Pair's Custom Drapery Business Is Ultimate In Window Dressing

April 21, 1991|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff writer

Mildred Kendrick and Lydia Cress do windows.

Not with cleaning cloths and ammonia, though. These women make custom drapery.

The Westminster mother-daughter team uses treatments like balloonvalances, swags, cascades and bishop's sleeves to create a look thatmakes any room.

Drapery, they explained, is quite different from an ordinary curtain.

"A curtain is some material gathered on a rod," said Kendrick. "Drapery is customized to a particular window."

Kendrick often tells customers that a room without drapes looks like a woman dressed in the most expensive clothes who hasn't bothered to comb her hair or put on her make-up.

Kendrick and Cress, who have worked together for 15 years, said they know they do their work well.Their customers are so satisfied with their draperies they often stay away for years.

"One client asked us to replace a lining on one of her window panels," said Kendrick. "I had installed her drapes about 20 years ago and the only thing wrong was sun damage to one panel."

She added that it is not unusual for drapes to last that long provided they are made well and cared for properly.

"Window treatments are a major investment for most people," she said. "We make them to last a long time. If it's a good treatment, they won't get tired ofthem, either."

Attention to detail and quality is what keeps the business in good shape, she added.

Cress is responsible for many of those details -- like sewing covers for the weights which line the bottoms of the drapes. The weights keep the drapes hanging straight.

While Cress is sewing, Kendrick enjoys meeting the clients, advising them on what looks best in which room or which fabrics compliment the existing furniture.

"I love going into people's homes," said Kendrick.

Kendrick started the business nearly 30 years ago with encouragement from her husband, Melvin.

She promised him she would make the draperies if he found her a first customer. She said it wasn't too long before she had to make good on her promise.

"That firstjob included 32 windows and was baptism by fire," she said. "I have been working ever since."

Cress joined the business after decidinga job with her mother offered the best of both worlds. She set up their workroom in her basement so she could remain at home with her children and still earn a living.

The women also will make custom bedspreads, dust ruffles and pillows, and might do an occasional small upholstery job, too.

The women also hang and maintain what they make.

"If drapery is hung correctly, no matter how old it is, it willlook like you just put it up," said Kendrick. "And, if there's any problem, we will come and take care of it."

Kendrick said she can look at a window and know what's wrong with it and how to fix it.

The women said they never allow a customer to hang their work, adding that they like to see the job through to its completion.

"We help people make their selections and we take the finished product back," said Kendrick. "Our job is not done until the drapery is decorating the window."

Kendrick has a special ladder and carries all the drapery hardware necessary. Occasionally, Melvin Kendrick helps his wifeat this stage --especially if the job is a tall order.

"We once did the windows in a converted barn," she said. "The windows went all the way up the front of the building. My husband helped me hang them from the balcony."

Cress said they often have as many as 15 jobs going at one time or as few as three. The business can be feast or famine, with the pre-holiday season as their busiest. Customers who wantChristmas delivery usually have to select by August.

How soon thejob is completed depends on which fabrics customers select and how elaborate the treatment. Six to eight weeks from consultation to completion is average, the women said.

They also said their products are generally affordable. Customers on a limited budget can do one roomat a time.

"Everybody should be able to have the best-looking windows," said Kendrick. "It doesn't have to be out of reach for the average person."

As for the future, they are hoping maybe a third generation of the family will join the business. They already are teaching Cress' son the fine art of installation.

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