Shop Talk is written by Ottawa Magazine editor Dayanti Karunaratne and Ottawa Magazine account executive and fashion maven
Working on the annual Interiors issue is always great for home inspiration. It’s mostly pipe dreams, but once in a while an idea resonates all the way to my to-do list. And this year that idea was floor-to-ceiling curtains as a way to add warmth to a room.
I’d make them myself, of course. My MIL made beautiful drapes for my daughter’s room, just as my mother had for my childhood room. A tradition!
I found some nice fabric — deeply discounted, no less, so I got a lot — at the end of November and set about making the curtains.
Grommet-style seemed the easiest option. Just measuring and cutting took about a week. There was the possibility that they would be ready by the end of 2013, but no luck. Our bungalow and general clutter-filled/ toddler-led lives meant that I could carve about an hour or two, twice a week, for this project.
Then the bathroom reno started … and kept going … and it was all I could not to stew about the lingering dust/logistics/lack of shower. I wasn’t spending my evening at a sewing machine!
Meanwhile, I was hearing great things about Elite Draperies new place. In 2012 they moved out of their cramped Bank Street quarters and took over two units on Colonade Road, an area burgeoning with home reno showrooms. I was curious to see how the pros do it, so I paid Greg Birtch a visit.
I was greeted by a striking modern-industrial showroom with lots of cool re-upholstered furniture, bookshelves of fabric swatches, and a very chatty co-owner. I soon learned that Greg left his job as a firefighter to help his wife, Mary, build their store into the go-to place for custom curtains.
One of the coolest things I saw was their custom solar-powered blinds. My dream home fantasy includes a few key remote control items — like blinds. Who hasn’t entered a room in their PJs only to realize the across-the-street neighbours are staring out their window, coffee in hand, watching the parade of life go by? (My neighbour doesn’t even have curtains. He’s what we call a Neighbourhood Watch-er.) I always figured that kind of thing meant rewiring, but Elite makes their own solar-powered units, which means they are not only easy to install, but they’re easy on the energy bill.
Also, their new place provides their in-house seamstresses with a bright, spacious workshop. It’s a mix of old faithful sewing machines and state-of-the-art setups that allow their staff to work more efficiently. When I visited the area was abuzz with activity, cool textiles abounding.
More than anything else, Greg’s enthusiasm made me realize that curtains (or drapes, or blinds) are one of those important but oft-forgotten elements of interior decor. Unlike funky accessories and cool chairs, they aren’t very photogenic on their own.
Since visiting Elite Draperies I still haven’t finished those curtains (bobbins?!). Meanwhile, Greg and Mary have organized a fundraising event with Sarah Richardson about home decor for spring. Not sure there are still tickets, but do check out Elite’s showroom if you’re looking for some home decor inspiration — or someone to rescue you from your own DIY nightmare