Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lined sheers?

A few days ago it was time to install again at one of my favorite clients. I've worked on several rooms in her home; this time she wanted to add window treatments to her office. There were existing shades already; Silhouettes in two of the windows and a top-down bottom-up woven wood shade in the other window, but this client needed more than just the basics. She needed to come into this room, where she spends a good portion of her day, and have it be a beautiful, warm and welcoming place.

This client loves glamor, unique trim and delicate sheers. As well, she had existing ruffled valances in a cream fabric accented with a gold scroll print that she wanted to repurpose. I needed to find a way to pull those elements together in a way that would delight her every morning as she entered her office to begin work.

Together we chose a very sheer and shimmery fabric embroidered with delicate flowers and scrolls that complemented the valance fabric. The sheer was simply too sheer; the solution was to line it with another sheer in the same color family for more color saturation and to block more of the sun's rays. The one-way draw sheers covered the entire back wall of the office and were topped by the updated valance. Conso beaded trim in hues of gold and amber was added to the valance for added sparkle. A matching tieback swagged the sheer back in open position, and the small adjoining window was topped by an identical beaded valance for that finishing touch.

The client loved her "new" office! That's the best part of this business - fulfilling clients' window coverings dreams! And I can't wait to get started on the next rooms in her home...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reflections on IWCE Vision09

I'm back and I've had a few days to reflect on the experience that was Vision'09. I think I'll still be processing ideas and sights for quite a while to come.

For a small business owner such as myself, it is always a huge investment of time and money to make the trip cross country, so I needed to weigh carefully the pros and cons of going. I have attended IWCE in the past, so I could better judge the value of the seminars I would attend and the education I would receive, as well as the opportunity to see the latest innovations in the industry and meet suppliers old and new. The benefits of meeting and learning from top designers, workrooms and professionals in the window coverings industry is also invaluable. Was there really any doubt in my mind? I booked my travel, packed my suitcase, and headed off to Atlanta. And what a positive experience it was!

The speakers were top-notch. The days were jam-packed with seminars in all the different areas of our industry - design, workroom, business, installation, etc. The show floor had a wide variety of vendors showing their latest wares. TrendSpot showcased Vignettes while hosting daily design trend talks, interviews with the designers of the Vignettes, tips and product presentations as well as Portfolio Reviews and Small Group Consultations. The Construction Zone featured top workroom experts giving demonstrations and product introductions in a hands-on area; as well contestants were presented with various challenges to design and create. The bookstore was filled with books and material specifically geared to the window fashions industry. To round out the busy schedule, there were various awards presentations and other special events. Is it any wonder my head was spinning?

What an enjoyable 4 days I spent in Atlanta. Thanks to Deb Barrett for all her help in seeing the the Vignette display through from conception to installation. Kudos and thanks to Grace McNamara and her entire organization for a well-organized and enjoyable exhibition. This was the best investment I could have made for professional development!

Today I took my show and seminar notes and began to review them. I had so much information thrown at me in such a short period of time that it is good to take the time and effort to go through the notes again from time to time, first of all when it is still fresh.

IWCE Vison'09 helped me to refocus my passion for what I do and clarify my vision of how to proceed for the future. It revitalized me and re-energized me! Now, I need to step away from the computer and head off to my first client of the day!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday – One last day at IWCE, then time to head home

Back to the Georgia World Congress Center one last time. The day begins with Somfy’s Motorization seminar. I’m interested especially in the motorized shades that are sun-activated. Just suction cup the sensor onto the window, and when the sun’s bright, down comes the shade! There are so many options and possibilities in motorization.

Then off to an in-depth workshop by Terri Booser on Understanding Pattern Repeats and Calculating Yardage. Helpful material again, not just for the workroom, but also for the designer in calculating yardages for all types of window fashions and applied trim, and unraveling the mysteries of pattern repeats.

A quick trip around the show floor, some goodbyes, and then off to the airport. Back to the family – home is going to feel good!

IWCE09 Thursday - Vignette Interviews

Early afternoon - time to head over to TrendSpot! First a little social networking, trading some Twitter aliases and blog addresses, before several of us Vignette designers answer questions about our displays.

Let's back up a little. A few months ago a call went out, asking for window fashions designers to apply to create a Vignette, one window treatment, to be displayed at IWCE09. The designers were given client profiles for whom to design the window treatments, and in some cases even a real client to interview. My "Booming Business" client was a charming 50-something from the Midwest who had just remodeled but wasn't sure how to deal with the custom windows she added. She wanted a treatment that wasn't fussy but would frame the view and add softness to the room. So that's what I had in mind when I designed my Vignette.

I designed an arched cornice, to follow the arch of the wood in her custom window, of Kasmir's bronze faux silk with chenille maroon, gold and moss green dots, finished with maroon and gold cording. The pillowcased gold chenille side panels were backed with maroon chenille; the facing edge was finished with maroon and gold brush fringe. The panels were held back with large tasseled tiebacks from Kasmir. To give the display more interest, I added a small back pillow with beautiful beaded fringe and a side table layered with a maroon underskirt and the bronze faux silk overcloth with beaded fringe, accessorized with a beaded napkin holder and napkin ring fashioned from the cornice cording and some leftover beads. The roller shade, of Ado's Actibreeze fabric for sun protection and improving air quality, was velcroed onto the roller for quick removal, easy washing and interchangeability with other fabrics.

Well, today Deb Barrett interviewed me and 3 of the other Vignette designers regarding our displays in an open forum. It was interesting to hear how the other designers arrived at their end displays, their design process, the challenges they faced, the fabrics and other materials they used. Kudos to all the Vignette designers for beautiful and imaginative displays showcasing the wide variety of styles and talents of American window fashions designers.

And thanks especially to Deb Barrett, a very talented designer in her own right, who coordinated the Vignettes, helped with installation, setup and takedown, and just generally pulled it all together!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

IWCE09 Thursday - The Show Floor Opens!

Well, after yesterday's completely full and exhausting day, I just couldn't make myself get up at 6 to be at the show by 8. I strolled in just after 9, thankful that the traffic cooperated, just in time for Susan Shultz' great seminar on How to Guarantee Your Clients Value Your Work. We consistently undervalue ourselves and thus our work - Susan urged us to get out of the rut of thinking that we provide products and reevaluate the valuable services we provide to clients. Another great seminar with a lot of food for thought and personal development.

Then off to walk the show floor! It was bustling with strolling spectators, camera in hand, and eagle-eyed vendors eager to exhibit their wares to all passers-by. What a great opportunity to meet with current suppliers and check out new ones. I spotted a line of beaded trims that I just had to add to my current collection - did I say that I love trim? I know just the client who would love that line on our next project! And the colorful silks draped over the booth walls... I missed a few of my old standby vendors - the show floor looked a little smaller than it has in past years. When talking to the vendors you can hear that the economic downturn has hit them as well. They are looking forward to busier times ahead. I'll go back again tomorrow to visit with some suppliers, have another look at their products.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

WOW Awards really Wow!

The day ended with the WOW (World of Windows) Awards, sponsored by Hunter Douglas, hosted by HD's Joe Jankoski and WFCP's Grace McNamara. Tonight we celebrated winners, first, the winners of the Window Fashion Vision09 Design Competition Awards. They shared their creative vision and the inspiration behind their beautiful window treatments. We were encouraged to think about applying motorization to window coverings, which many of the winners used in their treatments. The Workroom Competition Awards followed, and were a delight to the eyes. The talent displayed in creating the designs showcased was amazing! We ended with specialized awards to industry leaders. We were reminded by Shirley Rupert, one top winner, that "Your vision starts with your passion." Congratulations to all of the winners!

We could network with others in the industry, share ideas and success stories, problem solve and be inspired by each other. We could see too that our visions can't come to fruition without each other. IWCE09 is a perfect opportunity to learn and grow - I can't wait to continue the journey tomorrow!

Power Lunch with Kelly McCormick-How to Increase Sales to Women

I'm just blown away by the quality of the seminars that I've been to so far! The biggest problem I've had though, is that I haven't been able to attend them all.

I've just finished a great lunch capped by an exhilarating talk laced with humor by the keynote speaker, Kelly McCormick. She brings years of experience dealing with people, with salespeople, years of business ownership, and is now a much desired speaker. She pointed out the unique buying styles of men and women - men are linear and goal oriented in their purchasing decisions; women are visual, and see the big picture. Women make 80-95% of the home improvement buying decisions today; they buy great solutions rather than great products. To sell to women we need to establish relationships of trust and get to know them personally. Kelly suggested the basics of great sales conversations and led us further in our quest to be the best we can be. Lots of food for thought and improvement!

For dessert I attended her followup seminar on Handling Objections and Stalling Tactics. Again we received a wealth of information that we could take back with us and apply as we head out on future sales calls.

My head is just spinning with all I've heard today! I'm going to head back to the hotel after I've had one last look at my Vignette and just reflect on what I have learned. Exhausting! Invigorating! Exciting! Tomorrow's seminars promise to be just as good!

IWCE09 Wednesday

Anticipation! The buzz started as we waited in line to register. It was great to meet up with acquaintances old and new then head for the kick-off session of the show!

The morning started off with a bang - Grace McNamara, the President and CEO of Window Fashions VISION MAGAZINE, hosting the hot topic for window covering professionals - how do you price, and make a profit? Do you set a gross margin? Do you charge for your design expertise or consultation? The panelists were knowledgeable and from a variety of niches in the industry - Jeanelle Dech, of Adaptive Textiles, Joan Willis of Patterns Plus & Robb & Stuckey, Donna Cash of Designs by Donna, and Melinda Peters Elliott of Fine Designs & Interiors. Because of the expertise they shared, we all walked away with a better understanding of how to fine-tune and analyze our pricing, and especially how important it is to make the service we provide invaluable.

And onward to the next seminar - Makeover Your Marketing by Mary Larsen. What a dynamo! The room filled as Mary shared strategies to learn the most effective marketing techniques. She helped us identify the gaps in our marketing plans and showed us how to create a plan to fill in those gaps. She shared so much valuable information - for more see her website at http://www.growyourdesignbiz.com/ . Mary suggested a one hour per week action plan to get us jumpstarted. A simple nugget she left us with: "Choose a set of simple, effect things to do, and do them consistently." Good advice - to be put into action when I get back to the office!

Beth Hodges presented a very helpful seminar on Communication: the Designer, Workroom and Installer. She showed us ways to improve communication between the three, stressing that they all need to work together as a team to provide the best possible experience for the client. Another good learning session for the mixed group of designers, installers and workrooms represented!

IWCE09 Part One

It's finally here! It seems like I've been waiting and planning for this forever! It must still be the child in me; the anticipation is always half of the fun!

I arrived into Atlanta yesterday, flying through the night the long way around via Seattle and Detroit. What a blessing it was to be able to check into the hotel early - very early - and get a few hours of sleep before I headed over to the Georgia World Congress Center. Wandering my way through the building, I finally connected with show management and thus with Deb Barrett, who has been a wonderful guide through the steps of preparing for my first Vignette display at IWCE.

The show floor was a busy one, people scurrying about, front end loaders beeping their way through a maze of packing crates and partially set up displays, and the beginnings of what will be the largest window coverings trade show in the U.S. starting today! I always find it amazing how in a few short hours an empty cavern can be transformed into an Aladdin's showcase of wares!

It was great to see my package of display materials, safe and sound from a long cross-country trek. With the help of Deb Barrett and Melinda, another Vignette participant, my display was installed, dressed down, and tweaked. And tweaked. And then fiddled with some more. Until finally Deb suggested that it was time to go... since everyone else was leaving...

And today it all begins! I can't wait for the seminars I've signed up for. And I should get going - I don't want to be late! Till next time...