The Art of the Window: Power Up With Motorized Treatments

We look at 11 spots in your home where automatic shades, screens, curtains and more make sense

By Jess McBride  / Courtesy of

The increasing use of technology in the home extends to the window treatments. With the click of a remote or the setting of a timer, they now open and close with ease. Here are 11 places where motorized coverings are especially convenient.

1. In the bedroom. Motorization comes at a premium. If your budget allows only for a few such window treatments, you won’t regret installing them in the bedroom, particularly if you have multiple windows. Besides saving yourself the step of manually closing each shade at the end of a long day, motorization offers the convenience of timed controls. You can program the shades to rise and fall at predetermined times each day.

2. In a two-story great room.The popularity of high-ceilinged great rooms and foyers has many homeowners scratching their heads wondering how to dress their hard-to-reach windows. Motorization is a no-brainer solution. Although remote-controlled systems usually will be the most cost-effective option for a retrofit, new builds benefit from the opportunity to hard-wire a motorized system during construction.

3. On the exterior.Motorization is all but essential for solar screens and hurricane shutters mounted on the outside of a home. Not only does an electronic system obviate the need to battle the elements on stormy days, but it also provides access to second-floor windows that may otherwise require a ladder or scaffolding to cover.

4. As a room divider. Although this photo illustrates a vertical window covering on a curved track, I’m inspired by the possibilities it suggests for those seeking a room divider. By mounting drapes, honeycomb shades or vertical blinds on a motorized track, an alcove can be converted to a private sanctuary or guest bedroom with the click of a button. To keep the area as open as possible when the divider isn’t needed, look for a treatment that stacks tightly like an accordion.

5. Sliding glass doors. This home in the desert makes generous use of retractable glass pocket doors to blend the indoors with the expansive views outside. Naturally, large panels of glass (the door in this photo is 12 by 15 feet) are most easily moved mechanically.

6. In a media room. Designing a media room is no cheap endeavor, so you want to get it right. A large screen and theater-style seats are a given, but thick velvet panels on a motorized track are a thoughtful detail that will go far toward transforming your viewing experience from ho-hum to star quality. (Also glamorous, but decidedly lower tech, is to lift the curtain via the Italian stringing method, a classic in historic theaters.)

7. Heavy curtains. Windows drenched in weighty volumes of fabric, or especially tall treatments, practically beg for a motorized closure. Even a traversing rod that draws panels shut using a cord-and-pulley mechanism would be cumbersome for these colossal curtains. If you’d rather not muscle against a cord like a sailor hoisting a jib, choose a motorized track when it’s physically impractical to maneuver your panels by hand.

8. Skylights. Often skylights are left uncovered, and for good reason: During the day, they bring much-needed natural light into dark interiors; at night, they offer a glimpse of the stars. But sometimes these luminous features are low enough or otherwise positioned to require a little opacity. Motorized shades with a separate operable liner, like the ones shown here, maximize light control and access to these windows.

9. Modern spaces. In this room, we see drapes, we see shades, we see clean lines. What don’t we see? Decorative window hardware. Because minimalism is the hallmark of many modern residences, they rarely incorporate traditional drapery rods with rings and ornate finials. Window treatments that stealthily slide across tracks recessed in the ceiling are the top choice for these sleek interiors.

10. Traditional drapery hardware. For those who prefer their drapery hardware classic, fear not: Most manufacturers of decorative traverse rods offer motorization options these days. There’s no reason you should eschew your bespoke artichoke finials and fluted fascias in the name of technology if your aesthetic leans toward the traditional.

11. Window walls. Although virtually any method can draw these lightweight sheers, here is a prime example of where technology can add value and efficiency to domestic life. Covering a wall of windows with the click of a button may save only a moment of two of precious time, but the satisfaction of having invested in an efficient, state-of-the-art dwelling is irresistible for many of my fellow tech-savvy millennials. Technologies like this also make independent living easier as we age.