New homes today come with a bevy of high-tech features. Lighting, sound systems, appliances and thermostats all can be controlled remotely or programmed to operate automatically. However, many homeowners are unaware that modern window treatments offer the same convenient features.
“The products available now are smart,” says Katie Jones, co-owner of Island Shade Shoppe, a Hunter Douglas gallery specializing in high-end window treatments. “They’re versatile and energy efficient,” she adds, noting that various types of blinds, shades and curtains can have automated functionality, just like other home systems.
People often have an antiquated notion of window treatments, says Jones, who runs the Johns Island gallery with her business partner and longtime friend, Dianna Hibbitts. The entrepreneurial duo is working hard to change people’s preconceptions and stuffy image of window treatments and bring a fresh perspective to the industry. “We’re not going to sell you heavy curtains with tassels and Gone With the Wind valances,” says Jones with a laugh. “There are so many new products on the market that are both beautiful and functional.”
The variety of products and styles was what attracted Jones to the window treatment industry. Having worked for a home furnishings retailer that offered window treatments, she noticed most showrooms carried a selection of curtains and blinds, but those fixtures usually were not the focus. “They were a furniture store, with window treatments on the side, or a carpet store, with window treatments on the side. Very few were really dedicated to it,” Jones says.
Recognizing the need in the marketplace, she launched a shop-at-home Hunter Douglas business, Kiawah Island Shades, in 2019. The company grew quickly, and when the manufacturer pegged Charleston as the ideal location for a new gallery, Jones jumped at the chance. She reached out to Hibbitts to help with the burgeoning business, and Hibbitts’ husband, Matt, came on board as a certified installer and manager of the growing installation team.
Jones notes that they have basically every product, style and operating system on display in some capacity in the new gallery, which opened earlier this year. She recommends homeowners visit the showroom in person to explore the diverse assortment of window treatments, including sleek, unobtrusive styles well-suited to a modern design aesthetic.
After a customer has perused the showroom, Jones and Hibbitts guide them through a more detailed discovery process to identify both their personal style and needs related to the window treatments. “If it’s decorative or energy efficiency or light control, we can make recommendations for that,” Jones says. The final step is a visit to the client’s house to confirm the structure and design can accommodate the products they have in mind. “Every window has its own unique characteristics, and it’s not one-size-fits-all,” she notes.
Island Shade Shoppe also works closely with interior designers, whether helping to select high-tech window treatments for a newly built home or exploring ideas to refurbish an older residence. Designers frequently come to the gallery looking for stylish alternatives to the industrial roller shades that home audio-visual or custom integration companies offer as an add-on to the automated systems they sell, Jones says. “We have the same technology, but we have a much bigger variety and more insight about available options and styles, because we are dedicated to window treatments,” she explains.
In addition to the full line of Hunter Douglas window treatments, the gallery carries several other high-end brands, including motorized shading systems by J. Geiger, as well as lovely Emily Daws textiles for draperies and soft Roman shades. Window treatments are infinitely customizable, Jones says, and can be as bold or inconspicuous as the homeowner desires. “There are so many new products on the market that are both beautiful and functional,” she says, adding, “The pretty stuff can also be the automated stuff.” *
Leslie J. Thompson is a Dallas-based freelance writer with a passion for interior design and international travel. Read more of her work at lesliejthompson.com.