Though the origin of awnings may be uncertain, there’s no doubt they’re still in use for a good reason. These pretty and practical accents enhance our outdoor spaces while offering protection overhead.

For more than 25 years, Advanced Awnings in Acme has specialized in residential and commercial awning installation. When it comes to the latest trends for the home, Chris Stoppel, president, says most awnings are gadget-oriented these days. While modern devices can be beneficial, he cautions to beware of too many gadgets in an outdoor space. “An awning is still a fabric structure that you hang outside your house,” he says. “Anything that retracts requires some attention.”

While residential fabrics rarely stray from the classic solid or striped designs, outdoor varieties from companies like Sunbrella make them more durable. “They’re an architectural commodity. A building is a big, solidly covered structure, and awnings offer a good way to add some color and style without spending an arm and a leg,” says Stoppel. “You don’t always need a sunroom, but you do have to pay attention to awnings in changing weather. That’s the difference between an indoor and an outdoor living space.”

Awnings for the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island represent Stoppel’s “grandest” and lengthiest project. The existing vintage units for the awnings on this historic property are redone time and time again. Depending on their position, the typical lifespan of the awnings is between five and ten years. As expected, of the roughly 150 on the property, those in direct contact with the sun will fade faster than the ones that are not exposed to extreme light and heat.

As the façade of the hotel reveals the grandness of the building, the awnings convey their own sunny disposition through yellow and white stripes. Though the architecture is impressive on its own, the substantial exterior would appear very stark from afar without the awnings. “They create a signature splash of color above the front porch, with the yellow fabric and the hotel insignia of the horse and carriage,” Stoppel says.

Stoppel explained that the overall tone for the stunning structure is set by Carleton Varney, a distinguished interior designer and president of Dorothy Draper & Co. in New York City. The creative designer, who is also responsible for the hotel’s interiors, likes to keep things fresh by occasionally straying from the standard solids and stripes, using classic patterns like houndstooth, customized for the awnings at Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor at the Grand Hotel.

When different fabrics are used on either side of an awning, a solid white buffer is required in between to prevent problems when light shines through. Attention to details such as this demonstrate the amount of thought Stoppel puts into designs that may look relatively simple but have a complexity just like the unique setting of the Grand Hotel.

“Conventional architecture it’s not; it’s theater,” says Stoppel. “We’re building theater and making sure the set design is appropriate for what’s going on. We’re creating this image that suits the overall ambiance of the place.”

Whether on a grand scale or a residential one, awnings can add just the pop of color and interest a building needs.