shutter at the thought

July 30th 2013 Comments: 13 Topics: , ,

Shutters are the trimmings of the facade. If style warrants their use, a regalia of shutters are always welcome on the properly adorned house.

What other element found on the common everyday building can actually move and change the mood of said building?  Their very presence enlivens an otherwise static composition. Shutters, though, aren’t t just wooden bells and whistles; they were always meant for practicality. They were originally designed to provide protection from inclement weather (in coastal locations), sun protection (in tropical climates), security (in troubled locations) or privacy (anywhere). Historically, they can be found on doors, windows or porches. Today, though, shutters are often used incorrectly.

To shed light on modern shutter abuse, here are the five commandments of proper shutter design:

  1. Shutters on doors and windows should always be operable. Most times, shutters are just nailed up on the wall. This relegates them to decorative doodads. Shutters should have hinges, holdbacks and all other appropriate hardware to make them movable (whether you actually use them or not).
  2. Shutters should always be the size of the door or window they are meant to cover. Nothing drives me crazy like a huge window with a pair of minute stock shutters from a home supply store stapled on either side.
  3. Shutters should be of an appropriate scale according to the opening meant to be shuttered. Small windows should have a single shutter and large windows should have pairs. Really large windows can have pairs of bi-folds.
  4. Shutters should always be wood. Save plastic and PVC for plumbing and metal shutters should be reserved for post-war Eastern European countries. I did, however, once see operable fabric shutters on a 1920s house in Los Angeles, so exotic exceptions exist.
  5. The style of a shutter should be appropriate to the style of the house. They can be louvered, plank or paneled. Learn your style and select accordingly. Don’t put a French shutter on a Colonial house.


Greg Tankersley, for McAlpine Tankersley Architecture


  1. Nothing makes me more crazy then seeing a pair of shutters screwed or nailed to the house. Looks flat and ugly! Thank you for bringing this to light.

  2. Jennifer Smith says:

    I am in the market for new shutters myself. I live in a stone tudor. Do you think batten and board would be appropriate?

  3. Elizabeth Ann Brown says:

    Thanks for a nice piece on one of my pet peeves. If shutters are always operable you will not make the mistake of putting them OUTSIDE the window facing! I have thought before of writing citations and leaving them on the front doors of offending houses…

  4. Tom says:

    I just saw a house yesterday, that was otherwise beautifully detailed…with the exception of the shutters. They were about half the width they should have been. They looked to be barely 10″ wide each…on a 3′ window. It just ruined the entire house!

  5. Bart says:

    #6. Don’t be afraid to use a single shutter to cover a window, if it works in the space.

    “Common sense isn’t that common.”

  6. David says:

    I also have green shutters right now and have wanted to paint them black. I am wondering if your shutters are vinyl or wood?

  7. David says:

    Thanks for answering…..

  8. Cindy says:

    I am installing shutters…wood of course! They are not cheap! I have 2 windows that are arched and I am thinking of using one arched shutter the full size of the window hung to one side. One window is small so that is an easy answer, but the other one is 27 inches.. Will one shutter still look proportionally correct on the 27 inch window? I am also planning on flanking the arched brick opening to my front door(front door is recessed) with shutters. .One question…. the arched brick opening is 56 I would need each shutter to be 28 inches wide to completely cover opening if closed. .The brick on either side of the opening is only 51 inches so the shutter would cover over half the brick on each side. Will that look odd?

    • Good questions.
      1. A single shutter on a 27″ window is a bit large for a traditional application. Plus I would not do a single arched shutter. That’s kind of odd. Arched windows look better with pairs of shutter.
      2. As to the door, I would not hesitate to cover up a short expanse of brick with shutters. Often, that’s a nice look to have shutters abutting another element (another shutter, etc)

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