Window shades can let in light and even a view while providing privacy and cutting glare. This condo, with all its bells and whistles (remotely controlled shades are only half of it), is open during the Portland Modern Home Tour.

If anyone ever asks Don Arancibia if he does windows, he'd have to say yes. He's been in the windows biz for thirty years now, starting out at 18 working for a company owned by a friend of the family. That was in Southern California, where he’s from. He scoped out Portland and moved what was by then his own company, Mari Design, up here in 1990.

By now, he's got a wife, two kids, a cat and a dog, and they all live in a Clinton condo that is "fully loaded." The windows business has expanded to include not just shading, draping, and variously covering the openings in our walls but also mechanically and remotely controlling the way we cover them.

It’s not quite the Jetson’s, but that famous cartoon family’s futuristic life does come to mind when you hear about what you can do to your windows with the touch of a button or sweep of a finger across a wi-fi tablet. Control window shades or drapes not just from outside your home but from outside the country, via your smart phone. Of course, with this level of automation and remote control, why stop with just windows? Lighting, heating and cooling, home security and cameras are all part of “integrated” home control. (No word yet on whether kids or pets can be included in the package. And what about those robotic vacuum cleaners?)

Lots of light, lots of privacy - window shades can provide both.

Don and his wife Jennifer work at the business together now, and their retail shop and office is on the ground floor of the mixed-use building they live in at SE Division and SE 26th. You may have noticed the building because it’s snazzy and modern, designed by Holst Architecture and completed in 2008 – and it’s the home of Little T Bakery. It’s also the kind of mod building that many of us walk by and think, “that’s cool, but it’s a fishbowl. How can people live like that?” It’s definitely urban.

There’s been a lot of that type of residential architecture built in Portland in the past several years, especially with so much new construction – entirely new districts like the South Waterfront and the Pearl. But these floor to ceiling glass-walled apartments don't have to be fishbowls. Don and Jennifer’s home is an example. In fact, their home is a testing ground for the latest products they carry, and a showroom for potential clients.

Window coverings can lower from the top or raise from the bottom; planning ahead during initial construction by building in pockets for roller shades and controls makes the whole package more economical than trying to retrofit a space later. Coverings control light, glare, privacy, and heat gain or loss. Environmental concerns join with aesthetic. And blocking out light doesn’t have to mean blocking out all the view: there are different levels of transparency, with shades that cut glare and provide privacy while still allowing a view  (albeit screened) out the entire window. 

After all, if a home has floor to ceiling windows, chances are it’s also got some sort of view. In a condo along the Willamette, or a beach house on the coast, the view is a major reason for the house. But there can be too much of a good thing. The option of raising shades from a pocket in the floor is perfect for those upper level windows that can then block the view in from the street without blocking their own view out to city and sky

Not only do the Arancibias use their home as Mari Design’s showroom, but they are also participating in this year’s Portland Modern Home Tour Saturday, March 9, 2013. The tour is 11:00 am – 5:00 pm. Tickets are $30 in advance (on sale until 8:00 pm Friday, March 8), $40 day of the tour (available at any of the tour properties beginning at 11:00 am on March 9). Enter the contest to win a free pair of tickets here.

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