Over the past few years, I have heard and seen characterizations of awnings ranging from “traditional” to “old fashioned.”  Well, I am here to say, “These are not your Grandmother’s Retractable Awnings.”

First of all, I totally get it.  When you look at the leading competitor, Sunsetter, most of their patterns are the older traditional style stripes that are part circus tent, part chain restaurant table cloth…well, you get the idea.  Valance patterns are scalloped to reinforce this look. Frankly, when I started in the industry over fifteen years ago, that’s all there was.

Additionally, fifteen years ago, the motor technology was pretty brutal also.  Your choice was to manual crank your awning, or have a large, not-attractive motor hard-wired to a switch either inside or outside your house.  While there were attempts at automation, the technology was glitchy and unreliable.

In this blog, we will discuss how Retractable Awnings have changed in both style and the technology to operate and control them.  These products are definitely not your Grandmother’s Awning!


Understanding whether your tastes are more traditional, modern, contemporary, or transitional will help you get the most out of your project.  Most consumers don’t speak in these terms. They usually use short-hand phrases like “clean lines” to communicate when they are NOT looking for the traditional look of most retractable awnings on the market.  Our Thatcher Premium Plus and Thatcher Euro have a more modern “clean-lines” design. Often, customers choose a straight hemmed valance on the Permium Plus. On the Thatcher Euro (shown in the image above), the awning has No valance.  The larger front bar of the awning replaces the need of a valance to hide the hardware when the awning is retracted. This look can be accomplished to a lesser degree with the Thatcher Premium using a straight valance, as well.

While the valance cut and shape of the housing affects the look of the awning, the color of the frame and fabric are major drivers in the overall look.  We have four very popular frame colors, but more and more, customers are choosing to have their frames custom powder-coated to fit the design objective more accurately.  In Lincoln Park, River North, and Old Town as well as other Chicago neighborhoods that surround the downtown area, Black Semi-Gloss is the look they are going for. It often fits well with the black wrought iron gates and decorative elements on the buildings’ exteriors.  Within the past few weeks, we just completed three large awnings (nearly 65’) on the 18th story of a building that overlooks Navy Pier. They chose a gun-metal gray look that matched to the building’s facade. The goal was to make the awnings disappear when not in use.

With over 90% of the visible area, the fabric is by far the most important piece of the puzzle.  When we change fabric from an older style to a more contemporary look, the results are nothing short of amazing.  The trend is definitely moving away from striped patterns are towards textured solids. The texture adds enough visual interest to break-up the large canvas without taking over the space.  A desirable byproduct of textured fabrics is how they tend to hide and minimize dirt. It doesn’t matter how great an awning looks when it’s installed, if it looks awful a months later. We will link to textured Sunbrella Fabric below in the blog notes.

Motorization & Controls

In the past, motors and controls for awnings for kinda like old garage doors.  You could push a button on the wall and the product would go all the way up or all the way down.  Times have changed. Motor technology can still work in this manner. Most customers receive a hand-held remote control as a standard feature.  We recommend having a remote as a back-up even if you choose a more sophisticated control option. As a Somfy Motor Expert, we were the first company in the Chicagoland Area to offer the Somfy MyLink.  This interface allows you to operate your retractable awning or screen with a smartphone ap. The interface can operate multiple products, schedule operation, and even integrate with Alexa to operate via voice command.  “Alexa, tell Mylink to retract my awning.” Yeah. That easy!

Our Experts can also add sensors to automatically operate your awning and screen based on weather or movement inputs.  For example, a sun sensor can extend a product when a certain level of light threshold is hit. Rain Sensors and Wind Sensors retract the product when their thresholds are exceeded.  While there are some very important caveats to these products, there is no doubt that they can add to your happiness, and let’s face it. They are really cool! Check out the video links below in the blog notes for more information.

We hope that we have dispelled the myth that all retractable awnings have the same look.  After all, you probably wouldn’t wear your Grandmother’s clothes, so why would you want your Grandmother’s Awning?

Blog Notes:

Blog was written by Rodney Allott, President of Thatcher Retractable Awnings, Pergolas, and Patio and Past Board Member & Vice President of the Mid-West Fabric Products Association. Thatcher Retractables is located at 650 Willowbrook Center Parkway Suite 200 Willowbrook, IL 60527  (western suburbs surrounding the City of Chicago.) Come see our factory showroom or visit us on the web at www.rolloutavacation.com or call us (630) 5-AWNING for more information.

Sunbrella Textured Solid Fabrics:  https://www.sunbrella.com/en-us/fabrics/shade?pattern=textures&color=

Somfy Mylink Video

Somfy MyLink with Alexa