Friday, September 19, 2008

Bathroom Update--Window Coverings

Way back in June (but shamefully only three blog entries ago), N reported on our bathroom progress. The windows had been trimmed and were in need of some kind of covering. Natural light in a bathroom is a wonderful luxury and during the course of our renovation I'd fallen in love with the unfiltered light streaming in all day. Sometimes I'd find myself just hanging out in the bathroom doorway, drinking in all the light. At night, however, the three big uncovered windows became black mirrors and put us uncomfortably on display. So we faced the dilemma of choosing window coverings that would allow bright light through the day while simultaneously providing privacy and standing up to the humid conditions of a bathroom. We have a cellular blind in our current bathroom--the kind that is translucent and offers light by day and some privacy at night and has the option of being lowered from the top to allow views of some of the surrounding landscape. But I've never liked that blind and never felt that it offered quite enough cover at night. The commonly prescribed option for our set of circumstances (at least according to my web and magazine searches) seemed to be the Silhouette blinds by Hunter Douglas. On the website, the blinds seemed to meet our requirements: louvres encased in nearly invisible netting allowed filtered views outdoors by day and near opacity by night. The top-down option was also available for unobstructed views out the top of the window. In the showroom I visited the blinds looked, well, commercial, and manufactured. Something about them reminded me of childhood appointments to the doctor's office where old fashioned gray aluminum horizontal blinds covered every window. The mood they evoked was all wrong, but my options seemed limited, so I got a quote for our three windows and I was astounded. The price for three blinds with the option of the top down function was over $2000. Granted, our windows are large, but for mass-produced synthetic blinds with an inescapable commercial feel and mechanisms that might eventually break or tangle, $2000 seemed ridiculous. I talked to some of my neighbours, one of whom had also recently considered Silhouette blinds for the sunroom on the front of her house. She too had been shocked by the price and was exploring other options. I'm sure those blinds might be perfect in some situations, but they were not for us.

The main window shutters--I can't really explain the strange soft focus

This is when we began considering shutters. Up until now I had thought a custom option would be out of reach. Initially I was also worried that wooden shutters wouldn't stand up to bathroom conditions and might warp. We briefly entertained the idea of vinyl shutters, but didn't like them in person. Most of the shutters we saw required an ugly frame to be installed within the existing widow frame. Given the time and care we'd spent on our window trim, the idea of an aluminum or vinyl frame marring the refinished wood was an anathema. This is when I stumbled across the website of the shutter guys. They offered custom hardwood shutters with louvres of varying widths and complete freedom in choice of finish. They could match our paint precisely or even use a paint we specified. Best of all, the shutters would be constructed to fit our windows precisely, which in our case, because our window trim is deep, would mean no additional framing.

Shutter detail

The shutter guys were as good as their word. One of them came, with samples in hand, which allowed us to change our minds from the 3 1/2" louvre we'd been leaning towards to the narrower 2 3/8" louvre (which in person seemed much more in keeping with the scale of the room and our house), measured, and promised to return in a couple of weeks. Both of the shutter guys returned, on time, and installed the shutters, a process which involved a little onsite planing and retouching for a perfect fit, and left. We couldn't be happier with the result. Even with the bottom louvres almost closed, the shutters allow in a huge amount of light.

The shutters cast great shadows

The cost? Less than half the original estimate for blinds. And, by going with shutters, we supported a small business and the tradespeople in the Toronto area factory where the shutters are built. I'm sure we'll choose shutters for the windows of several other rooms (once we complete them). Any window covering epiphanies or advice out there?


Wanderluster said...

The window shutters look wonderful! I like the scale you've chosen too. I have those cellular, top down blinds in my current unrenovated bathroom but will now have to keep this idea in mind when we renovate!

One word about shutters: we had our dining room shutters custom painted to match the rest of the trim and wainscotting. Unfortunately, most manufacturers don't paint with just a regular semi-gloss, but use a high quality lacquer paint. So even though ours were painted in the same colour, they look slightly off because it is a different type of paint from the trim. I've noticed this too in other friend's houses. Not sure how one would get around that.

S and N said...

And thanks for the advice about the lacquer paint. We originally wanted to match the Farrow and Ball oil paint we used on the window sashes, but when we saw the sample shutters, we liked them so much, we decided we didn't need the perfect match, so in the end we just asked for the standard finish from the shutter guys. It seemed to work out well--no frisson of the close but not quite match. Although I know they spray on the finish, I think they use a Benjamin Moore paint.

Marilyn said...

Oh, they look gorgeous! I enjoyed all of your many ways to describe the importance of light - good light, light the way you want it, light at the right time - and I couldn't agree more. Looks like it worked out beautifully.

S and N said...

Thanks Marilyn. I live for light. Nothing affects my mood quite so much (except maybe a good dinner and glass or two of wine). I'm glad we didn't lose you in our long absence.

Jennifer said...

Very cool! Nice added bonus to support local industry, too.

S and N said...

Thanks Jennifer. Yes, a worthwhile bonus.

My Notting Hill said...

Hi. The shutters look great! We put them in 2 of our bathrooms in our 1950's house this past year. We had to go w/vinyl because one of the windows is in the bath/shower area and gets wet. You reminded me I should post on it some day. Thanks for visiting my blog. Michele

S and N said...

Thank you Michele,
I was initially concerned about using wood in the bathroom, but ours won't come into any direct contact with water, so we went ahead. I'd like to see a post about your shutters on your blog.