Plantation shutters appear to be one of the most popular window coverings worldwide. I thought they might be a trend for a few years, but I never expected them to be as popular as they have been for so long.
The first shutters were in Ancient Greece, and not surprisingly for that era, were made of marble. They were designed for light control and ventilation, and also for providing a modicum of privacy. However, as one would expect, they were heavy and immovable.
Tudor England in the 1500s saw the common use of solid timber shutters that covered the lower half of windows. As glass was an expensive commodity, the lower classes only had glass panes on the top half of their windows. To let in air and light, one had to fold the shutter panel against the wall. They were good for providing security and protection from heat and cold.
Needless to say, the wealthier classes could afford glass and showed off their largesse by installing many small paned windows in their homes (Tudor style).
A few hundred years later, shutters became full height on windows, with the affordability of glass for the masses. Walls were so thick, it was common to have internal shutters that could fold away into side cavities in the walls when not in use. Exterior shutters were too difficult to reach for closing.
From the early 1800s shutters became attached to the exterior of houses and walls became thinner. In early Colonial Australia, shutters were widely used on all types of dwellings, as they provided successful protection against the harsh sun and heat of the colony. Of course, the wealth of the home owner dictated the elegance of the shutter; emancipated settlers had to make their own rough-hewn slats, whereas the well to do could afford more tailored solutions.
The Industrial Revolution introduced new manufacturing techniques so that shutter panels could be made with flat louvres. These slats could be angled to filter light and assist ventilation, as well as protect the windows themselves from the elements. Of course they were made of local timbers and were durable and very thermal. In particular, big plantations in the southern US states, actually led to the term “plantation shutters,” as these were commonly used on the grand style facades to protect from the heat and the inevitable storms.
In the 21st Century, shutters are used worldwide both inside and outside. The biggest difference is the materials used, which range from high tech plastics, to timbers and aluminium. Heritage homes still cry out for the authenticity of timber panels, whilst the more modern home can accommodate wider panels in a variety of materials. The benefits are still far reaching: privacy, light control, ventilation, protection from the elements. They also add another benefit: visual appeal. Correctly installed shutters can look spectacular and add huge value to your home, whether internal or external.