Every year we wait with bated breath for the first rays of spring sunshine to peep through the clouds, then the next moment we're frantically fanning ourselves in an attempt to keep cool in the increasingly stifling summertime. But while we can't control our fickle climate, we can invest in intelligent window treatments that protect ourselves and our interiors.

More adaptable than curtains and more versatile than voiles, the newest shutters and blinds come in a whole host of modern materials and super-chic colours, that not only make a feature of your windows, but provide flexible sun protection too.

The latest trends for blinds and shutters

'Wow colours such as yellow, red, orange and juicy green are back, both in textiles, lacquered steel and coloured plexi'. Christina Widholm, chief designer and trend forecaster, Faber.

'We've seen a rise in sales of wooden Venetian blinds with cotton tapes. For summer, I'd expect this to continue with neutral slat colours and contrasting tapes in coastal blues.' Rebecca Brooks, marketing manager, Novatec and Eclectics.

'Our up-and-coming trend is for high gloss shutters in dark wenge or black. These look stunning with dark floorboards.' Mark Carter, company director, Shutterly Fabulous.

'Following in the footsteps of the US, we're seeing much bigger louvres. We do slats up to 114mm for a really modern look.' Aideen Smith, marketing manager, Shaftesbury Shutters.

'Our sliding shutter mechanism is great for small spaces and for using shutters as a room divider.' Harriet Shackleton, sales manager, The New England Shutter Company.

Blinds - Essential info
Modern blinds do much more than just provide privacy. The latest fabrics also offer solar protection, so no more faded fabrics or floors. They also block out heat, so rooms stay comfortable without the air con - an eco-friendly way of keeping cool. With moisture-resistant, anti-fungal and dust-repellent options too, it's easy to keep window treatments in top condition. And if it's too hot to even pull a cord, many come with a motor option for the ultimate in operational ease.

If you need to reduce glare, choose one of the many sheer fabrics that provide an effective and modern alternative to nets. 'A mid-tone grey will take out glare but still provide good visibility,' says Georgina Clark, showroom manager at Silent Gliss. 'White reacts with the light and is harder to see through, whereas black gives the best visibility but will become totally transparent at night - fine if you're not overlooked, but otherwise you'll need a secondary window treatment to provide privacy.' These mesh blinds work in a similar way to car screens, gently filtering the sun's rays without completely blocking out a beautiful day, making them ideal if you work from home - no more struggling to see your computer screen if you're sat near a window.

Types of blinds Roller blinds provide excellent protection against heat and light and give the room a neat, uncluttered look. Choose sheer to soften sunlight, patterned fabrics to introduce colour and texture or blackout blinds to block light completely. Head to Hillarys or Novatec for a bottom-up roller blind, which is great for providing privacy while still letting in light through the top half of the window.

Vertical blinds have shaken off their dowdy office image with companies such as New House Textiles and Luxaflex adding sheers, patterns, even metallics to their ranges. Ideal for high windows and doors, tilt them to let in a lot or a little light, or pull back entirely.

Venetian blinds can be adjusted to filter or totally cut out light, or pulled up completely to let in maximum light. Wood Venetians sit well with floorboards, but for something more daring, look at Faber's 2007 collection, with multi-coloured slats for a modern take on this classic.

Roman blinds are a staple option for a large window. When pulled up, they make a neat stack at the top of the frame that is still visible, so they remain a feature in any decorative scheme.

Panel Systems, also known as Kyoto Panels, are wider than Venetians and on some systems, each panel can be manoeuvred independently. Eclectics has a range of panels in a variety of colours and fabrics, including dramatic digital prints, while Silent Gliss does a range that attach to a track with an extra-strong Velcro system. This means you can alternate the panels and choose a heavier material in winter and a lighter, airier fabric in the summer months.

Continue to Buyers Guide to Blinds and Shutters, Part 2.