"RICE PADDY FIELDS," according to the display at Pier 1 Imports, "do not only feed the people of the Orient but also provide straw for weaving and paper-making." One of the results is the rice paper shade -- two large sheets of rice paper sandwiched over bamboo stiffeners to create a translucent blind.
Rice paper shades may well be the most novel choice for window covers this season. The current penchant for orientalia makes the new rice paper shades an important addition to interior design. But other new types of shades seem to be coming to town every day.
Pier 1 is selling the attractive lightweight rice paper shades, says assistant manager Cynthia Towers at the M Street store, at prices ranging from $12.99 for a 30-by-72-inch shade to $25.99 for 72-by-72-inch ones. Pier 1's rice paper shades aree made in Taiwan.
Conran's in Georgetown also carries a brand of rice paper blind called the "Shoji" blind; it's made in Japan. Like the Pier 1 brand, Conran's eggshell white blind has two tabs on the top that hang nails tacked onto the upper windowsill.They're very easy to hang, says Mitchell, assistant manager for housewares at Conran's, and despite their delicate appearances, the shades are tear-resistant. She advises using the brush attachment of a vacuum cleaner to get the dust off. "Never," she says "use a [cleaning] solution. Even water can stain the paper." The shade works by a pulley mechanism similar to a venetian blind. The bottom is weighted down with a bamboo pole.
Conran's shades come in two sizes: 32-by-70 inches for $17.50 and 39-by-70 inches for $20. More Paper Shades
In addition to rice paper, Conran's has an accordion-pleated blind made of heavy craft paper (construction paper). Like the rice paper, it won't withstand water but it can be lightly brushed with a damp cloth. The blind comes in six sizes which can be cut shorter from the bottom. "We don't do it for you, but the blind comes complete with shortening instructions," says Mitchell. Cost: $29.95 for a 39-by-71-inch blind.
Conran's also carries the Canadian-made Umbra shades. These paper shades hang by spring rollers and come in four color tones: pink and maroon stripes, blue and green stripes, white and silver stripes, and brown and rust stripes. They come in one size, 36-by-72 inches, but can be cut down to size; they cost $16.95 each.
The Design Store, 1258 Wisconsin Ave. NW, also sells the Umbra Shade. The prices range from $13.95 for a 32-by-72-inch shade to $16.95 for a 40-by-72 inch one. Insulating Shades
Owner Marcia Wallace of Energy Saver Shades, 8020 Ellet Rd. in Springfield, Va., says they have more than 15 product lines -- "all of which are better insulation than storm windows."
The R-Value window shade comes in a light-filtering or room-darkening material. Its R-2.7 insulation factor repels 90 percent of the sun's heat in summer and reduces winter heat loss by 44 percent, says Wallace. It comes in a beige-and-white checkered pattern. For a standard window (34-by-43 inches) the R-Value shade costs $22.50.
A more attractive (and more expensive) blind is Decoray -- made of a laminated film and fabric material for window insulating. According to Wallace, it combines the "pretty look of loosely woven knitted fabric with the insulating protection at the windows." Decoray's R-factor is 2.94 and costs $50 for an average 34-by-43-inch window. It comes in a beige weave backed by a gold laminated film.
Bel-Aire Sun Shades, another energy-saving shade carried at Wallace's store, are made of a textured fabric laminated to film that's designed to reduce heat loss in winter and reflect the sun in teh summer. It also is meant to reduce air-conditioning costs and protect furnishings from fading caused by sunlight. It comes in white or bronze and costs $40 for 34-by-43-inch window.
Thermo-Shades, also available at Energy Saver Shades, claim to stop 75 percent of the heat flow through a window. The shades contain two still air spaces and two reflective surfaces that provide the equivalent of R-5 insulation with a single pane window and more than R-7 with a double pane. In the summer the shades deflect much of the sun's heat.
Window Quilt and WindowBlanket are also sold at Energy Saver Shades. Although they are especially useful for insulating against the cold, they also insulate against heat. Window Quilt is a five-layer quilted shade that works on a track system. In the summer, outside heat is reflected by the quilt's inner aluminized film core. WindowBlanket has a 100 percent Rac-Lon cotton lining, which repels water and resists fading. It comes in white, tan or rust. One shade fits most windows; two fit most patio doors. Prices for a 34-by-43-inch window: $50 for Window Quilt and $69 for Window-Blanket.
Woodward & Lothrop stores carry the Versosol shade. Verosol is an open-weave shade with reflective material on one side. Kevin Hopkins of the custom drapery department says prices start at $75 for a 24-by-36-inch shade. At Woodies the shade comes in blue, gold, cocoa, champagne and spice.
Quality Shade in Fairfax also sells the Verosol shade. Manager Ina Whitley says the shade, which they carry in blue, gold or tobacco, has been on the market for about a year. It costs $100 for a 36-by-65-inch window.
The custom shops at Sears, Roebuck and Co. drapery departments carry a polyester pleated shade called "Cimmarron." It comes in three materials -- sheer, sheer metallic and translucent. The sheer metallic has an aluminized back which reflects the sun. For a 30-by-36-inch window, the shade costs $52.
Eastern Metallizing Inc. in Bethesda sells "Solar Shades" -- two sheets of polyester with a sheet of aluminum foil in between, according to Peggy Cluston, one of the owners of the family-operated business. The aluminum is reflective, like the covering on batt insulation. It also reflects back ultra-violet light -- keeping your upholstery from fading. Vertical Blinds
The vertical blind, which comes in a variety of materials -- rigid vinyl, metal, fabric, reed and macrame -- is more practical for sliding doors and picture windows. It moves on a traverse rod -- like a curtain. Depending on size and on material, the vertical blind ranges in price from $300 to $350.
Sears is selling the vertical blind too -- but only in macrame so far. For a 60-by-72-inch window, the vertical Sears blind costs $246.
Hechinger's will order the vertical blind custom-made in metal and reed, starting at $200. Bamboo and Other Blinds
Pier 1 Imports has the largest (and one of the more reasonably priced) selections of Oriental-style blinds in the area. The Pier 1 display says that "pound for pound, rattan is stronger than steel . . . vines up to 70 feet long were used in Malaysia to build foot bridges and construction scaffolding throughout the Orient."
Bamboo and rattan blinds are still, as they have been for years, far and away the cheapest thing you can use to cover your windows.
Unstained bamboo slat blinds, made for Pier 1 in Taiwan, are available in sizes ranging from 36-by-72-inches ($3.99) to 120-by-72 inches ($12.99). Burnt or smokes bamboo slat blinds are also available -- smokes to make them darker in color. They run from $9.99 for a 24-by-72-inch blind to $39.99 for a 96-by-72-inch one.
The traditional matchstick blind is the most popular at Pier 1, according to assistant manager Cynthia Towers. They run $4.99 for a 24-by-72-inch blind to $29.99 for a 120-by-84-inch blind. They also come in a smoked version and cost about the same as the smoked bamboo.
Conran's carries the "traditional French blind" made of think one-inch wood slats. The French-made blinds average $37.95 for a 39 1/4-by-78 1/2-inch blind.
Hechinger's carries the matchstick blind, ranging in price from $6.99 to $29.99. Fabric Shades
Laura Ashley has introduced a do-it-yourself window shade kit that comes complete with wooden roller, brackets, screws, pull cord and fabric stiffening solution -- everything you need except the fabric, which (surprise) you can also buy at Laura Ashley, 3213 M St. NW in Georgetown.
The kits come in three sizes: 3 feet ($22), 4 feet ($25) and 6 feet ($35). The fabrics cost $9 a yard; all are 48 inches wide.
Conran's carries the kits as well ($12.95), but they do not come with the fabric stiffner. A 16-ounce bottle of stiffener can be purchased separately at Conran's for $3.50. (Michelle Mitchell of Conran's says that fabric starch does the same job.) Fabric for the do-it-yourself shade -- $4 to $13 a yard -- can also be bought at Conran's. Mitchell does not recommend using very lightweight fabrics such as polyester blinds -- they'll lose shape quickly.
At the Door Store's fabric annex, 3140 M St. NW, manager/owner Corey Armstrong doesn't recommend the fabric kits to his customers. "The fabric usually needs to be re-sprayed with stiffener after hanging for three months."
Conran's Mitchell disagrees. "We've never had any complaints. I would suggest, however, that for shades you plan on opening and closing frequently, maybe another style would be preferable."
The Door Store's fabric annex custom-makes shades and drapes, but Armstrong recommends curtains to his customers. Price-wise, the cost of making custom curtains vs. custom shades runs about the same: $100 for a window measuring 36-by-72-inches, using an average-priced fabric ($8 to $10 a yard).