I have an office with two windows on our house’s south side; these windows take in brutal amounts of Texas sun and heat during the spring and summer. Lutron Serena Shades are custom-made window shades that can be controlled by a remote, by your smartphone, or with an AI assistant. What you end up with are smarthome-worthy window coverings.
You’re probably familiar with Lutron; they’ve been around for decades offering dimmers and other lighting control solutions. Lutron has fully embraced the idea of the connected home, and their Caseta smart lighting control system is one of the easiest (and most cost-effective) to implement in every home of any age because it puts the “smart control at the switch, so you can make your existing bulbs act smart, even LEDs.” Lutron Caseta products work with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and they integrate well with other popular home equipment like Nest products, Honeywell thermostats, and Sonos speakers. Serena is Lutron’s line of motorized and connected window coverings. What Serena offers is a range smart shades in a variety of fabrics that are custom-made to order for your windows.
If measuring your windows and installing your own blinds sounds like a DIY nightmare to you, that’s not a problem. You can get the whole turnkey experience by going through Budget Blinds, Lowes, or Home Depot. Just find a local store, take a look at what they can do for you, and pull out your credit card … done.
But if you feel just a little bit brave and even the tiniest bit confident in your DIY capabilities (or if you have a handy friend or spouse), then you can save a bit of money on the installation while decorating your home or office’s windows with gorgeous blinds that provide privacy, cooling, and smarthome features.
I opted to go the DIY route, so this review is based on my experience.
Serena Shades has hundreds of fabrics for you to choose from; you can order up to 10 free fabric samples to check colors and textures; the shades are offered in a variety of opacities so that you can either completely black out a room when the shades are shut or you can enjoy shade filtered light. Your first major decision will need to be whether you want a single or double cell fabric honeycomb shade or a more traditional roller shade. You start the order process here.
The Honeycomb shades can offer up to a 4.3 R value, which is a measurement of thermal resistance used to describe how well something provides insulation — or the “capacity of an insulating material to resist heat flow.” Serena’s FAQ mentions that a “typical double-pane window has an R value of 2.0, so adding a Serena shade can significantly increase the insulation of a window.” I have new double pane windows in my office, and I prefer the look of the roller shades, so that was the option I chose.
Now comes what was probably the most difficult part of the process: you’ll have to measure and create a shade for each window that you are purchasing for. Measurements must be taken on the exact window you’ll be buying the shade for in three points across and down. You’ll enter the smallest of the three width measurements in the drop-down menu and the longest measurement of the three for that window’s height measurement. If you live in an older house, this three-step measurement is super important because your windows may have shifted a bit over the years as your house settled.
Now you have to decide how you will power your custom shades. If you’re building or remodeling, using wired shades is an excellent option, but you’ll need a licensed electrician to install the Lutron power panel. The other option is to purchase a low-voltage adapter for each window which means you’ll need to have a plug nearby for each shade. If you’re going to go the wired route, having the electrician hide all your wires and make the setup looks as custom as it deserves is the way to go.
But if like me, you want to add the shades after your home was built and electricity to each shade isn’t an option, you can choose battery-powered. Yes, you can also choose non-motorized cordless manual shades, but that would be like buying a truck without the tow package. Sure, you can do it to save a few bucks, but you’ll kick yourself for cheaping out later. 😉
Moving right along … now it’s time to decide how you want to mount the shades. I went for the inside mount because I have lovely natural wood frames around my windows, and I didn’t want to do anything to take away from their beauty. If you have hand cranks, sash lift ups or locks on your windows, the inside mount may not work for you.
Now it’s time to choose from three headrail options. There is a fabric wrapped fascia at the top; to be fair, this is a very elegant solution that will hide the battery compartment and the rolled up shade, but it also adds $125 to each shade. The standard roll with no fascia shows the battery compartment at the top and the rolled up shade; some might like that look, but I think the reverse roll with no fascia looks the cleanest.
Throughout the entire customization process, there is a tally going on at the right, showing you your shade design with measurements and options chosen along with the current price for that particular window shade.
How much light do you want your shades to allow in? I get serious sun through the two windows I’m covering; blackout would be too much, and while sheer would have likely cut out a lot of the glare, I decided to go with translucent. Without having a fabric sample in hand, I was largely guessing, but I thought it would allow light in without glare.
Here comes the fun part! These are the translucent colors available. I have a citron colored accent wall breaking up a lot of stark white, a bamboo desk, a blue office chair, a black standing desk chair, and bamboo floors. I wanted something bright and fun, and the blue (Riviera) shade color looked like it would fit the bill. I loved that as each option was chosen, the “my shade design” would update so I could see exactly what I was getting.
The last thing to decide is how you are going to control your shades. If you already have a Lutron Caseta setup in your home, you’ll already have the smart bridge, but if not you can opt to add one to your order for $79.95 (and up, depending on options). The smart bridge is necessary if you want to use your phone or a smart assistant to control your shades. If that doesn’t appeal to you, then you can just add a remote for $25.
Now you just need to name and save the window you’ve completed.