Blinded by Science

Posted on 06 June 2017

What if I told you that there was a range of blinds available in Australia that cut out glare, increase visibility to the outside and actually significantly lowered the ambient room temperature? You may think this is nothing new, but with sunscreen technology, there are certain limitation and one company has addressed this head on.

When comparing sunscreens, usually white is selected as it reduces the room temperature, whilst still allowing a decent view to the outside. The downside is that they increase glare. Conversely, darker colours increase the view and reduce the glare, but will not assist with internal temperature, and in some cases will actually make the room warmer.

There is now a product on the market that has a coating of metallization on the back. The process is top secret and was developed in the Netherlands in the 1960s, but basically it involves a hyperbaric chamber and lots of heat. As a result, one can select a sunscreen blind in any colour and it will not only reduce glare, but it will considerably reduce the room's ambient temperature, whilst maintaining a great view to the outside and daytime privacy.

These blinds are not sold everywhere, and MTC have the exclusive contract for them in the hills District. If you want to have an in-home demonstration with a Lux meter and a temperature gauge, book your appointment now.

Price Wars

Posted on 01 May 2017

In the window covering industry, continuous discounting and price wars seem to be rife. Big companies like to have "sales”, whether they are seasonal, or a way of getting rid of excess or discontinued stock, or merely a lure for unsuspecting buyers.

Now I use the word "unsuspecting”, because I’m not entirely convinced that the consumer is really getting a great deal. This is not sour grapes because I don’t discount. However, it is an observation that is prevalent across many industries selling products.

What I believe a consumer wants is value. Value can mean different things to different people. In the dictionary it means "merit, worth, usefulness”. To some, value may well indeed equate to a cheap price. Certainly if you are simply wanting a cover for your windows and are not particularly fussed about performance or décor, then the monetary considerations may be uppermost for you.

However, as we become savvier in our consumerism, we are expecting more for our hard earned dollars. We want high performance, good looks, warranties that actually work, and good old fashioned service. Many understand that they have to pay for this.

From a purely monetary perspective, businesses that continually discount have to still make a profit to survive. They have to pay wages, utilities, rent, etc etc. This has to come out of the profit. They are relying on a high turnover to make a profit because their margins are reduced. Overtime this MUST compromise the quality and service, as reduced margins cannot sustain these things for a long period. I have a friend who worked for a large window covering supplier for six weeks and they were burnt out… in just 6 weeks! They had to make up to 12 visits per day, travelling all over Sydney, and had to sell a huge amount of product to get paid. In this instance, the staff turnover at the company was extremely high and the product quality was poor. It was actually known throughout the industry that this company cut corners. For the sake of a discount, do you really want to compromise on the quality of your window coverings?

The true value of a product or service can be determined by reading reviews. If the business has one or two negative reviews, that may just represent a few disgruntled customers. However, numerous negatives indicate a problem, and if you do your research, the problems are mainly associated with big retailers that discount. Look for dealers with lots of great reviews.

You may ask for a discount, but dont always expect it to be forthcoming. Once again, if you truly VALUE the advice being offered as coming from an industry professional, and know that the products are exemplary, asking for a discount is almost an insult. After all, you would never ask a specialist doctor for a discount on a treatment would you?

My suggestion is to look for window covering retailers who maintain a consistent pricing policy. You are after VALUE, and that means a high performing product with a great warranty, backed by wonderful service, including after-sales service. Also, I believe in supporting the little guy…after all, we are the ones who need our business income to put food on the table, petrol in our cars, and put our kids through school.

How full should my curtains be?

Posted on 17 April 2017

This seems like a rhetorical question, but in fact, some curtain pleats are flexible enough to allow for extra or even less than the norm fullness.

Fullness refers to the amount of fabric incorporated into a pleat or the heading (top) of a curtain. The industry norm ranges from 2 times to 3 times; although this can be varied if custom made, to suit the individual circumstances. Controlling fullness is useful if you have very little space to stack an open curtain, or if your fabric is heavy and must be lined and interlined. Heavy fabrics perform better if they have slightly less fullness, to avoid "kicking out” from the wall. Alternately, adding more fullness will give a somewhat insignificant fabric such as a sheer, (and possibly a cheaper fabric) a more voluptuous appearance, thereby making it seem more expensive. Silks and damasks also benefit visually from having more fullness.

The best pleats to play with differing fullnesses is the knife pleat (preferably used under a pelmet) and the inverted box pleat, which is a tailored look suited to all types of décor and fabrics. With a box pleat, the fullness is concealed behind the pleat and it is often difficult for the untrained eye to tell how much actual fullness is in the curtain; a great illusion.

Pinch pleats can be double, which equals twice the fullness, or triple, equalling 2.5 times fullness. S-folds (or ripplefolds) can use between 1.8 to 2.2 times fullness, depending on the tape length for the top of the curtain. The longer the tape, the fuller the curtains, but the more room it will occupy.

Always talk about fullness or pleat styles with your window covering professional. Some fabrics will benefit enormously from the extra fullness, whereas others can work sublimely with just a little!!

Are sheer curtains superfluous?

Posted on 03 April 2017

Sheer curtains are lightweight, diaphanous, romantic. They can be plain, textured, metallic or patterned. There is no limit to the colours available, nor the designs upon them.

Sheer curtain shave made a huge resurgence in the home in recent times for varying reasons, the most significant being their versatility. They are wonderful teamed with blockout blinds, either rrollers or romans. The blinds do all the hard work keeping out heat and light, whilst the sheer curtains provide daytime privacy and subtle light filtering qualities.

Of course sheers have always married well with heavy drapes for the same reasons as above. They can easily complement the design within the main fabric, or contrast significantly. They can be contemporary or traditional and be adapted to any décor.

I always picture in my mind a gorgeous sheer billowing in the breeze; reminiscent of exotic tropical holidays and bewitching feminism. This conjurs up images from old Hollywood movies and balmy romantic evenings!!!

Back to reality: sheer curtains are successful in tandem with other window coverings, but also work favourably on their own. Select a heavily patterned or embroidered sheer to make a statement. Choose a bold colour to stand out.

Another recent trend is to use a coloured lining behind the sheer (usually on a separate track) that will add substance to the sheer when in the closed position.

Sheers can be made from natural or man-made fibres. With numerous advancements in technology, many synthetics now look almost identical to their natural counterparts, but are more stable and cost effective. Our biggest selling sheer range is 100% polyester, looks like linen, and sells for $30 metre!!

Ask the MTC professionals about our ranges of sensational sheers and see how they will automatically enhance your home!!

Bay window treatments - part 2

Posted on 27 February 2017

Bay windows are an architectural feature that can provide a lot of aggravation for inexperienced window covering retailers. However, with the right tools, curtains can look absolutely spectacular on these windows.

Bay windows are defined by angles. They can be right angled or obtuse (greater than 110 degrees). The number of windows within the bay can vary from 2 to 7 or more. The average is 3.

Firstly one must have the correct measuring tool apart from a tape measure or laser. There is a little device called an angle measure which is rather like a moveable protractor. This allows an accurate measurement of the angle degrees which is imperative for the correct supply of necessary hardware.

Next, you must have access to hardware that can be bent (preferable) or mitred. Some skilled installers can bend tracks on site if they are malleable enough. Tougher materials such as metals and motorised tracks have to be factory bent as they are too many components that might be damaged without the necessary machinery needed for the bending itself.

Using timber rods in a bay can look terrific with perfect mitring. However, curtains are unable to be brawn past the mitres so that needs to be taken into consideration.Once the hardware has been selected, you need to determine how the curtain will open and where it will stack. Usually on bay windows it is inadvisable to use cord drawn tracking, so motorisation or hand drawn is the key operation.

Pleats can vary also. Recently we received a job where a client wanted S-Fold curtains in a bay window. Two companies told her it was impossible… she googled it and one of our images came up…of course we had already solved this problem!!

Bay window treatments - part 1

Posted on 20 February 2017

Bay windows are an architectural feature that can provide a lot of aggravation for inexperienced window covering retailers. However, with the right tools, curtains can look absolutely spectacular on these windows.

Bay windows are defined by angles. They can be right angled or obtuse (greater than 110 degrees). The number of windows within the bay can vary from 2 to 7 or more. The average is 3.

Shutters look awesome on bay windows but care must be taken in the measuring process to ensure that every panel will fit perfectly. Quite often bay windows are out of kilter and will therefore require a bit of gap sealant around the shutter. This is to be expected. Generally hinged shutters work best in bay windows. We have done quite a few of all different dimensions and they have all turned out better than our clients had expected!!

Roman blinds can also be used in bay windows quite successfully. The trick for the retailer is to make sure that the headrail at the top of each roman is slim enough to prevent constant rubbing against the roman next to it. This can be a bit tricky and sometimes the client needs to be made aware that romans touching could be an issue and extra care must be taken when pulling them up or down. In bay windows I generally don't like the use of cord locks as they encourage users to pull the cords at unnecessary angles that may damage the blind next to it.

If the romans have a pattern, make sure it is pattern matched. Pattern flow is when the romans are pattern matched vertically and horizontally. This is recommended for very large patterns (not noticeable on smaller patterns). However it can add extra expense as more fabric will be required and the manufacturing process is far more involved.

A right angled bay window can accommodate romans as long as there the headboard can be mitred.

Why are curtains so expensive?

Posted on 06 February 2017

This is a loaded question, so I will attempt to answer it in a way that hopefully won't offend anyone.

Yes, custom made curtains are expensive in Australia. I refer only to custom made curtains in this blog, as ready-mades are definitely NOT expensive and are easily available to those who have limited budgets.

The biggest consideration here in Australia is the fact that we demand higher wages, superannuation, sick pay, holiday pay, etc for work. If you are buying from a reputable window covering dealer, then expect to pay more for curtains made in Australia. This is not necessarily a bad thing... as you will have more protection if something goes wrong, and repairs or alterations can generally be done quickly and efficiently if you are not waiting for something from overseas!Many people think that if a window is 2 metres wide, then it requires only 2 metres fabric. UNTRUE! A 2 metre wide window may require anything between 6 and10 metres fabric, depending on the style and the drop to the floor! Add on the same amount of lining, and the prices start to creep up.

You also need to consider any hardware that might be required, such as tracks or rods. Once again, you may opt for a cheap ready-made product found in "big box" retailers, or select a custom product that will fit your window perfectly and have the correct number of brackets to support it (many ready -made rods do not have enough support brackets).

Lastly, and certainly not least, your window coverings should be installed by an expert. Good window covering installers are a rare breed and worth their weight in gold!! The old adage: "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys" is certainly true here, so we are happy to pay our installers whatever they ask so we know the job will be completed professionally and accurately.

So, yes, maybe curtains are expensive. However they are one of the major investments in your home and when completed properly, will last for many years. Alternately, curtains done "on the cheap" will always look cheap and will certainly not last as long. Ask the MTC team about how you can stretch your budget to purchase the best custom treatments.

When the curtain call is last of all

Posted on 23 January 2017

After 27 years in the window covering industry, it never ceases to amaze me how many people forget to budget for window treatments when building or renovating.

Just like carpets, window coverings are an investment and provide numerous benefits that not only enhance the quality of living, but will add value to the price of the home.

To many consumers, blinds and curtains are an afterthought, and as such, many purchase inferior and often incorrect products because the budget has not been considered.

As a general rule, I tell my clients to budget approximately $1000 per window. This only gives a ball-park. If budget is tight, then there are certainly options below this price point & vice-versa if there are no budget constraints. If you are building or borrowing to renovate, it is a wise move to add a sum into your loan for decent window coverings.

When you have a realistic window coverings budget there will be much less pressure on you to purchase something suitable. You really need to have options, as it is rarely a 'one solution fits all' scenario. And always be wary of ridiculously cheap quotes. Cheap is generally not good. Window coverings must be durable and effective. They are an investment in your home and you will be using them every day! Try to buy Aussie made product if you can (this may be difficult with shutters). Use companies that your friends recommend and look at online reviews and testimonials.

Certainly leave the window coverings until last, but son't forget that they cost money!

Curtains for Renters

Posted on 28 November 2016

Having lived in rental properties for the past four years (whilst deciding what to do next) I have first-hand experience at living with crappy window coverings that are the usual offering in the Sydney rental market.

Vertical blinds are probably the most common window covering supplied by landlords. The big reason for this is that they are cheap! Yes, they provide a degree of privacy due to the manoeuvrability of the slats, but they by no means offer any thermal benefits and are generally flimsy and therefore prone to damage. Indeed, most verticals have many moving parts and bits that can tangle, break or snap off. And of course they aren't the most attractive window covering either.

A somewhat more contemporary approach by some landlords is the provision of roller blinds. Depending on the type of fabric, rollers can offer a bit more thermal protection, as well as privacy. However, careless tenants can easily over-roll or break the chains (especially plastic chains). Roller blinds are a cost effective option of landlords.

Now, I'm not saying that landlords need to spend thousands of dollars on custom curtains or shutters for their rental properties. Their obligation is to provide privacy for the tenant, and hopefully window coverings that are clean and operable.

As a tenant, there are a few ways you can add to the window coverings to align them with your needs and especially your decor. Under no circumstances should you offer to replace window coverings at your own expense, unless you are prepared to never see that money again and he landlord benefits from the value of such improvements... I learnt this the hard way!!!

An effective option is to hang a curtain in a rental is with velcro. Buy adhesive by the metre and attach to the architrave. The other side of the velcro is sewn to your curtain. It is pertinent to remember that the adhesive velcro may take some of the paint with it when removed, but you are responsible for fixing this... not a major job.

Some points to remember:

  • If you create any holes or other damage, you are responsible for the repair
  • Always buy curtains that will be long enough (too long is better than too short). This also means you can take them to your next rental which may have different window proportions.
  • Buy extendable poles that can adjust to fit a range of different windows
  • Make sure curtains are not too heavy as the rods have a tendency to sag if you are unable to secure a centre support
  • Look for rod pocket or eyelet curtains - you won't require rings for your rods. Keep rods lubricated with an annual spray of silicone to keep things flowing smoothly.
  • Use Command hooks instead of brackets - no drilling, no holes & easy to remove.

Vertical Blinds vs Panel Glides

Posted on 01 November 2016

To be honest, vertical blinds and their big brother, panel glides, are my least favourite window coverings. From a design perspective they offer nothing aesthetically, as they look like commercial window coverings (indeed vertical blinds were originally used commercially). However, they do have their advantages, and in the interests of knowledge and learning, I will be fair and impart the benefits here.

Let's start with verticals. These consist of a wand or cord operated track with a number of fabric slates or blades attached vertically. These blades are generally stiffened fabric, but can be made of plastic or fibreglass. The blades range in width from 63mm to 127mm, depending on the depth of the window opening. When open, they take up only a small amount of space. When closed, the blades overlap to shut out light. It is pertinent to note her that verticals are not a 100% blockout product... almost, but with their movable parts, light can seep in around the top, sides and bottom. The big advantage of verticals is that the blades can be tilted left or right to alter privacy and light.

Panel glides are made similarly to the verticals, but the blades are much wider, ranging from 300mm to 1000mm. Tracking is limited, so you are always limited with the number of panels you can have.Depending on the blade width you have, when the panels are open, you will have a stack about 10% wider than the width of the blade. Because they are bulkier, they are not always the brilliant solution on a door that people are led to believe. Another issue is the blades cannot be tilted, so you have a product that only opens or closes with no movement in between. To be honest, I have never seen a situation in a home where a panel glide is a perfect solution. Often roller blinds on big expanses of glass are far more effective, as they can be moved completely up out of the way when you want total access to your glass. Many of the panel glides I have seen are flimsy and awkward to operate. I see the tracking design as the main problem, as well as the clumsiness of such wide panels... clients are often underwhelmed by the end result... my advice is usually to avoid them.

Verticals are the original product, and are still superior to panel glides in my humble opinion.

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