A Short History of Plantation Shutters

Shutters have been made of many designs throughout the ages.  They have been hung both outside and inside buildings and have been made from everything from marble to synthetic materials.  They have also served several distinct functions from climate control to security.  Today, shutters still provide a function and although some external shutters are ornamental, their design reflects the necessities of the past.

The use of shutters on buildings can be traced back to the ancient Greeks.  They used shutters to block out the sun whilst allowing ventilation and adding a measure of privacy and security.  The simplest were probably simple stone slabs, mounted on a pivot and they developed into a shutter constructed with fixed louvers and made out of marble.

The concept of shutters spread throughout the Mediterranean and the form began to change.  Wood started to replace marble as a more suitable material for manufacture and the design started to use movable louvres to allow varying amounts of light and ventilation into a room.  These shutters, typically made of undecorated boards, slid into slots on the window frame.  Those who could not afford wood would make shutters by tying bundles of reeds together.  With the louvers pointed in the downward direction, the shutters also shed rainwater.

In the medieval period, when most windows were unglazed, shutters kept out wind, rain, insects and birds.  They were often a distinct feature and decorated individually.  Shutters were used predominantly on the inside of the window as the deep window sills of this period made it impractical to place shutters on the outside because they couldn’t be reached.  In later periods, when houses had cosier rooms with fireplaces and glazed windows, shutters provided extra draught proofing and privacy.  The common use of fastening bars with security devices implies that shutters were also regarded as protection against intruders.  External shutters also protected windows from vandalism and were common on the ground floor windows of vulnerable buildings like public houses, at a time when glass was expensive.

As the Spanish started colonising in the Americas, they brought shutters to the New World.  Wealthy landowners on cotton and sugar plantations built huge houses and began using shutters, which came to be known as “plantation shutters”.  These shutters usually had wider louvres than had been used earlier and were almost always painted white.

During the mid to late 1800s, the increasing use of wood construction was followed by the popularity of using shutters outdoors.  They also began to be increasingly used as much for visual effect as for their practicality.  With the invention of the steam engine and the rapid industrialisation of society, mechanisation entered Victorian woodworking mills.  This revolution brought a higher level of sophistication and features to shutters.  So instead of just blocking out the light and heat, shutter blades were often louvered or made of narrow horizontal slats angled to deflect rain

Today shutters are a vital window decoration.  Whether you are looking to make some home improvements or merely want to give your home a makeover, one of the best ways to accomplish this is with latest window shutters.  They are available in a wide variety of materials from engineered woods, plastics and a variety of timbers.  They also have tilt rods or completely concealed tilt mechanisms and a huge choice of colours and finishes.

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