Meet a new generation of home dwellers: the young, urban professional. Now, meet another generation of home dwellers: the not-so-young urban professional. Yes, city slickers numbers are rising among both the young and the not-so-young, but primarily in the young, urban professional category.
City dwellers may become your new clients, and their interior design needs are somewhat the same and somewhat different from any other residents.
Urban interiors have a common set of special problems for which solutions do definitely exist. These problems include the need for daytime and nighttime privacy, for light and glare control, the admittance of view where desired, sound abatement, budget considerations, high-tech requirements and making the most of tight spaces. In addition, style is a prime consideration for this generation.
NOW YOU SEE ME, NOW YOU DON’T
Privacy is a key issue in window treatments for city living in high-density neighborhoods. Often a window looks directly across an alley, courtyard or street into another apartment window. An ideal treatment would be one where the occupant could see out, but others cannot see in. During the day, any screening device will accomplish this task, as it is darker inside than outside. That we see toward the light means the opposite is true when inside lighting is brighter than the outside as it is at night.
Nighttime privacy, therefore, is often the concern. Options for solving this dilemma include the layering of treatments: screening in daylight and opaque at night. Choices might include double alternative treatments, two-in-one shades and layered fabric treatments such as custom fabric shades or operable draperies placed over the top of an alternative treatment. Another direction is the installation of a sleek alternative treatment next to the glass such as a mini-blind or a roller shade. Yet another possibility is a moveable louvered shutter. Louvered blinds, both metal and fabric vanes, can establish privacy when desired.
As many working professionals are not at home during the day, a window covering that assures the interior will not be visible while the occupant is away is desirable for daytime privacy—in other words, to protect against visibility from the outside in the case of potential robbery.
Light and glare control are closely linked problems in city living, and both are solvable. Light control is a daytime and a nighttime issue. During the day, the ability to control direct and reflected sunlight can be effectively handled with louvered products, screening or translucent fabric shades. Glare, too much light from one direction or source, may be even more a problem at night where adjoining buildings have lights left on inside or have exterior lights for visibility or for commercial signage. Where lighted signs blink or pulsate this problem can become severe and can disturb sleep and increase occupant stress. Although several products are excellent at fully controlling light, a total blackout option for window treatments may be found in the layering of window treatments where a blackout product is installed next to the glass then layered with fabric or with shades.
Urban apartments, condos, flats or lofts often have breathtaking views, but not always. The view might be of a river, a city park, or a cityscape—the outline of the buildings. For many young urban professionals, this is a magnetic draw to the city. The pulse and life of the city is stimulating and rewardingly exciting to them.
Window treatments that frame a view by stacking above or off to the side of the glass is an ideal solution for the view-loving client. Many window screening products allow for a view with the ability to see through them while still screening the glare and offering a limited amount of privacy.
High-traffic areas often mean unwanted city noise such as sirens, honking and general motor vehicular noise. Fabric is a proven sound absorbing window treatment. Operable draperies may provide beautiful, luxurious side panels as accompaniment to alternative window coverings while open during the day, then be closed at night to baffle noise and create a living environment that can feel worlds away from city din.
Draperies in cities may even be lined and interlined. Parisian apartment dwellers learned long ago that a fluffy batting between decorative fabric and lining would muffle city noise effectively. Even without layered draperies and top treatments, the alternative treatment as a basis for the decorative scheme can be a fabric treatment, such as a waterfall Roman shade or a custom, interlined and sound-insulating custom Roman shade.
Often city dwellers are younger professionals just starting out and have issues with budgets. They may be living in tight quarters because of high rents and tight expenses. One way to sell a product is to use the life-cycle costing formula: the amount spent divided by the years of use.
Another approach is to create a plan where the first layer of window treatment—the one that assures privacy, for example—can be installed first, followed later by a product that insulates against noise and heat or cold and will give emotional comfort through a pleasing pattern, texture or color. This is part of the selling process that deals with great style, discussed below.
All this said, there is no greater justification for quality window coverings than the peace-of-mind that comes from knowing that the products will solve problems, meet needs and be unlikely to need repair or replacement. Many young urbanites are keenly interested in high-quality products. Where only a few window treatments are required for the flat or apartment, a higher price tag per window can be justified.
No question about it; young urban professionals will want the latest in technological advances. Knowing the features and being able to describe the developmental advantages of the product that best fits the space will be a decided advantage. Products that can be motorized for ease and convenience—say while at the computer, in front of the television or at the dining table—also will have great appeal to a computer-savvy generation.
Urban apartments generally feature only a few rooms—unless they are upscale and spacious, which would much more likely belong to the older generation of city dwellers. For the young urbanite, city apartments usually contain a living/dining space, a kitchen, one bathroom, one or two bedrooms and possibly a bit of storage. Sometimes urban living quarters are studio apartments, which typically are one room that contains a cooking area, a sitting/study area and a sleeping area with a small bathroom.
As the per-square-foot cost of living is far higher and the competition for living space is greater in cities than in the suburbs or smaller cities or towns, most urban living spaces are tight quarters. Window treatments that take up little space, both physically and visually, will have great appeal where the occupant is feeling the effects of cramped living quarters. These include sleek, thin alternative treatments that can nearly disappear when opened. Light colors and subtle textures will also seemingly increase the space. Avoid dark and bright colors and patterns that are demanding, as these visually close in spaces.
Not all space limitations are necessarily negative, however. Smaller spaces are easy to maintain with one or possibly two doors that can be locked and left for those inevitable out-of-town business trips with minimal worries. There is no yard, unless it’s a balcony or a corner of a roof garden. There are fewer furnishing items required to fill the space, and there are usually fewer windows than a suburban home. Where the occupant is happy about having little to worry about and enjoys living quarters that are undemanding, focus on the selling features of low upkeep and ease of maintenance.
All things considered, style is perhaps the most important objective of most young urbanites. The design practice of selecting only a few quality furnishings with great style applies here specifically. Urban occupants often require trendy styles, as their working and social lives are likely based on what is hot in terms of technology and haut couture, or high fashion. These trendy looks, although they vary from year to year, are often sleek and uncomplicated. Each item of furnishing, from the rug to the window treatment, from the dining chair to the sofa, from the clock to the table lamp, is each selected under a great deal of scrutiny.
The window treatment product itself must be handsome, impeccably designed and meet the style demands of the client. Ask questions about their style preference, and match the product to the desired overall look of the interior. When the style features are satisfied, then close the sale with the benefits of high value to purchase price, privacy and light control, sound abatement and technological features.
Chances are that with this list, the needs of the occupants will be met with full satisfaction and you will receive referrals nearby as a reward for your efforts.
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.