Sunday, October 14, 2012


I was confronted head on this last week by a service company that promised and didn’t deliver. I expected a product that would work the way they said it would. I expected a quality product.  When I complained I was met with “well, that’s just the way it is.” I got a refund, but at what cost to me, and to the company? 

I was reminded, again, of how simple this whole quality issue is. If you ask the person sitting next to you, right now, the chances are he or she will not define quality exactly the same way you do, but a workable definition comes from the “Quality Initiative.” It states that quality can be defined as simply what the customer wants. If the item does not meet the customer’s requirements, the dollar cost of this non-compliance to requirements can be measured. This applies equally to products or services, and we all know that dollars talk. 

An example: Suppose my company makes shirts.  One of the shirts falls apart in the wash and is returned. I sold the shirt for 10.00 and it cost me 5.00 to make. I made a 5.00 profit. I have to give back 10.00, but the shirt still cost me 5.00. So now the second shirt I sell has no profit at all, what I thought I was making as profit has to go to pay for the cost of the first ‘non-conforming’ shirt. So, what is the cost of not complying to my customers idea of quality, which is a shirt that could be washed? At a minimum I lost the profit on two shirts and the cost of my employees time to manage the error, and it cost my customer time (money) to return it. Might have been a lot simpler to wash a few samples before I sold them, check that the quality was there and make any necessary changes. How much more careful would we have been if we knew that each mistake would require two to three more sales to cover the cost of the error? 

The paycheck that is short hours, the burger that has onions, the shirt that falls apart, 
the matches that don’t work, the advice that is wrong, the appointment that starts late - all of these add to the overall cost of production and to loss of customer loyalty.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the people and businesses we deal with understood this simple idea?

Monday, October 1, 2012

The October Newsletter

The Width of Curtains

Good window treatments should first and foremost fulfill the requirements of the homeowner. If one of those requirements is that they make the window look bigger, or more important, the fix is very easy. Make the curtains and valances wider than the actual window. 

For example, if the living room window is 60 inches wide on a 12-foot wall, it may appear a bit puny.Create an illusion by installing drapes 108 inches wide. This  makes the window appear a lot larger and more in proportion to the wall.  When opening the drapes, they are pulled back to the edge of the glass  only--- creating the illusion that the window continues under the drapes for an additional 24 inches on each side. 

Stackback: If the window is 60 inches wide, and you want it totally exposed when the drapes are open, the whole curtain must be wider than 60 inches. It must be about 25 to  to 30 percent wider. For example, in order to clear the 60-inch window, the drapes must actually be a minimum of 75 to 78 inches wide; the lining and fabric thickness determine how much extra you actually need. 

Now, if you make the drapes quite a bit wider, the valance needs to be deeper in proportion. A 12-inch  valance on the 108-inch drapes would get lost and look far too skimpy. A valance of 16 to 18 inches deep would be much more pleasing, and a valance this deep would have to be hung higher on the wall. 

This is one of the most common but easily fixed mistakes I see in home decor. Just moving the valance up the wall and increasing the drape width often fixes the perception issue without the need for new curtains.  Many of us have  blinds under the drapes and seldom actually close the drapes, so re-positioning them as side panels creates the same perception illusion. 

I am pleased to tell you that I am now a Hunter Douglas Select dealer. This means that I can supply you with any Hunter Douglas window treatment product and because  I’m also a Hunter Douglas Certified Professional Installer, I can install them for you. I worked at the largest Hunter Douglas retailer in Alberta for a few years, so I know these products to be some of the best on the market. When you asked me for blinds, it just made sense for me to become a Hunter Douglas dealer.

How High to Hang the Valance

Recently I added some side panels to a client’s lace valance after I re-mounted the valance up the wall about eight inches. The result was an opening up of the window that, even with the side panels, made the window look much larger. (See it on my website.) I had a client several years ago who insisted on mounting her 16-inch valance on the window frame itself. The result was she lost about one-third of the window.  I recently saw this window and was, again, struck by how squished the whole thing looked. The side panels puddled on the floor, further adding to the squished look. When I asked her if she still liked the treatment, she admitted that she had made a mistake. I’ll be moving that one too.

I see this a lot. So, here is the guideline. The higher you mount the window treatments, the longer the window will appear.  There are some qualifiers, of course. A valance must be long enough to cover the top of the window frame and any blind hardware. It must be long enough to cover the blinds when they are in the up position. The valance length should not ever be less than 20 to 25 percent of the perceived window length. Perceived window length is the measurement of the area covered by the valance and window. If you add ten inches of valance above a 60-inch window, the window is now perceived as 70 inches long. Allowing four inches for the window frame, this valance should be 14 to 17 inches long. A 16-inch valance would  be just right. 

A side note: The width of a window or a window treatment  is the measurement from the left to the right. The length is the measurement from the top to the bottom. These measurements are always, always, always written as width by length.  So, if you write that a window is 25 by 40, it is 25 inches wide and 40 inches long. It is a vertically-oriented rectangle. If you write that the window is 40 by 25, it is 40 inches from side to side and 25 inches from top to bottom; a horizontally-oriented rectangle.

A valance less than ten inches long can look skimpy unless it is on a door window. My personal guideline is minimum 12 inches for window valances. Remember that perspective will make it appear smaller.

Next column I’ll talk about width. 

 How to Choose the Correct Table Lamp Size

First of all, technically speaking, the lamp is the bulb itself. The base and socket thing is called a fixture, upon which rests a shade. 

Sit on a chair beside the table and measure the distance from the table surface to your eye level. Purchase a fixture whose measurement from the table surface to the bottom of the shade does not exceed the table to eye measurement. If the fixture is for a bedside table, the length should still be to sitting eye level from the bedside table surface.

The shade length should not exceed 65 to 80 percent of the base length.  For example, if the base length is 16 inches, the shade should measure 10 to 14 inches long. This will result in a fixture about 24 inches tall. Another way to calculate this is that the shade is about 1/3 of the total length or height of the total fixture.  

The shade diameter should not be be 2 inches or more less than the base length. For example, on the fixture with a 16 inch base, the diameter (or width) of the shade should not be more than 14 inches.  Shades are listed as length, from top to bottom and width, as the diameter or widest part of the shade. 

The shade material determines the amount of wattage for the fixture. If you need a 100 watt bulb you must buy a shade that will accommodate that or risk fires or damage to the shade. 

If you have a tiny table and you need reading light for that table, these guidelines  still apply but you will have a more difficult time finding a small-scale fixture that is tall enough with a shade large enough to accommodate a bulb ( lamp??) large enough for reading. A floor fixture may be more appropriate.

The shape of the shade should be in the same general shape as the base. This is a guideline, not a rule. You can put any shade you want on you fixture, but please make it long enough to cover the bulb and socket. 

Tip: Place your elbow on the table, extend your forearm and fingers perpendicular to the table surface.  Measure from the table surface to the tip of your longest finger and use this measurement as a guide to eye level when impromptu shopping.

There you go. If in doubt; go to a professional lighting store and ask questions. They want you to be happy and are generally willing to share a bit of knowledge.

And, here's to 4 years of Design Dilemmas. 105 of them. Thank you to all of you for your continued support and comments. You make my day when you tell me you have read the column and share what you think about it.