Hunter Douglas shades living room

The Birth of the Modern Shade

Technology Profile - Smart Shades

The Birth of the Modern Shade

Hunter Douglas has transformed the industry with unique window treatments and operating systems that make fashion easy to use

By Douglas Weinstein

Hunter Douglas Silhouette India Silk Living Room

IN 1946 HENRY SONNENBERG AND JOE HUNTER ESTABLISHED A COMPANY to develop new technology and equipment for the casting and fabrication of aluminum. They began to produce lightweight aluminum slats for two-inch Flexalum venetian blinds. Hunter Douglas, as they are known today, was born.

Aluminum blinds were an innovative product. Hunter Douglas went one better by creating a vast network of independent fabricators across North America. They were a dominant force in the marketplace.

And then they developed the world’s first honeycomb window covering in the 1980s. The Duette® and the following Silhouette® product groups achieved massive success by combining the best features of blinds, shades and curtains together in one product. Along with the introduction of new styles, colors, applications and hardware systems, Hunter Douglas became the global leader in window coverings.

Hunter Douglas Apollo Dining Room

new thinking on the role of light

From their earliest product creations, HD demonstrated a unique and enduring focus on the critical role properly managed light can play in the home. Rather than just hanging in the window or providing decorative accents, HD believed that engineered shades could play a variety of important roles in the home, including clever mixes of hot weather/cold weather energy efficiency, daytime privacy while maintaining view-through, and of course enhancements to the sun’s natural light.

Getting functional performance from a window covering starts with a command of fabrics and the physics of light. Differing types of fabric weaves result in different opacities of light diffusion.

Sheer fabrics feature the greatest openings within their weaves. When rays of light strike each thread of the fabric, the light is angled or dispersed, providing a diffused wash of light and creating what appears to the eye as a soothing glow. That openness is great for maximizing inward light transmission, but that transparency provides for little in-home visual privacy at night.


For greater privacy, designers can choose semi-sheer fabrics. With their relatively tighter weave they offer a soft light translucency and minimal privacy. Semi-opaque fabrics offer softened translucency with more privacy and opaque fabrics are designed to darken rooms and provide maximum privacy.

Another design concept HD pioneered was the idea of combining multiple layers of fabric within a single shade as a way to maximize the beauty and extent of natural light diffusion within a room.

In real life, most window glass panels are not 100 percent clean, as they are covered with some level of dirt, dust or spots. When these visual defects are backlit by the sun’s rays, the shadow of the spots literally project onto the shade hanging in the window. If the shade is a single fabric design, like most roller and screen shades, the shadow/outline of those spots become unsightly visual details at the window, made even larger by the projection distance between the glass panel and the shade itself.

The multiple-panel shade designs of many HD products negate this issue, with the second fabric panel effectively blurring any visual defects from the window and creating a smooth and soft glow that fills the interior.


The real magic happens when the science and art of textile choices are shaped together in a comprehensive shade design - the real expertise of Hunter Douglas.

A purely decorative shade can be as simple as a single piece of cloth in the window. A highly functional shade combines beautiful textiles, light-enhancing shade shapes, and advanced operating systems. Here are two examples that illustrate this point:

Cellular shades can be found almost anywhere nowadays, but the fundamental cellular shade concept was actually invented by Hunter Douglas engineers 40 years ago. Their pioneering product called Duette Honeycomb Shades continues today as the most energy efficient and beautiful light transformation option on the market.

Duette is designed to provide an energy efficient light diffusing glow. Its unique cell-within-a-cell design utilizes multiple layers of fabric and cells to trap the hot or cold air from entering a home and non-artificially improving the energy efficiency of a home. Duette’s multiple layers of fabric also soften the natural light to provide a beautiful and comfortable luminous glow for living.

Hunter Douglas Silhouette CearView

The best light-enhancing product available is the Silhouette shade, designed to harvest natural light from the outside to provide a beautiful and comfortable luminous ambiance inside any space. It is designed with two layers of sheer fabric and an s-shaped fabric vane to transform harsh sunlight into a softer light. As light enters, it is softened by the back sheer, then is softened again as it travels across the s-shaped vane, and then softened even more as it passes through the face sheer.

Silhouette’s s-vanes also rotate, allowing the homeowner to adjust to the direction of the light at any hour of the day. And both the rotating vanes and sheers are designed to provide UV protection for interior furnishings.


connecting with the design community

The engineering of these light-enhancing shades is complex. The new Hunter Douglas Custom Integrator Program (CIP) makes it easy for technology and interior designers to access the broad portfolio of HD shade systems.

CIP is specifically designed with the needs of technology dealers in mind, providing them with a low-cost buy-in that includes key product sample books, training and a variety of sample PowerView® accessories. CIP participants will also have access to luxury Hunter Douglas fabrics, which were typically reserved for the top HD home décor dealers.



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