Of all the possible window treatments available for the modern home, one type that’s seen tremendous growth in popularity is smart shading. It’s elegant, it’s convenient, and it’s tremendously versatile—but that versatility can bring with it a seemingly overwhelming number of options.
To keep things sorted properly, it’s best to work with a pro—such as an HTA Certified integrator (find one in your area here). To help you as you begin those conversations, we’ve simplified things a bit by defining and offering advice on 9 different elements you need to consider, with advice on each as outlined below:
The 9 Essential Elements of Shading
● Creating Privacy While Maintaining Aesthetics
● How Fabrics and Their Opacity Factor In
● Shading as Part of the Lighting System
● Shading as a Climate System Component
● The Difference Between Décor and Architectural Shading
● Customizing the Shade—Beyond the Fabric
● Ways to Power Shading
● Ways to Control and Automate Shading
● Why Crestron Shading?
Creating Privacy While Maintaining Aesthetics
Even if we’d like to, it’s not practical or possible for the vast majority of us to live in something akin to Phillip Johnson’s Glass House. But a look at Johnson’s residential glass-walled masterpiece reveals the importance of windows and their coverings (or lack thereof) while maintaining three elements: the privacy of those inside the structure, the ability to see the view the windows reveal, and the look of the window treatments themselves as they relate to the home’s overall aesthetic.
That ongoing relationship has led to what Crestron’s Technical Director (Residential) Jamie Stott calls a “re-curation” of the Crestron line of shades. “We offer in the neighborhood of 400 fabrics in different colors and textures,” says Stott. While that might seem like an overwhelming number, it really isn’t. “We worked with designers to create more colors and textures in a usable range,” he notes. That “usable range” means that Crestron portfolio was restructured to offer a broader selection of textures, finishes, performance categories, and variations within the most popular color selections.
How Fabrics and Their Opacity Factor In
Choosing among the various transparencies of shading fabric is another consideration—often informed by the room and its function. “There are three categories: the first is sheer or transparent, second is translucent or light filtering, and third, opaque or blackout.” The latter is designed for both maximum darkness and maximum privacy—obviously, a perfect bedroom solution.
As JoAnn Arcenal, Crestron’s director of business development, notes, a homeowner should ask themselves a few questions about the placement of various shading options: “What is the purpose of this? For example, do you want more of a transparent fabric that will allow you to enjoy the view, but still want some protection from the elements? That’s fabric defined as ‘transparent.’”
Shading as Part of the Lighting System
As more and more homes began to adopt tunable lighting—LEDs that can mimic the outdoors, set moods, or highlight aspects of a room—an interesting thing began to happen: Consumer interest in the concept of shading as part of an overall lighting plan started to grow. Now that shading can be controlled and even automated in the same manner as artificial light (more on that in a moment), the idea of making natural light an absolute priority is catching on with consumers.
It's something that designers have known for years. Crestron’s Product Manager of Residential Solutions, Victor Menendez, has told us: “When you're doing a design, you first start with daylighting. You illuminate everything and anything that you can with daylight, and then you supplement light based on the needs of those areas. I very much talk about the importance of connectivity to the outside. I sit next to a window all day, and I'm very connected to it. I feel the sunlight—it’s incredibly important.”
Shading as Climate System Component
In addition to lighting systems, shading can also have a tremendous positive impact on the climate of a home when it’s integrated into an HVAC solution. Looking at shading as yet another tool—along with air conditioning and furnaces—can yield impressive results in the realms of both interior comfort and energy efficiency. Suppose one lives in a dwelling with many windows on the south side of the structure. Shading could be automated to raise on winter days and lower during warmer times, for example.
When smart shading becomes part of a home’s energy solutions, the results can be downright surprising. “This past year, we debuted two show homes that met net-zero status,” says Arcenal. “Actually, one of them met net-negative 15 status,” meaning that the home was generating more energy than it consumed.
The Difference Between Décor and Architectural Shading
It’s also helpful to have a working knowledge of the two primary types of powered shading: “Décor” and “Architectural.” Stott explains: “Décor shading has an exposed roller, which creates a minimalist look—you're always going to see the roll of fabric. Additionally, the end caps are decorative, but that minimalist aesthetic is usually carried into the appearance of the hardware.”
Architectural shading is designed to hide the hardware. “There’s a square bracket for the shading that’s tucked away, usually with a fascia, top back cover, or some sort of housing,” says Stott. “Either way, the homeowner has multiple options to achieve the precise look that they’re after.”
Customizing the Shade—Beyond the Fabric
Providing those options is a goal that Crestron has kept top of mind with a recent redesign of its hardware system for the 3 Series Décor shading. Part of that update includes a range of modern end caps that mirror the modern aesthetic that Crestron’s customers demand. They’re available in six color options, including Snow White, Almond Cream, Light Gray, Dark Gray, Espresso Brown, and Jet Black. These elegant additions to Crestron’s shading hardware line transform a project’s windows with a sturdy, safe, and sleek end cap design that elevates any room's aesthetic. The updated hardware includes black brackets and a black motor head to help conceal the inner workings of the shade, reinforcing that upscale look.
Ways to Power Shading
A key consideration when it comes to powered shading is right there in the name—power. There are several different ways to get electricity and control signals to the shading. “In an ideal world, you would want to have your shades to be hardwired,” says Stott. “That's true with just about any piece of technology since wired connections are the most reliable.” Hardwiring a shading solution is best accomplished at the outset of any project, of course—that’s when the walls are opened up. “But the reality is that there are a broad range of projects, and many of these require some degree of retrofitting,” notes Stott.
“In a case where you can't run any wires at all, you would use a battery-shade solution,” he notes. Control, in this case, would be accomplished via wireless RF technology, and there are several battery options for a wireless installation. The most recent offering from Crestron is the lithium-ion battery option that can provide uninterrupted performance for up to 12 months. When the battery’s depleted, it’s a simple matter to attach the USB-C charging device to the motor and plug it into a power source.
Ways to Control and Automate Shading
Our conversation with Arcenal offered up a lot of info on the myriad ways to control shading—including automatic functions:
A single button on a touch screen, for example, can “manually” lower or raise the shades as the user wishes or trigger a preset level of shading. Other solutions are clock-based. “There are astronomical clocks that are integrated into processors,” Arcenal explains. “That's going to change drastically between now and July, and occur at different times in different parts of the globe—but all that’s adjusted automatically by the system.”
“There's also voice control,” adds Arcenal, noting further that each solution isn’t simply binary: You can command the shades to raise or lower by a certain percentage and not simply “ope or close.” “We can also integrate with either photo or occupancy sensors for even more efficiency,” says Arcenal. “We can balance those levels with a photo sensor to know exactly when and where artificial light has to compensate and complement the natural light. With occupancy sensors, we can shut an entire room down where no movement’s been detected after a certain amount of time.”
Why Crestron Shading?
Whether you’re building a new home or adding features to an existing one, consulting with a technology pro, like an HTA Certified integration firm, will help ensure that your home’s shading system will be reliable and easy to use. One thing to keep in mind: A company such as Crestron offers best-in-class whole-home solutions—an ecosystem that not only includes shading and lighting but audio, video, security, climate control, and a great deal more.
As far as shading is concerned, Stott offers this: “If you're already plan on having a Crestron control system, then it only makes sense to have the shades that are native to that control system, so you don't have to program multiple processors and then integrate them. They’ll work together seamlessly. And the fact that Crestron is already offering products that are at the highest level in terms of silence and refinement means that you're not making any compromises when you choose Crestron shading for your home.”