Written by Carson Kressley
I’ve lived in New York City for the last 25 years of my life. All of my adult life, really. Consumed by the hustle and bustle of city life and a hectic career in the fashion and television worlds, I’d always dreamed of having a second home out in the country, possibly Pennsylvania, where I grew up.
About a year ago, that dream became a reality and I purchased a “farm” near my family in the countryside, just west of my hometown of Allentown, PA. The house, a Connecticut-style farmhouse circa 1970 (complete with aluminum siding, shag carpeting and avocado green appliances) was all mine!
Now you’re probably wondering what was the allure of such a house? Not new and shiny with all the latest conveniences, nor old and charming with the character found only in older homes. Well, this particular house had put its spell on me long, long ago.
You see, this house was one I had dreamed about in my childhood. It was built within sight of my grandparent’s stone farmhouse in the Pennsylvania countryside. Built by a fine homebuilder seeking a quiet life in the country, it was the talk of the neighborhood when it was being built. It was by far the grandest house I had ever seen with my four-year-old eyes (which I might say seemed to have been trained to recognize good taste from birth).
Its shingle roof and two-story colonial construction with massive brick fireplaces would have been where the Brady Bunch lived had they chosen the Pennsylvania countryside over sunny California. It was big and sprawling and sat commandingly on a hill overlooking all the, to me, rather regular looking farms.
As fate would have it, about 40 years later, the house of my dreams would be mine.
However, now it seems much more average compared to the tricked-out McMansions that dot the countryside nowadays. But I still love it. And now comes the task of renovating and making it chic and livable for the current era. And most importantly, comfortable and inviting for the friends and family I intend to entertain there.
So, after almost two years of removing popcorn ceilings and harvest gold bathroom tile, reinventing the kitchen, papering, painting, carpeting and such, it was time for the fun part–DECORATING!
My Manhattan apartment was my first real grown-up decorating assignment. I filled it with things I absolutely loved, and all with an Art Deco nod to the pre-war buildings history. Out of this experience emerged a style all my own that I dubbed “Kentucky Regency.” There are lots of warm woods and shiny sterling silver and mirrored accents. It expresses my love of New York City glamour, my history with Ralph Lauren and my other “career” show horses all over the world.
For the country home, I would certainly prefer a horse farm feeling, but I wanted to keep things much simpler. Neutral even.
After the grass-cloth walls and sisal carpeting went, I had a clean slate to create a chic and modern farmhouse look. Imagine J. Crew designing a modern farmhouse somewhere in Virginia or the Hamptons. Chic, but decidedly simple and relaxed.
When it came to window treatments, I wanted the same vibe. To me, window treatments are the crowning glory of a room. They are a finishing accessory like a colorful Hermes scarf on a simple little black dress.
Since I’m a self-proclaimed amateur decorator, I went to a friend who happens to be the real deal for advice. This friend, Robb Whitlef, owns Historic Studio, a design firm in Minneapolis. Besides being a great friend, he has great taste and a similar sensibility to mine. I knew he would know just where to go!
He recommended Budget Blinds®. So, of course, I gave my local Budget Blinds a call and set up an in-home consultation with Tom and Beth, the local franchisee owners and Style Consultants of Budget Blinds serving the Wyoming Valley (I know, it’s a funny name for a region of Pennsylvania!). They were smart, tasteful, kind, helpful, professional and on time!!!! It was love at first swatch!
Even though I feel I have a good handle on selecting fabrics and colors, I’m a total scaredy-cat when it comes to measurements and knowing what treatment will work and function best. Well, thank goodness for Budget Blinds. They brought tons of fabric choices from their exclusive Signature Series® product line. From classic toiles to modern ikats to some really cool natural straw weaves.
I immediately found a million choices that were going to work beautifully for the many rooms I needed to complete with window treatments.
For the sunroom I chose an ikat valance in a neutral tan and aqua color story. Under that, we placed cordless raffia sun shades that create privacy and keep the hot sun out of a very sunny space, but still allow me to see my incredible views.
For the kitchen and breakfast room I chose box pleated drapes in grey toile. The French farm scene works perfectly with the red brick of the breakfast room fireplace and the farm view outside the bay window. Tom and Beth even suggested using existing rods to save some money. Everything looks great together!
For my formal dining room–to accent the new shutters in the large bay window–we created a traditional swag and jabot. I didn’t want it to look too grandmotherly, so I selected a nubby burlap fabric that is very “now” and casually elegant. To up the ante, Tom and Beth suggested having the jabot be made with one side a bit longer than the other. It looks great! The kicker is the huge drapery rod we chose from their manufacturer, Rowley, with pickled wood finish and huge acorn finials on each end. Definitely not my grandma’s window treatment!
For my guestroom, I choose a soft-fold Roman shade in a lovely fabric called Gentry Linen Blend from Budget Blinds’ manufacturing partner, Phase II. The color is solid ivory and we paired it with a premium blackout liner so that my guests will get a good night’s sleep when they visit.
For the window coverings in the remainder of the house–the living room, all the bathrooms, all the bedrooms, and even the garage–I selected plantation shutters from their Signature Series line. I’ve always loved the look of plantation shutters from the street. I think they add instant curb appeal and made my 1970s house look really chic. On the inside, shutters are so handsome and clean. I love that they are easy to keep fresh and clean and they provide such great light and heat control.
For the living room and bedroom window coverings I choose natural hardwood shutters and for the bathrooms and garage I chose composite shutters. To me, the real wood may be a tad warmer in feeling but, honestly, the composite shutters look just as great. And I think they will hold up better in the moist locations in which I installed them.
Oh, and did I mention that Tom and Beth, being the expert Style Consultants that they are, had the great idea to custom match my den and bathroom colors so that the shutters exactly match the decorator colors of the trim in those rooms. Talk about tailored and custom looking! All the other shutters I did in classic white and they look so good with every wall color and wallpaper I have in the house.
I’m thrilled with the way everything turned out. And it was sooooo easy. Budget Blinds did all the measuring, ordered all the various components from drapery rods to tie backs to curtains to shutters. They delivered rather quickly, and then Tom and Beth–who kept me informed throughout the process–came back with their team to install everything. Shutters were hung, curtains were steamed, rods were installed and all I had to do was watch and smile as my rooms became finished and fabulous!
I’m in love with all of my window treatments by Budget Blinds! My home looks decorator chic and fabulous!!!
My only suggestion would be to change the name, as Budget Blinds offers so much more than just blinds!!!! Their Signature Series product is well priced and quite affordable, the expansive selection of every type of window covering, in a multitude of colors and fabrics, coupled with the ease of installation and the confidence provided by supremely professional experts is second to none! But I guess that last sentence would be way too long for the new name?