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Shutters

by Lindsay Daniel

Do you have shutters on the exterior of your home?  Have you ever wondered why they are there – or have you just thought, “they’re supposed to be there”?

As evidenced by many homes, new and old, shutters are one of the most misunderstood architectural elements.  The true form and function of shutters, over many centuries, has morphed into misinterpretations that, as evidenced by the photos here below – are quite humorous!  Once you know what to look for, you’ll be able to easily identify these mistakes and avoid them at your own home.

Historical Function ~ Hundreds of years ago, many homes had only small openings in their exterior walls, which were covered with oiled paper, animal skins, or wooden shutters.  The openings were to increase light and ventilation to the interior, while the coverings functioned as barriers to animals, insects, loud sounds, and the weather.  The shutter became the most permanent of the covering options, and evolved in its design and function along with developing civilization and culture.

From the late 16th century onward, window openings were glazed – meaning glassed in.  Shutters became less necessary for protection from the elements, but were still used in cases of extreme heat, noises, or wind.  Over time, shutters became more decorative elements than functional, and their original purpose was lost in translation.  Post-war building (by large track housing builders) in America had major effects on many architectural elements, as evidenced by the incorrect use of shutters on many suburban ranch houses constructed in the 1940s and 50s.

Results ~ From functional to decorative, handmade to mass produced, today’s haphazard applications of shutters lack meaning or context when the shutters do not reflect the height and width to fit properly inside the window opening when closed.

Tips

  • Only use shutters where it would be logical to close them properly into the window opening (as they would have originally been used).  The shutter size should be equivalent to half the window opening size – meaning that only single windows should receive shutters, never a double or triple window.
  • Shutters do not have to flank every window of your house.
  • Shutter hardware can instantly increase the style of your shutters – by adding hinges and shutter dogs (the S-hook that holds back the shutter from flapping in the wind), you effect the look of a true, operable shutter.  No more bolted-to-the-house shutters!  Give the look of dimension with a thick shutter slab and the appropriate hardware.  Use the shutter to shade during hot periods of the day!  This is Green!
  • If real hinges and shutter dogs aren’t in the budget, install the inside edge of the shutter close to the window opening edge – so that the shutters look as though they really could close.

 

DON'T

While the arched shutters would cover the arched windows, the Palladian window (second from left) should not be shuttered.  A classic mistake – where would those shutters close?

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Shutter - Don't

DON'T

Never apply shutters to the outside of the trim casings around the window…and these are much too tiny to ever cover a double window!

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DON'T

This is a beautiful home, but this large, arched window just shouldn’t have shutters.  The ones shown here would cover only a portion of the window.  An option for embellishing large windows like this one: add more case moulding (trim) around the window.

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DON'T

Upper window – those dinky shutters flanking the large window would never close over the window.  Why bother? 

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DON'T

Double whammy on this house!  The curved shutters are hung backwards – if closed, they would not follow the shape or size of the windows at all. I am not surprised this house is for sale!

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DON'T

Do they think we are fools to believe this one?  Although this shutter is correct in position, size, and relation to the window edge, it is cheaply applied.  The window trim should run down the length of the window and the shutter should mount on top of the trim.  Also, this shutter is bolted to the brick – for a more believable installation, hinges and shutter dogs should be used.

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DON'T

Never uses shutters on double or triple windows – only for singles, and never on only one side – no matter what!

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DON'T

The mass produced Ranch style, popularized in the 1940s and 1950s, sported “decorative shutters” – non-functioning panels.  Here, they are shown applied incorrectly – to a triple window. Now we know where the problem started on this architectural element!

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DO

These shutters are correctly hung!  Note that the doors on the lower level do not have shutters – not all windows on a house must have shutters, just those that make sense.

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DO

Piza, Italy – This beautifully embellished window does not require shutters.  The wide and well detailed casing  mouldings (trim) adaquately frame these windows.

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DO

Washington, DC: The White House windows need no shutters – the elaborate window casings fit the bill here.

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DO

These Italian windows show both open and closed shutter relationships to the windows – they allow true function. This is a perfect example of a leading principle of Green Architecture.....naturally controling direct sunlight and ventilation.  Also notice how the emblished window surround designs also can include the use of shutters.

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DO

The “King of Bling” even got it right!  Elvis’ home at Graceland displays shutters correctly hung over window casing.

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DO

Shutter Diagram showing the mounting position.

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Lindsay Daniel provides residential architecture services to Charlotte, North Carolina and the surrounding communities.