Freedom is an important word today. Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, we all have been pondering the freedoms that we have enjoyed. They are, perhaps, more precious and appreciated now than ever before. No doubt the terrorists struck at the World Trade Center towers because of what they represent—symbols and centers of free enterprise—things that the terrorists and despots of the world hate with a "Medieval Holy Way" passion. We have experienced an incredible gamut of emotions surrounding the tragedies, and, likely, each of us has thought deeply about and supplicated through our own forms of prayer the preservation of the freedoms we all share. We are now facing a conflict to preserve that freedom, but we must do it in a non-traditional way. We must plan strategies in a new way, we must think differently and we must be creative in problem solving.
THINK BEYOND THE BOX
The new computers we recently purchased are from Micron. On the outside of the package, printed in very large letters are these words: Think beyond the box. This catchy slogan and all it implies in the wired world could very well be a motto for the new challenges of the 21st century. We all must think beyond the box in terms of problem solving on both large and small scales. As we hope our leaders will problem-solve effectively and efficiently concerning world peace, so must we, as we go about our own lives, problem-solve creatively and with sensitivity to all factors involved. We're in the profession of solving problems one by one for our clients' interiors. We can apply the simple, yet powerful, principles of freedom of choice to creatively find solutions for each window covering dilemma.
Ironically, some problems are the result of others' seemingly creative solutions. For several years, architects and CAD designers have been space planning new homes with soaring spaces and angular and complex window fenestrations or arrangements. Rather than the traditional box that represented houses over the past few centuries, new construction offers many unique possibilities in dramatic and impressive architecture. One of the notable changes is the inside shape and dimensions of rooms. Whereas for almost 100 years, an eight-foot ceiling was considered the right height for rooms based on standard-sized building and finishing materials; today, the rules are very loose. Ceiling heights may also be 10, 12, 14, 16, 20 or more feet high. The height of one room may not match the height of adjoining rooms. In one single room there may be varying ceiling heights, angles and rounded shapes, half-walls and open floor planning. This certainly is thinking beyond the box—it's manipulating this new box that gives latitude and freedom to the home planner.
THE WINDOW PAIN
The resulting windows in contemporary architecture are exciting and beautiful; they often frame a dramatic scene and are sweeping in scope and drama. They are also a real challenge to treat. Here are the problems that frequently arise from this new generation of windows:
• Soaring windows—Often ending up two stories high, they are difficult or impossible to reach, which makes their operation from the floor level a problem.
• Odd or unique shapes—The most common question asked of me in window coverings seminars is how to treat an unusually shaped window.
• Privacy—The problem is that at night any person outside can see into the interior. The view reverses and privacy evaporate; so does emotional and often physical security.
• Glare or excessive brightness—This requires some control and often demands a vigilant effort to keep it under control when the weather is fickle.
• Heat build-up from extensive sunshine—This can make interiors uncomfortable to occupy and places a tremendous strain on HVAC systems and the pocketbook.
• Large quantities of UV light—Coupled with heat gain, they do damage to furnishings, fading every textile and colored surface, drying and splitting wood and irreparably destroying fine art work.
• Window orientation—The direction the windows face determine the need for covering and uncovering according to the time of day. East windows need control in the morning from the bright, clear sunrays. West windows need treatments in the afternoon. South windows, as the interior furnishings dictate, need covering nearly any time of the day depending on the weather and exterior protection. North windows will need treatment only as they reflect heat and brightness from nearby surfaces.
SOLVING THE PROBLEMS—OUTSIDE THE BOX
One reason that I have long admired and desired to contribute to the window treatments industry is the continual and amazing technological advancements we witness every year. New and innovative products are possible because they are built upon the successes of previous technological advancements. We are the beneficiaries of far-sighted commitment decisions made by the leading manufacturers. Their technicians, researchers, mechanical and chemical engineers and product development departments are to be much credited for the options that allow us to solve those crazy window covering challenges.
One safe and effective answer to all of the problems of today's architecture is found in motorized window treatments—cellular and roller shades, blinds and shading materials and motors for drapery rods. So important are these products that no window treatment specialist should be without them in their knowledge and product offerings. The advantages of remote control are obvious:
• You are able to cover hard-to-reach windows that could not be operated before remote control devices were available.
• You can cover odd-shaped windows, drawing or rolling up from the bottom and down from the top, and with some products from side to side.
• Slim headrails can encase the shading material to almost disappear when the covering is not needed. This allows that unencumbered view so precious to many people today. Likewise, nighttime privacy can be assured without being obvious during the day.
• Glare is easily controlled, as is excessive sunlight and the crucial blocking of UV light, all with the flip of a switch or the press of a button.
• Timing devices and programmable controls solve the issues of when to screen out light and glare, helping to control temperature and heat loss and gain.
FREEDOM FOR THE WIRED GENERATION
One last sales point—perhaps the most important of all to the wired generation whatever non-exclusive age that may be—there are a lot of us out there who love the idea of convenience via hand-held devices. Many feel somewhat lost without a remote control or cellular phone in hand. The fun of more technology in the home says more enjoyment and less work. These two combine to make the home an even more appealing place to be and the office a more impressive place to work. Remote control designs will impress clients or customers in the workplace or in service locations such as restaurants or retail stores.
Let's all move on up to the technology of the 21st century and include remote control for window treatments as a freedom of choice in creative problem solving.
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design at Brigham Young University. She is a practicing interior designer and has authored several books including Window Treatments and Understanding Fabrics. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education and merchandising.