In the world of window furnishings, a millimetre is the difference between success and failure.
And depending on the furnishing, errors can be eye-wateringly expensive, according to Regency Knights owner Martin Smith.
“Our window coverings are custom-made and can cost you a few hundred or a few thousand per window, depending on a number of variables,” he says.
“You only want to make them once.”
Often an afterthought for your Average Joe renovations, window coverings are a source of great passion for Martin.
“People are surprised by the complexity of window furnishings, the nuances and little things that make them work well. It’s rarely a case of just whacking them up,” he says.
“The jobs that get the best results are the ones with a buyer invested in the process, who understands there are a lot of choices to make.
“Curtains are a good example. Most people will just measure the space they want to cover and end up with a window that’s half-blocked when the curtains are opened.
“Correct measuring is a critical factor in window furnishings, and some of them can be very unforgiving.”
It’s the reason Martin is never caught on a sales job without a laser measurer on the right hip of his utility belt and his trusty measuring tape on the left.
But it’s not enough to be prepared with the tools – there’s a knack to using a tape measure properly. Martin says many people underestimate the importance of precision.
“It’s about being focused,” he says.
“Often when you’re out doing a measure and quote people want to talk about other aspects of that job and that’s fine. I just never do it while I’m taking measurements.
“When someone talks to me while I’m measuring, I stop, put the tape measure back on my hip and I stand and listen. When they’re done, I start again.
“When I’m measuring, I’m not doing anything else.”
If it sounds a bit intense, consider that Regency Knights has done jobs worth tens of thousands and window coverings suddenly becomes a high-stakes business.
But it wasn’t always this way. Seventeen years ago Martin knew nothing about the industry.
When online gambling started cannibalising his TAB business, he purchased Regency Knights – a “mom and pop” window covering shop where customers selected from “30 or 40 dusty rolls of materials”, according to Martin.
“For a long time that’s how business was done. But with the emergence of online shopping, people didn’t want to pick from the 40-odd dusty rolls of fabric you had stacked in a storeroom – they wanted to pick from the four million fabrics they saw online,” Martin explains.
“I remember I had this couple early on in the business, they lived in Hawker and they wanted a quote. I followed the routine I’d been taught and showed them the fabrics they had to choose from. They looked at me like I was nuts and walked out.
“I thought ‘stuff this, we have to evolve’.”
Evolve they did.
Regency Knights is an amalgam of this first business with Knights Window Fashions Fyshwick, which Martin bought shortly after.
With the business having undergone a full rebrand, the showroom an overhaul and the business model encompassing a full measure-and-quote service, Martin recalls the day they revealed the sleek new space.
“On a normal day we might book four appointments,” he says.
“On that opening day we booked 48 appointments.”
Martin advises his customers that when it comes to window furnishing success, a bit of preparation can go a long way.
“Window coverings are about managing light, insulation and privacy. A bit of research will show you the products on the market, but knowing your priorities will help narrow the search. For example, if your priority is insulation, the three best options are curtains and pelmets, plantation shutters and honeycomb or cellular blinds,” he says.
“You might not think you have a budget in mind, but you probably know whether you’re willing to spend hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands. This information will help further narrow your options.
“In terms of aesthetics, do you want your design and pattern to blend in or create a feature?
“Having an idea of these things yields a productive consultation.”
With the mess of white curls on his head and his handlebar moustache, chances are you’ll spot Martin on a trip to the showroom. But don’t let his unconventional look throw you.
“People usually take one look at me and you can tell they’re thinking – ‘what have we got here?’,” he laughs.
“Then we get down to business and within two minutes of talking, the scales fall from their eyes and they realise they’re talking to someone who knows their stuff.”
Visit the Regency Knights website for more information or stop by the showroom at Unit 1, 60 Wollongong Street, Fyshwick, from Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm or Saturday 10 am to 2 pm.