Tailored Treatments

For many home decorators, the mere thought of bare windows is enough to start them shaking and shivering as if they have just skinny dipped in the Atlantic Ocean in the dead of winter. Equally unnerving is the idea of spending thousands of dollars on custom window treatments.

As a result, many do-it-yourself decorators turn to store-bought, standard panel curtains that they can purchase at the local home-improvement or discount store. That's about to end.

Now, thanks to Velegance, homeowners can install beautiful draperies that have the appearance of custom work for a fraction of the cost.

A specially patented curtain rod and unique fabric panels are joined together with Velcro to create elegant-yet-flexible window treatments that can be easily installed, removed and cleaned.

Velegance is the creation of Janice Cairns of Atlanta, who came up with the idea after more than 15 years of making custom window treatments that even she couldn't afford.

"I knew when I went into homes that couldn't afford me. I couldn't afford me. I knew there had to be a better way to get a custom look and make it affordable for more people," Cairns said. "That's how I came up with the idea for the curtain rod. I just adjusted my fabrics and patterns for the rod."

At the time, Cairns was a single mother going to school to earn her master's degree in business administration.

"Because I was an older student, I was friends with a lot of professors and they all knew what I did."

At the start of a new course, one of Cairns' professors asked all of the students to stand up, introduce themselves and tell what they did for a living.

"He was being a wise guy and told me that unless I was Drapes R Us I would never make any money.

"With the encouragement of another teacher who was my mentor, creating my curtain rod became my master's project. Under her patient guidance, and with the help of classmates and numerous business professionals, I researched, designed and developed my idea until my little curtain rod became real and the foundation of what we now call the Velegance window treatment system."

The custom look of the window treatments comes from the various panels offered. Cairns said she has created nine basic styles, which come in a choice of nearly 75 fabrics.

"I'm always switching out fabrics, and we can use a client's fabric," she said.

The end result is deceptively elegant and expensive looking. According to Cairns, the Velegance panels were beautiful enough to satisfy a condo-owning client in Manhattan, who said they looked wonderful.

Cairns said with the Velcro system, the window treatments are easy to install and take about the same time to put up as other window treatments. She has been timed at home shows putting up a rod, swag and cascade in a minute and a half.

"At least once a week I'm called a genius," Cairns said modestly. "It's just the fact that people love it. They think it is way cool. Guys like it because it's way gadgety. They can say 'See what I did.' Wives like it because they can finally say 'Yeah, you did some decorating.'"

Cairns began sewing custom draperies about 18 years ago when she was struggling to make ends meet, raise her children and go to school. She began working for woman who ran a drapery workroom; there, Cairns honed the sewing skills she had learned through 4-H and Girl Scouts. After a few years, she launched her own custom drapery business and worked with some of Atlanta's most respected interior designers.

"When I first started, I was working on my living room floor. I was on my knees cutting it out and piecing it together," she said of the custom window treatments she created.

The business was ideal because she could work it around her schedule.

But it was her love of a pretty home, pretty windows in particular, that served as her inspiration to develop Velegance.

Currently, the nearest representative of the window treatment system is in Arizona. However, Cairns said anyone interested in learning more about Velegance can contact the main office in Georgia.

"We're as close as UPS," she said. "Because the curtains are adjustable width wise, just take your window measurements and we'll send the correct number of pieces with a DVD that shows how to install them."

Prices range from $150 to about $400, depending on the size of the window.

For more information, visit the Web site at www.Velegance.com.