Charm Su is a New York City-based designer who studied architecture at Carnegie Melon and went on to work for Ralph Lauren, Gensler and BAMO before starting her own firm in 2007.
What were your childhood experiences with window treatments?
I was born in Taiwan but grew up in Rhode Island, because my Dad was affiliated with Brown University. We had the biggest picture window because our house was on the waterfront. But we didn’t have window treatments. Who has the luxury not to wake up when the sun is up?
What’s importance of dressing windows?
Window treatments, to me, are not really something that one needs. Except in New York or other cities, for privacy. It’s an amenity. That’s the way an architect would approach it. A window treatment takes away from the window. If you think about window as an element – a window treatment is distracting. It wasn’t until recently that we feel that treatments make a room softer and cozier. I’m talking from an architect point of view. It was an amenity, not a live or die.
What’s in your own home?
My heart is really still an architect so I do like minimal. I have solar shades, but the dense kind. Except for the bedroom, there we have something thicker. Why? It’s a bedroom!
I do have to tell you I have one of the biggest drapes in my apartment and it is not for a window. It is for dividing a room, and on a ceiling track. I totally believe in draperies, but not for windows. I love fabric.
Favorite fabric for window treatments?
There is nothing more beautiful than a wool drape, because wool has weight.
Why should we care about weight?
Because of the way it falls – we call it “body.” I can tell you from a distance whether a treatment is in wool, linen or synthetic by the way it falls. Cotton has no movement. It doesn’t have a lot of body. Silk has a lot of body, but not the weight. But wool...oh I just love wool drapes.
Puddling versus break?
I am a puddle person. Why? Because I am never about the norm! Once in a blue moon I have clients who will allow me to do that. I like puddle because, to me, drapes are a luxury and puddling is even more luxurious. Because? Because you can. I’m sure you’ve seen a beautiful long gown and how the train flows with you? That’s how I look at drapes. It is that extra oomph. So if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it over the top!
Craziest window treatment you’ve done?
I had a client with a place in a Vignoli-designed building on 5th Avenue. The living room has 22-foot ceilings spanning two stories. We designed, and Red Threads made, green velvet European pleat drapes for the windows. They are lined and have batting and it looks like a luxurious blanket. It was so heavy, we had to reinforce the ceiling so it would hold on a recessed track. And Red Threads installed it using scaffolding, and not the motorized kind. The drape makes the space look luxurious and extravagant.
How did you become a Red Threads client?
I live in SoHo and Yien’s original store was in Nolita on Elizabeth Street. I met her as a home accessory person, she made mostly pillows, bedding and accessories. I didn’t know she did custom window treatments until recently when I had to get multiple quotes for a job and asked if she knew anybody. And she said “oh, I do that.”
I’m a one person show, so if I can have somebody on board like her, it makes my life so much easier. She is so knowledgeable and takes care of everything from ordering fabric through to installation – a soup-to-nuts kind of shop. This is very rare. Every time we work together, it’s such a pleasure, and I learn more. I’m just sold.