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Roman Shades: A Brief History

Roman Shades

Roman Shades

This past Sunday Italy won the Euro Cup and we want to celebrate by shedding some light on the history of these incredible shades. 

Where Did Roman Shades Come From?

As the name suggests, the origins of Roman Shades dates back to ancient Rome. This is not because ancient Romans covered their windows with shades bearing remarkable similarities to today’s Roman Shades. And it is not because ancient “Roman” shades are a style design native to the regional usage and histories of covering windows. Indeed, like the Romans, many other ancient civilizations and cultures found inventive means to cover primitive forms of windows, some using cloth, others using more natural, organic materials, like reeds and bamboo. The connection between today’s Roman Shades and ancient Rome lies more in the Romans’ construction of shades and means of shading for venues than it does any pragmatic use of cloth to simply cover a window.

The Colosseum

The most famous connection between contemporary Roman Shades and ancient Rome is that of the great Colosseum amphitheater in Rome. Upon the construction and usage of the Colosseum for great games and spectacles, the Romans devised a means to shade spectators from the sun while still keeping the grounds of the arena sunlit using massive retractable awnings. This canopy-like awning was called a velarium and it utilized several pieces of tapered fabric that circled the Colosseum’s rooftop. A rigging of sorts, made by a complex network of rope and wooden masts, and a system of brackets, sockets, and finally, pulleys, allowed operators to extend the canopy over the arena’s seating to provide shading for spectators and to retract it back to expose the entire arena to the sun.

Roman Shades at

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Hunter Douglas produces Vignette Modern Roman Shades, Solera Soft Shades, Design Studio Roman Shades, Alustra Woven Textures, and Provenance Woven Woods. These are all available at Blind Magic!

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