We all want our windows to look great, but we also want to keep out the heat from that bright summer sun. Here are some ideas to help you save energy costs while letting those creative decorator juices flow! Granted, some are pretty common sense, but it never hurts to get a reminder...
Go Outside - The best way to stop the sun from warming up your house is to not let the direct sunlight hit your windows! One good shade tree on the west or south side of your home can save you hundreds of dollars a year in cooling costs. Replacing worn out sunscreens is another inexpensive idea; a good screen can stop 75% of the sun's heat from reaching your window. Awnings & Roller Shields can be very effective, but aren't allowed in too many HOAs. If the hot sun isn't hitting your window, you're free to decorate with any type of window treatment!
Divide and Conquer - You can take a different approach for different parts of your home, depending on which way the windows face. North-facing windows won't get any direct sun; using light colors and materials here will let in as much light as possible. East-facing windows may get some sun in the morning; this may be ok in your coffee-drinking room, but probably not in your sleeping room! Windows facing west & south are going to take on the brunt of the desert sun's attack. Thicker, heavier, darker materials will do a better job of keeping your room cool.
Twice as Nice - Consider using two different window coverings to serve two different purposes, especially on those west & south windows. An inner shade (maybe a rolled or a cellular shade) with a sun-shield backing can be pulled down in the heat of the afternoon, but pulled up the rest of the time. An outer treatment with shades, curtains, shutters, etc. might be more visually appealing the majority of the time, but just needs a little bit of help during peak sun hours.
Viewing Options - Keep in mind what the view is from the window you're decorating. Roman shades, cellular shades, and drapes may look perfect in your room, but you can only see through the part of the window that's not covered. Shutters, blinds, and vertical blinds can be adjusted so you can still enjoy the view, even when the blinds are partially closed.
Dressing Up Basic - Another option is to get basic window treatments to serve the purpose of blocking out the heat/light, and then dressing them up with a valance, or framing them with a drapery. This can be a less expensive way to create a look of your own.
Giving some TLC to your windows can save you money AND create value in your home!