Almost any house has the potential to be a show stopper given the right accessories. Your clients spend thousands of dollars dressing up the interiors of their homes, why not show them how to make the most of the outsides of their homes with fabulous exterior window treatments? It's the perfect opportunity for add-on sales!
Mention exterior window treatments and probably the first thing that comes to mind is awnings. These popular accessories are designed to provide shade over windows and come in two versions: metal and fabric.
In days past, the cost of fabric awnings was out of reach for most home owners. Metal awnings were more affordable and became a popular choice over doorways and sun-drenched windows. But now, thanks to recent technological advances in the production of fabrics and lower manufacturing costs, fabric awnings are one of the hottest exterior home accessories. They can be used not only to provide shade, but to make an elegant addition to almost any home's exterior. Awnings can be purchased for any size window or doorway and can be used to provide cover for patios, decks, porches and sidewalks.
A Hot Trend That's Cool
Carl Livengood, general manager of The Dize Co., Winston-Salem, NC, says awnings are a hot trend borrowed from the commercial world.
"People see the decorative awnings on businesses and shopping centers and are drawn to the color," Livengood says. "They say to themselves, 'Hey, I can add some nice appeal to my house with something like that.'"
It's not only color and style that home owners are looking at. Mary Ann Vaughn, advertising and marketing coordinator for Anchor Industries Inc., Evansville, IN, says awnings can reduce utility costs by up to 25 percent in some areas. "You can definitely see a marked difference in fuel efficiency when an awning is placed over windows that get a lot of sun during the day," she says.
According to Livengood, an awning can cool a room by as much as 15 degrees. "Not only that, it helps protect window treatments, furnishings and carpeting from fading in the sun," he says. "Add in the decorative value awnings contribute to a home, and it's easy to see why they're so popular."
The trend is so hot, residential sales of awnings are quickly topping commercial sales. Are consumers buying for the sun protection, the energy savings or the added aesthetic value an awning adds to a home? Apparently, it's a little bit of all three. People are realizing they can have it all in one product.
Because fabric awnings today are so much more cost effective than in the past, customers can easily and completely transform the look of their homes by changing the color and or style of their awnings. It's as easy as changing the color of the paint. Where else can you get such a dramatic change without making a major investment?
Many awning companies' top selling residential styles include dome or half umbrella and convex awnings that are often referred to as waterfall awnings. These styles offer a "tight" and attractive appearance. They provide additional interest-generating shapes to the front of a square building, radically changing its look.
Retractable awnings also are a hot seller because they are so easy to use. The user simply rolls them out over the patio, for instance, when shade is needed and rolls them back in when not in use. During winter, awnings can be shielded from harmful elements by protective hoods. Some motorized retractable awnings actually sense when wind velocity increases. If the wind gets too brisk and could damage the awning, the awning will automatically retract to prevent damage from occurring. What a terrific option!
Contoured shapes and retractable awnings may be the rage now, but don't give up on the traditional awning just yet. The standard shed style is still the most popular residential awning. Most awning companies say it is still a matter of economics. It is the least expensive of all the styles, but looks great and still provides protection from the sun.
Don't look for the old aluminum awnings of days gone by to make a return. Fabric awnings actually are now more affordable than aluminum awnings. It used to be that given the short life of fabric awnings, metal ones actually were cheaper in the long run. But the outdoor fabrics of today are outstanding; there's no comparison to the old fabrics used in awnings. Today's fabrics are perfectly suited to be exposed to the sun, wind and rain. Not only are they mildew resistant, they're color-fast too. Because of these new high quality features, aluminum awnings have been almost completely phased out.
Fabrics used in today's awnings are specially chosen for each individual application, and each job is treated differently. To properly select the appropriate fabric, awning specialists consider its purpose, the climate, the amount of weather the awning will have to endure and whether it is retractable or stationary. Based on these guidelines and the client's needs, an awning can be fabricated that will suit their needs perfectly for years to come.
Care and Maintenance
Each awning has a different life span based on the environment in which it is installed. But given the high-quality fabric in use now, awnings can last for years. Their longevity is something you can count on with proper maintenance.
Just what does proper maintenance entail? Actually, not very much. The main objective is keeping as much dirt and grime off them as possible. Manufacturers recommend cleaning awnings at least twice each year, in the spring after pollen has spread and again in the fall after the leaves have fallen. It is important to clean them at these times to ensure the life of the fabric.
Awnings don't have to be taken down for cleaning. Once any leaves or other accumulation is removed, cleaning can be as easy as applying a solution of warm water and soap to the awning and using an extension brush. Special chemicals also can be purchased to help clean awnings properly. The results of proper care are more than worth the effort. The home owner can expect to get an extra year or more of life out of an awning just by keeping it clean.
The price of exterior fabric awnings depends on several considerations including the location of the job site, the locations of the windows in the building, size, style, fabric choice and how difficult the installation.
Why stop at only working on the inside of your customers' homes? Don't concentrate so much on the inside that you forget about the outside! There is so much more you can do for your clients. Take advantage of this business-building opportunity for add-on sales, while providing not only exterior aesthetics, but also a multitude of benefits for your clients. What a winning combination!
Cheryl Strickland is owner of Professional Drapery Seminars. She is an internationally-acclaimed speaker with more than 20 years experience in the window coverings industry. She is the publisher and editor of Sew WHAT?, an international monthly newsletter for professional drapery workrooms. Strickland also is the author of A Practical Guide to Soft Window Coverings and the Designer's Sketch Pad, which are available through Draperies & Window Coverings magazine.