Meet the shade Brigade

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Margot Krahn of Blinds Unlimited offers tips to put you on the right track

It can be difficult to keep your home cool under the harsh Caribbean sun. But a new generation of custom-fit blinds, shades and shutters are helping homeowners in Cayman to lower the temperature without comprising on style.

These ‘hard’ window treatments, such as solar shades, blackout curtains and roller shades, will not only increase your property value but can also save you a fortune on electricity.

Solar shades
Margot Krahn, interior designer at Blinds Unlimited, says her clients are increasingly turning to solar shades to add style to their home and to save energy. Modern solar shades are made from a range of fabrics, including fine linen and woven cotton. Unlike traditional curtains, they allow homeowners a view of the outside world while blocking out the sun.

Solar shades vary in degrees of translucency or ‘openness’; the more open they are, the more light comes in and less shade is provided. “It’s much better than drawing curtains,” Margot says.

“During the day it keeps out the sun and you are able to see out of your house quite nicely.” That is a big attraction to Cayman’s homeowners, who want to make the most of their sensational views. The downside to solar shades is that at night the effect is reversed, giving the outside world a clear view into the house.

Margot suggests a dual installation of solar shades for the day and blackout curtains for night.

“You have two-in-one shades. One you pull down during the day and another you pull down at night for privacy,” she explains.

Blackout shades
Blackout shades can also be great for a bedroom or home theatre.

While the term may bring to mind black, bulky curtains and scenes from the Blitz, modern blackout curtains are often made from white materials.

White is a favourite because it reflects light better. If you want to keep your existing curtains, but want more protection from the heat and sun, there is also the option of blackout liners.

They are a simple add-on that fit behind your existing drapery, on the same rail or clipped on to the curtain.

Margot has seen a surge in customers asking for shading solutions that can decrease energy costs and prevent soft furnishings from fading.

Honeycomb shades by Hunter Douglas are proving popular with Blinds Unlimited’s energy-conscious customers.

The manufacturer boasts that their pleated shades, shaped liked a honeycomb, are roughly equal to installing two inches of fibreglass insulation over your windows. Imagine the electricity savings!

Plantation shutters
At the higher end of the market, plantation shutters are a great way to keep the sun out and give your home a Caribbean flair while adding value to the property.

Plantation shutters are seen as a modern, clean, eye-catching alternative to regular blinds and curtains. They are maintenance free, simple to wipe clean and more hygienic than traditional drapery.

They are also favoured for the privacy and light control they offer, allowing homeowners to tilt the shutters slightly to allow sufficient light in while keeping noise and heat out.

Cayman’s design professionals usually recommend faux wood over real because it lasts longer under the intense Caribbean sun.

“It definitely increases your property value and they [plantation shutters] are very easy to keep clean,” Margot agrees.

Blinds and shutters
If you are on a tight budget, regular horizontal shutters remain an easy shading solution. The trade off for lower prices is often less sun block, as hanging blinds tend to let more light into the house.

Design your own
In addition to all these shading ideas, there are a number of other products that homeowners can mix and match to suit their tastes. For instance:

• Woven Roman shades, made from woods like bamboo, can give a Caribbean feel to your house on the cheap.
• Window tints are also increasingly popular in Cayman for their energy-saving properties and the privacy they offer by day.
• Soft, sheer fabrics can be used creatively in any number of colour combinations to block the sun and add flair to your home.

The ultimate shading solution is different for everyone and will invariably involve finding the right combination to suit your tastes and needs.

For instance, Lydia Geerlings, interior designer at International Design Group, likes to match sheers with other window treatments.

“We like sheers. They provide a really beautiful look. They have a nice softening effect in a room,” Lydia explains. “It’s a great way to add colour, interest and texture.”

Outside the house, Lydia uses sail shades to cool patios and outdoor entertaining areas. “They are quite contemporary… there are a number of different ways you can design them. You can also layer them, creating different effects. They also come in a range of different colours,” she says.

The good news for homeowners is that there are options to suit every taste and budget. And if you are confused, there are professionals out there ready to help.

“Everybody has their own style and preference … that’s what we are here for, to help guide them,” Lydia says.