let the sunshine in

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Semi-cantilevered shade structure
mesh fabric patio cover
Circular pergola
motorized power screens

stylish shade features make it safe and comfortable

by Donna Schillinger

Sunshine: We can’t get enough of it in the winter, then suddenly, we’re running for cover. Fortunately, options abound for Northern New Mexico homeowners who want to maximize warmth and light in winter and mitigate them in the summer. In addition to being adaptable to seasonal needs, awnings, sails, pergolas, and other shade structures add practical value and aesthetic appeal to home exteriors.

Though Northern New Mexico is blessed with dryer summers than most areas of the country, our altitude puts us closer to the sun and its harmful UV rays. Applying shade to a hot, sunny day reduces the ambient temperature up to 30 percent, making it possible to enjoy outdoor living and entertaining comfortably and safely. Strategically placed outdoor shade structures can also help to reduce heat indoors, resulting in energy savings. According to Sara Talachy of Santa Fe Awning Company (santafeawning.com), with locations in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and El Paso, by blocking 95 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays, shade structures lengthen the life of not only outdoor furnishings, but also indoor fabrics and upholstery that receive direct sunlight.

The first step in designing a shade structure, says Talachy, is to evaluate how the sun rises and sets against the home. “Then we can recommend products to block the sun,” she explains. “Santa Fe Patio Wind and Solar Screens™ facing south significantly block heat while preserving the view; north-facing, they block sun in the morning.”

Motorized retractable solar screens make it effortless to restore your entire northern view once the sun is overhead. Santa Fe Awning Company uses an automation product called Somfy myLink, which allows users to control their awnings and shades via cell phone—helpful for giving the appearance of someone being at home while you’re away on vacation. Retractable screens come standard with a manual hand-crank, says Talachy, with motorization an optional upgrade.

The first step in designing a shade structure is to evaluate how the sun rises and sets against the home, says Sara Talachy of Santa Fe Awning Company.


Far from being strictly functional, shade structures should complement the home’s exterior and add to its aesthetics. “We love the look of awnings and other shade products,” says Jill Mowery-Litt, co-owner of Rader Awning (raderawning.com), with locations in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. “Awnings ‘dress’ a house and give it a softer look. All of our awnings are custom made so we can accomplish this with many different frame styles and fabric colors.”

Rader Awning offers a number of shade products, from awnings and fabric patio covers to roll curtains, shade sails and more. Some come with “smart” motorized options, and all are outfitted with Sunbrella, a, durable, acrylic-based fabric with a 10-year warranty. Resistant to UV rays, fading, mold, and mildew, this breathable and bleachable workhorse material comes in a dizzying 250 solid colors and stripe patterns.

Pergolas have long been a favorite shade structure in Northern New Mexico, as they filter sunlight while keeping the scenery well in view. Adding a fabric cover atop a pergola adds even more function when it’s warm, and the cover can be easily removed and stored when temperatures drop in the fall.

Continuing to gain momentum in 2018 are geometrically shaped “shade sail” systems in residential use. “The look of these systems is just beautiful and adds an element of design and color to any space,” says Mowery-Litt. “We use triangles, squares, and rectangles to try to block the most amount of sun, all while creating a certain look.”

In addition to sunshine, there’s another weather conundrum to consider in Northern New Mexico: monsoon season. Before calling off that party, consider louvered patio cover systems by Equinox and Arcadia, available from Rader Awning. These metals systems open and close like window blinds, but when closed, are watertight, diverting rainwater to gutters on the perimeter.

The top reason why people avoid the outdoors in summer is inadequate shelter from the sun. Spend more time outdoors this summer with a cool summer shade that will beat the heat. Then in winter, raise or remove shades and awnings to maximize solar gain and reduce heating expense. Already affordable, shade structures practically pay for themselves.