Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Sydney and went to school at MLC Burwood. In my youth, I rode horses competitively, doing three-day eventing and dressage, reaching a high level. As well, I have always been interested in decorating. I would rearrange my parents’ home when I was young and have always loved beautiful fabrics. I did an interior design course when I left school, which fuelled my passion.
I’ve been married to Andrew for almost 50 years. We moved to Armidale 6 years ago and lived in O’Connor Road for a few years. Our children went to school here and we liked the climate. We now have three children and six grandchildren. Unfortunately, none of them lives close to Armidale.
What does The Armidale Blind Lady do?
We do custom window furnishings. From beautiful curtains, roller blinds, cellular blinds to plantation shutters. Everything is made to measure. After visiting a customer’s home, I meet with them again and suggest fabrics and linings that suit their decorating style. I have a showroom in my home with hundreds of samples, including examples of roller and roman blind fabrics, as well as various types of plantation shutters.
I have a great relationship with the companies and individuals who make my products. It’s important to always follow the progress of the orders. Nothing can be left to chance. The measuring process is the first step and one of the most important. Wrong measurements are costly.
When did you start your business?
I started The Armidale Blind Lady when we moved to Armidale in 2015. I had another company at the time that did similar things and I merged the two.
Why did you choose custom curtains and blinds?
Providing products that will enhance customers’ homes gives me the most enormous pleasure. From a bare window, I can change the feel of a room – be it with beautiful curtains or with soft roman blinds. For example, some customers only want a practical solution to their problems with heat retention in winter. This can be achieved with a simple and inexpensive roller blind, which can then be softened with a wave fold sheer curtain at the front. I offer window coverings for all age groups, including nurseries and children. Curtains are still the first choice for a lot of my clients. With our winter temperatures being so low, lined curtains are one of the best ways to keep out the cold and keep in the heat. Some add a pelmet, which further reduces heat loss.
What have been some of your challenges?
I am finding COVID-19 restrictions and delays very challenging. Goods are now taking much longer to arrive. For example, some shutters are made in China and some are made here. Depending on where they come from, shutters usually have a lead-time of 8 weeks but now may take 14 weeks or longer. Fabric and hardware, like curtain tracks and rods, are also impacted by the pandemic.
On a positive note, I have seen a lovely side of most of my clients, with them being so understanding. They know that their order will eventually be delivered, and that it will look wonderful.
What do you like most about running your own business?
I work from home so I can go out and measure without closing the door of a shop. I find the flexibility suits some customers as I can measure and install on weekends to fit with their schedule.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
A good reputation is essential. Years ago, I was given the advice to put 100% effort into each job, even if it is not the most profitable. All of my business is word of mouth, so I don’t advertise.
What inspires you?
I am constantly inspired by the difference a curtain, blind or shutter on a window can make. They can transform a room and change the tone. I like to work with different fabrics to achieve the desired effect. Too much colour or texture can be overwhelming when you enter a room. I always try to use the plainer fabric for the main focus in rooms and keep the more decorative fabrics for accents such as cushions or borders on roman blinds, and so on.
What is your secret for success?
We are a family business. I do the measuring, decorating and choosing of fabrics with the client, and my husband Andrew installs the product. We won’t leave a customer’s home until the installation is perfect.
What’s next for The Armidale Blind Lady?
We have exciting plans to licence the name to decorators in other towns, such as the Orange Blind Lady or The Toowoomba Blind Lady. This would expand the business considerably and offer cost savings to the licensee.