Michael Pari Wins 2020 SelectBlinds.com Scholarship!

A big THANKS to everyone who participated in our scholarship contest this year!

With more than 600 entries for the 2020 SelectBlinds.com scholarship, you could easily say the competition was pretty stiff this year. And, with so many fantastic entries, it made choosing a single winner more than a little difficult. From light-emitting window coverings to original songs played on a ukelele, this year’s participants went above and beyond.

2020 SelectBlinds.com scholarship winner, Michael Pari.

Michael Pari, pictured above, was one of our favorites from the get-go. He stole the show with his unique concept of combining neutral density filters and polarized filters to create a high-tech window shade that blocks out light without distorting your view of the outside world. Check out his video submission for a complete, concise overview!

When asked what his goals were for his college career and beyond, he said:

My main goals in college are to continue my craft as a filmmaker working my way up in the business/filmmaking industry. Winning this scholarship will help me further my education by allowing me the opportunity to understand the background knowledge to the business side of my career. I would like to become an expert in constructing marketing strategies alongside my film work. This video has already helped my portfolio greatly. The project was one more stepping stone to me becoming a PA (production assistant) just recently at a video production company located in Deland Florida.

Michael Pari – 2020 SelectBlinds.com Scholarship Winner

2020 Back-to-College Essentials

General PPE and Cleaning Supplies

Colorful cloth masks on a wooden table.

While some supplies, like a thermometer, tissues and antibacterial soap, might be normal for college students, 2020 students will need a whole host of other fun PPE and cleaning supply necessities. From disinfecting wipes (or spray and paper towels since wipes still seem to be a hot commodity) to masks, buckets of hand sanitizer and maybe even gloves and face shields, the list is almost endless. Pick up a bit of what you’ve been using all summer as well as a few extra masks in case some go missing and you should be ready for anything college life throws at you.

Mini Freezer

Freezer full of ice and a single pint of ice cream.

Sure, your roommate’s mini-fridge might have a small freezer compartment big enough for maybe two pints of ice cream, but that’s about it. People might question your sanity when you say you’re bringing a mini-freezer, but guess who’ll have the last laugh when its finals week and the caf is closed at 2:00 A.M. and you’re in desperate need of some bagel bites? YOU! Also, if your college is anything like my old one, no one is allowed to eat anywhere but in their dorms until further notice, so stocking up on freezer-food is probably a good plan regardless of late-night study sessions.

Window Shades

White, light filtering temporary paper shades.
Redi Shades in White Light Filtering

While you probably won’t be allowed to drill holes in your dorm walls or window frames, that’s no reason to go without blinds or shades! Your room might come with some, or it might not. It all depends on your college or university. To be on the safe side, get some easy, affordable Redi Shades. Just use the adhesive to attach them to the top or outside of the window frame and that’s all it takes! You can even use them to block the underside of the upper bunk if your beds are in an “L” formation. Redi Shades are perfect for college life because they’re cheap, easy to use, and they come in blackout, which means you can sleep whenever you want without light bothering you.

Air Fresheners

Air freshener plugged into a wall outlet next to a painting of a shell.

You may not like to think about it much, but dorm rooms are SMALL and the smell of a single stinky shoe can take days to wear off. Make sure you’re prepared for odor battle with the air fresheners of your choice. Whether you go for a Glade Plugin (set to low to accommodate the general lack of space found in any dorm room), one of the new Febreze Small Spaces air fresheners, or even those weird gel cones that die after a week, make sure you’ve got enough stocked up to keep odors at bay.

A Better Trash Can

I know, it’s gross, but seriously the trash can your dorm may supply you with is small and doesn’t have a lid. While the fact that it’s small might be good for keeping down odors, the whole “no lid” thing kind of negates that. Invest in a small eight-gallon trashcan with a lid. It’s small enough that you won’t be hoarding garbage, plus the bags will be light enough that you can easily carry them to the dumpster, while the lid significantly diminishes the amount of garbage odor that might seep into your room. If you can, get a foot or sensor operated garbage can so you don’t even have to touch the lid. Some even have air filters to cut down on the smell.

Blinds and Shades for Arched Windows

Arched windows can lend an extra level of beauty and sophistication to any space. The only problem? They’re not the easiest windows to cover…until now!

Grey honeycomb shades and arch coverings in a grey themed living room.
Premier Double Cell Blackout Arches in Riverstone

Whether you’re looking for a treatment for your standard arch, an elongated one or even a quarter arch, we’ve got you covered. And if you’ve got a window with a rounded top where the arch is part of the window, there’s a solution for that as well! Just check out this handy guide about floating head rails to learn if one might be right for your window.

Covering your naked arches doesn’t have to drain you of patience or money. Choose from inside or outside mount and simply follow the instructions found at the bottom of each arched product page in the tab titled “Measure & Install.”

BUT, before you do that, it might be a good idea to figure out which arched window covering would work best for your window.

Light Filtering vs Blackout:

Depending on the location and position of your arched window, you may want to go with either a light filtering or blackout covering. Arches in the bedroom? Blackout is probably your best bet there. Living room or entryway? Light filtering is a great choice for blocking glare without losing all that wonderful natural light. Either way, these fabulous honeycombs will have your windows dressed up and ready for a night (or day) on the town in no time.

Single Cell vs Double Cell:

Single vs double cell honeycomb shades is a topic that people tend to be less invested in than the heavily debated “light filtering vs blackout.” Nevertheless, it can be just as important. While double the cells mean extra noise blocking and insulation, single cell honeycombs are still a great option for trapping heat and reducing noise, just to a slightly lesser degree. Single celled treatments are also inherently lighter since they don’t have an extra layer of fabric, so for abnormally large windows, single is probably your best bet.

Honestly, once you narrow down which type of arch covering you want out of the options above, all that’s left to do is choose your color, measure your arch and get click-happy! And once your shades come in, install is a breeze with our easy to follow videos and instructions.

4 Easy Homemade Frozen Treats You MUST Try

Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches

One of my absolute favorite froze treats has got to be an ice cream cookie sandwich. Every summer when I was a kid, we’d visit my nana at her lake house in upstate New York. There was this massive multi-restaurant building, called the Charcoal Corral, that also had a mini-golf course, stage and drive-in theater. The ice cream parlor had these massive ice cream cookie sandwiches as big as my head! I stand by those being the best, but these delish Ben & Jerry’s ones are a fantastic second place – especially when you consider the slightly more normal portion size.

Homemade Sorbet

Four flavors of homemade sorbet on a black plate.

While I’m not here to discuss the differences between sorbet and sherbet (yes, there’s only ONE “r”), I can kickstart you on a magical journey of fruity deliciousness! Dump some frozen fruit, simple syrup and a bit of lemon or lime juice into a blender and you’ve got a fresh, magnificent summer treat anyone can enjoy. Follow this handy guide from The Flavor Bender to make it scoopable after a long-term freeze or, better yet, pour any extras into Zipsicles and make your very own freeze pops everyone will love!

Custom Popsicles

Homemade cherry and coconut popsicles.

Pretty much everyone knows how to make popsicles. Pour juice into a popsicle mold or ice cube tray, add the sticks (and some sort of wrapping if you’ve gone the ice cube tray route) and voila, custom popsicles in just a few hours. Take it a step further with one of these scrumptious adult popsicle recipes.

Slushies Galore

Red slushy in a clear plastic cup.

Everyone loves a good slushie, just as everyone loves a glass of refreshing Kool-Aid, or at least they probably did as kiddos. So, why not combine the two? Just combine ice, sugar and your favorite flavor packet in a blender and you’ll soon have a Kool-Aid slushie that’s perfect for kids from age 2 to 82.

What’s your favorite frozen summer treat? Did it make our list?

Bust Out Your DIY Skills for National Upcycling Day!

National Upcycling Day is the perfect time to grab anything slightly worn or used around the house and use your amazing DIY skills to revamp it into something new and wonderful. Here are some of our favorite new ideas for upcycling old window treatments!

Roller Shade → Retractable Chalkboard

Chalkboards are a staple of childhood, but they can take up a lot of space. The popular solution – chalkboard paint – is great for accent walls, but it can be very dark and is rather more permanent than most parents would like.

So, what’s the solution? Well, and hear me out now, how about a vinyl roller shade with chalkboard paint on one side so you can roll it up when your kids are done playing?

To make this lovely retractable chalkboard, I commandeered some old towels and spread them out on my patio. Then I pulled out the old roller shade and laid it out so I could get painting! After painting on three layers over the course of 6 hours (and letting it dry completely), my new retractable chalkboard was ready to be used! My only recommendation? Make sure your roller isn’t some sort of mesh. We ended up having to rip the old towels off the back because the paint bled through. Thank goodness it still looks amazing on the front side!

Wood Shutter → Picture Board

Picture boards – especially the big ones with real wooden frames – can get ridiculously pricey! But, if you’ve got an old shutter lying around (or happen to find one at your local hardware store or even a garage sale) you’ve got the makings of a great diy picture board!

For my DIY picture board, I decided to remove the slats and create a neutral backing out of a bit of old roman shade. To personalize it a bit more, I painted some cheap wooden letters and glued magnets to the back. Paired with a beautiful set of Harry Potter magnets (or any other magnets that suit your fancy), it’s ready for future pictures to be added! The best part? It took less than an hour to finish – including painting the letters!

Bamboo Shade → Placemats

Let’s all come clean together…we probably aren’t all fancy enough to have sets of placemats and table decorations for every season and holiday. So, why not make some out of those old bamboo shades? Actually, you could make these out of just about anything!

For this particular set, I used a bamboo shade and some pre-cut strips of ribbon-like fabric. The first step was to cut out a placemat-sized piece of the shade. Thank goodness I had my Cutco Super Shears to help cut through the thicker bits of wood! To create the border, I placed double-sided fabric tape around one side and folded the ends of the ribbon when attaching them so that no frayed edges would be available. If I were to do this again, I’d definitely stick with ribbon, but probably make sure it was the length of a whole side to avoid all the seams.

4 Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Home’s Exterior

Whether you’re looking to increase your home’s curb appeal or you just need a change, improving the outside of your home is easy. Seriously! Just a few simple upgrades can give you a completely new look! You can have the curb appeal of your dreams by changing these simple things!

Up Your Landscaping Game

Beautifully landscaped home at sunset with lights on.

The right landscaping can take a lot of time and cost a lot of money, but it doesn’t have to. Just a few simple changes, like pulling weeds, planting a new tree, or setting out a few pots of seasonal flowers can make a big difference. You can even enlist the help of family and friends if you need to! Just a few hours of work and you can have a whole new front yard!

Shut Paint the Front Door!

Two brownstones with yellow and blue painted front doors.

Give your home an instant facelift by painting your front door. Go bold and vibrant or choose a more neutral color (especially if your HOA has restrictions on allowable paint colors). Whatever you choose, make sure it’s an outdoor paint that will stand against the elements. It should also complement the colors of your home, though it doesn’t necessarily have to match.

Statement Window Coverings

Exterior of windows and a door covered with white faux wood shutters.
Classic Faux Wood Shutters in Cotton

When you’re covering your windows, it’s easy to focus on how they’ll look inside your house and forget about the outside. But, if you happen to remember that curb appeal is just as important, you’ll want to make sure you choose blinds or shades that look great from both sides. To do this, either choose something like faux woods, shutters or rollers that look pretty much the same on both sides, Your other option is to choose a roman or woven wood with a neutral liner on the street side.

Other Front Door Accents

Black and white welcome sign hung on a stained wood door.

You don’t have to redo the whole front of your house to increase curb appeal. A few quick additions, like a new welcome mat or sign, can make a huge difference. Other fun front door accents like an entrance table, some sort of potted plant or even a fancy electronic doorknob can really enhance the look and function of your front door.

9 Ways to Keep Cool This Summer

Summer is officially on its way! Are you prepared for the heat? If you’re not (or even if you are) below are some great tips for keeping yourself and your home cool this summer!

Cover Your Windows

Essential Light Filtering Cordless Cellulars trap heat to keep your home cool.
Essential Light Filtering Cordless Cellulars in Mountain Air

An obvious way to keep cool in the summer is to block all that dratted sunshine and heat from coming in your windows. But, to get the best heat reduction, you can’t just cover your windows with any old thing. For optimal energy efficiency, cellular shades are easily your best bet. Their honeycomb shape traps heat to prevent it from invading your space and turning your home into a sauna. And if you’re worried about losing all that lovely light, you can always go with light-filtering cellulars instead of room-darkening or blackout.

Swap Out Your Bedding

Clean, white bedding on a wooden bed.

Strip off those winter flannels and switch to nice, breathable cotton or bamboo for the summer months. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can even put your bedding in the freezer (in plastic bags, of course) for a bit before making your bed at night. Just imagine hopping into those perfectly chilled sheets after a hot day in the summer sun.

Take Advantage of Evaporative Cooling

Colorful water balloons in a blue tub.

This might not be as big of a deal in other parts of the country, but out here in Arizona, we take evaporative cooling very seriously. Between outdoor misting systems, swamp coolers, refrigerated spray bottles (or water balloons) and cheeky bowls of ice water sitting in front of fans, there are so many ways to stay cool!

Stay Hydrated

Sliced watermelon on a plate.

We all know how important staying hydrated is, especially during the summer. But, sometimes it can be hard to chug the recommended 64 to 80 oz water per day (more during the summer months). A fun, cheeky way to sneak a bit more hydration into your diet is to eat more water-rich foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables. As an added benefit, the University of Alabama found that an increase in vitamin C will also help your body tolerate the summer heat by delaying sweat gland fatigue.

Switch to Snacking

Almonds, olives and radishes on a wooden serving tray.

Forego big meals in favor of small snacks throughout the day. Digesting a huge meal takes energy, and energy means heat. Keep your body from overheating and working too hard with quick snacks all day long rather than two or three jumbo meals.

Capitalize on Shaded Areas

Woman sitting outside under an umbrella.

If you’re planning on spending any time outside this summer, you’d better have a map in your mind of all the best shady spots to hide out form the afternoon sun. Take full advantage of any umbrellas, overhangs and trees around your home (or wherever you’re hanging out this summer) to maximize your time outside without risking overheating.

Buy a Remote Car Starter

Empty silver sedan alone in a parking lot.

Remote car starters, like these ones from Avital, are NOT gadgets of the future – they are the here and now, so get one while you can truly appreciate their awesomeness. Sure, car starters are great for winter, but who says they can only be used to warm up your cars? Set your AC to max and turn on your car a few minutes before leaving the house or work and your car will be nice and cool when you hop in.

Utilize Your Downstairs Living Space

Four people hanging out in a living room with a shag rug.

It’s common knowledge that heat rises, so make sure your summer hangout spot is on the ground floor. And if you have a finished basement, deck it out with all sorts of fun games or cozy hangout areas to create your very own summer escape.

Don’t be Scared to Use Your AC

Modern thermostat set to 63 degrees.

Electric bills in the summer can be downright terrifying, but if you aren’t too scared, we definitely recommend running your AC. Keep in mind that ideal sleeping temperatures generally range from 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but if you’re used to 115-degree weather, we doubt you’ll be comfortable at 65, so just stick with what feels comfortable for you and your family. And if you don’t have AC, take advantage of public areas like malls, libraries, movie theaters and even restaurants to keep yourselves cool.

Mysteries About Vertical Blinds: Solved by SelectBlinds.com

For a lot of folks, vertical blinds are in the same vein of home decor as that old wood paneling from the ’50s. While we can definitely see the similarities in form, function is another story altogether.

While the use of some sort of hanging to block the sun dates back to at least ancient Egypt, modern-day vertical blinds date back to the 1960s. Thankfully, there have been a number of improvements and even advancements that make verticals a fashionable and modern option for covering large windows and sliding glass doors.

Standard Verticals

Maple faux wood vertical blinds covering a sliding glass door.
Premium Faux Wood Vertical Blinds in Maple

While the phrase “standard vertical blinds” might make you think strictly of white or off-white vinyl slats, the truth is there’s much more to normal verticals than simple plastic. Other materials – like wood, faux wood and even cloth-covered vinyl – are a great way to introduce a little more texture and color to your home without straying too far from the “norm.” Plus, some are better able to withstand the hardships brought on by claws, teeth and little hands.

Vertical Honeycombs

Light grey vertical honeycomb cellular blinds covering a patio door.
3/4″ Premier Light Filtering Vertical Cellulars in Thunderstorm

A novel way to cover large windows and doors in the past few years has been vertical cellular shades. They have all the amazing benefits of regular honeycombs (heat/light blockage and insulation) with the added benefit of collapsing vertically so that you can easily access any sliding glass or patio door they are covering. And did we mention they are available in multiple pleat sizes and a plethora of color options?

Panel Tracks

Dark grey solar panel track blinds covering a wide patio door.
Nomad Solar Panel Tracks in Artemisia

The most modern iteration of vertical window treatments, panel track blinds are a fun alternative that can instantly update the look of any room. They’re ultra-stylish and come in a wide range of colors, patterns and fabrics to fit almost any design aesthetic. I mean, just look at how clean-cut these lines are! Absolutely stunning!

Free Samples = Complete Window Satisfaction

As humans, we know that FREE=AWESOME! But, we also hate waiting longer than absolutely necessary to finish a project. The question is, how do you find that balance between finishing a project quickly vs finishing it right? Well, when it comes to window treatments, sampling is the secret to success.

Bamboo woven wood shades behind a grey chair.
Premier Woven Wood Shades in Quince

Whether you’re painting the living room or ordering new shades, sampling is a key step in the process. It lets you test the waters and find that perfect fit without wasting excessive amounts of time or money, not to mention filling your head with endless possibilities of how the colors and textures in real life compare to those on your computer screen (or those handy paint samples from the hardware store).

Selecting Your Samples

So, what should you look for when picking out samples of blinds and shades? This quick guide should help 🙂

  1. Focus on a single category
  2. Narrow down your color options
  3. Keep lighting in mind
  4. Order up to 15 available samples
  5. Pick your favorite!

Focus on a Single Category

2 inch Select American Hardwood Blinds
2″ Select American Hardwood Blinds in Pecan

First, why not narrow down your options by settling on which type of blind or shade you’re most interested in. For this, your selection could depend on which room you’re upgrading. Kitchen – try some minis or faux woods. Living room – how about room darkening rollers or romans? Bedroom – blackout honeycombs are a great choice.

Narrow Down Your Color Options

Navy and grey kitchen with grey light filtering roller shades.
Designer Elements Light Filtering Roller Shades in Driftwood

Second, keep your current or future color scheme in mind when finalizing color options. If you’re painting a wall navy blue, perhaps the window covering on that wall should be a more neutral tone. If your walls are a more neutral off-white, picking a blind or shade with a more vibrant color or pattern could be a fun way to accent your windows.

Keep Lighting in Mind

Neutral honeycomb shades in a cream themed living room.
Classic Light Filtering Cordless Cellular Shades in Sand

The third thing to consider when picking out window covering samples is lighting. Is your room already dark/light? What time of day does the sun attack your windows with the ferocity of a million-watt lightbulb? Are there street lights you need to block out at night? If darkness is a goal for your new room design, definitely consider room darkening fabrics and products with optional blackout liners.

Order Up to 15 Available Samples

Roman fabric samples in rolls.

What else is there to say? Pick out the colors and styles you think would work best in your room and order some samples! And if 15 isn’t enough, just wait 24 hours and order 15 more! You never know, they might even all show up in the same package (mine did). And no, you do not have to pay for shipping – the free samples are entirely free.

Pick Your Favorite!

Roman shades with an intricate red pattern in a bedroom.
Lifestyle Roman Shades in Bohemian Red

Once your samples come in, the only thing left to do is contrast, compare, pick your fave and order. Ok, so there might be a step in there that concerns taking measurements (see this page for help). But, since you took the time to order samples before deciding on your window covering, you can be confident that you truly are choosing the best blind or shade for your room.

Home Remodeling in the Merry Month of May

May is National Home Remodeling Month, and with so many of us still stuck at home, it should come as no surprise that remodeling has taken off like a rocket ship to Mars. But how do you get started on a new remodeling project? And, for that matter, which rooms should you start with?

Start at the Heart

For most people, the heart of your home is the kitchen or living room. This is especially true now that we’re all endlessly snacking and binge-watching shows on Netflix. But, how do you decide between the two areas? Simple. Either go with the room that will add the most value to your home (kitchen), or go with the one you spend the most time in (living room). It really depends on whether or not you plan on sticking around for the long haul.

Beautiful and bright finished kitchen with white cabinets.

If you’ve already managed to update your kitchen and living space, how about moving on to something like flooring upgrades, bathrooms, bedrooms or anything else that tickles your remodeling fancy?

Create Your Master Plan

A great way to create a plan is to make a list of everything you want to do to your chosen room. We recommend splitting your list into 3 sections based on the level of difficulty of each project.

Handwritten checklist of things to do.
  • Things you can DIY without help
  • Things you can do with a bit of research or assistance
    • Adding a tiled backsplash
    • Putting your light switches on dimmers
  • Things that require a professional touch
    • Extending your counter into a breakfast bar
    • Rearranging your entire kitchen counter and built-in appliances

Once that’s done, go through your list again and cross off anything that seems out of reach or unrealistic. Whether it’s just plain expensive or you simply can’t do it because of the constraints of social distancing, get crossing!

Take Action

Now that you’ve got your refined list, it’s time to, as Ms. Frizzle says, “take chances, make mistakes and get messy!” Though, maybe you should forego the mistakes part in an effort to prevent “re-remodeling.”

First things first, figure out which project on your list you’re going to tackle first. Obviously you won’t be installing a tiled backsplash before rearranging your counters, so let’s just pretend you’re redoing EVERYTHING and go from there.

Kitchen blueprints in black and white.

If you’re hard-core remodeling your kitchen, the best place to start will likely be with a professional contractor. Get a recommendation from a friend or google a few and get a couple of quotes and designs to compare. If you need some inspiration, check out this article! Oh, and pro-tip – you’ll want to keep in mind that most remodels end up more expensive than quoted. There’s always something that gets uncovered.

From there, we suggest supervising the work occasionally to make sure everything is on track and course-correcting as appropriate. Once the professional work is done, the next step is to tackle other projects as you see fit. it might be a good idea to do the more difficult, research-intensive tasks first just in case you run into any issues.

Grey subway tile backsplash in a white kitchen.

So, if you skipped having the contractor add that subway tile backsplash you’ve always wanted, now’s the time to do it yourself! And even if you’ve done one before, we recommend checking out this video by Home RenoVision DIY. It covers the tools you’ll need and even how cut tiles to fit around outlets and make sure your whole project stays level.

Once you’ve gotten the harder, more time-consuming or labor-intensive projects out of the way, you can move on to the finishing touches. If you didn’t have brand new cabinets installed, now would be a great time to strip and paint/stain them, then add some adorable new handles or knobs.

Blue paint and paintbrush on a white background.

To do so, you just need to remove the doors from the cabinets, sand them down and repaint or stain. If you plan on upgrading the handles or knobs, it might be a good idea to invest in matching or complementary hinges as well to complete the look. once everything is dry, simply reinstall the doors in the same place and screw in the new handles and BAM! NEW KITCHEN!

Wash, Rinse Repeat!

After that, just keep plugging away at your list until you tick all the boxes. Regardless of whether you start off with a contractor or stick to tasks you can DIY right away, the important thing is to keep the momentum going. Once your list is complete, you can happily move on to any other room.