Timberline AV taps the manufacturer to help with the design, support and technical aspects of smart shade integration and specification
Each dealer has a unique story of getting into the custom installation business. For some, it started with the need to design their own ultimate smart home, whereas others entered the business by expanding from another market, like the commercial space or even home design.
Seth Coonrod, owner of Colorado-based integration firm Timberline Audio-Video, has one such unique background. He has roots in design, having worked with window treatment manufacturer Hunter Douglas as a shade specialist before transitioning into the smart home business with his own firm. Timberline offers lighting, home theater, security, and more, and recently, Coonrod began watching the shade business again, as it became smart. Within the smart home, Coonrod foresees growth and opportunity: “Most window shades are going to be motorized within the next five to ten years, compared to today. As an industry, that’s something AV firms need to be prepared to take on.”
Pushed Towards a Steep Learning Curve
The Timberline team creates catered smart home systems, focusing on the client’s lifestyle to design cutting-edge AV, home theater, audio, security, and lighting experiences with Control4 automation. “From the very beginning of our process, it starts with understanding how the client lives in their home and how technology can enhance their day-to-day lives,” says Coonrod.
Compared to other features, the smart shade market is unripe, and ready for growth. “Everything that turns on and off or moves is becoming automated, and shades are one aspect of the home experiencing that early, widespread wave of integrations in AV projects,” he said. “Not everyone needs speakers, but you’d be hard pressed to find a house that didn’t have window shades.” Seeing the opportunity, Coonrod eyed ways to add smart shades to his integration business.
The design side of shading presents a learning curve for any integration team, who must take on a catalogue of design elements, measuring, and a technology platform. Timberline struggled with smart shade installation in the past, when they had no choice but to shoehorn in options from technology companies, which lacked the design and quality expectations of their clientele. With the automation company and the shade manufacturer involved, they faced technical challenges and difficulty troubleshooting. Timberline needed a smart shade option that could integrate with their smart home platform and seamlessly complement their systems, while also offering design and functionality for its clients.
Along with these challenges, the category also presented a daunting investment. “We’re a smaller company, and window treatments typically come with a high initial investment. It was a big bite to try and take off,” said Coonrod. Timberline needed a shade partner that could support the firm’s commitment to outstanding customer service, with a portfolio to meet clients’ design and lifestyle needs, technical chops, and training and support.
Small Firm, “A New World of Options”
Taking on any new product line is a big task; smart shading requires measuring, design choices, colors, and understanding different shade styles. From previous experience, Coonrod knew that Hunter Douglas had the product offering, customization options, and quality Timberline clients sought, plus the technology platform his team needed. Compared to working with Hunter Douglas as a specialist, a new option for integrators emerged: The Hunter Douglas Custom Integrator Program.
With the initial startup investment reduced, and training, installation help, and support from a local representative, the program made smart shading a more viable addition for Timberline: “The lower price point and the customizable shade portfolio were a fit for our client projects. Our local rep was also available for support throughout projects, from consultation and design selection to measurements and installations.”
With more styles and options, shades can do more in a smart home. In place of limited shade options offered by other manufacturers, Hunter Douglas granted Timberline access to its portfolio of over 20 styles, customizable in a variety colors, sizes, and light filtering or room darkening options. PowerView® Automation smoothed the technical challenges, making integration into Control4 systems seamless. The platform gives homeowners access to their window treatments through the app, as well as other control methods in the system. When automated with other experiences designed by the Timberline team, shades are incorporated into schedules and scenes in-line with other smart home experiences that provide privacy, convenience, comfort, entertainment, and more.
In addition to the design aspect, support and technical ability were especially important to Timberline: “Hunter Douglas has resources to help with troubleshooting the direct Control4 and PowerView® Automation integration, which I haven’t seen from other shade brands,” said Coonrod. “We always have an expert to help us, which supports Timberline’s mission to deliver the best customer service.”
To smooth the design learning curve, Hunter Douglas also connects integrators with local installers who can measure and install the shades, easing the stress and labor on complicated orders for custom install teams.
Turning Opportunity into Results
The Hunter Douglas CI Program made the smart shade category a smooth integration for Timberline, and the firm quickly turned the opportunity into results. After seeing an increase in smart shade demand, Timberline expanded the operation by hiring a consultant armed with knowledge about different fabrics, light filtering, and interior design to guide homeowners in selecting shades design choices. Combined with the Hunter Douglas shade portfolio, Timberline saw a 25% increase in revenue because of window coverings in the first six months since joining the program.
The revenue growth also came from a new entry point for sales, increasing Timberline’s leads by about 20%. With their shade consultant, Timberline could engage with clients earlier in the process of a renovation or building a new home, when homeowners aren’t yet choosing speakers and smart home features but are thinking of window treatments. On the flip side, Timberline can also introduce clients seeking just automated window treatments to their additional smart home offerings.
“When a homeowner is interested in automated window treatments, it’s a great advantage to introduce them to a new world of options they didn’t know were even available in the smart home space,” said Coonrod. “There’s a new customer base of customers seeking window shades for their home before they’re thinking about TVs and speakers, which gives us the chance to introduce that market to other AV and home automation options.”
In one client’s home, a unique shade style allowed for more automation scenarios. Timberline installed Silhouette Window Shadings in an open-concept home overlooking a lake and mountain landscape. With west-facing windows, they automated the shades to let the afternoon sunlight enter the home, and to automatically adjust to transform harsh sunlight into beautiful, ambient light throughout all hours of the day.
The use cases expanded with more shade styles and options, which also increased the opportunity for Timberline. The CI Program streamlined the smart shade category for Timberline, making it a viable growth opportunity ahead. Coonrod said: “Window shades is one category where we can take ownership of the process. There’s a huge opportunity for window shades to increase.”