Window Blinds: Centuries of Practicality, Now Beauty
By Bill Primavera
The Home Guru
A distant memory from my childhood is the rackety clang of Venetian blinds when my mother would open a window and they would rattle with the wind.
In those days, blinds were made of metal and, whether being raised or lowered, they were noisy. Slats were at least two inches wide, offered only in plain white, and were hung with wide fabric strips, also white. They were totally practical and totally ugly.
Actually I hadn’t thought about blinds in some years. We don’t face any neighbors from any of our windows so, except for our bedroom facing the road, we have left our windows free from treatment, allowing them to function as originally designed, to let in light and to offer views of the glorious outdoors. The one drawback to open views has been the fading we’ve experienced with some of our upholstered furniture.
But, then, after having removed some big trees dangerously close to the west side of my house, I found that I was being fried and blinded in my first floor office by the late afternoon sun. Blinds were definitely needed there to cope with the situation. Actually protection from the sun, rather than privacy, was the original function of blinds and shades when they were fashioned by the Egyptians by stringing together reeds from the Nile and by the Chinese who employed bamboo, still used today in modern shades.
Instead of chancing off-measurements and the embarrassment of a sloppy installation, I treated myself to an at-home consultation by a window treatment expert. As suggested by my home styling consultant Joanne Palumbo, I called Budget Blinds, the largest window treatment franchise in the country. Local representative Jay Diaz stopped by with sample books selected from a conversation he first had with Joanne about my preferences, which I thought was a good idea.
Right off the bat, I broached the subject of price with Diaz, saying that I had heard from others that the name Budget didn’t necessarily mean that selections from the company were less expensive. Diaz in turn was equally direct. “Indeed, we’re not the least expensive choice, nor do we want to be,” he responded. “Our use of the word ‘budget’ doesn’t mean that we’re cheap. It means that we ask our customers to set a budget and we suggest the kinds of products that can meet it.”
Diaz explained that the advantage of shopping at home for blinds or shades is that the consultant has specific knowledge about the products and can suggest a number of options depending on the placement and materials desired. “And, we handle everything else from start to finish, from measurement of the windows to installation,” Diaz said. “I am able to tell right off if there is an obstacle to overcome, such as a customer wanting inside mounting of blinds that is not accommodated by the depth of the window frame.”
He further explained that besides expertise, shop-at-home service offers time-saving convenience. “Nine times out of ten, when you shop at a storefront, you have to visit the place at least twice. And, if something goes wrong after you’ve installed it yourself, it would be an extra charge to have someone come out and fix it. With us, it’s all included.”
The newest trend in window treatments, according to Diaz, is the insulation factor, reflecting increased interest in energy conservation. “The new honeycomb shades trap air between two layers that keep heat out during the summer and keep it in during the winter,” he said. He further noted that the honeycomb shade is cordless, allowed by a tension system in the head rail. “Besides being a child safety feature, it is also a matter of aesthetics,” he said. “It looks neater, more finished.”
Another popular choice today is the top-down, bottom-up blinds and shades that can be lowered from the top or be raised from the bottom.
Peering into the future, the next big thing in blinds and shades, according to Diaz, will be motorization. “Actually, it’s here already but will become more popular in the future,” he said. Oh no, I thought, yet another remote device to fiddle with, besides the TV, the Bose Radio and the ceiling fan.
I first became aware of the long history of blinds when I visited Colonial Williamsburg as a youngster and, in touring the Capitol building, found that its windows featured handsome wooden blinds. The docent told us that blinds were introduced to Europe in the mid 18th century by Venetian merchants who brought them back from the Orient at that time. Their rapid acceptance and popularity led them to be called by their source of supply, hence the name Venetian blinds.
Since those noisy metal blinds of the 50s with wide slats, we now have mini blinds in an extensive variety of materials, colors and styles. There are real wood and faux wood blinds, woven wood shades, vertical blinds and light filtering fabrics, the honeycomb and pleated shades, and soft Austrian shades. If you feel you’ll have trouble deciding on the option you want, talk to a consultant like Diaz who will know which selections are the best to meet your objectives for privacy, beauty and insulation.
My preference for my own office was a woven wooden shade, which included a plain valence and a lining. While I might have spent $100 per window for a similar shade at a storefront, the cost with Budget Blinds is about $180 each. I consider it well worth the extra $80 per window to have expert advice and to have all the work done for me.
The website for more information is: www.budgetblinds.com, or call Jay Diaz at 914-248-1010.
Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® (PrimaveraHomes.com), affiliated with Coldwell Banker, and a marketing practitioner (PrimaveraPR.com). Anyone considering selling or buying a home can reach him directly at 914-522-2076.