How To Make Your Outdoor Spaces More Versatile
A special collaboration with Durablinds
Given Singapore’s hot, humid and sometimes unpredictable weather, most homeowners prefer to retreat into the air-conditioned confines of their abodes instead of fully utilising their balconies or patios.
Mindful of this issue, former interior designer Ong Shu Hwai and founder of Durablinds decided to help her clients to “reclaim the use of semi-outdoor spaces”. Ong, who helmed her own design practice in the early 2000s, felt much could be done with these underutilised areas; she sourced for quality shading systems that would shelter homeowners from the elements. “I love helping my clients transform their space through the use of durable and elegant products and smart designs,” says Ong.
In 2013, she introduced Glass Curtains, a frameless glass system from Europe, to the Singapore market. Four years later, she launched Ziptrak, a track-guided blind system from Australia, in Singapore and Malaysia. “The usage of balcony or semi-outdoor spaces is often considered as an afterthought. Just a few years ago, the balcony was seen as the best space for drying laundry as it was typically warm and noisy,” says Ong.
It’s a perception that’s now changing. The importance of enhancing our homes has never been more obvious than during the circuit breaker period of the Covid-19 pandemic, when many people found themselves in an indefinite telecommuting arrangement.
“We’ve received a surge in enquiries for both Glass Curtains and Ziptrak products; most of these can be attributed to a desire for more usable spaces at home,” says Ong. “This is particularly true for clients living in condominium units, where the balcony can be the size of a room.”
To date, Ziptrak products have been installed in over 4,500 residences and commercial spaces in Singapore. The brand’s popularity can be attributed to its quality and durability. The shade moves along a track that keeps it securely in place, preventing rain and insects from entering the home. The material is also able to withstand gusty wind speeds of up to 260km per hour, as well as rain and intense heat. Among the bestsellers is the 100 percent waterproof RainOut Fabric range, a fibreglass laminated weave material specially designed to keep rain out.
“Ziptrak is a great product for anyone who wants to retain the semi-outdoor feel of their space, while keeping out rain, heat from the sun, dust and flying insects,” says Ong. “For those who want a higher level of protection and privacy, the RainOut Fabric range is perfect, as its fibreglass laminated weave is specially designed to keep rain out completely, while giving occupants the privacy they desire.”
Ziptrak blinds are equipped with motors but a user-friendly manual option is available, too. Made with a patented SuperSpring system, this allows the blinds to be adjusted in seconds easily with one hand. Families with young children will be glad to know that one can opt for a child-safety latch that prevents these shades from being lifted beyond railing height.
Along with the practicalities it offers, the brand has not neglected the most important aspect of apartment living: the view of the cityscape. Ziptrak’s PanoView blinds are perfect for high-rise residences with a panoramic backdrop—stretching up to 6m wide, PanoView offers an unblocked view of one’s surroundings.
Whether you’re living in an apartment or a house, there is always a need for more space. “Our clients who stay in landed properties are also considering turning their patio into a cosier environment for the family, since people are going out less,” says Ong.
She also recommends installing Glass Curtains as a partition for an entertainment zone or workspace. “Besides protecting semi-outdoor spaces, Glass Curtains can also be used as partitions within the home. The elegant and frameless design is perfect for homes with an open-concept,” says Ong.
First introduced in Spain in 2002, this patented frameless system sits on a bottom track instead of being hung from the ceiling, which reinforces the glass panels against strong winds and heavy rain. Glass Curtains are made of 10mm-thick tempered glass panels that have been tested for impact performance, surface compression and fragmentation. These glass panels glide easily and quietly without the use of ball bearings, which will wear out over time, and can also be secured in place with a lock. Adds Ong: “The locking mechanism is easily accessible at waist level rather than at the bottom of the system; locks can also be installed at the interior and exterior.”
“Both Ziptrak and Glass Curtains are specifically made to withstand the outdoor environment and have undergone rigorous testing internationally and locally,” says Ong. “These products last longer, require less maintenance and don’t need to be replaced for years.”
As these products require precise installation, Ong advises customers to schedule an on-site appointment so that the consultants can offer recommendations tailored to each home, while paying attention to water drainage and existing features such as the flooring of the home.
This attentive approach has led to positive feedback from clients such as Billy Png, who opted for a Glass Curtains system in his home. “The Glass Curtains system has surpassed our expectations and we are very happy that it still looks and feels brand new even after a year of regular usage,” he says.