There are several major companies that manufacture custom window treatments. In alphabetical order they are: Bali, Comfortex, Graber, Hunter Douglas, Kirsch and Levolor. Most people are fairly unaware of the brand names in this industry. It is nothing like automobiles or other well known consumer products. And, to be sure, there are other smaller manufacturers that produce cheaper, ready-made blinds and shades. For example, if you went to the Home Depot and bought a ten dollar mini blind, it is most likely made in China by some faceless, unknown company.
These manufacturers all have slightly different positions within the market, have been in business for different lengths of time and specialize in different things. It should also be noted that each brand offers window treatments at different prices levels. From most expensive to least expensive, the brands should be listed as follows: Hunter Douglas, Graber and Kirsch (similar), Comfortex and Bali.
The largest company, by far, is Hunter Douglas, which is actually a multi-national company based in the Netherlands. They are also probably on of the most recognizable window treatment brands in the world. They are also generally the most expensive. But, if you want the top of the line window treatment, this is the brand for you. Hunter Douglas pretty much invented lightweight aluminum blinds, also called Venetian blinds. And, they have many other innovations the most notable of which is cellular shades launched in 1985, under the brand name, “duette honeycomb shades.” The company’s origins go back to 1919 but it wasn’t until 1946 that they started making window treatments, the aforementioned aluminum mini blinds. Their US manufacturing headquarters are in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
Next up is Bali. However, Bali is actually a brand name of a larger company called, Springs Window Fashions. The headquarters of this company are in Middleton, Wisconsin but they also manufacture some of their window treatments in Mexico. Springs also sells two other brands of window treatments, Graber and Nanik. And, the company manufactures blinds, shades and curtains for retailers that are labeled as private label or as a “house-brand.” It is likely that if you bought a house brand from a major retailer, online or brick and mortar, it is a Springs product.
Comfortex was founded in 1986 and is headquartered in Maplewood, New York, which is near Albany. Comfortex is now a wholly-owned, independent subsidiary of Hunter Douglas. The company also has a manufacturing facility in Phoenix, Arizona. Comfortex is a company that prides itself on innovation, especially in the area of energy-efficient window treatments, such as cellular shades, cellular vertical blinds and others.
Levolor, next to Hunter Douglas is one of the most recognizable names in the window treatment industry. The company was actually founded in 1914, and was probably best know for it 1 inch mini blinds, also know as micro blinds. Today the company is a division of the multi-billion dollar consumer products company, Newell Rubbermaid.
The manufacturing headquarters for Levolor is in High Point, North Carolina.
Kirsch is another company with a long history; it was founded in 1907 where it started by manufacturing curtain rods. An interesting side note, all the curtain rods in the movie, “Gone With The Wind” were Kirsch rods. There products have also been featured in other movies. It seems odd to me that a company with such a long and rich history would be so unknown. By 1923, the company built half million square foot manufacturing plant in Sturgis, Michigan. And, then in 1956, the company added another 250,000 square feet of assembly and storage space to their headquarters. Today, Kirsch, which is also a division of the Newell Rubbermaid Company, offers a complete line of quality, custom window treatments.
Though there is a range of price from, let’s say, Hunter Douglas to Bali, each manufacturer builds a good product. Much like an automobile, the difference is in the details, options and internal parts. You can’t really go wrong with any one brand; it just depends on your tastes and your budget.
So there you have it, an introduction to the world of custom window treatments and the brands behind them. As a follow up, I will have to do an exciting, ground-breaking piece on the history aluminum mini blinds or shutters. Stay tuned. – David Brooks