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Variety of options can cover sliders

Published April 22, 2007


Like most Floridians, I own a home full of sliding glass doors.

I'm happy to have the panoramic view, the tropical cross-breezes in the spring, the easy access to the outdoors. How good it feels to so easily slip outside in the morning, coffee in hand, or to watch the lightning and trembling skies of a summer storm with a view that's as big as the length of my entire home.

The problem has less to do with practicality and more to do with window treatments.

My condo came with three sets of rather flimsy 1970s sliders: two facing the deck and another overlooking my front courtyard.

Come morning, the sun beats through with such intensity that I feel like I need a pair of those special pinhole sunglasses we used to make in grade school to watch an eclipse.

Right now I have them covered with those plastic porch shades they sell at the home discount stores for about $20. I should tell you that I've left them up for more than a year because I can't make up my mind what to do.

Once, while I was studying window treatments in a home store, a befuddled-looking man wandered past, obviously defeated: "Is there anything else available for sliding glass doors besides vertical blinds?" he complained.

Well, yes and no, depending on how much you're willing to shell out.

Prices are all over the map, whether you opt to buy on-the-cheap from a big-box retailer or go for a custom job through an interior designer or a window treatment company.

Just make sure you've considered whether you want your window treatments installed on the inside or outside of the sliders and that your measurements are perfect it's really worth hiring a professional to make sure you get it exactly right.

Priscilla Castellano, a Temple Terrace-based interior designer and owner of Andrea Lauren Elegant Interiors ( says that she's using a lot of motorized cellular shades for clients who want something that goes up and down easily.

They're handy whether the client wants to step outside or just darken the room slightly to watch a football game.

"It's the latest thing - all they have to do is press a button," she explains. "We're not even selling the verticals anymore."

For clients who can't afford the motorized version, she says, many are buying cellular shades (honeycombed, insulated shades typically made of polyester) and installing them themselves.

For those who don't want shades, drapery panels are a good choice, Castellano says, and should be hung so they stack to one side.

"They're great for people who go in and out a lot," she adds.

Adam Varn, manager of the Blinds to Go store in Brandon, says that vertical blinds remain a popular choice for sliding glass doors.

The options are actually better than ever, he points out, and the vertical style is ideal for people who like to use their sliding door frequently or who have pets or children needing access.

Blinds to Go, a family-owned company based in Canada, offers 50 to 60 styles of vertical blinds that they custom-make for customers at their plant in New Jersey.

The vertical style actually blends well with today's popular contemporary decor, Varn says, and remains a particularly good option in Florida where sun, heat and glare are a problem.

S-shaped vertical blinds also are a good option because they look a lot like draperies but offer the durability of a vertical. The company also offers wood/bamboo varieties of a vertical-shaped window treatment that operates on a panel track.

The style was used in European homes in the 1970s, Varn says, and made popular in the United States by Blinds to Go.

"It's just a preferred thing; some people like them more because they're tired of having seen vertical blinds around their whole life."

Also worth considering, he says, are solar shades. They don't block the light (or keep people from seeing in at night), but they can reduce glare enormously, especially for people who live on the water.

Some more creative possibilities include sliding cellular shades that move sideways rather than up and down, as well as sliding plantation shutters.

As for me, I still haven't made up my mind about how to cover my own sliding glass doors.

I did notice some drapes in a recent issue of the Restoration Hardware outdoor catalog made of Sunbrella fabric and available in a linen hue that I think might look really beautiful, though I'm not sure they'll block the intense morning sun.

In that case, I'll stick to my cheap plastic porch shade for the time being until I find a better solution - or invent one.

"Everyone has a million big windows and sliding doors down here in Florida," Varn says. "There's a lot of demand. Someone who could come up with a better idea would do very well."

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at

[Last modified April 21, 2007, 19:52:15]

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