Technology has made its way into just about every aspect of daily life, and it’s no different for the window coverings industry. Manufacturers find ways to incorporate new engineering into their products making them easier to fabricate, more versatile to install and safer to operate. That’s not to say they’ve ignored the beauty and style of products. On the contrary, many of this year’s winners were chosen because of their new styling, making them easier to sell.
Sponsored by the Window Covering Manufacturers Association (WCMA), the
awards are the industry’s top competition for showcasing the newest
product developments and latest design tweaks that occur regularly. Each
product submitted for judging had been introduced within the previous
calendar year (2001) or debuted at the International Window Coverings
Expo in Baltimore, MD, in March where the winners were officially announced
and displayed. (For a complete list of all of this year’s winners,
see D&WC, April 2002, page 20.)
As if the wood products category weren’t already hot enough, this
year’s highest honor, Product of the Year, was awarded to Hunter
Douglas Window Fashions for its Country Woods® Exposé™
Refined and Castaway collections. Both collections represent a refinement
in the wood horizontal blind market with furniture-quality finishes on
2 5/8-inch beveled slats. Even the aged and distressed slats feature a
hand-rubbed glazed finish.
Just as appealing to a high-end clientele may be the bead-shaped tassels,
tape choices and new valances offered through these collections —some
carved, some embossed and one valance is even wrapped in leather. These
blinds also garnered Most Innovative Overall Design and Best New Technical
Innovation honors in the Wood Blinds and Shadings category.
Increased safety often was the result of many of the technical advancements
evident in this year’s entries. That was certainly the case with
the Safety Innovation of the Year award presented to Techniku, Inc. for
its Stylelight™ LC100 battery-operated remote controlled automation
system for lifting cellular and pleated shades. Its features include advanced
obstacle detection that shuts off the shade if it contacts an obstruction.
Patented technology also eliminates the need to set shade limits. The
Stylelight LC 100 also was presented the Best New Safety Innovation award
in the Specialty Applications category.
The WCMA’s second Rising Star award was presented to Tapestria, a
Web site developed by the Hunter Douglas Group combining cutting-edge
e-business technology with global resources for locating and purchasing
fabric online. (See D&WC, April
2001, page 54.)
Through Tapestria, designers can search, locate, view and preview fabrics
as draperies or on furnishings. It also offers online inventory checks
and order tracking. One of its fabric collections, the Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz
Collection, also was honored as the Best New Style Concept in the Curtains
and Draperies category.
The Rising Star award was added for the 2000 judging to honor young companies
in the industry that show potential for making an impact.
NEW AND NOTEWORTHY
Technology continued as the innovation of choice for manufacturers. For
example, Harmonic Designs’ Sensor Shade shutter tilt system was singled
out as the only award winner in the Shutters category, receiving honors
as Best New Technical Innovation. The battery operated wood shutter motor
is designed to tilt louvers by remote control using only one nine-volt
The Graber® cordless system option from Springs Window Fashions features
in internal belt-driven headrail, a technical innovation that provides
smooth operation in a cordless shade. The system was honored with Best
New Technical Innovation and Best New Safety Innova-tion awards in the
Cellular Shades category.
Lutron Electron-ics/VIMCO also was selected for multiple honors this year:
In the Specialty Applica-tion category it received Best New Style Concept
for its decorative wall plates and controls and Best New Technical Innovation
for bringing its Sivoia motorization system to draperies. In this last
case, the company’s quiet running motor drive unit was added to drapery
hardware resulting in a smooth operating, intelligent drapery system with
But Lutron/VIMCO was also singled out for new fashion print fabrics in
the Pleated & Roller Shades category, resulting in a Best New Style
Concept award. These digitally printed images on shade fabric presented
unique and exclusive designs including a Frank Lloyd Wright series.
Also in this category, RollEase, Inc. received a Best New Technical Innovation
Honorable Mention for its spring assist cassette system. This easy-to-assemble
system affords the ability to lift large shades with an average pull force
of only six pounds. It is marketed as a value priced option to motorization.
There almost always is something new in drapery hardware, such as new
designs and new style collections. This year, the Graber In the Groove™
drapery hardware system from Springs was a new design that brings the
option of decorative wood poles to an array of window treatments. Adding
three-quarter-inch cording to the top edge of a fabric selection allows
it to slide into the system’s specially designed two- and three-inch
wood poles. It was chosen Most Innovative Overall Design.
As a category, Alternative Shadings has come on strong over the past few
years. Many of the products entered into this category can be considered
hybrids, not fitting neatly into other product categories because they
combine the features of hard and soft treatments, for example. This year
Comfortex Window Fashions, in effect, swept the category. Its Sheer Solutions
Vellum Aura collection was awarded Best New Style Concept. Available in
both horizontal and vertical shadings, the collection offers complete
coordination between center vanes, sheer fabric and hardware systems for
a total room look.
Comfortex’s Tahitian Woods™ Roman-style shades received Honorable
Mention as Best New Style Concept in the same category. The keys to this
woven wood shade is a white privacy backing and two fold options: teardrop
There were several entries in the Verticals category this year, but the
judges chose only one award. Levolor/Kirsch Window Fashions was selected
as Best New Style Concept for its Rome velvet vertical blind collection,
which combines the fashion of velvet (in 12 colors) with the features
of a vertical blind.