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What are Pleated Shades?

By Andrea Campbell
Updated Feb 27, 2024
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Window shades are an ancient and traditional method of controlling the light that comes into a room. Pleated shades provide fashion colors and even patterns, but texture is one of their best features.

Shades come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from a simple pleated shade to a tailored Roman pleated shade. But there are two basic types within the category of “pleated shades”—a true pleated blind with a simple zig-zag or honeycomb configuration; or a soft fabric treatment that folds up into itself at the top of the window frame. Both styles can be an inside mount, meaning the fixture stays with the frame of the window from jamb to jamb; or, an outside mount, which is affixed over the top of the window molding.

Several blind and shade companies manufacture pleated shades, with such familiar names as Bali, Hunter Douglas, Graber, Smith + Noble and more. There are several advantages to choosing these brands: they have permanent pleats, there are optional opaque or blackout liners to darken a room, and they can be opened either top-down, or bottom-up or both. And all can be fitted with a remote for motorized opening and closing. If you have small children, inquire about the cordlock feature or ask to see how cleats work, to prevent a child from choking or becoming tangled in the cord.

Installation of shades is a dream because they can be cut into custom sizes, generally running from 12 to 96-inches high to 13 to 144-inches wide. And today, pleated shades can be used on French doors, skylights and there are even curved shades to accommodate special window configurations such as round windows, arched windows, and eyelid-style windows. Basically these types of pleated shades hang at windows that need to be screened for privacy, but where insulation is not that important, or when you just want the ability to bring a maximum of daylight into a room. Some consumers like pleated shades because they feel they are cleaner than dusty old drapery. Pleated shades can be cleaned with a duster, a vacuum attachment, forced air; or by spot cleaning with a mild detergent.

The second type, the soft fabric pleated shade is created using many yards of fabric and there are several styles, typically: Roman shades, tailored, flat horizontal tucks of fabric that rise up one fold over the other; pleated balloon shades, a softer, less tailored option with soft box pleats; and the Austrian curtain, full fabric that is shirred between vertical rows of rings. All of these styles depend upon a vertical rigging. Rows of ring tape or individual rings are sewn into the construction of the curtain and then a cord is attached linking them altogether, so a simple pull on the cord makes the entire shade lift.

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