Can I just get a bid for blinds in my house?

This particular question opens up a huge can of worms for professionals in the industry and their clients. What many salesman want to say is, “YES! How quickly would you like them installed and will you be paying with Cash or Credit Card?” But, in all honesty, rarely are people ever that upfront about how they view your business. Here is where we often see a huge difference in expectations from the perspectives of the consumer versus the mindset of the retailer or Window Coverings Professional.

The Consumer mindset –

I just moved into my new house. I finally closed the loan, the real estate agent is calling me seven times a day, I have to think about landscaping, remodeling that downstairs bathroom, work is hectic and, realistically, about a hundred other things are pressing down on me. On top of this, I really don’t want to walk around my house and let the neighbors possibly see me naked; I NEED WINDOW COVERINGS.

At least this shouldn’t be a big deal. I’ll check out the “big box” home improvement stores, and maybe a low cost window covering specialty store as well and see if I can find some cordless top down bottom up cellular shades on discount. I want to get a fair price so I’ll call at least two places, and maybe three. I will tell them I need some blinds, and let them take care of it from there. If the installation costs aren’t too much I might even have the store install them for me.

For consumers, the bottom line is often being too busy and unsure of the best way to get window coverings.

The Retailer mindset –

I REALLY NEED TO MAKE SOME SALES. The store has been slow lately and I have mouths to feed, I hope we get calls and the opportunity to get some people a quote. When people call, I know they are usually price shopping so I have to give them the lowest possible price and outbid my competition.

I wish I had better training on all the options available to customers, but my boss keeps pushing these one particular blinds because, as he says, this product provides the customer with a good price and it is one of the best profit margins in the store. OK, I need to review what it is I’m supposed to say…Hmmm, ”I can get you a quote on some blinds right away. Please give me your sizes and I’ll have a quote ready for you in a day or two.” I just have to send the measuring guy over there and he will hopefully get those numbers to me soon so that I will have time to do the bid. It might be nice to actually meet a customer someday.

For retailers, everything is usually sales driven as volume is the key to their pricing (and their business).

 

The Window Coverings Industry Professional mindset –

“I know the woman who left me a message this morning is very busy but I want to make sure that I help her get exactly what she really needs. I’ll return her phone call and discuss a little about what she’s looking for and set up an appointment to see the areas in which she’s having problems. I know the woman said she wants blinds but so often customers ask for a particular window treatment solution and change their minds when I can explain to them and show them that what they’re asking for won’t do the things that they want.

It’s important for me to give everyone a personal consultation and ensure I help my customers get solutions to their problems, not just a product with the most features or benefits. After all, what good are all those features and benefits if the product doesn’t do what the customer wants? I enjoy helping people, and I hope this woman lets me do what I enjoy. She may feel overwhelmed, but I know I’ve been trained well, I’ve worked in this industry for many years and with just a brief initial visit I will be able to provide her with the perfect solutions for her specific problems. If only people knew that we can provide superior service along with great quality products at very competitive prices they would be shocked!”

For industry professionals, the bottom Line is relationships, and personal service is the key.

Summary –

In a perfect world, we all try to come together with other people and relationships to make sure that we get what we need.

Take a good marriage for example. Both sides need to listen to the others opinion and work hard to satisfy the other’s needs.

Usually when a person feels valued, they are willing to do the same for you. In business, it is no different. A professional should only be thinking about how to make the customer happy. There needs to be a great deal of communication about your specific desires and needs for your home. They will, in turn, find the products and solutions that are best “married” to you. Remember, the industry professional hopes to have you for a client for many years, and hopes that you will refer him or her to your friends. So, think long term and hire a professional to assist you with your project. It may take a little more time but you are sure to have a better experience and your choices will give you the exact solutions you were looking for.

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The overall state of interior design in America

I attended the World Market Center Furniture Mart and Design Show in Las Vegas recently, and wanted to share with you my observations about the status of the current interior design market.

The interior design market is adjusting to the current economic environment and parallels the housing market. For the last twenty years or so, people associated success with housing. Status was determined by zip-code and scale of housing. Some in the industry call the type of house that this time spawned the “McMansion.” Who could argue? We all have seen the huge houses in our neighborhoods or those down the streets. I don’t want to get into a discussion of why this period in American housing came crashing down, but, instead give a glimpse as to where the current interior design market is headed.

If the period of the “McMansion” has passed, what does that mean? Can you recall walking down the aisle of your local furniture store about three or four years ago? What you would have seen in most places were over-sized pieces of furniture. The reason for this was that many consumers don’t get a good a sense of the true scale of their room when shopping in big-box furniture stores and they figured they needed huge furniture to fill these huge spaces they were living in. The idea was that if they had four pieces of furniture in a room that was two-hundred square feet previously, then they should have four, much larger pieces of furniture for their new room which now measured six-hundred square feet.

We could spend time discussing the design flaws of that argument, but that is a different conversation for a different time. For now, we are trying to discuss how furniture and design are following the housing market. Since people are buying smaller homes, and the builders seem to be leading the charge in this regard, the scale of the furniture must follow suit in order to fit into the space that people are going to have. As I write this, I am thinking about an article I read this morning that Michael Jordan is building a home that is about 38,000 square feet (There’s always an exception to every rule).

So, what I picked up on at the show in Las Vegas is that the size of furniture for the common customer is scaling back a bit. I guess that is no surprise, but if you are waffling on whether to purchase a slighter sofa or chair, current design trends indicate that smaller is the way to go for the next several years.

Another major trend that reflects the country’s current housing market is a tendency for homeowners to select more neutral palates for their upholstered goods. People are a bit unsure what the future holds, and therefore they are a bit more conservative in their design and fashion choices. I don’t speak to clothing fashion, but based on the climate of the country, it would not surprise me if hemlines lower and necklines rise. Much of the palate that was shown in Las Vegas was based on tans and naturals. There is still a call for big color, but more often than not it was shown as accessories like throw-pillows and accent rugs.

If you are looking to build, remodel or redecorate your home and you are looking for assistance, make sure the design professional you hire understands the colors and textures you will be using may need to be the right ones for several years to come.

A good design professional will understand how the current trends can be reflected in your space and will help you make the right choices for your individual space and your preferences in style.

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Happy Days are Here Again!

Are you tired of bad news from the economic forecasters, the fed chairman, the talking heads in the media, and your neighbor down the street bemoaning his problems or any other naysayer? Here is a current update from the real world as I’ve been seeing it lately.

Yesterday, I was thinking about how busy I have been. Over the last week I have been to Carson City, Minden, Gardnerville, South Lake Tahoe, Incline Village, all over Reno and Sparks and I am probably forgetting a place or two. I called one of my fabric suppliers to place an order and asked how business was; he said that things had really picked up. I stopped at one of my art suppliers and asked how business was; she said that things were picking up. I called my drapery workroom and asked them how business is and they were happy to say that things are picking up.

I have no idea why things are changing, but if you are like me, you don’t care. We are just happy that the phone is ringing and we are able to provide our services to the people of the area.

There are some benefits that come from these economic downturns, namely, a refining of the businesses that survive it. When business was fast and furious from about 2002-05, it seemed like anyone and everyone was hanging a shingle and making a pretty good success of their business. When things turned around, the opposite was true. My manufacturer’s representatives were constantly telling me that their clients’ businesses were shutting down. Only the strong survive. Since we have been in a recession for quite a while now, the market has been sifted, and probably only those who are professional and responsible are still in business.

As a result, customers and businesses are well positioned to find each other. The customers are finding a newfound sense of confidence in the market and the businesses are fine-tuned in their ability to really respond to the needs of their customers. The market has adjusted from a price focus to a service focus, and smart businesses are making sure that they are providing the exact services that their clients want.

I am sure that the end of turbulent times is still a ways off into the future, but I for one am very glad that things are changing for the better.

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Motorized Blinds for Home Automation

Infrared

This is the most common way to control your window coverings. Just as you point your television remote control at the front of the television to change channels or adjust the volume, IR (Infrared) sends a line-of-sight signal to a receiver on the shade that performs the action you sent via remote control. This is a good and cost effective solution, but again there are some drawbacks.

IR signals have limited range, typically around 20 feet or so. Since you are sending a light signal, if there is a lot of competing light in the room, let’s say from the glaring sun, the signal may not read accurately. It is really hard too to keep shades from operating that you did not intend to move. Remember, if the shading gets the signal, it’s going to move. So, if you have two side-by-side windows and you want to make one go up, while the other one remains stationary, you have to ensure that the signal is not received by both receivers. This is something that can be handled by proper programming, but it is an issue nonetheless.

Radio Transmission Systems

I would say that this is the new standard in operating mechanisms. By using Radio Transmission Systems, or RTS, you can program special needs and moods into your room. It is possible to work only one shade, all the shades in unison, or create special groups of shades based on real needs.

For example if you had 4 windows in a room, you could program them to all work at once, or to work individually, or you could have windows 1 & 4, or 2 & 3 or 1, 2 & 3 all working at once based on the programming.

RTS is also a great option when line of sight operation is not possible between the shade and the remote control. For example, many people like to have valances or other top treatments mounted over their window treatments. Because the top treatment would block the path of an Infrared signal, they are forced to use RTS, or add a satellite eye to the IR receiver. A satellite eye is a receiver with a cord on it that allows you to relocate an IR receiver, usually above or below the top treatment allowing for line-of-sight operation. Effective, but not very clean looking. With a radio receiver, the remote control doesn’t even need to be in the same room.

Direct Drive

This is a fancy name for button-pushing. With many motor systems, there is a small button directly on the motor, usually placed on the headrail that can provide simple on/off functions. Essentially, a motor will do one thing. Turn. All you are doing with these buttons is telling it to do that one function. The other signal that it needs is a “stop doing that” notice. Much of this is handled in programming which is done prior to installation, but the button on the headrail provides this simple “start turning” function. Wall switches are provided as standard with many hard-wired systems. This is a toggle switch that usually has a up/down/neutral position. These are mounted in the wall by your electrician and are pretty bullet proof.

Radio Transmission Systems also offer wall switches, but these are not actually wired directly to the shade, but rather send signals through the air. This is the standard system that many people have for their ceiling fans in their homes. There is a receiver in the fan that accepts the signal from the transmitter that sits on their table. It is the same thing with window coverings.

Home Automation

Systems are the crème de la crème of operating systems. These systems can be programmed to do just about anything that the shade can do, in any increment. So, for example, let’s say you wanted the shade to raise 23% in the morning at 8 a.m., then go all the way up at 11 a.m. and lower 85% at 3 p.m… you get the idea. With home automation systems you can do that. These systems are designed for hard wired applications. A low cost option to get a bit of this idea is to use radio frequency timers. They can be mounted, or kept on the counter or in a drawer. They can be given simple commands which will be carried out at the proper times by the appropriate shades/motors.

There are so many motorization options available these days that it is virtually impossible to expound on them all here. In the future, I will try to tell you about the different applications that can be motorized. For example, roller shades, draperies, cellular shades, etc. Each application will have different options available. As I so often say, “you really need to talk to a professional” if you want to do motorized window coverings and want them done right the first time. I just checked my schedule, and I have an availability to talk to you!

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Window Coverings Recalled Over Child Safety Issues

We wanted to make everyone aware of this safety recall regarding window coverings, especially those of you with young children.

Tina4homedesign is available to do free, in-home reviews of your blinds if you’re concerned about whether or not your current window treatments pose a safety hazard to your children. We can also show you the current offerings of window coverings that provide maximum safety for your family.

The following come direc from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and The Window Coverings Safety Council:

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and The Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) are announcing an industry-wide voluntary corrective action plan covering roman-style shades and roll-up blinds to prevent the potential hazard of strangulation to young children. The recall involves window coverings that can form a loop and cause strangulation. According to information provided by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, since 1990, more than 200 infants and young children have died from accidentally strangling in window cords.

Consumers can obtain free retrofit kits for roman style fabric looped and flat panel shades and roll up blinds online at www.windowcoverings.org or by calling WCSC’s toll-free phone line at 1-800-506-4636 or 1-800-372-5715.

Parents and caregivers are being reminded of potential window-cord dangers and are urged to make the right choice and only use cordless window products in homes with young children. Owners and renters should replace all window coverings in the home made before 2001 with today’s safer products.

To maximize window-cord safety when young children are present, consumers are urged to follow these safety guidelines:

  • Install only cordless window coverings in homes with young children. Replace window blinds, corded shades and draperies manufactured before 2001 with today’s safer products.
  • Move all cribs, beds, furniture and toys away from windows and window cords, preferably to another wall.
  • Keep all window pull cords and inner lift cords out of the reach of children. Make sure that tasseled pull cords are short and continuous-loop cords are permanently anchored to the floor or wall. Make sure cord stops are properly installed and adjusted to limit movement of inner lift cords.
  • Lock cords into position whenever horizontal blinds or shades are lowered, including when they come to rest on a windowsill.

The Window Covering Safety Council is a coalition of major U.S. manufacturers, importers and retailers of window coverings.

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The evolution of the mobile design center

When I show up at a client’s home or office, I usually make a point of showing them the vehicle that I arrived in. I drive what I call my “Mobile Design Center.” It is a 14 foot box truck that carries all of the samples that I might need for the job at hand. It is completely shelved and stocked with fabrics, window covering samples, bedding lines, drapery hardware and other various interior design product samples. I have never counted, but I would guess that I carry something like 10,000 different fabrics with me at all times. As far as window coverings, I carry full lines of many different manufacturers like Hunter Douglas, Graber, Levolor, B & W, Century Blinds and many more. KDBoxTruck

It is funny how things change over time in a small business. When I first started, I worked out of a Subaru wagon. That did just fine for the few things that I carried. Then I moved on to a cargo minivan, which was much more convenient for the growing samples that I was carrying. Because of the length of product I was installing, sometimes as long as fourteen feet or more, I decided to get a longer van, and moved up to a full-sized cargo van. I liked it! I kept that one, called “Big Bertha” because she was an old gray battle axe with a smoking problem, for a year or so. Later, I got a much newer model because I knew that the full-sized option was working for me.

Eventually, like with a growing family, my product lines, especially the fabrics, were growing exponentially. I therefore started to explore the option of getting one of those big box trucks that you may have used to move at some time in your life. What a great boon that was to my ease of doing business. I bought a used diesel box-truck, and ran that for a couple of years, until I determined that I needed more power, and less hassle with diesel fuel. I bought a new gas powered box-truck, and that is what I serve my clients’ needs out of currently. It’s size allow me to serve clients from not just Reno, Sparks and Lake Tahoe but also the eastern Sierras of California to Gardnerville, and even east to Fernley and Fallon and everywhere in between.

The most common comments I hear from my clients when they see my truck are: “Wow, you are serious about this, aren’t you?” “That thing is a driving billboard!” “I guess I see why you don’t bring in any product until you talk to us first.” (Because I have too much stuff in there to bring in everything.) “What kind of gas mileage do you get?” (Answer, 10 mpg) and “Nice truck.”

I personally feel that the only way to serve my clients needs at Tina4home design is by using a “Mobile Design Center.” I just thought that you might enjoy hearing the story of the evolution mine. Stay tuned in the near future for a video tour of the Command Center itself. By the way, if you ever get to this part of the blog, I would love help in picking a nickname for the truck. If you pick a name that I use, I will provide you with a very nice gift in thanks and appreciation.

 

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How do I clean my window coverings ?

How do I keep my window coverings looking as good as the day they were installed?

If you are not sure about how to care for your window coverings, don’t jump in and clean them with just anything. Get the facts first. To make it a little simpler, I will lay out some different cleaning options below.

Dusting –

This time tested method is a good way to clean most of your window covering products. There are a couple of things to be aware of though.

First of all, if you are using a wand type duster, make sure that it is a dry dusting type. The ones that have lanolin, or furniture wax, or any other type of additive may leave residue on your coverings making them harder to clean in the future.

Also, if you were to use this type of additive on a cloth shade or drapery, you are actually minutely staining your coverings, which over time can turn into a permanent stain as the sun reacts with the additive and discolors your products.

Secondly, if you have any type of pleated shadings, like a cellular shade or something similar, be careful that you don’t press too hard on the pleats as they can become misshaped, leaving a permanent crease.

A special note on dusting. Please remember to dust the back of your window coverings. Over my many years in the industry, I have noticed a trend in how people care for their window coverings. Often, they are fastidious in maintaining the front of their coverings, but lax in caring for the back. This is especially true in shadings.

What happens, especially in localities that have a high UV index, is that any dust that sits on the back of the shades eventually bonds to the shade itself after reacting to the sun’s powerful rays, and creates an ugly dinge that is extremely hard to remove. If this dust is untreated, it can actually break down the chemicals in certain cellular shades, causing the cells to delaminate.

Under certain circumstances, the manufacturers may refuse warranty claims on such a shade due to negligence.

Submersion –

For certain types of window coverings, submersion is a viable option. I remember going to a seminar once where they took a bright white piece of shading material and squirted it with Ketchup. We all watched as the representative submerged the fabric, and wiped it off with soapy water and the fabric came out spotless. There are a couple of things that we can learn from this.

First, if you get a stain like this, try to get it out immediately. If you let it sit, especially if the sun hits it, it will set up in the fabric. The next thing to keep in mind is that you verify that ALL of the shade can be submerged.

For example, wood blinds, motors, any specialty lift system and many other types of window coverings, should never touch water at all. Verify with your original paperwork as to the proper care and cleaning of your product, and if you can’t find it, search the internet for the manufacturer’s website, where these instructions should be found.

Spot Cleaning –

This is the type of cleaning that many people think to use after some sort of accident. These are probably due to splashing from a sink, or kitchen accidents or even pet stain removal. We are all probably picturing the two year old in their high-chair flailing their arms wildly with food flying off of their spoon onto the window coverings.

Aughhhh! Never fear, spot cleaning is here. Your best bet: water. Next: soapy water. Next: spot cleaning solution (think Shout Wipes, Tide Pen or similar. Do follow the manufacturer’s instructions as some solutions can fade colors and cause other damage). Act quickly, and be gentle.

Some materials are very delicate, and heavy scrubbing can erode the fabric quickly. Even the paint on wood blinds or shutters can wear through very quickly causing a bigger problem than the original stain.

Vacuuming –

For many types of window coverings, namely shades and draperies, vacuuming is an excellent option for cleaning. Some of the materials that you will be cleaning are delicate, as mentioned before, and if you don’t take precautions, you run the risk of sucking the material into your vacuum hose, and ruining the material.

Most manufacturers recommend using the brush attachment and running your cleaning pattern in the direction of the pleating. On horizontal shadings, this means moving your hand side to side, and on vertical shadings, this means moving your hand up and down. If you vacuum, just like dusting, don’t forget to do the back side of the product.

Ultrasonic and Dry Cleaning –

These are excellent options for cleaning your window coverings. They are pretty easy to research on the internet, and I suggest that you consider these options when looking for a deep and thorough cleaning of your draperies, and window coverings.

Keep in mind though, that these options have drawbacks too, and that you are best served having all of the facts before you jump in.

In the future, I will discuss how to clean specific products, for example the Hunter Douglas Silhouette Shades. This is a generic list of options for cleaning window covering products and not an exhaustive guide. For specific instructions on how to clean your window coverings, see the manufacturer’s instructions or contact a window coverings professional near you.

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