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Exterior Shutters Are More Often Wrong than Right

It’s starting to feel like Spring! If you’re like me, the melting snow and milder temperatures have you thinking about sprucing up the exterior of your home. After months of gray skies and dead vegetation, you want color! You want pop! You want to…add shutters to your house!? I understand the attraction. Exterior shutters can add architectural interest and an element of color to the right home. They also might feel like a relatively small upgrade compared with the other items on your long list of home improvements. However, before you head to a home improvement store or call your favorite contractor, there are a couple of questions you should ask yourself.

Do I have windows that are the right style for shutters and will allow my shutters to be sized appropriately?

Exterior shutters, if they were closed, should cover half of the width of the window. Shutter height is important too; shutters should be as tall as the window (not the window and sill). Making sure shutters are appropriately sized is critical to making them feel authentic – even if your shutters won’t be operable. In general, windows that are wider than they are tall, shouldn’t have shutters. Similarly, if you have casement windows that open out, these windows typically wouldn’t have shutters. The same is true of bay windows.

Is the style of my home suited to having shutters?

To answer this question, first, do some quick, anecdotal research. Look at homes similar to yours while you’re out and notice which shutters look most authentic. (I promise during this process you’ll see lots of windows with shutters that shouldn’t have them!) Second, look online. A quick search on shutters for your style of home will help you decide not only if shutters are a good option but also which style would be most complementary. The resources online are, of course, plentiful! I found Timberlane’s article to be a helpful general overview that covers typical home styles and matches them up with viable shutter options. For vintage homes, I like the perspective of the Old House Guy.

Given this food for thought, where do you stand?

If you answered “yes,” to both questions, move forward with your shutter project with confidence! The right shutters on the right house can really make the home shine. They “feel” right, they look thoughtful, and they give the home a timeless quality. Words of caution are only warranted because when shutters are used inappropriately, they can do, well, the opposite.

The shutters featured in the photo were custom-built to match the cottage style of the home. Complete with bespoke flower boxes, the shutters elevate the home and achieve the desired quaint look. They have a cozy quality that make me want to garden or maybe sit on the porch and drink tea while someone else gardens? Either way, they add great atmosphere.

To make your new shutters evoke a similar affect, consider making them operable (or look operable) with the appropriate hardware. House of Antique Hardware has lots of options, as does Hooks & Lattice. Rejuvenation has some more limited, but really beautiful classic pieces too – I’m loving this shutter lock. Anyone else get overly excited looking at hardware??

What if you can’t justify shutters?

So you just figured out exterior shutters aren’t appropriate for your home, but you still want a refresh out front. What do you do? First of all, don’t despair! There are plenty of other simple exterior projects that have equally satisfying results. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Change the color of your front door. This can drastically change the look of your home with the added bonus of being low risk and low commitment.

  • Think accessories. New planters and a welcome mat are a super easy way to make things feel fresh. Swap out a builder-grade mailbox for something more fitting, look for house numbers you love, switch out your exterior lighting for standout fixtures, or add landscaping lighting in preparation for when things are again lush and green.

There are so many ways to spruce up outside that will look beautiful and feel authentic. If you’re feeling stuck, reach out to your local interior design firm. Many designers consult on exteriors too and can give you suggestions to up the curb appeal of your home – with or without shutters in the mix!

author avatar
Renee Project Manager
Renee Beere has been helping Spectrum Design Group clients through their design and renovation projects since 2021. A project manager through and through, she enjoys every step of the design-build process from the first design meeting in a client's home through the final walkthrough at the end of construction. Renee strives to be a supportive member of the SDG team and a guide and advocate for SDG clients. She maintains close connections with the many talented tradespeople who make SDG's work shine. When not working on client projects, Renee muddles her way through DIY projects, reads classic novels and design magazines, runs slowly, and spends time with her family. She can't live without coffee. She can live without shutters.

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