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Should Off The Shelf Shades Be Off Your List?

If you pull out your local yellow pages or go to your favorite online directory you are likely to find any number of store or websites that are ready and willing to sell you off the shelf shades and made to measure blinds.

What is the difference between “off-the-shelf” and “made-to-measure”?

off the shelf shadeOff-the-shelf is just that. Go to their store and they have an entire aisle (or two) lined with boxes of various sizes. Some of them can be cut down to fit your exact window. Some of them cannot.

Made-to-measure (also called “semi-custom”) are made to your specific measurements from a limited variety of styles and colors. In most cases, they are slightly more expensive than the “off-the-shelf” product and take 2 to 4 to 6 weeks to be fabricated and shipped to your home.

In both cases, you are responsible for the measurements in the event the treatments do not fit your windows.

The other option, of course, is to buy custom window treatments.

But aren’t custom treatments way more expensive?

Not necessarily. Consider the following example from one of our Facebook followers, Jeanne McDermott from At Your Service, a full service home décor workroom known for custom details for both residential and commercial projects in Belmont, MA.

Just received the latest Smith&Noble catalog in the mail today (I like to see what is being promoted in the industry) and the front cover has a very pretty roman shade. My rant… you can see right thru this shade! Is it unlined? NO… it lists the “standard” as one with privacy lining. Pretty thin privacy. 100% linen print… oh no, that won’t fade in a few months. Then I priced this out at S&N for a flat roman shade with fabric, REAL lining, trim, and cord lock for a 40 X 66″ window = $715 (and this is NOT measured or installed.)

[If made by] At Your Service, a custom shade would start at $475 including installation.

So back to the original question, should off the shelf shades be “off your list”?

Not necessarily. Here are some points to consider before you decide to buy:

  • “Off-the-shelf” or “semi-custom” can be less expensive than custom, but as the example above shows, that is not always the case.
  • If you purchase from a local fabricator (like our friend Jeanne) you are supporting your local economy and a small business owner – which is always a good thing.
  • You are responsible for the measurements (and any errors) when you buy “off-the-shelf” or “made-to-measure” unless you hire a company that provides measure & installation services.
  • Most “off-the-shelf” products have very few colors and zero upgrades/options to choose from. “Semi-custom” usually offers a limited variety of colors or styles and will occasionally offer a few options/upgrades to choose from. Whereas custom products have the most colors, styles, and options to choose from allowing you to get exactly the correct product for your specific situation.
  • Typically custom products are made with superior components, higher quality workmanship, and last longer – thus providing a greater value over the long term. It’s like one of our customers said years ago… “Give me the best you’ve got, it’s too expensive to have to do this twice.”

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James A. Holloway
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James A. Holloway

James A. Holloway has been working in the window coverings industry since 2001 but it wasn't until 2009 that he took the leap and started his own installation business.

In 2011, he created the "Window Treatment Installers Network" a online forum for window treatment professionals.

In 2013 he began writing for window coverings blog called TraVerse.

And in 2014 he was recruited by the Custom Home Furnishings Academy to teach their Installation 101 Curriculum .
James A. Holloway
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