BY KIM PEMBERTON
Making the best choices for your home and needs results in a more comfortable and beautiful living space.
When it comes to interior decorating, most people treat window coverings as an afterthought, despite it being one of the most important decisions and biggest investments you can make for your home.
While options are many, they can also be overwhelming. Do I go with blinds or shades? Are draperies back in style? If so, what fabric do I choose and should I go with a pattern? How can I deal with a room experiencing too much heat or in need of privacy from the neighbours?
With so much to learn about window treatments, it’s no surprise they are often left to the end of the decorating process.
Yet knowing what window treatment is best suited for each room in your home and ensuring your window coverings are both visually appealing and functional will result in a better living space.
To help you get it right, I talked with local expert Nigel Brown who, after 35 years in the window covering business, has a wealth of information on window treatments.
“You need to ask yourself, is this your dream home and do you want to be there forever or is it temporary? What you do in the living room and dining room is different than in the nanny suite in the basement,” he says. “But there are so many selection options and different price ranges. You can literally do a home for as little as $100 — and up to $1,500 — a window.”
Brown also notes prices are expected to rise for window lift systems that go with some window treatments, after Health Canada enacted new regulations on the length of cords and size of loops allowed. Those requirements came into effect May 1.
“Some products won’t be available, like the top down, bottom up that allows for natural light. It’s one of our most popular options, where the cord dangles from the top head rail. But they feel the cord is a choking hazard,” says Brown.
He says the industry is coming up with different ways to meet Health Canada’s requirements and still provide options to consumers.
One of the solutions is motorization, which is a cordless window covering system. Designer Ben Brannen of Bespoke Design says motorization systems have been around for at least a decade but were cost prohibitive for some consumers.
He’s optimistic this will change as more consumers request this product. Brannen says he put in a motorized drapery system at his home so he could fully understand the product before recommending it to clients.
“Having no cords is a cleaner look and easier to operate. It seems ridiculous that I have motorized drapery, but I also like technology and it’s kind of fun,” he says, adding that motorization definitely makes sense for someone with a disability that prevents them from easily closing their window treatments manually.
Also new in the industry are window coverings rigged to a voice command system, where window treatments can be told to open and close, he says. And thanks to adaptive technology, window treatments can also be programmed to operate automatically when changes are detected in a room, such as an increase of sunlight.
“At first, motorization felt like a toy, but now people are seeing the practical side,” he says.
The go-to for most of Brannen’s clients who want a clean, modern look are blinds with adjustable slats that control light and privacy and roller and pleated shades that not only filter light but can help provide insulation.
Smart Home Automation
The Somfy TaHoma® switch is a home automation system that connects you to your home remotely via the app on your smartphone or tablet from anywhere. With it, you can control your roller shutters and blinds, as well as other home mechanisms.
PowerView®Automation from Hunter Douglas is compatible with several home-automated programs and enables you to control, time and set your shades to raise, lower, tilt and traverse automatically to suit your schedule.
Draperies are back
While blinds and shades are popular, draperies are making a big comeback, according to designer Iván Meade of Meade Design Group.
“People are going back to interesting fabrics and textiles with beautiful colour or patterns,” he says, adding that fabrics have evolved so an artificial fabric like polyester can have a high-end look.
Meade says polyester has the advantage of not fading with sun exposure and is a far cry from the polyester of the 70s. Instead, he says, the artificial fabric can look like silk, chenille or linen.
But to get the ultimate luxury look, Meade says it’s best to ensure your drapery has three layers: a thin layer to protect the fabric, a felt layer to add more weight to the drapery and absorb sound and the actual decorative drapery.
He also recommends having the draperies done by a professional to get that perfect look seen in interior design magazines where the folds “line up like soldiers.”
“Having a well-constructed window treatment done by a professional makes a world of difference,” he says. “They will always maintain their shape and you’ll notice this, compared to just going to Ikea and having whatever.”
Brannen adds that draperies provide a softening element to a room, giving it a “cozy finished look” and, like carpets, they also add acoustical value to the room.
Decorator Cheryl Kellett, who has worked with Ruffell & Brown Window Covering Centre for 19 years, says the starting point for anyone choosing a window treatment is its function.
“So much depends on the room. Is the light beaming in on your computer screen or do you need privacy at night? Do you have drafts or are you bothered by streetlights? A lot of people don’t assess their room, but we need to deal with these concerns first,” she says.
Kellett says the number one choice for many customers are honeycomb shades, which boost window insulation since heat is trapped in the honeycomb-shaped fabric cells.
And if a house has a fantastic view, she recommends a sheer weave roller blind so you can see out by day and have privacy at night.
Betty Wilson, a sales consultant with Island Windows Coverings, says generally there are two types of customers — one who has done their research and knows exactly what they want and the other who doesn’t have a clue.
“They might have bought a new house or it has been 20 years since they purchased window coverings and are looking for guidance on what’s now available, what’s most popular and what are their options,” she says.
Wilson also has seen an increase of customers wanting draperies.
“I think interior design has been very Scandinavian with lots of hard surfaces and people feel the need to soften the look,” she says. “Draperies can make a room feel homey and absorb sound.”
It’s also an individual choice, since every customer has a “unique set of wants and challenges,” says Wilson.
Brown adds that the style of a home, whether traditional or modern, informs the choice of window treatment, and with so many products available to consumers, the best advice is to visit a showroom and talk directly with the experts who are there to guide you.
“There’s no right answer,” he adds.
Because when it comes down to it, window coverings are a matter of what you like and what you want them to do.