Exterior Shutters

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Philadelphia houses

Originally, exterior shutters were used to protect windows from the weather, allow for privacy and reduce the amount of light into a home. Today, they can also add curb appeal and character to a home without adding a heavy burden to the budget. However, they also are a common design element that too often are designed and applied incorrectly. Selecting the right shutters is not difficult if a few simple rules are applied:

Rule #1 – Style. When specifying shutters, be sure to select the style that fits the house—paneled, louvered or board and frame. When possible, align panel and louvered configurations with the paired window muntins or sash.

Old Stone House, Upstate New York
Old Stone House, Upstate New York

Rule #2 – Size. There are many aspects about design that are subjective. Shutter size is not one of them. Shutter height should be equal to the window height excluding trim and casing. Shutter width is exactly one-half the width of the window to which the shutters are paired, excluding trim and casing.

Old colonial window with shutters
Old colonial window with shutters

Rule #3 – Placement. Regardless of whether the shutters are functional or fixed, they should be placed in a way that makes them appear operable. They should overlap with the window casing and align with the top of the sill. Under no circumstances should the shutters be separated from the window jamb.

Elfreth's Alley in Old Philadelphia
Elfreth’s Alley in Old Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rule #4 – Shape. A shutter’s shape should match the window to which it is paired. For instance, rectangular windows should have rectangular shutters. Windows with arched tops should have shutters with a similar shape. Window radius and shutter radius should be equal. If a window has a transom above it, shutters should be designed to cover the entire composition.

Pointed roofs
Pointed roofs

Rule #5 – Orientation. Beware a common mistake that occurs when installing louvered shutters. In the open position, louvered shutters should slant toward the exterior wall, not away from it. This is because in the closed position, the louvers would drain water away from the window.

Windows with shutters
Windows with shutters

Rule #6 – Application. Shutters should only be used for single windows. Grouped windows in banks of two or more do not receive shutters. If there is a single, narrow window, a single shutter the same width as the window should be used and can be placed on whichever side of the window looks best.

French Village. Provence. France
French Village. Provence. France

As with other design elements, shutters should be well-thought-out and carefully considered: Do they add to or detract from the style of the home? If they add to the home’s design, are they being used in the right way?  It is better to eliminate shutters altogether than to design and apply them incorrectly.

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