A friend has recently moved back into her completely remodeled and expanded home. She needs window treatment ideas and help. (I think she wants specific ideas, but I haven't been able to go to her house yet, so Becky if you're reading, here are some general thoughts to get you started.)
1) When you move into a new home and you need some privacy fast, there is newspaper (tacky and sends the wrong message to the neighbors) and sheets (better, stick to solid colors). Both beat crawling on your hands and needs so the neighborhood doesn't see you in the buff. You can also go to home improvement stores and get temporary shades that stick on to your woodwork or window frame. As I discovered in my one son's room, they'll stick for years! (I was going to make custom coordinated shades to match his bedding, but never got to it. I gave up and bought pre-made that matches his NEW bedding. Yes, it took that long!)
2) First decide how much privacy you need. If it's a bedroom or a bathroom, you need privacy. That can be achieved in many ways - shades, blinds, shutters - anything that blocks vision. The type will depend on the style of room. Shades can be roller or fabric type. You are not just limited to vinyl roller shades. Roman shades, balloon shades as well as wooden shutters or blinds work great.
3) Next decide if you don't need privacy, if you still want to block sunlight or the view (looking out or looking in). Perhaps sheers are the answers, but again, think about shades, blinds, and shutters. Often, this is enough. You may not need anything else. I have several room where the only window treatment is simply shades. Many rooms are great with just blinds or shutters.
4) Once you're ready to start looking for the actual window treatments - from blinds to valances - start with as much as you can do with pre-made curtains and drapes. It's faster and cheaper. That doesn't mean it needs to look cheap or poorly decorated. Coordinate colors carefully. Make sure you get the right sizes. Remember that fullness and quality fabric are the first indicators of luxury in window treatments. Also, try to use multiple layers. Double valances, long panels, blinds, shades or shutters. Don't go overboard but layers impart a luxurious feel, especially in dining rooms, romantic bedrooms, and living rooms. See here for some tips for luxury drapes .
5) Remember a simple key measurements to make sure your windows look their best. The width of your treatments should be 150 - 200% the width of your window. In other words, if your window is 30 inches wide, your valance or curtain should be 45 - 60 inches wide. Long panels should NEVER stop above the floorboards. They should come to the floor or even puddle on them for a very rich feel. Valances or toppers should follow the same fullness (width) guideline unless they are supposed to be the exact width (like a cornice). The length of your top treatment should be no less than 25% of your window height, preferably about 1/3 of the height. So if your window is 60 inches tall, your valance should be 15 - 20 inches long. You can layer your valance and stagger it underneath to create extra length AND extra layers.
6) Next, be creative with drapes or valances that you can make yourself. I love swags because they are so easy. Drape fabric over a pole. Voila. For some tips on how to make them, read this post of mine.
7) If you can't find or easily make something, you enter the custom drape stage. If you are handy with a sewing machine, you can save TONS of money making your own custom window treatments. Fabric stores carry drapery fabrics and most pattern manufacturers have patterns for many home decorating projects and window styles. If not, you'll need investigate custom options. I've ordered many blinds and shades from Smith+Noble which carries a large variety of fabrics and wooden blind options. They also offer options for valances, tops, and panels. While I wouldn't consider them cheap, it's better than going to a seamstress. You can also try American Blinds. I'm sure you can search and find more, including this online service I recently discovered at Fabric Workroom.
8) After you've exhausted all of those resources, you're on to a seamstress. Check at fabric stores, craft stores, and retailers that offer custom drapery services. Ask to see samples of the work and to get references if you're dealing with an individual. It will cost you, but the drapes will be unique and made to order.
Window treatments make a big impact on a room. While they can be expensive, you can save yourself considerable money if you check out pre-made sources, tackle making some of the treatments yourself, and use your creativity.