The Real Deal New York

With blinds, putting an end to fishbowl living

Developers of glass buildings spend big to install high-tech blinds

April 01, 2008
By Marc Ferris

First there was the glass craze; now there is the blinds craze. Throughout the city, developers and builders of glass buildings are increasingly shelling out serious money to give buyers a reprieve from fishbowl living by including shades and creating a uniform look in their new construction.

In some cases, the cost to outfit each apartment with the blinds, which are often motorized and made from sleek, space-age-type materials, can reach five figures. At 40 Mercer Street, the Jean Nouvel-André Balazs building, for example, developers spent $843,000 to install more than 600 motorized shades in all 44 units. That’s just over $19,000 per apartment.

“Window treatments can be extremely costly depending on the materials used. Good fabric drapes can cost tens of thousands of dollars,” said Leonard Steinberg, executive vice president at Prudential Douglas Elliman. He is handling sales at 200 11th Avenue, the Annabelle Seldorf-designed building that will provide motorized shades at a cost of $25,000 per unit. “The value to a building is consistency
from the exterior — even if it’s not an all-glass structure.”

Jon Gmora, account executive at DFB Sales, a shade manufacturer and installer in Long Island City, said, “Shades have long been an afterthought, but they are now
being considered sooner than they used to be in building design.

“Motorized shades can go for $10,000 to $20,000 depending on many factors, including fabrics, installation details and the number of motors,” he said. At the Chelsea Modern at 447 West 18th Street, the developer is including shades worth $8,500 to $10,000 in each unit.

“We’re giving the whole package, not just an empty shell,” said Andrew Harris of Madison Equities. “When residents go to bed the first night they move in, they won’t have to hang sheets across the window. We planned on doing this from the word ‘go’ because it gives the building’s façade a uniform look — and it protects their art, their furniture and their floors.”

Carter Peabody, a filmmaker who lived for years in a prewar West Village apartment, snapped up the last one-bedroom at the Chelsea Modern. He agreed that having the developer provide shades will take care of both the privacy factor and the hodgepodge of different window dressings that would have sprouted up and detracted from the building’s overall appearance.

When he first toured the property, Peabody said he was “seeing dollar signs as I looked out the windows,” thinking about how much it would cost to get custom-made shades.

“But when I heard that the window coverings were included in the plans, I was thrilled that I wouldn’t have to go through the hassle of tracking them down on my own, or spending the thousands of dollars that I had envisioned,” he said.

The shades are, of course, a far cry from Venetian blinds, velvet drapes or even standard-issue office shades. The four-figure models come in recessed coves called “ceiling pockets” that allow the rollers to disappear overhead when not in use.

Also, with the help of guide wires, no window or skylight is too hard to cover, especially if the devices are installed during a building’s construction phase, when walls don’t need to be broken through.

At 48 Bond Street, the building’s canted windows prompted the developer to take matters into his own hands. Donald Capoccia, principal at BFC Partners, the building’s developer, said it took time to have shade coves carved and to coordinate the framer, the drywall contractor and a special electrician.

Incorporating the 4-by-6 inch ceiling pockets into a building’s plans added to the upfront costs, but arguably added value to each unit.

“We’ve all seen buildings where the curtains or blinds can get like a circus, and I didn’t want that to happen here,” Capoccia said. “I looked at the architectural plans for the façade and saw that these were exceptional windows, and that it was important to have a consistent approach to the treatments that would go into the building and maintain some integrity to them.”

In some cases, architects, designers and developers are outfitting units with low-voltage wiring to power motorized shade rollers, along with other remote-controlled appliances. At 48 Bond, which is sold out and opened last month, buyers have been offered a palette of six different colors to cover the 6-foot-wide, 8-foot-high windows. Most of the 15 units contain four windows and will cost buyers $3,500 to $5,000 to outfit.

No one has complained, Capoccia said.

At the Visionaire, located at 55 Battery Place in Manhattan, the Albanese Organization is touting its ceiling pockets and wiring for motorized blinds not just as a luxury, but also as a green feature that helps with temperature adjustment and protects against UV rays. Albanese estimated that the cost of installing electric wiring and ceiling pockets, but not the blinds, is around $3,000 per apartment.

Gmora of the Long Island City shade manufacturer said some solar-controlled shades automatically adjust to the level of brightness in a room, which “cuts down on the
building’s heat load.”

He said business is up by about 20 to 25 percent.

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