The History of Plantation Shutters

Updated: Sep 28, 2018


The history of plantation shutters

It’s believed that shutters, or plantation shutters originated during ancient Greek times. They were built and designed to handle strong coastal winds, which oftentimes brought on fierce tropical storms. While windows have always offered airflow and safety features, the windows of today serve considerably different purposes than back in ancient Greek times. It's believed that windows were used mostly for ventilation and safety purposes, and less about letting in natural light, hosting a view, or an architectural marvel as windows afford us today.

When shutters made their way to the Americas, their popularity started in South America as Spain colonized the south, moving to our founding New England states here in North America, whereby they remain an important design element today.

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If you've ever touched a shutter or explored the movement of a louver, it is particularly hard to fathom that early shutters were constructed of a natural stone or marble, not composite wood or real wood like the shutters you see today. Marble, a natural stone, is very heavy. The weight of the marble forced early architectural designs to be a fixed louver. This offered no movement, therefore restricting airflow and ventilation, which after all, was the main purpose of the shutter to begin with. As shutters gained in popularity, as did the replacement of natural stone with wood. Once wood became the preferred material of choice, shutters were seen popping up all over the Mediterranean and Spain. As wood replaced natural stone, louvers were offered allowing movement, which allowed for more ventilation and increased air flow and a more practical option.

As shutters became popular in the Americas and affordable by the very wealthy. Shutters got their name from estates built on cotton plantations. It was common to see lavish homes with shutters, coining the name plantation shutter. Shutters offered a way to provide cross-ventilation during the heat of summer, controlling the flow of airflow with the louver position.

Shutter with Clean Lines

What is the difference between a shutter and a plantation shutter? Absolutely nothing! There's an ebb and flow to what people call shutters. Both shutters and plantations shutters can be used interchangeably. Towards the east coast and parts of Texas, you will hear people call them “plantation shutters”, but as you move west, they’re more commonly referred to as “shutters”. You will find some window treatment manufacturers don't call them plantation shutters by name in their advertising, but any designer or sales person will know exactly what you mean.

Whether your interest in shutters derives from form or function, plantation shutters offer the same functions today as they did a century ago. Shutters provide cross-ventilation, they're light filtering and they still help to protect against the elements. Here in Dallas, we know all too well that the intense sun can wreak havoc on your home, furnishings, your artwork, as well as other valuables in your home. Shutters offer control of light, and by closing the louvers, you can protect your home from the sun.

"Clean lines", you can't read a magazine or watch an episode on a home improvement channel without hearing the words at least once. Today people choose shutters for their clean lines and crisp, polished appearance. If you're considering plantation shutters for your home, not only do they look amazing, they are the only window treatment that can be financed into the purchase of your home. Check with your lender to see if you can finance shutters into your loan. We have found that people that ask the right question of the builder on the front-end of the home buying experience can easily get the shutters they've always dreamed of. Shutters increase the value of your home and it is for this reason that many lenders will consider it.

While the function may be different, shutters have stood the test of time and are one of the most luxurious window treatments available today. Over the past century, shutter popularity has remained strong, standing the test of time from a design point of view, and you see shutters in a variety of styles, materials, and colors from coast to coast.


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