I recalled the nailing heat of the sun last summer after our neighbors removed some trees that shaded our house. My husband and I decided to try to block the sun as much as possible in this old kitchen space that leads out onto the balcony. It's a mess and we haven't decided what we're doing with it yet.
We bought 2 outdoor blinds for the balcony ($80), and then I made curtains for the windows (free!). This was such a satisfying project because the blinds were the only new thing.
My friend Kim had just helped her parents empty their attic in preparation for moving, and she gave me some fabric and dresser scarves her grandmother embroidered. There were panels of this great home dec fabric - I didn't have to cut a thing. I just sewed them together and backed them with old white muslin curtains in my stash.
All this sun blocking has made the upstairs noticeably cooler . . .and the only thing we bought were those shades.