Homeowners searching for ways to lower energy bills may overlook something as simple as window shades.
Window treatments can actually lower a home's energy consumption by insulating windows and restricting outdoor heat and cold from invading a home's interior.
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That's why energy-conscious homeowners -- as well as the fashion-conscious homeowners you would expect -- are keeping the workroom and crews busy at Window Fashions Unlimited during this economic slowdown.
"People are being very cautious with their money," said Randy McCormick, owner of the 50-year-old Palatine business. However, Hunter-Douglas Duette Architella shades with their high energy rating have become very popular, he said.
"They have been available for about five years and feature a cell-within-a-cell design that gives them a high R rating. They are amazing. They completely cut any wind, cold or heat coming through the window," McCormick said.
This energy-saving capacity is why the federal government's $500 tax credit for the purchase and installation of certain energy-efficient products is extended to homeowners who purchase specific window treatments with high thermal resistance, or R rating, which includes the Duette Architella shades.
McCormick said people are also shopping at Window Fashions Unlimited because they are choosing not to sell their homes in the current economic recession and, instead, are updating their houses.
"We aren't seeing much business in new construction these days, but we are seeing people who are choosing to fix up what they have. They just put in new, energy-efficient windows and the old window treatments no longer work, or they are just tired of the window treatments they have and want something new," he said.
In all cases, clients of all ages make their way to Window Fashions Unlimited because they want to talk to someone who has been in the business for years and knows it inside and out, "something you don't find at the big box stores," McCormick said.
A variety of looks are finding favor with clients these days.
"Plantation shutters, especially those painted white or off-white, are very popular because they are light and airy," McCormick said.
Others are opting for a dual look, mixing hard treatments like blinds and shades with fabric treatments to add a soft look. Some people will mix a fabric valance or cornice along the top, with shades or blinds. Others will opt for fabric side panels and decorative wood or wrought iron poles with rings, mixed with shades or blinds.
Cornices are also gaining favor again because they don't demand as much costly fabric and can be dressed up with a variety of trims, appliqués and add-ons, if the client so chooses.
ADO wrap vertical draperies, which cover hard vertical blinds with fabric and have optional matching sheer valances, are also popular, McCormick said.
"Our customers really like the fact that with ADO wrap verticals, the fabric can be removed, laundered and put back up. There are hundreds of different fabrics and colors to choose from," he said.
Window Fashions Unlimited is a full-service shop, doing everything on-site in its 2,400-square-foot facility from ultrasonic cleaning of blinds, to repairs of window treatments, reupholstering of furniture, fabricating of vertical blinds and decorative poles, and sewing of custom drapes, soft top treatments, bedspreads and pillows.
They are also one of the 450 Hunter-Douglas Gallery stores worldwide that display all of the company's products and allow customers to see, touch and operate them all before making a purchase decision. Window Fashions Unlimited is also a Hunter-Douglas service center, making repairs to products sent to them by other Hunter-Douglas dealers. They also do repairs on all brands of blinds and shades for their retail customers.
With the exception of long-term independent contractors who handle window treatment installation and reupholstery, Window Fashions Unlimited is entirely manned by the McCormick family.
Randy handles sales. His wife, Pat, does the sewing and handles the accounting. Their son, Dave, cleans and repairs the blinds and fabricates vertical blinds and decorative poles, and their other son, Brian, works part time.
"My father-in-law started this business in 1960 with a small workroom here in Palatine where he made slip covers and drapes for retail customers and the wholesale trade," McCormick said. "I came on board for about a year in 1965, but then I went to work selling drapery hardware for Kirsch until my father-in-law became ill in 1998. Pat had been working here all those years with her father, so I came back in and took over the business and have been here ever since."
For more information about Window Fashions Unlimited, call (847) 358-6050, visit www.windowfashionsunlimited.hdwfg.com or stop by the showroom at 120 S. Northwest Hwy., Palatine.