Let the Light In
A good set of drapes can transform a room, yet many people leave the process of choosing window coverings to the very end of their design project. “When people come to us, it’s often their last stop—or they’re here because they are trying to solve a problem,” says Karen Glass, who co-owns Budget Blinds in Falmouth with her husband, Peter. “Whenever we do a home consultation, the first thing we try to figure out is what’s their pain point—what is the problem they want to solve,” she explains. A room may be too light, too dark, too cold, or too hot. Windows, Karen says, add a lot of beauty to a room, but they can also introduce big issues. “If we can make their lives more comfortable while making their place prettier, that’s just perfect,” she says.
Budget Blinds is a national business with over 1,000 franchise locations across the country. In addition to the Glass family store in Falmouth, there are also Budget Blinds in West Baldwin, Topsham, Kennebunk, and Bowdoin. Karen and Peter got into the window coverings business 14 years ago. They were looking to buy a business that would allow them opportunities to be social and imaginative, and selling window treatments happened to fit the bill. “Peter still jokes today that if someone told him 20 years ago he’d be talking to Miss Jones at the party about how her drapes puddle on the floor, he would have said, ‘You’re out of your mind,’” says Karen with a laugh. “But he loves it. The work is creative and it’s technical, which plays to both our strengths.” While Karen handles the bookkeeping and management side of the business, Peter spends much of his time in sales, working with homeowners looking to upgrade their living room curtains and businesses looking for a deal on their roller shades. They’ve worked on large-scale projects, such as Maine Medical Center and Ocean View at Falmouth, as well as plenty of smaller one-off gigs. (A recent memorable job involved installing a set of blue jean– inspired denim shades at a funky, chic home near Sugarloaf.)
But whether they’re working with a condo company to ensure optimum privacy or helping a homeowner pick up some sleek new drapes, Peter and Karen are always striving to address two issues: comfort and budget. Windows affect the light and temperature of a room, so the first thing Peter does during a home consultation is to try to determine the homeowner’s needs. If the client wants to sleep more soundly, he might recommend dark, thick drapes. If the client wants a contemporary and dramatic look, he might try pairing black shutters with graphic patterned drapery (Budget Blinds designer Lynn O’Neal recently used this combination on a “dramatic and super cool” South Portland property). “We have a strong market for shutters here in Maine,” Karen explains. While they’re “more high-end” than many other window coverings, they are “like furniture for your house. They completely transform a room,” she says.
But the other key feature of the Budget Blinds business ethos can be found right there in their name (they don’t recommend shutters to every customer). “The word budget doesn’t have as many positive associations in New England as it does in the rest of the country,” says Karen, “but we really embrace it.” After all, everyone is on a budget. It’s up to Karen and Peter to figure out how to address a client’s issues at the right price point. Fortunately, Budget Blinds has literally thousands of options to choose from, and this year they’ll be adding a few hundred more, thanks to a new library of fabric options they will be launching online to allow customers to mix and match styles and fabrics. “We’ll be able to customize like crazy,” Karen says. Whether you want a wood-grain print in eggshell blue or a crosshatch floral vine in gold, the Glass family business has got you covered.
WINDOW DRESSING TIPS FROM THE PROS
- “Window coverings are like the decorative icing on a cake,” says Karen. “The right selection can set a design tone in a room.” Rather than wait until after you’ve chosen your rugs and your sofa fabric, consider starting with statement-making drapes. Often people come to Budget Blinds after they’ve already spent their budget, says Karen. “But even in the simplest form, they can pull a room together and be just as impactful as art, lamps, or other accessories.”
- Let the light shine in. “Window coverings will look different in different light,” explains Karen. Consider how much light you want inside the room at all times of day—morning, noon, and night. Then hold the coverings up to the window and under a lamp to see how the colors look under different light sources. Natural light may cast a bluer tone on certain fabrics, while some light bulbs can turn even the purest white into a washed-out yellow.
- Consider how you want your window coverings to function. Karen advises clients to ask themselves, What is the key purpose for installing coverings in the first place? Is it UV protection? Increased privacy? Conserving heat in winter and repelling heat in summer? Or finally, are you just trying to add character to your room? “Consider each window separately,” she advises.
- Plan ahead. “If you want long-term, classic blinds that won’t become dated or offend a potential buyer, choose a neutral color closest to the color of the window trim,” Karen says. For homeowners looking to sell soon, Karen suggests the three-inch louvre plantation shutters in white, which “add value while attracting homebuyers.”
- Finally, think long-term. “Custom products are an investment that can last seven to ten years,” Karen says. “Your goal should be to purchase the right blind at the best quality you can afford. Remember, ‘the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.’”