When we first started in the window blind industry the largest areas of glazing we dealt with were sliding patio doors, and most, if not all the time, we would simply install vertical louvre blinds. Vertical blinds were brilliantly practical - they could be drawn aside for an open view, and they could be tilted through 180 degrees so you could control the sun’s wicked ways by tilting the louvres to provide shade.
These were the only real alternative to the omnipresent metal venetian blinds. or the occasional set of roller blinds. Of course, most customers were put off by the dust-gathering ways of a venetian blind, and a roller, or series of roller blinds wasn’t always a practical choice given the limited choice of fabrics back in the day. Think red poppy designs, billowing fading plain cotton fabrics, and one of the most tricky of operating mechanism of a traditional spring and ratchet. If you weren’t careful a powerful spring could take you by surprise and virtually pull your arm out of its socket!
In the main these were all being installed behind full length curtains. And then think swags, tails, pinch-pleats and tie backs!
Customers were often complaining about uncomfortable levels of glare, heat gain and fading. Generally the curtains were lined with cotton and in many cases we witnessed the deterioration of the linings over time, often combined with additional issues associated with carpets and flooring. Lifting the doormat in front of a sunny window or doorway would always reveal a massive difference in the colour of the floor covering when it was uncovered.
In time, the fashion for a more contemporary look, one that combined simplicity with practicality and ultimately a high level of flexibility, led the window industry to use even larger areas of high spec glazing, and then the introduction of the folding bi-fold door systems bought us a new issue. Most patio doors were only 2 or 3m wide, but bi-fold doors are now made to easily cover 3, 4 or 5m wide areas.
We continue to install vertical blinds, and these still offer great practicality. Our German designed headrail system can go to up to 5.5m wide, and with a wider than ever range of controls now available, it’s quite possible to offer just one blind to cover over a huge area of glazing or doorway. Whilst many customers have been thinking that vertical blinds are “too much like office blinds”, the fabrics now available have set this issue to one side, and we now have the most sumptuous fabrics, as well as the most high performing fabrics available in the market.
We can now motorise our headrail for full and accurate control - and you can now have this blind type ‘Smart-Home’ or ALEXA controlled. So now you don’t even have to get out of your chair…
So, what new options are available for bi-folds?...
- Vertical blinds - see above - enough said
- Roller blinds. Many fabrics now come with a robust reflective anti-glare coating, and some are available in what we would generically term ’Sunscreen’. This is a perforated fabric that allows a level of through-vision. Typically we have these with 1%, 3%, 5% and 10% or more openness factors. It’s always best to trial these fabrics with you so you’re fully aware of what these fabrics can and can’t do. For instance, most darker colours actually allow a greater level of vision than a lighter shade. Great for daytime visibility, but dreadful for night time privacy. The lighter shades will also prevent more glare that the same fabric in say a dark charcoal shade. Motorised operation is super practical, and these can be automated, timer programmed etc - you name it, we can do it!
- Pleated and Honeycomb blinds. Pleated blinds have been around now for a lot longer than many customers expect. Originally used on Mainland Europe (in many cases as an alternative to the UK’s desire for dreaded net curtains), the UK began to show an interest in this form of slimline shading many decades ago. Pleated fabric is used and it folds up to a slim stack of fabric, in a concertina manner. The Honeycomb blind fabric (also known as “Duette’ (c) when manufactured by the Luxaflex company) also fold up very neatly, but has an advantage of being made into a form of honeycomb shaped cell of fabric. Both of these types are pulled up using terylene cords - the holes the cords work through are clearly visible in pleated fabric, but hidden between the fabrics in a honeycomb blind. On a blackout fabric this can be an issue - so make sure you ask about this!
- Blinds fitting directly to the doors? This HAS to be the most practical way of screening bi-folds. These doors hinge out, fold back and slide onto each other, allowing you to have uninterrupted and open views, and really do allow you to bring the garden indoors, and take your home into the garden…
So, what’s the best option?
- Call in to your supplier, and try the blinds.
- Handle them to see how they feel. Do they feel too light?
- How does the fabric appear in daylight, broad sunshine and when dark?
- Use the blinds to see how fine the controls feel. Are they fine enough for you to be able to angle or adjust the blinds so they’re ‘just right’?
- Are they easy to remove for decorating?
- Make sure you get a ‘performance’ fabric if you’re experiencing high levels of glare and heat gain.