The traditional Japanese home, forerunner to the Craftsman style home, deserves much credit as the forerunner to the amazing window treatment track systems on today’s market. For centuries, the simple yet complex shoji and fusuma screens provided smooth and nearly silent operation as room dividers and window panels that allowed translucent light penetration as well as privacy for the occupants of the fluid, open Japanese spaces. Cupboard or closet doors also were set on sliding tracks in keeping with this style. The aura of flat panels set in handcrafted wooden frames—simple and structural, or painted rice paper—is inspirational, indeed.
Today, the innovation evident in great track systems continues to amaze consumers and window treatment professionals alike as product designers and engineers evolve and improve already great systems into remarkably versatile and handsome options. Here are some of these track systems products that perhaps are now, or soon may become, a part of your product offerings.
SLIDING TRACK SYSTEMS
Sliding window panels are the closest to their original Asian counterparts. Several manufacturers now offer panel track systems in a wide selection of fabric choices and options. For one example, the Skyline™ Gliding Window Panels from Hunter Douglas are offered in 11-1/2 - or 17-inch wide panels in five fabric categories: 1.) screen; 2.) sheer; 3.) semi-opaque; 4.) opaque; and 5.) naturals and woven grasses (also an Asian product seen for countless years as grass cloth wall coverings and in China as original bamboo shades).
Panels enhance clean, bold design aesthetic with a dramatically sleek, unencumbered look, overlapping one another for a crisp look with continuous coverage with right or left facing panels for directing of light. Unlike traditional systems such as shoji screens, these narrow panels require a minimal panel stack-back to provide maximum view. In the case of Hunter Douglas, the hardware system allows for several panels to be attached to one headrail and the hardware may be custom-colored in this highly functional system.
Sliding window panels have more applications than standard window coverings. Like traditional Japanese sliding screens, panel track systems also may function as a room divider to separate large areas, to add a dramatic detail to a small area or create an architectural element in a room or even as closet or cupboard doors. This fact is also an asset for renters who want to easily and affordably divide a space and restore a room’s proportions when they move on.
SHUTTERS ON TRACK
Among today’s well-received products is a creative twist on traditional Georgian-style shutters: shutters mounted onto modern engineered track hardware. An example of this innovation is an offering from Eclipse. By-pass and bi-fold shutter tracks are easy to operate, fit well into many types of rooms, and offer a dependable, practical solution for both home and business installations.
Shutters have long benefited occupants through superior light control, ease of operation and handsome, long-lived design. Although traditionally used for single windows, large expanses of windows now may be treated with sliding and bi-folding shutters with these types of tracks.
Shutter panel tracks also can be effective and appealing as room dividers and when used as closets doors.
PLEATED SHADE TRACKS
Another sleek Asian-inspired offering with proven product performance is represented by the Hunter Douglas’ Duette® honeycomb shades with the Vertiglide™ hardware system. Here, the honeycomb fabric is oriented vertically so that the shade operates sideways, ideal for sliding doors or expansive picture windows or patio door.
In remodels and new construction, taller windows are often the norm. Using a pleated shade product in this type of track can meet height requirements of up to 120-inches without a bottomrail. The shade product often is offered in many pleated sizes as well.
SOFT DRAPERY FOLDS
Track systems that allow the combination of technology for vertical louvers with the softness of fabrics have proven to be a practical and durable window treatment, without the hardness that some people find objectionable in “hard” treatments.
Among the products that have solved this dilemma is the ADOfold, a product from ADO that has the look of a vertical blind without the hard vanes. The treatment shown here features real wood hardware with finials in a Newport design.
Another take on this same idea is presented in specialty track systems that use actual vanes—sometime vinyl vanes and in other cases soft fabric vanes—to offer light control and privacy with a much softer look and appeal. ADO’s, ADOwrap® is one such offering. This track system holds vertical vanes slip-covered in fabric.
TRACKING THE FUTURE
As evidenced by performance, aesthetics and stability, each of the track systems mentioned here and others like them are destined to become classics in the future—and may be so already. With a pedigree extending back to Asian cultures and having been in use for several hundred years, we are witnessing a continual improvement in materials, mechanisms and function in track products that will keep these systems in demand.
Look for inventive track systems to hold steady and increase in application and interior design durability for the future.
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design at Brigham Young University. She has authored several books including Window Treatments, Understanding Fabrics and Interiors: An Introduction, 3rd Ed. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education and merchandising.