Becky San Diego, co-owner of Rebarts Interiors in Burlingame, recommends the Silhouette shade by Hunter Douglas—a treatment that is a combination of a sheer curtain and a blind. It consists of soft fabric vanes suspended between sheer front and rear fabric facings. The treatments can be made in dozens of textures and thicknesses.
"Like the centuries-old Japanese shoji screen, Silhouettes soften harsh glare and shadows to make a room peaceful, serene, and yet filled with light," San Diego says.
For the Silhouette shade, there are five lift systems—two manual and a three motorized options that come with a remote control or a hard-wired switch on the wall. "The only time we really don't recommend Silhouette is if you have cats or dogs that like to climb or jump on furnishings, and you haven't been able to dissuade them of that tendency," San Diego notes.
The Architella Duette Honeycomb Shade by Hunter Douglas is another fashionable window covering that uses soft, durable, pleated fabrics to create hexagonal cells for an extra layer of insulation. These shades work for contemporary interiors because they are thin and streamlined. They also come in dozens of colors, including many shades of white. A Duette shade sized at eight by ten feet starts at under $700.
Shades are a good window treatment option for those looking to reduce heat loss in the winter because they rest close to the windowpane. Some styles are more energy efficient than others, so it is a good idea to check a product's R-value and SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient) rating. SHGC is the fraction of incident solar radiation admitted through a window. The lower a window's solar heat gain coefficient, the less solar heat it transmits.
San Diego points out that adding a Duette Architella window shade to a dual-pane window can increase the window's R-value to as high as 7.86—more than doubling the insulating properties of a window in cold months. In contrast, the SGHC of a bare typical window is 0.76 (76 percent of solar hear is transmitted through it). Add a Duette Architella shade and the SHGC drops as low as 0.15—only 15 percent of the summer's heat enters the room, helping to reduce cooling costs, San Diego says.
UV exposure is not only harmful to skin, it can permanently damage furniture, floors, and fine artwork. The Duette shade with a semi-sheer fabric option can filter out 95 percent of these destructive rays when lowered, yet can still diffuse soft light deep into the room, reducing the need for electric lights during the day.
There are many styles of window blinds to choose from, but most readymade models aren't tall or wide enough to fit the large windows found in most MCM homes. Window treatment stores can make custom ones in several materials, including wood, metal, and vinyl.
While typically found in modern commercial buildings, motorized window blinds and shades can work well in modern residential applications. "These shades provide the clean lines necessary to complement the mid-century style," says Earl Trusty, owner of Ferrufino Interiors in Culver City. The shades come with manual or motorized pulls.
Two of the leading manufacturers of automated window treatment solutions are Lutron and Mechoshade. Their automated window treatments range from basic remote-control shade or blind systems to more sophisticated 'sun-sensing' systems that automatically raise and lower the blinds or shades based on the position and intensity of the sun.
These systems are low profile, quiet, and easy to operate. A downside is the cost: Lutron's Sivoia QS shading system sized at eight by ten feet can run in the $1,400 range, depending on chosen fabric. It includes the remote control but not electrician, wiring, or installation.
Full-length draperies are a softer, less expensive option for windows, but the drapes need to be tailored to complement the architecture. Curtains can also help cut down on energy bills when constructed with an insulating inner lining. "The swags, fringes, and tassels that look beautiful in old-world styles are not going to work in mid-century modern homes," says interior designer Jeani Ziering, owner of Ziering Interiors in New York City.