Emily Henderson

LLumar Lets the Light In

How Window Film Changed My House (and life)

Emily_Henderson_Pretty_Blue_Living_Room_Llumar

The thing that I love most about this house is also the thing that has caused me the most stress (and damage, and money), up until just recently: The beautiful west facing California sunlight. It made the house unbearably hot in the afternoon (almost year round), and it faded out all furniture, textiles and wood in a very bad, sad way . . . until I met LLumar Window Film.

My relationship with these windows is as long as they are tall. Let’s go back to the beginning when we bought the house.

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A lot has changed, folks. They were big and opened up the space, but they were dark and tinted.

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After we moved in it looked like this (below). Definitely airier and brighter but that tint was a problem.

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Why someone would buy a house like this, then darken it was beyond me at the time, and being the sucker for natural light that I am I was so excited to rip that stuff off. We had it removed, then the windows washed, and let the light flood in. It was magical from December through April. Every instagrammers dream. I’m sure you know where this is going. Come springtime the house was HOT. Like unbearably hot. We installed these automatic roller shades to help combat the heat.

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These blocked the harsh light while still letting in a ton of light, and it provided great privacy at night. But these shades clearly weren’t as fun to stare at as the view was, and they really didn’t help much with the heat. So then (and here is a real riveting story) we had our AC checked, and it needed thousands of dollars of work to bring it into working order – new ducting, new intake vents, blah blah. Once we got that fixed the house stayed SO much cooler. But on those hot days with the sun blasting in, it was still pretty arresting.

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We normally shoot this room either in the morning, when it’s cloudy or when the shades are down. But here is how it actually looks during the day. Super streaky, harsh and generally very hard to photograph. See how the sunlight is barreling into all my furniture and textiles? It was doing damage as I was innocently playing with my baby in the other room.

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It was slow, but sad.

The leather in my sofa has been almost completely faded except for where the pillows were blocking the sun from hitting it.

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The flooring is even worse – as you can see there’s a pretty severe line where the rug is. It’s crazy. And it’s probably happening to your poor floors as we speak. So we had three problems:

  1. The heat
  2. Furniture fading
  3. The sun glare and EXTREME brightness in the afternoon hours.

So I met with LLumar, a company that manufactures window film for your windows that is professionally installed by a local dealer that can address all of those problems. At first I was wary, having removed a window tint 2 years before. I didn’t want anything to affect the quality of light in my house.

But they convinced me that window tints have come a long way since 1992 when those tints were installed, that I would never notice a visual difference – and that those major problems would be helped. They showed me a few different tints that of course looked blue against white but the second we held them against a window they were totally clear. There is a broad range of window film available from practically clear to dark with up to 99%+ UV ray protection (this has a tint you might notice). I chose to go with Vista by LLumar products on the lower windows and AIR80 on the upper. I had them put up a sample before they did it, and I honestly couldn’t see a difference in the amount of light that came through for one, and just barely for the other. If I hadn’t been so scared of the light going away I probably would have done Air80 everywhere (which is what Bob, the installer from Solar Art Window Film, suggested).

So here’s how the process works:

  1. A local installer comes to give you a quote and show you your options.
  2. You choose the window film you want based on your needs. They have window film to help with privacy, UV ray protection, heat reduction, fade and glare protection and also security (more to come on that later) But basically, within each series, there is a range of coverage options.
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3. A week later they come back and install – which takes a couple hours for each window. They put it on with water and a squeegee.

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The process was super fast and painless. The installers were professional, friendly and total pros. When they were finished it was like nothing ever happened.

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It’s hard to shoot this product because it is literally designed to be unseen, but in the below photo you can see the slight tint that it has.

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We did our master bedroom windows as well because it was also west facing and insanely bright and hot.

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You can’t even tell where the film starts and stops, which I was so impressed by.

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So how much exactly does it cost to install the window film? Well, it varies widely depending upon:

  • Your film selection
  • How large your windows are
  • The complexity of the project
  • Where you live/cost of living in your area

Of course, I selected two of highest end window films possible. The living room windows were 183 square feet, and the cost could be $1100 – $2000 depending on the film chosen. Mine were around $2k because the windows are huge. If they are more standard like my master bedroom they can be more in the range of $400 – $600. Another big selling point on this window film is that every film (no matter the tint) acts as a security film if the window were to shatter and holds all the glass in place rather than have it fall all over the floor or heaven forbid a loved one.

It’s “winter” in LA but it was in the 90’s 2 weeks ago, and while we had the AC on, Brian and I both noticed a difference in the living room. Normally you can’t really sit in that room because it’s so warm when it’s that hot outside, but it was so much better with less heat, glare, and hopefully unseen furniture damage – which will come in VERY handy because we are probably replacing that sofa with a big navy linen piece.

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I love the light in this room even more because I can actually sit in here during the day now. I write, play and can watch the sunset without my eyes being cooked. The message here: if you are in a situation like this and are looking for a solution, the LLumar tint film is one that I absolutely recommend. It’s an investment at the beginning, and kind a boring way to spend money, but the enjoyment we get year round out of that room is going to be worth it, as well as saving our furniture and art. The sun, as much as we love it, is a wonderful and powerful force. So, we can finally keep the happiness inside, and keep the heat and damage outside, where it belongs.

***I was compensated by LLumar for this post, although all words, ideas and opinion are mine.

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  1. Hmmm, this is very intriguing. We just build a new 2 – story home and have NO TREES anywhere :) We have 2 windows that could use something like this – and large rectangle one in our vaulted foyer and the upper part of an 11-ft tall window in our den. I hate to cover either one with shades or something because it will just look funny. Plus I love the extra light they bring in. But I’m guessing come summer here in Iowa, facing west, these windows will be roasting! May have to look into this film stuff – thank you!!

  2. I just kept thinking: I hope those windows were super clean before the film was put on. Huzzah for natural light and bearable glare.

  3. It’s like you are reading my mind! We just bought a house in Northern California and although it’s not usually that hot here, because we have one giant wall of windows that faces the western sun, my living room and office just bake in the sun all day. Our home is so old that we don’t even have AC as a possibility right now, so I’ve just been worried that I have to live with this insane heat! Thank you for this post- I will have to try it asap!

    -Stefanie
    http://www.thestylesafari.comm

    1. Same here! We live in Norcal – no AC (not needed) but we have a family room that is ALL sliding glass doors and it bakes…and when we changed out a rug, we noticed the floor discoloration. Great tips & love this helpful sponsored post. Even if we don’t go through with it, I like reading the helpful comments too.

  4. This comes at a great time – we have gorgeous east facing windows here in South Texas, which means summer mornings are gorgeous and bright but require full closing the blinds completely so we don’t blind ourselves. I will definitely check this out!

  5. To me, this is a perfect sponsored post. It feels useful and relevant and I love that it let’s us in on the other side of aspirational content – we may have been drooling over that room, but it was too hot to sit in for many months etc. I rent, so I’m not going to buy this anytime soon, but I still enjoyed reading it :)

    1. I was just thinking the same thing! Obviously sponsored but still relevant, especially since I typically think of window film as cheesy. I also appreciate the pricing information up front. I do design work for a contractor so these more “house bones” issues are especially useful for me.

      1. I agree! What great sponsored content. Plus I love the “less glamorous” posts because there is so much more to good livable design then surface décor (which of course matter greatly and attracts readers :). I kinda wish there had been a post about the AC updates mentioned. Not glamorous, but those are hard decisions that cost lots of mullah and directly impact how you live in your home!

  6. A friend just told me about this, and since it blocks over 99% of UV rays, all of her house plants died after installing this window tint. Seems intriguing though, but I might have to settle for drapes over my large windows, or roller shades for the hottest part of the day.

    1. Wow, that is really good to know! Did your friend use the kind with a more visible tint? From this post, it sounds like the ones Emily used still let through some UV light. Even so, I wonder if that is affecting the health of her tree.

  7. I just moved into a house with very similiar windows… living in MN we haven’t noticed the heat yet, but will need to pay attemtion to the furniture and flooring… I love how it looks- no impact to what you can see!

  8. I love that window tint has come so far! We’re about to plunk down a ridiculous amount of $$$ for new windows to help with all of the draft/heating/cooling issues we have. After those are in, we’re definitely springing for this film! Austin has wonderfully bright sunshine most of the year but it’s wreaking havoc on my wood flooring!

    1. Katy- If you’re getting new windows, you can get low-e glass- it takes care of the UV/solar gain issues itself. No need for the film, too!

  9. I actually have tints on my living room windows from this company and have LOVED them. I was a bit skeptical that tints could really help but everyone is happier now… the family, the furniture, the plants, and we can now enjoy the space together without feeling like we are in a sauna.

  10. Emily, just an FYI to ease your worries a bit- Those patio doors have tempered glass, so if the glass breaks it will fall into pellets, not dangerous shards. No one will get hurt! The film just laminates the pellets together.

  11. Emily, thank you so much for posting this. I have the same situation with floor to ceiling windows in my west-facing family room in Florida. I removed the Tuscan RHONY drapes the previous owner had installed and we have been BAKING ever since. Now I will be able to enjoy gorgeous views of my garden and finally get rid of ugly ceiling fans.

  12. Having some install this sounds like a dream come true. I had some skylights that faced the same direction in my old apartment, and after a trip to Home Depot came home with similar stuff, climbed a top a ladder, found it was too short, so my dad put the ladder on top of a table (so safe) and held the ladder while my clumsy self climbed up to the top and attempted to install film in a 4×6 that was on a slant in the ceiling. I wish SnapChat was around at the time cause it would’ve been comical to see, to say the least.

  13. Very helpful. We recently bought a cabin near Big Bear and it is built chalet-style, so we have a high wall that is mostly window and sliding glass doors. Even in the super cold winter, it can get crazy hot and so I don’t even want to know what it’s like in the summer!

    We were originally going to install pull down shades but I’m wondering if we should just go with this window tint instead? If you had to choose, would you go with the tint? We are not concerned about privacy since we are perched up high. We also rent out the cabin and so we need to consider guest needs, as well.

  14. I LOVE knowing that someone so home design talented experiences some milk curdling too! Makes me feel more, ‘ok, carry on; it all comes with the territory.’ :)

    Also appreciate the window tint evolution info.

  15. Thank you so much for this post! We are dealing with exactly the same problem with the harsh Australian west sun and I’m sick of sitting in my lounge room with the blinds down! Such a great idea and I’ll be looking into my window film options this afternoon

  16. A perfectly timed post. My husband and I were just discussing window tint for our new home. We live along the Chesapeake Bay and know that the reflecting sun off the water and the summer heat will be an issue this coming summer. I don’t want to impeed my lovely view, but don’t want to hang out in a sweatbox either. Thanks!

  17. How does it look from the outside looking in? Does it have a reflective or grey look to it? This seems like it could be a great solution. I don’t need privacy, so my concern would be that it has a tinted look from the outside, which I wouldn’t like.

  18. As a window film professional I want to address some of the questions posed by readers in the comments.

    Alicia – Depending upon the film installed you can get some more daytime privacy. A clear film like the one Emily installed will not make a noticeable change in appearance from the interior or the exterior.

    Jessica – All of your friends house plants dying was not due to the application of window film stopping UV radiation. Plant photosynthesis occurs with wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum. http://scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?key=1668 Something else was the plant assassin.

    Katie – Low-E glass does typically stop more UV than standard glass but the range will vary widely based on the manufacturer and the UV coating. Most Low-E windows we test in homes block UV in the 45-65% range leaving you open to fading. It is similar to putting an old SPF 4 sunscreen on, better than nothing but give me the SPF 50. Visible light and heat also contribute to the fading of furnishings but UV is the biggest factor.

    Em H. – The film applied on Emily’s house has only the slightest change in appearance. We have installed this film when the clients were at work and they called us at the end of the day to see if we came to do the work! There are darker films available if you need them but most of the products we install are virtually invisible.

    Professionally installed window film will work to protect your furnishings and control the temperature 24/7. A professional installer will show you samples and make recommendations based on your needs. Everyone has windows that can benefit from the addition of film.

  19. No wonder you wrote that you spend more time in the family room and kitchen area. I wondered why since the room is so beautiful. I love large windows and sun as well. When you talked of taking the film down, I was curious about that. I myself have tintend foil on my south facing sky windows and I love it. I installed it myself and it looks pretty good, mine, also lets in a lot of light, but it doens’t heat the rooms. As much as I love large windows, I know that quality film may be worth the cost in windows that get a lot of light.

  20. What can you do about the discoloration to the floors? I’m going to look into this as our new hardwood floors are starting to fade due to LA sunlight too! Ahhh!

      1. Heidi, normally you are looking at a sanding and refinishing to get the floors back to new. I have seen some talented stain work by professionals to get faded areas to match the non-faded areas. Contact a local flooring pro for advice.

  21. I (me, myself) installed window film in the south facing windows at my house and at my mother’s house a few years ago. It was VERY tedious work, but totally worth it. I did it to prevent fading, not realizing how much it would block the heat. That has been a very pleasant bonus here in North Central Texas.

  22. Emily, what can be done about sun-bleached leather furniture? I’ve got the same problem and am wondering if I can restain it? What can you do about the floors?

    My house also has big west facing windows that had film installed by the previous owner, but the floors and couch are still faded. I didn’t know they had film on them at all until I had the windows professionally washed, and a few days later noticed scratches ALL OVER the film. NOTE: warn any window washers NOT to use a razor scraper on your windows or it will damage the film.

    1. Christa,

      It sounds like the film what was installed by the previous owner has lost its efficacy. Some films only use UV inhibitors in the adhesive to keep the cost down. These films will lose their ability to block UV after about 4 years of normal sun exposure. They tend to start looking bad around this point and lose the optical clarity of a new film. The fact that they scratched easily is another sign that the film has degraded.

      Quality window films like LLumar and Vista have additional UV blocking built into the polyester as well as the adhesive. This stops the early degradation and allows them to block UV for 10+ years. I have personally tested windows with these films after 15yrs on glass and they still block 98-99% of the UV. You can see these quality films installed in real homes here: http://solarisfilm.com/photo-galleries/home-photo-gallery

      For your floors, a refinish is typically the answer to get the color back to normal. I have seen skilled refinishers match the stain for a faded area without refinishing the entire floor. Not sure if they can do the same for leather, maybe someone with more experience in that area can help. Good Luck!

  23. this is such an awesome product and i know it would be a lifesaver for artwork, textiles and pieces that hold sentimental value. thank you for sharing… too bad it was a little too late for that gorg couch though!!

    – jaime

  24. It’s interesting that the sun can actually affect the way hardwood floors look. I am thinking of replacing my floors this coming summer, and I think that tinting the windows at the same time could be a good addition. I’ll have to look at having it done before the floors are installed, just to eliminate any chance of fading. Thanks for the post!

  25. Do you mind sharing the brand and color of both your window shades and wall paint? I’m going to have both redone in my place and can’t find the perfect white/off white that go together. Thanks!

  26. Good post. It is really help to us. Its give us lots of interest and pleasure. Its opportunity are so fantastic and working style so speedy. Its really a good article. It gives me lots of pleasure and interest..!!

  27. Thank you so much for this post! We just moved into a high-rise condo in Dallas that faces east. The sun is insane. I immediately told my husband we will need window film or our furniture will end up ruined, but I had NO IDEA how quickly this could happen, especially wile using roller shades. I would assume here in Texas, where the temperature averages between 95 and 105 every day for 3 months, that what happened to your home in 2 years, could easily happen to mine in 1. I will be calling all the window film places today! No time to waste!!

    P.S. Love, love, love your mid century home and decor! … Especially that wood “hand” chair.

  28. Hello Emily,
    I want to start by thanking you for taking the time to write this very powerful Blog on LLumar window films.
    And really doing your best on educating home and business owners on my industry. I found you and your blog from one of your followers who mentioned this and had call me, (a LLumar Dealer) in CO to schedule an appointment for window film to her Denver home. I would love to discuss more sometime over email or phone on how you found LLumar and not others.

    Thanks again for the impact you are driving to our industry.

    Brodie Mathews
    President/CEO
    DeCo Architectural Window Tint & design.