Thursday, March 29, 2012

Too Many Curves?

It's been unusually warm this month.  The flowers and trees are already blooming with signs of Spring.  I've even been digging in the back of my closet to find capris and shorts.  This always gets me worrying about those extra Winter pounds and unwanted curves.  We usually think of those extra curves as a bad thing but with window treatments, curves can add interest and movement to a traditional style.  In this example, a curved shape was added to the top of mirror image Moreland valances by constructing an arched frame out of plywood and wiggle board.  The windows themselves are standard rectangles.  The arched shape of the design repeats the shape of the arched transom over the fireplace.

Here the curved shape projects INTO the room instead of above the window.  This is accomplished by using a curved mount board instead of dimensional lumber.  The first picture shows both a traditional mount board and the curved mount board.  The second picture shows the box pleat valance with contrast inserts as it floats around the curved mount board.  It really adds pizzazz to this powder room.


The curves don't have to be arches.  In this example traditional swags and jabots are taken up a notch when they are mounted on a pagoda shaped frame.

Curves are not limited to valances and top treatments.  Consider using curved hardware to make a beautiful eyebrow arch the focal point.  This Amore drapery hardware utilizes "sticky rings" that can be placed anywhere along the curved rod and will not move or slide down.  This innovation works for drapery panels on half circles and trapezoid shaped windows, too.  Another great use of sticky rings is to hold the leading edge of a tied-back panel in place to prevent the panel from sliding back.

If you want to add curves to your window treatment designs à la Kim Kardashian, contact me at and I'm sure we can engineer a shapely solution!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Breaking the Rules

When first starting out in the drapery biz, I purchased Kitty Stein's Workroom Specifications.  It is a 50 plus page book of standards covering everything from hem sizes to recommended fullness to board allowances.  It is an excellent resource and I still use it today. 

I start each project by unrolling the fabric and looking at the pattern and weave.  My number one priority is to showcase the customer's fabric to its best.  Here is a lovely Thibaut print that is to be made into a tailored valance with an arched hem shape and corner pleats..   
It has a large pattern repeat with the main motif running side by side up the bolt. If the window treatment design has fullness from gathers, pleats, or shirring tape, the mix of colors in the print is highlighted and pattern placement is secondary.  But with a flat valance, the specific motif that is displayed matters a lot.

Kitty's standards tell me to plan my cuts so I can hide the seam in a design element such as behind a horn or inside an inverted pleat.  If seams are required, I should use a full width of material in the center of the treatment with seams on each side.  For this project, the motif that best fit the valance shape and size was NOT the center motif so I broke the rules...

I chose to center the largest motif and have only one seam on the left side of the front of the valance.  Can you find the seam?

Webster's dictionary defines standards as "a required or agreed level of quality".  I follow the standards to produce high quality window treatments.  After all, the customer is entrusting me with fabric they have fallen in love with.  When I break the rules, it is because (as Flip Wilson might say) "the fabric made me do it!"

Contact me at  I'd love to channel Geraldine on your next project....

Monday, March 12, 2012

March Madness

What does March Madness have to do with running your business?  Teamwork!  As you are cheering for your favorite basketball team this month, think about how you can build a winning (and more profitable) team in your business.  

Like many of you, I started my business as a sole proprietor--with the emphasis on SOLE.  I did everything myself from sewing to installation to sales to marketing to bookkeeping to...  You name it, I did it.   

The upside to this approach is that you learn all aspects of your business.  I am better at fabricating window treatments because I understand how to install them.  I can install, but I am not great at installing.  That's why Mike Haddad is on my team.  Mike has been installing for 20 years.  He is fast and efficient, polite, can troubleshoot on-site, and is willing to tackle any size window treatment my designers can dream up.

Another key member of my team is Karin Wightman.  Karin has 40+ years experience as a seamstress specializing in apparel, bridal, and alterations (and she is a huge Syracuse fan).  Her hand work is second to none and can be seen in our hand tacked Euro pleats and nearly invisible application of flat trims.

Kevin Cox cropped

The third member of my team is Kevin Cox.  Kevin is my sales representative for Lafayette Interior Fashions and tackles any questions or issues that may arise with blinds, shades, and shutters.   

I could be a Jill-of-all-trades but it is not good business.  I can make a higher profit by spending my time on what I do best -- planning and fabricating window treatments -- and paying my team members to do what they do best.   

My ideal designer client is one with a thriving business who needs a team of specialists working to exceed the expectations of the end customer.  We all have only 24 hours in a day.  Are you maximizing the hours you spend doing what you do best?  Or are you spending time getting precise window measurements, checking the specifications on cell shades, figuring the bracket projection needed for your drapery rod, ordering pillow inserts, or determining the valance long point and short point for the size of the window?  This March I encourage you to think about the skills that would enhance your team and allow you to get to the championship game and maximize your profit.   

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Back to School

My two oldest kids are home from college this week for spring break.  I'm a big believer in continuing education and attend at least one industry event each year for my business.  Last September, I attended INSPIRE 2011, a conference and trade show sponsored by the Window Coverings Association of America.  In today's "lesson", I will be sharing a few of the conference highlights with you.   Finestra button borders

On the trade show floor, Finestra Decorative Hardware featured button borders and decorative buttons that coordinate with the styles and finishes of their drapery hardware.  These embellishments were used on both upholstered pieces like cornices and headboards and on soft treatments like valances, panel pleats and pillows.

In the classroom, Fred Berns lectured on smart marketing and making a big splash with little cash.   He recommends developing a "killer commercial" that presents you as a unique, one-of-a-kind design professional and includes your ONLY statement--why you are different (and worth it).  Check out the updated bio page on my website where I put Fred's lessons to use.
 pattern matching
In the Fab Lab (fabrication laboratory), I learned a new technique for pattern matching.  It is fast and, even better, it gives a great match.  It is really important to have a perfect pattern match when fabric will be viewed flat, like on a bedspread or roman shade or cornice.  Here is an example of a seam in a roman shade where I used the new technique. 

This year I am attending Creative Camp, a hands-on event sponsored by the Custom Sewing Institute.  Creative Camp 2012 is just a week away.  I love having my kids home but I know after our week together, we will all be looking forward to going back to school!