The story behind the world’s largest manufacturer of motorized window coverings and awnings.

SOMFY’S ROOTS GO BACK AS FAR AS 1750 when craftsmen in the Arve valley — the valley in France sandwiched between Mont Blanc and Geneva, Switzeralnd — made parts for Genevan watchmakers. In 1868, a watchmaker trained at the Cluses, France clockmaking college, was attracted by the town’s industrial energy and thus decided to settle there. This marked the beginning of the region’s great industrial adventure with precision engineering. Somfy was initially a subsidiary of a company called Carpano & Pons that manufactured a wide variety of components and products, the most famous one being a fishing reel!

Somfy product offerings evolved and, in some ways, emerged from a coincidence — a local awning and rolling shutter manufacturer wanted to power his awnings. He contacted many companies but Somfy was the only company that responded and was able to manufacture a prototype. In 1969, Somfy formed in downtown Cluses and produced its first motor, with a vast market waiting to be built.

We sat down with Somfy’s Brittany Mier y Terán and David Parrett to get a better understanding of the world’s largest manufacturer of intelligent, quiet motor systems and how they approach the three key topics design-build professionals need to understand about motorized indoor and outdoor window coverings: the benefits of motorization, how to design for motorization and the variety and flexibility of Somfy’s product range.

BRITTANY: When we talk to homeowners and designers about the benefits of automating motorization, I always like to talk about how motorized exterior products like awnings, pergolas, exterior screens and rolling shutters can expand livable outdoor space and increase enjoyment of these spaces.

DAVID: I also like to emphasize how, with interior shading, the home can rely on natural light, reducing load on the lighting system. It’s also a great way to improve general wellness by providing access to views of the outdoors and you also benefit from solar protection on sunny days.

BRITTANY: So, there are practical reasons to automate and there are aesthetic reasons as well. Isn’t there a “wow” factor also, from a design perspective as well as a lifestyle perspective?

DAVID: Oh, sure. Motorization is a very tangible element of a smart home that you see and immediately understand. Unlike something like a smart thermostat that adjusts to your lifestyle, motorization immediately gives that wow factor when you can see shades, skylights, and other components moving on their own.

BRITTANY: Exactly. Maybe it’s during a small family gathering and at dusk the shades lower for privacy, while the lights brighten. At the same time as the gathering moves outside, the exterior screens lower on the pergola and the louvers close to create a pest free environment. Also, the integrated outdoor lights and heater turn on with some entertaining music starting to play.

Brittany Mier y Terán

Brittany Mier y Terán


David Parrett

David Parrett

Somfy hi-rise window shades

DAVID: When considering automation, it’s important to consider the control being used to initiate. I find it’s helpful to share with designers just how extensive our ability to easily integrate with third-party automation systems is. Integration solutions are available for both commercial and residential projects, adding an extra layer of smarts to our motors.

BRITTANY: Right? Crestron, Control4, Savant, URC, ELAN and RTI are just a few of the familiar names that we integrate with. We’re able to establish these integrations through a variety of protocols like ZigBee, PoE, RS485, and radio. Additionally, we can also interface through dry contact and 0-10v where that is the preferred protocol. Flexibility is key when it comes to Somfy products. Because we work with a huge variety of partners, it’s easy to find Somfy motors and controls that the community has come to rely on.

DAVID: What’s really exciting from a design and development point of view is that choosing to integrate through Somfy opens up a world of artisan quality and unique products in an extensive variety of finishings and fabrics. You can use a truly unique solution or go with a well-known brand and Somfy will integrate equally well in either, because the electronic infrastructure remains the same.

A wide variety of controls makes it simple to operate smart shading. Somfy’s offer includes handheld remotes, wall switches, app and voice control, timers, sensors and integration into third-party systems. Somfy’s solutions are flexible and adaptable to every need.

BRITTANY: Let’s talk design. I think there is a need for everyone in the delivery chain – architect, builder, interior dsigner, engineer, technology designer – to be on the same page when we talk about the big picture when you design for motorization.

First, it’s important to design with motorization in mind. While motorization can be added during the later stages of a project thanks to wireless and battery-powered options, it’s always important to start thinking about motorized options, including shading and exterior screens, as early as possible in a project’s conception.

Planning ahead for the infrastructure requirements of their desired motorization can give designers, architects and engineers more options down the line. While wireless technology is amazing, it’s also important to determine whether the project and its features might benefit from wired technology and plan accordingly.

DAVID: I usually talk to designers about empowering their specification teams and to think about how to power motorized shading and other components on a property early in the process. Making sure that everyone on the project is aware of the need for motorization and that wiring is a key consideration in the early stages of planning.

And if you are presenting motorization early in your talks with your client, integration into any control platform should be considered at the beginning of a project as well. It’s such an important part of the experience of the finished design, impacting occupant comfort and energy efficiency. Shading infrastructure needs to be thought about at the same time as other wired components on a project.

BRITTANY: So, we’re both on the same page about how best to design for motorization – have that discussion early in the discovery process and if the client wishes to go that route on some or all window treatments, bring in the engineering team to make sure everyone on the project understands what needs to be done, from pre-wiring to the physical integration of the products.


Somfy outside shades


Somfy patio grills

PHOTO COURTESY OF PHANTOM SCREENS


Somfy pool screen

U.S. Department of Energy claims that closing draperies can help reduce heat gains in the summer by 33 PERCENT. Similarly, drawing drapes in the winter can reduce heat loss in a warm room by 10 PERCENT.

BRITTANY: Agreed. There are a ton of options, including draperies, blinds, pergolas, awnings, exterior screens and all of these can be controlled together or separately.

Exterior products are a great way to create livable and comfortable outdoor space. This is true for both residential and commercial projects. And there are tangible benefits beyond aesthetics.

Motorized awnings provide protection from the sun, creating cooler spaces for outdoor gatherings, which is especially important right now. Motorized exterior screens offer protection from the heat and keep out pesky insects. Motorized pergolas are a high-end finish to any outdoor space, offering cool shade and a smart outdoor structure. Motorized rolling shutters are a great way to keep a home or business secure, protect from storm damage and integrate with app control and third-party systems so they can be controlled from on or off site.

Adding exterior automated shading products to a project is a smart way to expand comfortable living environments. This is especially important right now during the COVID-19 health crisis. With outdoor space at a premium, any way to enhance outdoor living can give projects an edge in the market.

DAVID: Whether it is about comfort and convenience, priva¬cy and security, tasks such as adjusting those hard-to-reach windows, or controlling glare, powered window treatment solutions helps to define a space and create a better overall lifestyle for the occupants.

Talk about these solutions in the discovery process and plan accordingly. Motorized treatments at the most affordable prices are realized when the decisions are made up front, long before ground is ever broken on a project.