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 Built by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw for his own family in 1897, Ragdale is in the English Arts & Crafts mode; unlike Prairie houses nearby, it has traditional double-hung windows—and shutters.

Window Shutter Classics

by Patricia Poore on May 12, 2014

in Millwork and Shutters

ABOVE: Built by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw for his own family in 1897, Ragdale is in the English Arts & Crafts mode; unlike Prairie houses nearby, it has traditional double-hung windows—and shutters.

When you think of shutters and exterior blinds, you probably associate them with Cape Cods, farmhouses, even Victorians. The typical Arts & Crafts Bungalow or Midwest Prairie house has windows grouped horizontally, with large mullions—not the configuration for symmetrical shutters.

Still, window shutters were standard on the cottage and revival homes of the period, especially Dutch Colonials and Storybook houses. And they were also found on some bungalow variants.

Shutters should be hung on the window in such a way that they can be closed; otherwise they look like decorative props.

Shutters should be hung on the window in such a way that they can be closed; otherwise they look like decorative props.
Photo courtesy of Kestrel Shutters & Doors.

Consider shutters if they are common in your region, and if you find evidence of their use. (Hardware or holes may remain around the windows; you may even find the old shutters stuffed in the attic eaves.) If the house has English or European pretensions, it may have had shutters. Dutch Colonials often had brightly painted “cutout” shutters, with a motif cut out of a solid panel. Storybook houses tend to feature everything on the facade, shutters included.

Harking back to Europe and American colonial days, shutters with decorative cut-outs were popular on Dutch Colonials and cottages of the Arts & Crafts period. Photo courtesy of Shuttercraft.

Harking back to Europe and American colonial days, shutters with decorative cut-outs were popular on Dutch Colonials and cottages of the Arts & Crafts period. Photo courtesy of Shuttercraft.

And any house transitioning to the Colonial Revival may have had shutters when it was built. This is true of Foursquares and Shingle Style houses, as well as more academic revivals, like Georgian or Federal Revival homes.

Louvered shutters allow ventilation even when they are closed. Note the S-shaped shutter dogs that hold them open.

Louvered shutters allow ventilation even when they are closed. Note the S-shaped shutter dogs that hold them open.

My own house was built in 1904 with two quite different facades. The street front is Tudor-leaning English Arts & Crafts and features paired windows and bays—no shutters. But with six-over-one windows, the rear is more Colonial Revival, and it did once have shutters. (The originals are still stored in my attic.) That side faces the ocean and its storms, so these shutters may have been more than decorative, even in the 20th century.

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