Everywhere I look in this new house, I see something that needs to be done. We’re developing two lists in this category: immediate and long-term. Along with our kitchen (which I wrote about here last week), our bedroom needs immediate help with the window treatments. We inherited these old, fabric vertical blinds, which must date back to when the house was built in 1990. Needless to say, the dust and stains on them don’t exactly soothe the senses when you walk into the master suite.
That’s why I was thrilled when The Shade Store reached out recently. It’s as if they read my mind. Even better, they have a beautiful store in the Mosaic District in Fairfax, where I’ll be headed soon to pick out fabric for new treatments that will go in our bedroom and bath:
Under this partnership, I’ll share the entire process, from figuring out fabric choices to navigating the myriad varieties of shades and draperies to figure out which one is best for our space—or any space in the home, for that matter.
But first, I reached out to Ian Gibbs, co-founder and creative director of The Shade Store, to ask him about his family-owned business and how it’s continued to thrive since his grandfather opened a fabric shop in Mount Vernon, New York in 1946:
Your company goes back 70 years; how have the generations managed the transition from small-town workroom to the Internet age?
When the current generation came into adulthood—my two brothers, our cousin and myself—we looked at the family business and turned the model on its head, with the objective of modernizing the way consumers shop for custom window treatments and ‘making custom simple’ for them. While the ordering portion of the business has changed with our website and 40-plus showrooms nationwide (nearly 50 by the end of the year), the craftsmanship has not.
In the beginning, we were just one small shop, and we now support hundreds of skilled American artisans who are handcrafting each of their custom window treatments in workrooms across the country. By specializing in a category that can be difficult to understand, The Shade Store has been able to grow a bustling business online and throughout the US, providing access to expertise previously held only by industry insiders.
How do people typically shop for treatments? What are some of the frustrations in trying to purchase them?
Typically, people who were shopping for window treatments went one of two ways. You either went to a big-box retailer and bought drapes in a bag, or you had a designer who hired a workroom that took three months from start to finish.
We decided to change that shopping experience when we took over the family business. We simplified the custom process, or as we call it, ‘custom made simple,’ by providing top-quality products, expert customer service and quick turnaround time.
In general, the biggest frustration we see when it comes to purchasing window treatments is a lack of awareness. This process is foreign to many people, which is why our showroom model is so helpful. Customers are greeted by a trained design consultant who walks them through the process from start to finish.
How would you say The Shade Store is different from other window-treatment retailers such as Calico or Smith & Noble?
All of our products are hung and tested for quality assurance and ship for free in 10 days or less. We also employ a network of measure-and-install professionals around the country so the entire process is seamless. For those who have questions, our website has a live-chat feature in addition to a call center where our experts are ready to assist.
Our product selection is something else that sets us apart. Quality is very important to us, and we have been using the same techniques to produce window treatments for three generations. Through our partnership with Kravet, we are also able to offer a selection of designer materials that customers would otherwise not have access to unless they hired an interior designer.
I love your designer collections. Can you describe how these collaborations came about? How have they enhanced your existing collections?Our partnership with Kravet allows us to offer our customers materials from designers like kate spade new york, Jonathan Adler, Jeffrey Alan Marks and Diane Von Furstenberg. We’ve also collaborated with The Novogratz, who designed an exclusive line of fabrics for The Shade Store last year, and we’re launching another collection with them later this fall. We love working with Robert and Cortney Novogratz—we’ve worked with them on their design projects for years, so the partnership evolved naturally.
Do you have programs for trade professionals?
Yes, we do. The more a designer spends over time, the more they save. The discount begins at 20 percent, and once a designer has spent $50,000 with us, they will receive 25 percent off on all future orders. We also offer an exclusive C.O.M. (customer’s own material) program that is available for roman shades, drapery and cornices. We work very closely with designers to ensure that they’re getting the best pricing and the best materials possible for their projects.
I imagine your team has seen dramatic change in how drapes and shades have been designed since the 1940s. Where might window fashion be headed next?
From a design perspective, our partnerships and collaborations are a constant source of inspiration. We have some really exciting fabric partnerships coming up at the end of the summer, including kate spade new york for Kravet.
We’re also launching The Shade Store shop-in-shops in eight Kravet showrooms in major cities across the United States, and are planning to open 10 new showrooms before the end of the year. We’re always looking to make our customers’ lives easier, whether that’s by expanding our material offerings or opening a showroom in a convenient location.
As for where window fashion is headed next, the easy answer for that is motorization. As the world continues to advance in technology, so should your window treatments. We’re launching a new motor system this fall that will be available for all styles of Roller Shades, Solar Shades, Roman Shades, Drapery, Woven Wood Shades, Wood Blinds, Cellular and Pleated.
Many thanks to Ian and his team. I look forward to seeing what they can do for our bedroom!