Sunday, July 13, 2014

Check it out!

Do you have clients who love the distinctive designs of MacKenzie-Childs?  The MacKenzie-Childs style combines vibrant colors, pattern-on-pattern decorations, and the bold checkerboard motif that runs throughout the collection.  I recently visited the MacKenzie-Childs shop in Aurora, NY and took this photo at the left. Whoa... that's a lot of checks!  The MacKenzie-Childs annual barn sale is this month so I wanted to share some of the MacKenzie-Childs inspired treatments I have made over the years.  Some of the treatments have just a hint of the MacKenzie-Childs style and others are a full-scale, all-out explosion of color and pattern.
The first examples have just a hint of MacKenzie-Childs with a piping detail made from a small-scale, black-and-white check (1/2" squares).  The piping is at the bottom of these relaxed romans in a dinette bay window. The close-up shows the bias-cut welt and pleated ruffle at the bottom of the roman.  Also shown are boxed cushions for mudroom cubbies with the same bias-cut welt detail.

The next example uses a mid-scale, black-and-white check (1" squares).  In this bedroom, the black-and-white check is used both on the bias and the straight of grain in the neckroll pillow.  The color-blocked duvet cover is made out of colors to coordinate with the MacKenzie-Childs knobs and tassels used on the wall decoration.

A second example using the mid-scale check is a kitchen window treatment that gets its inspiration from a framed MacKenzie-Childs print.  The floral swagged valance is mounted from knobs on a fascia board (front board) that is covered with the 1" check oriented on the bias. The horns and jabots in the swagged valance are also contrast lined in the 1" check.  The close-up shows the MacKenzie-Childs knob and fascia.

A large-scale, black-and-white check (3" squares) is used in the next example.  The relaxed roman over the kitchen sink is cut on the bias and has a black-and-white pompom trim.  The trim really adds a touch of whimsy and enhances the MacKenzie-Childs feel of the treatment.

The final example illustrates full-on MacKenzie-Childs decor with window treatments that can definitely keep up!  The drapery panels are tie-top, color-blocked panels.  The panels are two widths of material each with 18" wide sections of red, blue, and yellow.  There are 20 pointed jester ties made of a small-scale, black-and-white check on each panel.  The drapery panels provide continuity in the open floor plan from the living room through the dining room to the sitting area.

You may not have a checkered past, but if you and a client are planning a checkered future, email me at!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Here comes the sun

With the Spring we've had, it may seem like the sun will never come, but eventually Summer will arrive... and with the Summer sun will come requests for outdoor projects.  Choosing the right fabric for your outdoor project can really affect its longevity.  All outdoor fabrics are not created equally.  There are three main types of outdoor fabric: solution-dyed, yarn-dyed, and piece-dyed.  The difference has to do with how color is added to the fabric.  

Color is added to solution-dyed fabrics as the fiber is being made.  The fiber can be compared to a carrot where the color is as rich and saturated on the inside as it is on the outside. With yarn-dyed fabrics, color is added after the fiber has been spun into yarn.  This is like a radish with its beautiful red color on the outside but with a white and colorless inside.  Color is added to piece-dyed fabrics after the yarn has been woven into fabric.  Think of the woven fabric as a slice of bread and the color as jelly on only one side of the slice. 

Which kind of outdoor fabric is better?
100% solution-dyed acrylic is the gold standard.  It is rated for 2000+ hours in direct sunlight before fading.  If mildew does occur (due to dirt), the fabric can be cleaned with a bleach and soap solution without damaging the colors.  Sunbrella is the most recognized brand of solution-dyed outdoor fabric.  Perennials is another excellent line of solution-dyed outdoor fabrics.  Yarn-dyed and piece-dyed outdoor fabrics are rated for 300-800 hours in direct sunlight before fading.  Mildew can be removed using soap and water or by dry cleaning.  Dralon is a brand name of yarn-dyed fibers used by some outdoor furniture lines.  All three kinds of fabrics have their place in outdoor settings.  I recommend using solution-dyed acrylic for large elements like cushions that are harder to remove and for any elements that are in direct sunlight such as on a deck or around a pool. Yarn-dyed and piece-dyed fabrics are ideal for accents and pillows and in covered settings like screened-in porches.

How can you tell the difference when selecting outdoor fabric?
Piece-dyed fabrics are easy to spot because they are printed on only one side.  You will see bold, vibrant color on the right side and muted colors showing through the base cloth on the wrong side. I stopped by JoAnn Fabrics this week and took pictures of a couple of piece-dyed fabrics from their outdoor fabric display.

Yarn-dyed fabrics and solution-dyed fabrics have woven patterns so the color is the same on both sides.  Sometimes the pattern is identical on each side and other times, because of the weaving process, the pattern is a negative image.  Below are 4 fabrics I used for my sister's outdoor project.  Three of them were solution-dyed fabrics and one was yarn-dyed fabric.  The only way to tell the difference is to check the specifications. Because solution-dyed is the gold standard, fabric companies advertise this fact.  The green ikat, mushroom solid, and brown stripe are all solution dyed outdoor fabrics. Only the peach mandala is a yarn-dyed outdoor fabric.

Here is a picture of my sister's porch.  I can't wait to visit over Memorial Day weekend!

Don't get burned when choosing your next outdoor fabric.  Remember the carrot (and 100% solution-dyed fabrics)!  If you want recommendations on outdoor foam or cushion styles to minimize mildew, email me at and we'll talk the outdoors.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Scallops and Arches and Bows...Oh My!

Dorothy was fearful of wild animals in the forest on her way to the Emerald City but you don't need to be fearful of designing window treatments with arches and scallops and bows. Sometimes the curves are forced on us because of the architecture in the room, such as a bow window or a window with an arched top.  Other times we add curves as embellishments or to soften the hard geometric lines in the rest of the room or to add height to the treatment or to highlight the hem shape.

From a mathematical standpoint, a scallop is just part of a circle.  Flip it upside down and it is an arch. Turn it on its side and you have a bow.  

The shape of the scallop is based on its width and height.  As a designer, you know how wide the window is (scallop width) and you know what you want the long point and short point of your treatment to be(scallop height).  From there, it is a matter of geometry to draw the scallop to those exact specifications.  Do you remember using a compass in geometry class?  In just three easy steps, you have a perfect scallop.

But enough of the math lesson...let's take a look at how they are used in window treatments!  The first four examples show using scallops and arches to make a curved hem shape. The upper left hand picture is a pleated valance with an arched shape on each box.  The upper right hand picture is an operable roman shade with a scalloped hem.  The middle picture is a pleated valance with arches and scallops of different widths on the boxes.  The bottom picture is an awning valance with a serpentine shaped hem.  A serpentine shaped hem is made by alternating arches and scallops of the same dimension.

The next group of pictures has window treatments with arched tops.  The top picture is a box pleated valance with an arched top and an arched hem shape.  The middle picture is a pair of mirror image Moreland valances. The windows themselves were not arched.  The arched tops were added to echo the arched window over the fireplace.  The bottom picture is a stationary relaxed roman with two swoops.  The protruding molding on the adjacent cabinets prevented the valance from being mounted above the window molding.  The arched top adds height to the treatment and fills in some of the wall space above the window. 

The final example is of a pleated valance for a bow window.  This bow window was 12 feet across. Now that is one big scallop width!  Clearly I needed something bigger than my school compass to draw the bow shape.  I used a string with one end tied to a thumb tack and the other end tied to a pencil.  The first picture shows me out in my driveway marking the bow shape on some plywood. The second picture shows the finished valance installed on the bow window.

If my talk of scallop widths and using a compass reminds you of Sheldon at his white board, fear not! You come up with the design and I'll take care of the geometry.  If you want to add some scallops or arches or bows to your next project, email me at and we'll walk through that scary forest together.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Taking it up a notch

Did you make New Year's resolutions this year?  Have you broken them already?  I know common wisdom is to set goals, make a plan to achieve them, and follow-up to assess and change course if necessary.  Often the only thing that ever happens is making that resolutions list.  Why not change your approach and take it up a notch?  Jack Dempsey, a business consultant, defines taking it up a notch as changing one or two things that will make a difference in the outcome.  Change one thing.  That doesn't sound too hard, does it?  Below are examples of three projects where the designer and I changed one thing to really take it up a notch.

Project #1
The plan for the first project was to use ready made panels to make stationary relaxed roman shades. Relaxed romans are a very versatile top treatment.  The flat "picture area" shows off the fabric motif and the soft, curved hemline looks great with or without trim.  The ready made panels were a black and white buffalo check to coordinate with the MacKenzie-Childs tile accents in the kitchen.  The roman would have looked good with the check cut straight up and down, but by changing to a bias cut, the relaxed roman really has spark and personality.  

Project #2
The second project was a box pleat valance out of a striped fabric for a young boy's room.  The box pleat valance is a classic design that will continue to look good as the boy gets older.  When laying out the fabric to decide on the pleating strategy (size and number of "boxes"), the width of the window and the horizontal repeat of the stripe together were camouflaging the boxes making it look like a flat valance.  The valance lost all the interest and depth you get with a box pleat.  We decided to change the orientation of the stripe on the inside of the pleats.   The end result is a valance with just a hint of whimsy hidden in the pleats and all the appeal and depth of a box pleat.

Project #3
The third project involved this beautiful embroidered fabric.  The designer bought only 1 yard because of price. Two of the embroidered medallions were used for the fronts of pillows in the living room and we wanted to use the remainder for a cornice in the entryway.  Rather than use the remaining fabric to upholster a straight cornice, our change was to use less fabric!  We used a single medallion and changed the bottom shape to highlight the medallion.  With this strategy we were even able to make a second cornice for the stairwell.   

If you have broken your New Year's resolutions already, why not adopt the "taking it up a notch" approach for 2014.  I know it works with window treatment design.  It will work for your business and personal goals, too.  Change just one thing.  You can do it!

E-mail me at and let's take it up a notch on your next project. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Obstruction call ruin your game?

Just last week, the Boston Red Sox lost Game 3 of the World Series when the winning run was scored on an obstruction call.   Not a baseball fan?  It's just like the dictionary definition of obstruction -- something that blocks something else.  In this case, the fielder blocked the runner.
I am always on the look out for obstructions when I measure for window treatments. Nothing is worse than getting an obstruction call at the installation.
Crown molding is the most common obstruction. Notice how the crown molding on the adjacent cabinets protrudes into the window molding on both sides of this window.

This prevents a typical outside mount window treatment because the window treatment must be mounted between the crown molding or below the crown molding.  Neither option is ideal.  If the valance is mounted between the crown molding, it is too narrow for the window with the edges of the window molding sticking out on either side.  If the valance is mounted below the molding, it usually must be made too short so that it doesn't block the view, not to mention that the top of the window molding shows.  An obvious solution is to inside mount the window treatment but you still have the issue of finished length versus blocking the view.  I hear time and time again from customers -- "Don't block my view!"

One way to avoid this obstruction call is to design a valance with an arched top.  This allows the valance to be mounted just below the crown molding but visually have enough height and length to be in proportion with the window. Score!

Here is another solution for protruding crown molding.  In this case, an upholstered cornice was made with the top corners angled to accommodate the molding.

Not all obstructions are at the top of the window.  I have to confess when measuring for this job, I was only focused on how much wall space was available next to the window so we could hang the panel off the glass as much as possible. Don't block my view!  At the installation, I got an obstruction call when I looked down and realized the fireplace hearth was in the way.  You're out! The solution required taking the panel back to the workroom and re-hemming the panel so it hangs around the hearth.

Even the best teams lose a game now and then, but if you want a workroom that will go the distance and bring home the trophy, email me at I'd love to be on your winning team!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Trick or Treatment

It won't be long until neighborhood children are at your door shouting "Trick or Treat".  That's not a tough decision.  I always hand out candy, don't you?  But you may have a dilemma when designing window treatments where a door is in the mix.  Most of the time, the door opens into the room.  If you add a valance, the door hits the valance when opened.  There are three common solutions to this problem: mount the valance higher up, shorten the length of the valance, or leave the door untreated.

I want to introduce you to another solution - a door hinge valance.  A door hinge valance uses hardware that allows the valance to move with the door.  In this kitchen eating area, there are two windows and a door.  By using door hinge hardware, the designer was able to mount all three valances at the same height AND have all three valances the same length AND still use the door without interference from the valance. 

Here is an example of using door hinge hardware for a valance over a French door.  Like the single door, the French door also opens into the room.  This situation requires a valance design that has some sort of "break" in the middle where the valance itself hinges.  The inverted box pleat in the center of this valance is the perfect solution.

Here is a third situation where a door hinge valance was used.  In this case, there was a large picture window where the designer chose a valance with stationary panels.  She did not want to leave the door untreated.  By using the door hinge hardware and mounting the valances at the same height, your eye moves around the room uninterrupted and the customer can still use the door.

The next time you are designing valances in a room with a door, picture your customer saying "Trick or Treat".  Don't be the designer that ends up with a smashed pumpkin -- like a valance that is too short.  If you want to hand out full size candy bars and offer your customer a door hinge valance, email me at and I'll help you engineer a treat for your customer.