Outside In: How to Mount Roller Shades to Achieve Different Looks


When choosing new window treatments, it’s hard to keep track of all the details that go into making an installation a success. We get it, installing window treatments can be overwhelming. And choosing whether to mount your shades inside your window frames or outside seems so inconsequential in the rest of the dozens of choices you have to make. Who has time to think about how to mount the lovely, soft, natural woven roller shades you just bought?

Image alt tag: dark brown Felton Truffle Natural materials roller shade on tan wall with cream couch in front

Like our Felton Truffle ones. Pretty fetching right?

Luckily, we’re here to help with a list of pros and cons for each mounting style, to help make this one decision, at least, a little easier.

Starting with inside mounts, let’s have a look at our options:

  • Pro: The aesthetic. Inside mounts are for you if you like your window treatments tidy and contained. All of the mounting hardware and the shade is attached inside the window frame, leaving very little to protrude into your space. It is a much more minimalist look, and gives the window a clean, polished look. Our roller shades complement this mounting choice nicely, being minimalistic, flat, and polished-looking themselves.
  • Con: Obstruction of the view. The mounting hardware and valance of the shade will take up space inside the frame and obscure part of the view. The more material your treatments have, the more bulk gets smooshed up against the top of your frame when you have the blinds open, and the more the window is obscured. For this aspect at least, roller shades are a good choice because the material is very thin, and the mounting hardware relatively uncomplicated.
red and cream floral patterned raised Roman shades on bay window

Look at all that material frivolously impeding the view up there. (Image Credit: Bluet & Clover)

  • Pro: The containment. Since everything is contained within the frame, there’s no loose material flapping about, just waiting for your dog to come by to chew on it, or your cat to treat it as their latest Jungle-Jim. And if your cats and dogs can get ahold of it, you can bet your children will too. Depending on which direction you choose to have your roller shades unwind, they can sit very flush against the window, as far out of reach as possible even when shut.

 

  • Pro: The waterfall or flush mount choice. You actually have a choice about which direction you want your roller shades to unwind. With an inside mount, the mounting hardware can be attached horizontally and still be more or less contained within the bounds of the frame. But it can also be attached vertically to the head jamb or the “ceiling” of the frame, if you will. Attaching it vertically gives you the option of unwinding the shade towards the front, in which case the mounting hardware stays relatively hidden even without a valance, or towards the back, in which case the shade sits closer to the window.
image detailing standard roll vs. reverse roll beaded cord roller shades

(Image Credit: Better Ghar Blog)

  • Con: The light gap. There will inevitably be a gap between the edge of the shade and the frame (learn why). This gap can let in light, and even make your room seem less private. The impact this has depends a lot on the type of material you choose; with more sheer materials it won’t be as noticeable, but with heavy room darkening shades this minor light gap can be a major annoyance.

 

  • Pro: Seeing your window frame. With everything inside the window frame, the moulding around the frame can be seen even with the shade closed. Maybe you just got done updating your house and you’re looking to buy new window treatments, and you, being careful and considerate in these matters, chose the most beautiful paint for your moulding and the wall next to it. It would be a shame to cover up your excellent paint choices, or the unique architecture of your house, for that matter.
classically styled and expansive white window trim on grey wall and white boarded ceiling

Saw Dust Girl DIY’d her way to these spectacular mouldings using the original trim around her windows, and how could you cover that up? (Image Credit: Saw Dust Girl)

  • Pro: Creating additional space. Mounting your shades inside the frame grants you access to the window sill as a place to set things. With roller shades, your sills are likely deep enough to be able to set things on even with the shade closed (you can find some examples of how you can put your window to work sills in other parts of this blog). What’s more, the objects you set on your sill can be larger, protruding outside the frame without interfering the shade.

Outside mounts, however, bring a whole set of other benefits to the party.

  • Pro: The coverage. Outside mounts are for you if you like coverage, privacy, and light control. With outside mounts, the mounting hardware and shade are attached to the wall above the window frame and cover the entire frame when closed, eliminating that light gap between the edge of the shade and the window frame. This works great for any kind of room darkening shade but also helps enhance the light filtering effects of other materials.

 

  • Con(ish): Hiding your window frame. Because the shade overlaps the outside of the frame, it hides your moulding when closed. This is a funny one because it could turn into a benefit if, say, you have really distasteful moulding around your window that you actually want to hide.
slightly sheer grey pebble collection roller shades on a white wall with a white couch in front

No light sneaking in around the edges here.

  • Pro: The entire view. Outside mounts may hide your moulding sometimes, but when they’re open no part of your window will be obstructed, allowing you the full enjoyment of your view. The bulkiness of your material isn’t a limiting factor here, either, as the treatment can extend as far into the room as necessary. Just be sure to take your material into account when making measurements, to allow it enough room above the frame when the shades are raised.

 

  • Pro: Making room for stuff on your sill. Anything you want to place on your sill would also be covered completely with the shade closed, limited only by the depth of your sill. You still want to allow the shade to close smoothly over your stuff without making any unsightly bumps in the material and pushing the shade further out of flush with the wall. This works great, however, for windows that are opened with handles or cranks, which occupy the space on the sill where an inside mounted shade would rest when closed.
 bank of white framed windows with handle openers and palm trees in background

Found here in their native habitat on casement windows. (Image Credit: Home Verity)

  • Con: The lack of containment. Outside mounts lose the tidy, contained look inside mounts excel at delivering. The same principle that necessitates windows have frames to appear integrated into the house instead of just looking like a hole in the wall applies to their shades, especially when the shades are closed. Roller shades again help mitigate this effect, by being so thin they appear less obtrusive and at odds with the wall.  

 

  • Pro: The Trompe-l’œil. Outside mounted shades can make your windows appear larger. By default, when we think of window shades we think of putting them near their respective windows. If, however, you mount your shades at the ceiling, the excess shade will make it look as though your window goes all the way to the ceiling too. This is particularly effective if you were to leave the shade rolled up only to the top of the window frame, leaving the rest of the wall up to the valance and mounting hardware covered. This technique works great for windows that are already tall and narrow and for windows in series, but it also can work to make your window look wider as well.
cream patterned shades mounted at ceiling and drawn down to top of window frame in bay window

Also, check out all that unobstructed view (Image Credit: Pinterest, original photographer unknown)

Ultimately, although aesthetic preference does play a role in choosing whether or not to mount your window inside or outside of the frame, we hope we’ve outlined the practical applications here as well, so this decision, at least, is as easy for you as possible. No matter which one you end up going with, we’re here to guide you through the installation process. Check out our YouTube guides on how to measure for an inside mount and an outside mount, and how to DIY install your shades.