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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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