Shutters – and blinds (which are erroneously, but commonly, called shutters) – are very misunderstood. Long ago, they were practical and functional. Hanging from hinges on each side of a window or door, they could be closed to cover the opening for protection from weather or unwanted visitors. Since the mid-20th century, they have devolved into mere decorative accessories. Increasing unfamiliarity with their historic origins and purpose leads to ever-increasing aberrations in the contemporary application of both shutters (which are paneled or otherwise solid) and blinds (which are louvered). Below, the first three photos show the correct, historical, use of blinds. The photos following them show aberrations commonly seen today:
This is how blinds looked in the 19th century – they hung from hinges and their height and width were determined by the window opening. Note that these blinds cover the sides of the window frames. Modern, decorative, blinds and shutters typically are secured to the wall just outside the frame.
The louvered blinds on this brick house are hung on hinges attached to the wood window jamb; this allows them to swing so as to cover the window for protection, ventilation or light regulation.
These louvered blinds are arched so as to conform to the segmentally-arched windows they serve. The center rod used to adjust the louvers is not visible from the exterior when the blinds are closed over the window. The casement window on the porch also serves as a doorway.
And now, some graphic examples which clearly illustrate just how far we have strayed from normal cognitive function:
These blinds are clearly non-functional. Skewering each louvered blind with a shiny brass coach light is certain to make sure that the blinds will never operate. Of course, placing them about a foot from the door jamb (with iron railings in-between) will also guarantee it. The storm door would not allow them to fully close in any event.
Three chances to get it right and they still struck out. The two single windows are dwarfed by the giant shutters that flank them. Even if you took one shutter away from each window, the remaining one is still a bit too big. The triple casements have two shutters which are more plausible, but a third is needed (preferably folded behind one of the two). On a positive note, all shutters correctly cover the window casing (and fit between the sill and head jamb) so they score in that regard!
The shutters presumably cost more than had been budgeted for – a total of eight are present where twenty are called for. And they fail to cover the window casing – if these were hinged and functioning the casings would be covered.
Not only are each of these blinds too wide to simultaneously fold over the door, but the flag holder and mail box would smash into the door if you tried.
These blinds are clearly not functional on this circa 1970 structure and and appear to be more of a brick-saving device than anything else.
Not enough height available for plausible blinds? Just use shorter ones instead!
The shutters on this late Federal style house might pass for authentic at first glance, but closer inspection shows them to be a tad too tall to fit within the jamb – and screw heads securing them to the brick are visible. There are no center rods visible, either. The really sad part is that the original shutters survived until recently – they are shown in the photo below. Image courtesy Google Street View, 2013.
These are the originals. The presence of center rods is a good clue as to their antiquity. Their droopy condition is a sure indication of their mortise-and-tenon construction (but not necessarily of their age). Image courtesy Google Street View, 2007.