Window Treatments for a National Park

When you think of National Parks, you probably think of the great outdoors. The awesome vistas of the Grand Canyon. The spectacle of Old Faithful at Yellowstone. The rugged mountains of Yosemite.

But there are quite a few national parks in our cities. Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The Statue of Liberty in New York.

And coming soon, Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood, a stunningly preserved 1880s town important in the history of architecture, urban planning, industry, and labor.

Pullman in its prime.

Pullman in its prime.

In the early 1880s, George Pullman built a town just south of Chicago for the workers at his railroad car factory. He thought that the beauty of the town and its many amenities would discourage the formation of labor unions and lead to a better relationship between workers and bosses.

Some saw Pullman as the future of American capitalism, but this dream was shattered in 1894, when during a deep recession, Pullman cut his workers’ wages but not their rent. The workers went on strike, and the U.S. government put down the strike with troops when the strike began to spread through America’s railroad system.

The company was forced to give up the town in 1897, but Pullman railroad cars continued to be built.

In the early 20th century, being a porter on a Pullman car was one of the more well-paying jobs open to African Americans. However, the unfair conditions the porters worked under led to the founding in 1925 of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first African American labour union.

We were recently called to Pullman to install window treatments in a first-floor living room.

Many of the houses in Pullman have been restored to their original outside condition in accordance with Chicago’s landmark code. However, inside homeowners are free to do nearly whatever they please.

This has led to a marvelous diversity of interior design in the neighborhood, with homes in every style from 1880s revival to a modern urban loft. The house we went to was a three-flat that has been redone as a single-family home.

Before: Sheer curtains. Not the best for privacy or light control.

Before: Sheer curtains. Not the best for privacy or light control.

The homeowners had sheer curtains in their living room. During our free in-home consultation, we discussed form and function, and the homeowners agreed that they wanted a tailored roman shade with the ability to have a view but retain some privacy. But would 2014 window treatments be out of place in an 1884 home…?

A home transformed by the simple addition of Vignette Roman Shades.

A home transformed by the simple addition of Vignette Roman Shades.

Not in the least.

With Vignette Modern Roman Shades with the Top-down Bottom-up option in Prairie-Green, the family can have a view of the sky and sun while keeping their privacy from close neighbors and street traffic. These shades also raise like traditional shades from the bottom.

With windows facing west and south, the shades can let in as little or as much sunlight as desired. And from the outside, the Vignettes are perfectly neutral, complementing but not distracting from S.S. Beman’s exquisite architecture.

Vignette Roman Shades. A beautiful addition inside, and a modest neutral outside.

Vignette Roman Shades. A beautiful addition inside, and a modest neutral outside.

Unthinkable as it may seem, these houses and this room could have been a factory site.

In 1960, the city of Chicago planned to demolish the neighborhood and make it an industrial park. The residents organized, and Pullman became a city, state, and national landmark.

The next step will be becoming Chicago’s first national park. At Beyond Shades, we are honored that we gave our touch to a piece of our nation’s history.