Thousands of years ago, early humans decided to move out of the jungles and into the caves. Pretty soon they discovered that, as the sun began to set, it was just a little bit too bright. Grabbing a nearby rock to plug the entrance to the cave, an unknown cave dweller inadvertently became the inventor of the world’s very first “window shutter”. Or so the legend goes.
Since that moment, the window shutter has spread around the world, gaining popularity as a fantastically practical and stylish way to control the light, air, temperature, and mood in a home. Were you to walk the cobbled streets of any historic town you’d likely see a whole range of shutters displayed in the windows above. Not only would they all look different, but each of them would work differently too – a reflection of the period in which they were made.
This very brief history of window shutters will demonstrate how these simple and effective staples of modern interior design weren’t simply perfected over night. Window shutters have enjoyed a long and chequered past, and w see it as a testament to their brilliance that they’ve managed to stick around for so long. If you’re drawn to window shutters because of their traditional appeal, you owe it to yourself to understand where this appeal comes from.
Popularising the traditional window shutter
Oddly the first wooden shutters (as we now know them) came before glass windows. Popularised during the Tudor period, long before the popularity of glass windows, shutters were originally made of thick wooden boards and covered a large rectangular hole in the wall – essentially serving the same purpose that glass panes serve today. Not only did this block out light and ward off the chilly English winter, it also prevented thieves entering by locking together with a large iron bar. When glass finally came along it was still deemed an expensive luxury. Therefore, instead of fully fitting their windows, most people had a half-glass, half-shutter arrangement. This was the basis for the more contemporary café style shutters seen today.
Moving towards a decorative aspect
As time progressed, the shutter moved beyond strictly functional purposes. After the 16th century, it was not uncommon to find ornamental woodwork – such as mouldings and shutters – established as the main decorative pieces of smaller homes. During the Victorian period, the walls of houses were no longer required to be as thick due to the development of wood and red brick as building materials. With thinner walls came thinner recesses in which windows sat, therefore enabling shutters to be moved from an internal position to an external one.
Adopting shutters globally
As the Americas became colonised, window shutters became increasingly popular with the owners of larger homes and mansions. Viewed almost a status symbol among higher classes, these shutters boasted characteristic louvers which were much wider than their predecessors, and were typically painted white to reflect the hot sun near the equator.
Moving further into the new world, buildings found in the states that constitute “New England” (i.e. Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Maine) widely began using shutters based on an English aesthetic. These evolved to reflect their surroundings, displaying narrower louvers than before. Visit a traditional café in Maine and it’s likely that you’ll see traditional wooden half shutters – a throwback to their early ancestors.
Nowadays, the range of window shutters has expanded enormously. They are now available in a range of modern forms and bespoke styles, with the ability to fit into virtually any space (regardless of the shape and size of a window. The reason they’ve never gone out of style is simple: installing shutters in your home effortlessly makes your windows look and feel fantastic. The original designers of Tudor homes knew this, the colonial leaders of the old world knew this, and modern homeowners know it too. It’s said that nobody can read the future, but one thing’s for sure – window shutters are here to stay for a while yet!
For more information and guidance regarding window shutters, please feel free to get in touch with the Diamond Shutters team and we’d be delighted to help.
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