How do I properly insulate a Brooklyn Brownstone against draft ?

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Winter of 2014 will definitely remembered. So many snow showers, shoveling twice a week, -50 degrees, now that is extremely cold.

Living in Brooklyn in a Brownstone you have another issue, draft. There is not a single Brownstone owner who can say their house is perfectly insulated. Even if you gutted it  there is allays a crack where a little bit of draft is coming in. (like under the doors)

When temperatures are in the 30’s the heating systems is just working a bit harder but when temperature drops to the teens cold just creeps in.

Naturally most of the draft comes through windows and doors and there are many ways to deal with it.

You can start with caulking but when the holes are over 1/4″ its gets messy.

You can put plastic over the window but then you cannot open the window all winter long.

what you really need is to replace the window itself. Well… now you have a real project! you have to research what types of windows are best for your house, find an installer not to mention the mess of construction and the cost. If you have a 20 foot wide house those windows are quite big.

A middle ground between all those options would be to use Window Treatments.

Keeping your house warm is all about having some air caged in, between the window and  the shade. Just like waring a sweater. The air acts as an insulator keeping cold out and warm in. (It actually works the same way in the summer too)

The trick with draft is not to let the cold air pass through, so whichever Window Treatment you choose must be air tight around the edges.

Surprisingly enough even a simple roller shade can help. Though it works much better with a double layer. You can use a combination of sun shade and blackout shade. Those can work well to control the light and the air enclosed between them will insulate the room.

A step up from Rollers are honeycomb shades also called cellular shades. They have enclosed air built into  the shade itself. And they come with one, two or even three cells. They work better than Roller shades because the gaps on the sides can be very tight up to 1/8″ (as oppose to 1/4 – 1/2″ with roller shades)

The best way to solve draft issue is to use thick insulating curtains. They are made of three layers lining, interlining and decorative fabric. The lining acts as a protection for the fabric from harsh sun and can be use to darken the room. (blackout lining vs translucent lining).

Using interlining is the key here. Interlining is typically made of thick cotton. It is sewn in between the lining and the front fabric. Since it is a thick material it helps lock the air inside the curtain.

Custom Curtains would be superior to most other window treatments in solving draft issues since there are made of flexible fabric that can compensate if the window,floor or ceiling is a bit crooked. You can always make the curtain to overlap the wall (a good idea also when you wish to have a clear window and let the curtain gather on the wall) to block draft around the windows.

What is also nice about curtains is that you can use them in the summer too to cut the heat. If you are tiered of the fabric you choose, you can replace the front fabric reusing the lining and interlining. People may also choose to remove the curtains in the summer clean and store them for the next winter.

There are two drawbacks to having curtains made.

One is cleaning them. Most often fabrics are dry clean only. You can take them down yourself or have a professional company come to take them down and re hang them. To keep the curtains in good shape this should be done once a year.

And the second is that you have to like them.

I really hope this winter ends soon and that we would have a winter like this once in a blue moon and not every year.

Gramercy Park Home by Elise Som Design Studio

Gramercy Park area always attracted famous people among them writers such as S. J. Perelman, Edmund Wilson and Mary McCarthy. In 1926 it was the site of Humphrey Bogart’s wedding.

There has been several conversions of older buildings in the area such as 50 Gramercy Park, 36 Gramercy Park and 18 Gramercy Park (in last phases of completion) And with every conversion newer owners come and renovate those uniquely built Pre-War apartments keeping the detail with a touch of modern design.

That was the case when Elise and Amanda from Elise Som Deisgn Studio where asked to come up with a design for an apartment on Gramercy Park East.

We where involved in the per-construction stage helping to design Curtains for each room and Roman Shades for the Kitchen and Bathroom areas.
For extra convenience the Kitchen shades which had double layer of Solar Shades and blackout Roman Shades where all motorized. When you have so many windows and need to open and close them every day, using a remote control can help a lot.

It was particularly fun seeing Elise and Amanda lay out all the accessories and choosing location for the furniture. Just like an artist or a painter that wonders what color to use next. Placing them in one location, looking from afar then moving it slightly to the right and say voilà (this is just perfect)

Working with high end fabrics also makes much of a difference in the way Curtains lay out or Roman Shade naturally fall in place.

Taking pictures of the result is always a rush project and we never get to be there when all is set and done but here are some work in progress photos.

36 Gramercy Curtains

36 Gramercy Curtains


36 Gramercy Roman Shades


36 Gramercy Roman Sheer

36 Gramercy Roman Sheers

Can I control my shades from iPhone or iPad?

Control Shades and Curtains via iPad with Hunter Douglas PlatinumApp
Screen Shots of iPhone PlatinumApp

The short answer is YES,

With all Hunter Douglass electric shades, all you need is a small box called App Bridge and your iPhone or iPad.

We recently installed electric roller shades and used Hunter Douglas motorization system for that. The reason was that the client heard that there is a special app
that allows to control the shades via iPad. I was curious and went to check it out after the shades where installed.

I have to say that is one of the most simplest and easiest apps I have seen, great work Hunter!

Here is some back ground,

A typical remote has 4 buttons that allows to choose a shade to control via each button. Actually you can assign more than one shade to a button
say if you have 3 shades on the east side and 4 on the west. You can choose button1 to control all eastern shades and button 2 to control all western shades.
But what if after the installer left you wish to change that. it is a simple process for an installer who does it every day but not so simple process to a client who never done it.

Well that is where Hunter Douglas new Platinum App comes to help.

First you have a welcome screen with a master category you can call it Living Room, Bedroom or which ever room you like. Than you click (+) to add a shade call it a name say Beth’s Blackout Shade and click on Sync in the iPad at this point you click on a button on the shade the shades move and that is it Beth’s shade is working via iPad.

You can add more shades and assign them via clicking on a button in each shade and the beauty is that you can create as many top categories as you like say you wish to control
all kids room at once you add a category for “kids rooms shades” click (+) to add shade 1 (+) to add shade 2 and that is it. When you select “kids rooms shades” all the shades in your kids room will go up or down at once.

I must say its is so simple I was very impressed!!!

Alessandra Branca – Traditional Patterns with a Modern Point of View

I am always on the lookout for new fabrics, and came across new designs from Schumacher. What caught my eye was the use of colors to revive an old fashioned damask style and make it more modern and fresh.

There are many pattern to choose from while it can be used for upholstery as well as window treatments.

Patterns 175460-68311-68330

Patterns 175501-68312-175482-175460

Patterns 68433-68314-68454-175502

The whole collection can be found here

Electric Shades Up in the Sky above Bloomingdales

A few weeks ago a client, who just bought an apartment in a in Mid-Town, called us to schedule an appointment to discuss installing electric shades.

Apparently they were moving into 205 East 59th Street, a building developed by Manhattan Skyline that was built in 2005. This building has unique apartment layouts with 20′ ceilings and double height windows. Although it makes the apartment more dramatic and spacious but it also makes it very hard to reach to open and close any window treatments.


In cases like that, we allays recommend electric shades. For a modern look most people prefer roller shades that are minimalistic and practically disappear into its built in metal fascia leaving the window with its full view of the city completely open. Flat sheer roman shades could also work well with those windows (example here)


Phifer SheeWeave solar fabric will help save energy on cooling costs letting only 5% of the light into the apartment and blocking the heat and glare that comes in the after noon and evening hours. Two weeks after the order was placed I came with the installers and our electrician to install the shades.

I thought after installing so many time climbing on a scaffolding or a tall ladders would be easy and they would be used to the height but Juan our installer mention that every time he goes up there is a point of fear right at the top of the ladder, specially when you carry a 10′ shade in one hand.

In trying to get exact size and leave no gaps there is always a challenge to get the right size but in this case the shade fit just exactly that means it is much harder to push it into the bracket, but with a big of an effort it is in and the shade is going up and down.

I did not have a chance to see the end of the installation but in the bedroom the client selected blackout curtains using Carol Fabric’s Westbury and Griffen Collections

Westbury Silver                     Griffen Optic White                     Westbury Natural


Those fabrics are naturally tending to wrinkle so to end the installation we normally take some time to steam the curtains and make sure that are smooth and stay in shape.


13 foot electric shade installed in Newswalk Condos Brooklyn NYC

BTX powered electric shade in Newswalk Condominium

You probably remember Newswalk Condos from early re-developments of 2006 and later with connection with Ratner’s plan to knock down all the buildings around Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush. Well it is still standing even after the Barclays Center Was completed.

The windows in that building are extra wide and extra tall, plus they windowsill is waist high so any shade installed on the window is
harder to control.

As it happened we were called to install solar shades in on of the units and came across a window that was 13 foot wide.

Now 150″ wide shade doesn’t sound so big but its kind of heavy, especially when it doesn’t fit in the elevator and you have to go 7 flights of stairs carrying it on you back.
When you lift a shade like that to put it back into the bracket and it doesn’t go in on the first try you have to hold it and try until it fits. (it gets heavier and heavier)

In a nut shell that is the story of our installation in Dean Street. It started when a motor stopped working on a 9 foot shade. When I came to take a look I found a 10 year old
shades with fabric that did not look so good and a non working motor. So first we had to find out what system was installed, Elero did not mean anything to me until with a bit of search on the web we found out that it is fabricated by BTX, a well known very repayable and long time veteran in electric window treatments industry. We called them up and after a short discussion learned that it could be the motor, the switch or the wiring. To be on the safe side I ordered a motor and a switch and we scheduled to take down the shades to replace the fabric.

When we came back after about 12 days to put them up, I wanted to make sure there were no issues in the installation so showed up with our installers. Too bad for them they had to carry the shade up to the 7th floor. When they finally placed the shades on the windowsill to install them they discovered that the motor was on the wrong side. What to do? take out the fabric and flip the tube around. As you can see BTX does not take any chances with special 3″ tubes for that size shade and a grove where the motors are bolted into the tube.

After putting the shades up it was time to figure out the wiring. Black, Red, White and green. But we have 2 switches and which wire is for up and which one is for down. Well that was not so hard, we connected the wires set the limits (so the shade will stop automatically when reaching the top and bottom) and then worked on hiding the wires behind the shades.

That is it job complete. Client was happy he did not have to buy 2 new shades and continue using the existing system but they look new since we replace the fabric. SheerWeave 4400 3% White Grey was the selected fabric this time. The slightly darker color will enable to see more of the view and 3% openness will cut the heat dramatically.

Round French Pole from Helser Brothers

Round ended poles add a unique European look to the room. In some cases such as curved windows, bay windows or windows with large molding around it a French Pole is maybe the only option to install a curtain on that window.

They new French Poles come in 5/8″ and 7/8″ pole diameters and in
Coal, Forge, Canyon, Rustic and Manchester Finishes.

For more information visit

The Art of Apartment Staging – 752 West End Avenue

It all started when Nishila, a broker we worked with, called us and mentioned they have a new conversion project on West End Avenue and need to stage a few apartments.

As it happened, like most projects there is no budget for a designer so it was up to Nishila to come up with a design and execute it.

We met a the building to see the apartments. It was quite a challenge since they had low ceilings, windows that faces other buildings and not much light.

In these cases designers focus on creating statement with lighting, fabrics, accessories and sometimes window treatments. With an idea of showing potential client
how to decorate their place (where to place a bed or a sofa) and placing the attention on the advantages of the unit. (such as the size, or kitchen or storage space)

Addressing the window treatments we recommended soft treatments such as Roman Shades and Curtains. Those help frame the windows and bring the attention of the
viewer inside the room. The design process included brainstorming about style and fabrics with questions like:

Should we cover the frames of the windows with the shade or install the shades inset?
Weather to use unreconstructed roman shades that are more casual or structured ones that are more modern?
Do we want full operating curtains or simple side panels?

Budget concerns dictated most of the answers but for example Nishila chose to show the frames of the windows as they were
newly renovated and added detail to the rooms.

We than went to discuss fabrics. Since we had 3 apartments to work on Nishla chose one to be with Gold tones, one more  masculine with Grey Silver Tones and one to be Neutral linen colors


And here are some of the results

It was sad to learn, that this project was half sold out when the developer chose to sell the building.

Inside 50 Gramercy Park

Electric shades in 50 Gramercy

Working in High-End condo owners most often means working with high-profile designers.
And that was the case with 50 Gramercy Park when Geoffrey A. Blatt asked us to price out
a job in that building.

Sheer Roman in Bedroom 50 Gramercy

Even though we have less control of fabric selection its always fun to work with new fabrics
and push our limit when asked to make bigger shades or non standard patterns and styles.

The windows in 50 Gramercy are fairly wide and when making large shades like that its always recommended to add a motor since they tend to be heavy to lift. In this case there was no need for us to connect the shades to a home automation system but in the bedrooms we did install two layer shades with electric blackout shade close to the window and a soft sheer roman shade in front of it. Motorization system is by Somfy. It is a high voltage system with wireless switches on the wall. A very reliable system where the motor size is selected according to the weight of each shade. And although it is high voltage it has quiet operation.

In the master bedroom Mr. Blatt chose to have a blackout Tier Drop Roman Shade. This shade (as seen bellow) has its folds always visible even when the shade is down. A style that gives the shade a soft elegant look at any position.

Tier Drop Roman in Bedroom 50 Gramercy