Shutters have played a huge role in New Orleans homes and buildings throughout the city's history. Early residents of the former French colonial city adopted the French custom of putting louvered shutters on every window. This was partly to regulate light and air, but also partly as a privacy shield against tax collectors peering indoors to figure out a family's net worth.
Fast forward to the modern day, and exterior and interior shutters are coming back in a big way. This is good news for people with houses and buildings in traditional architectural styles that favor shutters. But the resurgence of shutters means newer designs and styles are showing up, looking sleek and ultra-modern in contemporary homes, while also adding to the property value.
"Shutters are the only window covering that adds value to your house; you can get a lifetime warranty on them," says Kelly Daniels, owner of Windows By Design.
Falling out of fashion are heavy curtains and draped window treatments such as valences with jabots and swags.
"Drapes are a dust magnet," Daniels says. "People are getting away from drapes because you've got to clean them periodically. If you have pets, they suck up the pet hair. It's a health issue for people with allergies and breathing problems.
"Shutters are much more practical. A shutter is easy to clean; you take a feather duster or damp sponge and wipe it off, and you're done." There's also the easy repair factor: a single louver or a panel can be replaced without removing or replacing an entire window covering.
Exterior shutters have been around for centuries, but in recent decades have been relegated largely to decorative status, nailed outside windows. While they may be an old idea, functional exterior shutters should never have gone out of style — they're decorative, but they also provide insulation and protection from storms and break-ins. Homeowners are either adding working shutters to their homes or converting their decorative shutters into functional ones with hinges, bolts, pull rings and latches.
Interior shutters are a more recent innovation, using the inherently clean, linear style of shutters for a simple, minimal design. The shutters' ability to regulate light adds an elegant ambience indoors.
The different styles of shutters, and a huge variety of hardware, mean homeowners can mix and match them inside and outside, or even throughout the house, creating a look that's unique. Bermuda shutters or "push-out shutters," which are hinged on top and open as a panel, are popular in hot climates for shade and protection from the elements. Awning shutters are long, rectangular Bermuda shutters that can be propped up to create a canopy over the window.
Louvered shutters are the traditional European design, with a frame holding smaller slats. Paneled shutters are usually made of solid rectangular panels that can be customized and are found quite often on Colonial American homes. Board-and-batten shutters create a rustic look with vertical boards, a style often found on farmhouses, French provincial homes, cottages and Tudor homes.
Shutter materials include regular wood, hardwood, fiberglass, vinyl, foamed synthetics, or "hybrids" — composites such as wood and plastic, or "engineered" wood, which blends different types of wood.
"It's a look that can go in any direction," Daniels says. "These are like custom-made pieces of furniture for your windows, and they are a definite selling point."
Have all the windows (not just one) measured by an expert. Some windows have minor differences in size that could mean an ill-fitting shutter if they're not measured individually.
To customize, consider adding decorative cutouts to a solid panel, usually at the top of the shutter.
White or neutral shades complement most decor.
Black shutters provide great contrast for many colors and are a favorite trend in contemporary designs.
Door shutters are a good option for glass-paneled doors that don't offer much privacy.
For rooms where an abundance of natural light is desired, such as a kitchen or sun porch, try "semi-" or "cafe" shutters that cover half the window, or shutters with larger louvers or wider panels. For places that need more light control (bedrooms or rooms with paintings or furnishings that can fade in sunlight), shutters with smaller louvers or narrower panels are recommended.
Take cues from your home's design: If you're not sure which type of shutter would look best on your house, research the style of your house and what shutters traditionally have been used for that architecture. Shutters can be customized with hardware, colors and materials.