Anyone can welcome sunshine into their home, but not everyone can do it with style. That requires plantation shutters.
Always present in the decadent plantation homes of the South, plantation shutters are a statement piece. Using them throughout the house not only complements windows but brings continuity to a home.
“The appeal is that it’s window furniture, and it gives a room a real classic style,” says interior designer Mercedes Mosby, who owns Show-Case Shutters. She has yet to find a window that she can’t put a shutter on or a window that can’t be transformed from plain ugly to dazzling with the help of a shutter.
The hand-built frames and louvers are fitted into the outside mounted frame so well that when closed, no light can enter. Bill Graham, the window treatment manager for James T. Davis Paint and Wallpaper, says the room-darkening capability of plantation shutters is virtually unsurpassed. Black-out curtains pale in comparison. Shutters are also impeccable at protecting privacy because of their construction, he says. The louvers are hand-cut for each door and window so that each window can be completely covered. Graham says that is why shutters are a favorite in bathrooms and bedrooms.
When it comes to allergies, plantation shutters are welcomed into homes because dust, pollen and dander can be so easily dispatched. Where a fabric window treatment may harbor dust mites, shutters will not.
“All they require for upkeep is a light dusting,” says Graham, who adds that they are the most popular window covering among homeowners with allergies.
Once you’ve realized that plantation shutters are the way to go, picking out the details is the fun part. You can make them your own by selecting color, material, tilt-bar options, cut-outs, staining, dividers and frame modifications.
The best way to start is by looking at your décor and determining how you want the room to make people feel, says Greer. If you have a very warm look, consider wood shutters and the many stains available. She says many people today want things in their home to look “nice and beach-house airy.” Those people may want to choose the whites available, wider louvers or maybe even hidden tilt-bars which won’t obstruct the view.
Shutters can be cut to fit windows of any size and shape. Although they are available in wood, poly and composite material, the professionals hands down prefer the real thing, which is made of a hearty bass wood. One reason to consider a poly or composite material, though, is if the room has a high moisture or heat content, like a sauna or garage. These cost just a bit less than wood but you won’t be able to tell the difference from the outside.
Also, you need to decide what size louvers you want. Louvers come in widths of 2.5, 3.5 and 4.5 inches. Size matters: The larger the louver, the greater the view. But there is a caveat. To create a sense of continuity throughout your home, experts suggest that all shutters should have the same louver size. Before you buy, look through plantation-shuttered windows that have different-sized louvers, so you understand the difference louver size makes.
Next on the list of choices? What kind of shutter: café (one that covers only the lower half of the window), whole window, mid-rail style, split–tilt bar style, or a hidden-tilt bar. Each comes with its own pros and cons, and with each come special considerations. Want a hidden-tilt bar because it looks clean and classy? Dirty hands will ruin the look quickly if you have children. Love the idea of café shutters but looking for privacy? Remember that just like a piece of handcrafted furniture, once a shutter is built it can’t be changed.
Love color? This is one place where you can find literally dozens of whites. You can also select wood stains and paint colors. The number of choices depends on where you shop and from which manufacturers that a business orders. As you might guess, white-white is the number-one color choice in this area. The professionals recommend matching the shutter colors to the inside window trim. And as far as trim, there are outside window mount trims and decorative forms that will raise the bar for any standard plantation shutter.
Always ask to see a sample. Companies can bring louvers to your home and, if you ask, can even bring an outside mount to your home allowing you to see how far it might extend into your living space. Don’t forget the Holy Grail of this deal: the warranty. The warranty you want will protect you from any louver warping and will cover the structural integrity. Don’t buy without a warranty. In this area the whole process—from the designer measuring your windows to a crew installing the final louver—can take as little as four weeks, depending on your dealer.
Once the shutters are installed, you may find yourself tempted to add just a bit of flourish. If so, think summer and make it light and soft. While it’s rare for a window treatment to be added to a plantation-shuttered window, treatments that are high enough and light enough to not interfere with opening the shutters do work. Even a valance or soft cornice, if not done well, can cause problems when opening louvers or swinging shutter panels open.
“You can put a window treatment and fabric up with your shutters to suit your taste, but a plantation shutter will stand on its own,” says Mosby. “Plantation shutters are timeless.”