller shades! I did want to share this as part of this post, as an alternative to custom blinds. (They do have other cut-to-size options in Home Depot and Lowe's off the rack.)

Curtains, rods, and rings


Finally, a note on our curtain rods... 
  • For our standard windows like in our bedrooms, I use THESE rods. (I used them at our last house, too, and wrote a post about them here!) Those need THESE 1" curtain clips. I don't like grommets or tabs on curtains; I prefer clips which gives them an elegant, more custom look.
  • For our 7' wide living room window, I upgraded to THIS all-metal rod. It is higher quality cause it has metal brackets, too. It's larger so it needs THESE 1.5" clips.
  • For almost all our windows, I use THESE white 100% cotton, linen-look curtains. I hem them to the right length for each window and for our large living room window, I sewed two panels together to make double-wide panels. Someday I'd love to make custom lined curtains like I did way back in the day at our first house... but I love white curtains, anyway, and don't know when I'd have the time.

I would love if you'd pin this post for later--next time you need ideas for window coverings on a budget!

Shop the shade and all the curtain stuff I talked about here!

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