Well-chosen curtains and blinds are an important part of any design process. They’re practical — providing privacy, light and heat control in your home — but they’re also highly decorative. Selecting the right window treatments can have a transformative effect on any room, adding dramatic flair or a streamlined, modern feel to any space.

But for many, getting a grip on the options out there can feel slightly daunting. Should you go for blinds, shutters, shades, drapes or panels? And what’s the difference? How are they installed? Since window styles vary, it can be difficult to get an accurate quote right off the bat. And then there are multitudes of fabric and material options to choose from — silk, cotton, linen, velvet, floral, striped, colourful, minimal, bamboo, vinyl and so much more — it can feel overwhelming.

Photo: James Bombales

Window treatments are one area where it pays to see and experience the various options in person at a showroom. We stopped by Improve Canada, the nation’s largest improvement centre, to get a feel for what’s out there. Conveniently situated two stop lights north of Toronto in Vaughan, Improve Canada offers a one-stop shopping experience for all of your renovation and home improvement needs. There are over 350 showrooms in the 320,000-square-foot centre — with 13 showrooms in the window treatments category alone.

“At the time you come to our showroom, you’ll see all of our drapery and blinds on display,” says Paul Siu, the founder of Trendy Blinds and Closets, located within Improve Canada. “It’s important for people to see the product before they make a decision.” We asked Siu to break down what you can expect when you swing by Improve Canada for an appointment and how to narrow down what designs will suit your space best.

Photo: sarahrichardsondesign/Instagram by Stacey Brandford Photo 

Take measurements and photos before visiting the showroom.

You may be tempted to call up 10 businesses to ask for quotes before stepping out of the house. The problem is that you may be quoted a rock-bottom price, only to discover when you arrive that what you really want is three or four times the price and you’ve settled for a lower-quality, less customer-oriented service.

With 13 showrooms in the window treatment category at Improve Canada, you will be rewarded by showing up in person to speak with the specialists. They want to help you find a solution that’s right for you and your budget. “Since it’s not a frequent purchase item, I find people don’t mind driving to the showroom first to help speed up the decision making,” says Siu. “Nowadays, people think that everything can be shopped online. But, using myself as an example, I end up wasting hours and hours online, looking without being able to make a decision.”

Siu recommends you bring a rough measurement of your windows, along with pictures to help their specialists give you an accurate quote. Once you have the information you need, Trendy Blinds will come to your home to get more precise measurements and troubleshoot for your space, specifically. These consultations are totally free. “They take the first step, and then we take the second step,” says Siu.

Since the local businesses can be found doing service calls and installations for homeowners like yourself, it’s best to arrange an appointment on the website in advance with any of the 13 window treatment showrooms located within Improve Canada.

Photo: withinthegrove/Instagram

Shades

Technically, blinds are any slatted window-coverage option. Shades, on the other hand, are made out of fabric and hardware. Both options contribute a minimal look by covering the entirety of your window.

“Soft shades are now the most popular category,” says Siu. “Those are shades that are made out of fabric but have the functionality of blinds. They go by different names — bandage shades, sheer shades, zebra shades, silhouette shades. There are more options now than ever before, making them a functional and stylish choice that fits within most people’s budgets.”

Roller shades offer a tailored and clean look. They unroll from the top with a cord and come in many materials ranging from sheer to blackout shades. Roman shades are another popular and elegant option. As you pull the cord (or press a button, if it’s motorized), the fabric tucks behind each other and decoratively stacks at the top.

If you don’t want to block out the light, solar shades are a popular option. Similar in style to roller shades, solar shades are specifically designed to block UV rays and glare, making them ideal for a home office or a room that gets a lot of sun. “Solar shades have traditionally been more of a commercial solution, which we also do,” says Siu. But these days, clients with custom-built homes are gravitating toward using solar shades in their residential spaces. “Some people like to use solar shades because it’s a very clean, simple, flat surface and you can see outside,” says Siu. “But we always have to remind people that at night, people can see you. So if privacy is a concern, some people pair solar shades with drapes.”

Photo: victorianterrace120/Instagram 

Blinds and shutters

If you don’t want to completely block out the light, venetian blinds are another great option with a slightly more utilitarian look. The horizontal slatted blinds are typically made from wood, metal or plastic and pivot to control the amount of light filtering through. For the bedroom, you can get room-darkening blinds with slats that overlap to better block the light.

Shutters are the most sturdy option out there. The rigid and sophisticated window treatments are set on the window frame and are typically made out of wood, plastic or composite panels. They open and close by a solid lever that is typically mounted to the frame at the top, bottom or middle of the shutters.

“We find the trend is moving away from having shutters on every window of the house to dressing a particular window where a shutter will really enhance the look,” says Siu. If you have lots of wood detailing in a room, Trendy Blinds will stain the wood shutters to match the other elements in the room.

Photo: rebeccahaydesigns/Instagram

Drapery

Any decorator will tell you that curtains make the room — but only when they’re chosen correctly. It’s a perfect storm of selecting the right colour and fabric, then length and lining. The pros within Improve Canada’s window treatment category will help you come up with a custom solution to highlight your windows and space. At their showrooms, you’ll be able to see the fabrics on display and feel their heft to ensure they have the right weight, look and feel. At Trendy Blinds, you can get drapes that are made-to-measure for your space by their team of drapery tailors.

When it comes to picking a fabric, keep in mind that cotton and linen will have a relaxed look and feel. If you want a dramatic appearance, heavier materials like velvet will lend an opulent look. If your room is already richly patterned (think busy carpets or statement furniture), consider using a solid colour. If you want your curtains to be a focal point, go bold with a bright, large scale pattern.

The Improve Canada specialists will ensure the curtains are the right length. You want them to just kiss the floor. “The length of the drapery should be just above the floors,” says Siu. “People don’t like that puddling look. You don’t want it to be like pants that are too short. You know, where you can see your socks,” he says with a laugh.

For a more elegant look, Siu recommends hanging the curtain rod as high as possible. “It depends on the window, but these days, windows are getting larger and they’re getting closer to the ceiling. So in a lot of cases, we’ve actually mounted the hardware on the ceiling.”

Photo: Improve Canada

If you’re still not exactly sure what you’re looking for — that’s okay. With 13 showrooms specializing in window treatments at Improve Canada, you can walk from showroom to showroom to consult with the specialists on the best solutions for your space — and your budget. Get started by visiting the online directory to make appointments with any of the 350 showrooms at Improve Canada.

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