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Case Study: Smart Shades Bridge the Gap in the Connected Home

Integrator Alex Bloemer expands his business with Hunter Douglas shades, including a whole second company dedicated to window treatments.

Full home connectivity is no longer a futuristic concept; it’s a demand that is dusting all aspects of the custom residential AV industry. From designing luxurious home theater spaces to creating multi-purpose rooms that need to adjust at the drop of a hat, the connected home is a complete circle of lifestyle simplicity that comes with just the tap of a button or a voice command.

With more aspects of the home being drawn into interoperable smart home systems, automated shading is the latest technology to connect all the dots in the truly smart home. Drawing in new levels of convenience, privacy, comfort, and more. However, shades can no longer be an afterthought or a furnishing; they are part of the design and build process that take homes to the next level.

For over 10 years, Alex Bloemer has taken advantage of the growing opportunities in the smart home integration space. Since the opening of Omaha, NE’s Home Theaters Etc., his team has catered to homeowners seeking to implement smart audio and video, security, home control, and motorized window treatments. Bloemer saw so much growth in window treatments, that he decided to open a second business, Integrated Windows.

Finding Style and Functionality

After finding success in the smart shading vertical and seeing growth in the space, Bloemer discovered that not all shades are created equal, and the current line of shades he was offering were not meeting customers’ demands.

“We had some trouble with previous window treatment lines not being able to fit interior design needs. We really needed a shade that both delivered on design and functionality, usually Control4 systems. For different sized windows, different designs, different budgets — we needed more than a few options,” says Bloemer.

Hunter Douglas has a design-centric approach and though it spiked a bit of intimidation for the long-time integrator at first, the specialized support offered through the Custom Integrator Program made it easier for him to take the plunge. It was then that he decided to open his second business.

“After becoming a Hunter Douglas dealer, we saw a huge opportunity before us to create a second company specifically designed for offering the Hunter Douglas product line directly to the window treatment market,” says Bloemer. “Over time the businesses have really fed into one another — we have a unique opportunity to show those customers who are only interested in shades how it can interact with a whole smart home ecosystem. And because we have Integrated Windows, we have a platform to show Home Theaters Etc. clients the design-forward smart shading options that Hunter Douglas brings to the table.”

Shading That Works for Integrators

In addition to the brand’s design-centric portfolio, Bloemer was pleased to discover that in recent years Hunter Douglas has invested in preparing its power solutions for integrations into the most prevalent home systems, including Control4, the most popular system among Integrated Windows and Home Theater Etc. customers. With a robust mix of options for powering shades, including the premium PowerView+ hardwired solution and the retrofit rechargeable battery wand, joining on with the CIP opened a new window of possibilities for Integrated Windows.

Bloemer found immediate interest in Hunter Douglas’ new premium hardwired option for custom builds: With PowerView+, builders do not need to design for wireless retrofits; instead, the integrators can incorporate wiring during the build and know that the technology will be ready to work when it’s needed.

“PowerView+ is pretty new, but it’s been amazing to have direct access to the people who have developed the product to spearhead any questions over the traditional tech support route,” says Bloemer. “The Hunter Douglas team is super responsive and easy to work with, and the PowerView + platform is intuitive to program and offers a reliable, quiet, and interoperable option with fewer surprises for the custom-build projects we’re working on.”

Upon joining the CIP, Bloemer received access to a plethora of sample books that not only satisfied builders and interior designers, but also offered a new selling point. “The sample books are a great way for customers to test the different fabrics in their home,” he says. “They can see how much light comes through and how the colors will work with the big picture.”

A Truck Full of Opportunity

Bloemer put Hunter Douglas to the test with a series of fully integrated connected home projects, ranging from lux home theaters to multi-purpose living spaces. The window treatments delivered on every project with style, quality, and functionality — a trio of traits the firm had been craving since its start with smart shading.

“Most of our clients are not super brand-name focused; instead, they are looking for solutions that work together to create that whole-home, seamless experience,” says Bloemer. “PowerView complements the work we do with Control4-certified products, but we can also literally fill my truck with all the fabric and design sample products Hunter Douglas offers — I’ve yet to come across a project that HD did not have a solution to meet the homeowner or designer needs.”

The portfolio contains over 20 unique styles of shades in hundreds of colors, textures, and different room darkening or light filtering effects, and with PowerView Automation and PowerView+, homeowners can select smart shades that work the way they want them to — whether they use their smartphone, voice command, the Pebble remote, or schedules and scenes in their smart system.

Related: Hunter Douglas PowerView Motorized Shading Review

Builders Take Notice

The addition of Hunter Douglas to Home Theater Etc. and Integrated Windows has provoked not only a positive response from homeowners, but also for designers and builders. More homeowners are seeking out the popular shade lines from Hunter Douglas, bringing the convergence of technology, design, and “wow” factor to the surface of projects.

“Builders have, historically, seen shading as part of the furniture mix of a home, but with technologies like PowerView+ they’re starting to see window treatments as a more integral part of the fully connected home. The Designer Roller Shades are the highest demand especially for the younger homeowner segment — and we’re able to add that extra punch of functionality and reliability with PowerView+,” says Bloemer.

The two firms have seen a boost in revenue since adding smart shades, but Bloemer isn’t prepared to slow down any time soon. He is preparing to keep up with the exponential growth of automated window treatments with Integrated Windows while continuing to introduce shades into Home Theater Etc. projects. Customers are looking to make their entire home operate on a whim, and with easy-to-control motorized shades is the next step to get there. The demand will grow quite a bit, and Bloemer is ready to keep up.

“Our intention is to be one of the top dealers in the area — we bring a lot to the table with integration into a system, and soon all homes will be integrated far and beyond what a traditional window treatment dealer can deliver,” he says. “As Hunter Douglas continues to grow its PowerView line with growth of the smart home vertical, the possibilities will be infinite.”

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