Last Updated on July 21, 2022 by Jeremy
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Three of the main reasons we purchased our house is that it is south facing, gets a ton of natural light, and has an exceptional skyline view (check out our Pittsburgh webcam view here)!
For the longest time, we simply did not have any blinds on our windows because we loved having the view and all that light come in. But after a while, especially in the summer months, the early wakeups due to the sunrise became old- we simply wanted to start sleeping in more.
So when we decided to get customized curtains for our bedroom, we decided to go for the motorized blinds and drapes route. We ended up purchasing electric curtains from Graywind as the price increase was not as much as we would've otherwise expected for motorized blinds versus conventional custom blinds. Now that we've had both electric drapes and curtains for several months, we thought we'd share a bit about what they are like in this review!
Note: Photos in this review were taken during the day as nighttime photos are impractical because, well, our room is so dark! As such, it is worth noting again that our house is south facing and our rooms can get exceptionally bright, so when we talk about breakthrough light keep in mind that we are on an extreme end here.
Graywind Motorized Drapes vs Blinds
For our bedroom, we ended up buying three blinds and one large drape unit (check out different styles here). If you are deciding between the two, these are vastly different both in design and quality.
The blackout blinds are made of a thick piece of fabric and roll down from a horizontally mounted tube that runs the length of your window. The motor is found inside the tube on a side of your choosing and a neutral faceplate covers most everything for a nice aesthetic. The blinds can be mounted above your window to cover the frame completely or via a flush mount for inside mounting if your window can accommodate it (we mounted ours over the window as illustrated in the photo above). Likewise, the blinds can be built to unroll overhanded or underhanded to help accommodate various window types as well.
The remote control can sync up to nine blinds and control them individually or collectively, each blind can override the manufacturer's top and bottom setpoint for further control, and you also have a pause button if you want to stop the blinds part way up or down.
As we purchased full blackout blinds, we thought the material (color choice: white smoke) was exceptional at light blocking such that we only noticed light around the edges and not through the material itself. The light that came through here was primarily our fault as we did not design our blinds to have enough excess to fully block out the daylight, but the light reduction, especially at night, was still exceptional.
The drapes are a bit more complicated. These are comprised of two hanging fabric drapes with one mounted on each side of a track that runs the length of your window. The track has an internal rail system that pulls the drapes closed to the center- moving left and right as opposed to the up and down movement of the blinds above. Instead of having the motor mounted inside of the track, this one has an exterior motor mounted vertically on either side of the frame and is always covered by the edge of the drape (although at night we can sometimes notice the blue light blinking when the drapes are activated for about 60 seconds).
We purchased an additional blackout liner (color choice: silvery moonlight plus blackout liner) and think it is good at light blocking, but not as much as the blinds from above. These block out roughly 90% of the light when the sun is up but glow a fair bit when the sun is shining directly on them such that we could see brightness and silhouettes of our door handle and other features. Much like the blinds, we also notice light coming in around the edges at times too partly because we did not design the drapes for enough excess to fully block out the light.
The remote control here can sync up to six drapes and control them individually only. Unfortunately, the remote control is different than for the blinds so we have two in our bedroom but we do not consider this to be a terribly big issue. There are buttons that can be used to open partial percentage open or closed, or otherwise, you can hit open/close buttons and pause the blinds to wherever you like if you want to stop them earlier.
Just keep in mind that if you buy both blinds and drapes, you'll need to add on a remote for each due to them not being cross-compatible.
As an added bonus, each hook for the drapes can be adjusted up or down on a sliding track to adjust the final position vertically within about a 1″ variance. It took us a while to figure out how these worked and we wondered why sections of our blinds didn't seem perfectly level. Once we adjusted these, the blinds looked almost perfect.
If we had to compare the two, we would say that we prefer the material of the drapes by far to those of the blinds as our blinds feel just a bit simple in construction. On the flipside, however, the blinds achieve blackout conditions a bit better than the drapes- especially during daylight hours (ignoring our under-sizing issue, but more on that below). As such, we have both positive and negative thoughts on both of these units but are generally happy with each for their own perks.
Finally, one of the best parts about ordering from Graywind was simply how fast the order came. We thought custom blinds would take months to be designed, built, and shipped via China but they were in our possession in about a week. Not only were they built more or less immediately, but they were also shipped via air from China instead of by sea!
But to be completely thorough, we want to take a moment and talk about some downsides of these motorized blinds and drapes more as there are some you really should be aware of beyond what comes with the base construction.
Downsides to Electric Curtains
As Graywind's motorized blinds feel a bit like the entry-level product into this style of decorating, the products are not without some downsides.
First, we'll start off with a combined issue with Graywind overall. The instructions they provide for mounting the drapes and curtains are simply terrible. These are designed to be picture-based instructions a la IKEA and have little, if any, descriptions written down. You can fumble your way through assembly and mounting of these just fine, but it becomes pretty frustrating when you try and sync the remote control or need to troubleshoot any issues as some of the instructions are ambiguous.
Second, we ordered these on Amazon and were told we would get correspondence to approve the order. We thought it would be via a Graywind branded email but it was in fact direct via Amazon's messaging system. As such, be sure to watch out for generic Amazon emails in the days after ordering to see if you have any questions to reply to. We missed one completely because of this.
Third, while most of the materials they give you for assembly are of good quality, we found that the mounting screws were simply awful. The plaster anchors sent for the drapes, for example, were not sized properly to have an outside lip to catch onto the wall and simply popped through the hole we drilled (drill sizes were not provided either, but we believe it was 1/4″). This was especially noted for the drapes over the blinds. As such, using your own wall anchors may be a better option here pending being rated properly for the weights and hole sizes.
Finally, while Graywind had very helpful customer support, it felt like their only office was only staffed in the European Union. As such, being in the USA, we always had to add one business day onto any correspondence. So when troubleshooting, don't be surprised if you don't get an immediate response.
Now, onto some focused downsides for the individual blinds and drapes.
For the drapes, we honestly had very few concerns apart from the mounting equipment mentioned above. All thoughts we have for this one are truly minor- like how the drapes do not fall and overlap nicely when closed (we have to adjust them slightly to be fully “closed”) and how we really, really should've got the valence to hide the bracket and block out some extra light at the top. It is just a bit extra, so add that one on too.
The only real concern we had was when starting them up after installation. Both our unit and a set we bought for Angie's parents turned on just fine with the remote control, but never seemed to remember the manufacturer's setpoints. We would hit close, the blinds would move six inches and then stop. Hit close again, another six inches, and stop. Sometimes it wouldn't respond to the remote control at all. Once we figured out how to resync the controller and set open/close positions per the IKEA-esque manual, both sets worked fine from there on out without further issues.
The blinds, however, were a bit more temperamental.
The biggest thing to note with these is that they are not quiet. I would not go as far as saying loud, but they are definitely noisier than I would've hoped. The rolling sounds exactly like what you'd expect a motorized blind to sound like and wouldn't be something we'd want to set to wake us up in the morning via automation (we don't use the smartphone tools at all, to be honest). The drapes, on the other hand, are much, much quieter.
From there, my biggest critique is that the extra safety dimensions Graywind recommends when designing the blinds were not enough for us. We added a couple of inches in width and height and they only just started to cover our windows properly (thus letting in some light around the edges- especially noticeable during the day). As such, if you buy the externally mounted blinds as we did, add on a sufficient excess if you are able beyond the recommended minimums for mounting distances. It costs a bit more but we'd think it could provide better blackout conditions overall.
One of our three blinds did have a bit of a fiasco that required significant troubleshooting with representatives from Graywind. This blind we had adjusted to have a new start and stop locations to account for a mounting issue we had. After a couple of months, the blind randomly started acting as if it had new start/stop locations programmed in. It would randomly stop at different points and forget the programmed positions outright. This was a bit like what we noticed when setting up our drape mentioned above, but rather than at installation it was months later after working just fine.
One time it even unrolled itself completely and started rolling up in the other direction (such that it was now rolling overhanded vs underhanded how we ordered) and another time started rolling around repeatedly in its housing (and felt like it could've broken off the wall had we let it keep going). A few hours later with the confusing manual, I was at least able to switch the motor direction and get new setpoints put in. But there was cursing. Lots of cursing. We still have no idea what happened there (assuming motor failure), but as such we're cautious on overriding any settings on the blinds despite being able to per the manual.
Unfortunately, this issue repeated itself again a little while later. After troubleshooting virtually everything, Graywind simply sent us a new blind. Not just a new motor, but an entirely new blind. We thought this was awesome customer service considering how expensive the blinds are, but that blind was also defective and did not roll out evenly. Whoops. Graywind sent us another motor as well to swap out in our original blind (which was exceptionally easy), and it has been working fine ever since.
Overall, while we really like the blackout nature of the blinds, the drapes felt like much better construction and higher quality material overall. That being said, we are happy to have both for our various window sizes as drapes wouldn't have made as much sense on some of our smaller windows.
Graywind's Automatic Curtains Are Still Great to Have
When it comes down to it, we absolutely love having motorized blinds in our house, and at night our bedroom is almost a complete blackout apart from some lights on electronics like our air conditioner and TV (which, inadvertently, are now much more noticeable because it is that dark). Compared to our previous setup, our sleep has improved dramatically with these!
But the products from Graywind have some quirks that you need to keep in mind. Many of these can be fixed at the time of ordering by simply overdesigning your curtains and being exceptionally minded of all of Graywind's mounting recommendations with respect to your window dimensions. You'll also want to plan for some frustrations when it comes to installation and getting the programming set up properly, but once they start working these are some pretty awesome products for the price.
So do yourself a favor and measure once, measure twice, measure three times, and then take whatever safety factor you think you need and add on even more than that if you are able. Then, buy any of the optional accessories like the valence for the drapes to get just a bit more blackout capabilities. Every little bit matters when you get to this level of darkness!
To buy Graywind blinds and drapes, click here.