I was in this situation myself recently. My wife and I moved into a new rental home that came sans window treatments of any kind. We have a very large sliding glass door with lovely views of Mission Bay in San Diego. By midday the sunlight pouring into our living room is almost blinding. I would like to preserve this view but limit the sunlight and heat build-up at these times.
With my limited interior decorating skills and experience my first response to this issue was to purchase vertical blinds. They work well, they look pretty good and they are generally affordable. My wife wanted something different which forced us to do a little research on possible options. Here's what I found:
The first option I discovered was panel track blinds. Panel blinds, or sliding panels, come in a variety of materials including sheer, solar screen-like materials. This option limits heat build-up but still allows decent view-through. Panel tracks are kind of like vertical blinds except the panels are much wider and they roll or slide on an aluminum track. They offer a contemporary look, which is definitely a break from vertical blinds. But they are a little expensive, especially for a rental.
Option number two is vertical sheer shades. I don't think many people know what sheer shades are, specifically vertical sheer shades. These shades are a hybrid - a cross between solar shades and vertical blinds. The panels are sandwiched between two sheer fabric panels. They almost look like sheer drapes except that you can close the vertical panes inside the material for more privacy. This type of shades also comes with horizontal panels, which I believe are the more common usage. I really liked this option but again they are more expensive than plain-old vertical blinds. It was at this point that I realized that I was going to have to spend a little more. I figured that if we were going to stay in this rental for a few years, it would be worth it.
In my research, I also found that vertical blinds come in different materials besides vinyl. In fact, you can purchase verticals in fabric, faux wood, cellular, solar screen, and aluminum. The options that best fit my needs for this particular window were the solar screen and cellular option. The more affordable option was the solar vertical, though I did like the energy efficiency addition that the cellular verticals would offer.
At the end of my research, my wife and I narrowed down our options to the vertical sheer shades and the sheer (solar material) vertical blinds. I liked the look of both. The vertical sheer shades were the more expensive option but they offered the flexibility of greater room-darkening because you can close the vertical slats. The sheer vertical blinds were the most cost efficient choice but didn't offer the option of room-darkening. In the end, we decided to go with the more expensive sheer vertical shades, as it was only for the one window. And the verdict is - we made a great choice. Once installed our new blinds look great and function very well. If you were looking for a true room darkening option, these blinds are not the right choice but for windows with a view and minimal room darkening needs, they are a great alternative to vertical blinds.
If you are in the market for window shades and need an alternative to vertical blinds , consider sheer blinds, or sliding panels. - David Brooks