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Why do French houses have exterior window shutters?

Why do French houses have exterior window shutters?

One of the things tourists notice about French houses is the presence of exterior window shutters:

Why do French houses have exterior window shutters? When did they first appear in France? Are they peculiar to France, or did they perhaps "migrate" from other parts of Europe?

Since the question has been put on hold, I have asked it here: https://www.quora.com/unanswered/Why-do-French-houses-have-exterior-window-shutters

In case of deletion, I have archived the content: https://web.archive.org/web/20170309172128/https://history.stackexchange.com/questions/35813/why-do-french-houses-have-exterior-window-shutters

As mentioned in the comments, the exterior shutters are an old tradition in southern Europe.

They can be basically wooden boards that are opened and closed, or they can have open slits. The first type effectively protects the window from the eyes and intruders but doesn't let the sun in. Typically, when these are closed, it's night or the owners aren't in. In Portugal, they are considered quaint but are common only in old (think 50+ years) one or two storey houses.

Another common type it to have thin open slits. These are less solid for preventing break ins, but they let air and light in. If the window is facing the summer sun, it will naturally be kept close against it without impeding normal activity inside the house. Typical in old houses (30 something years) in some areas.

Then there are shutters composed of thin strips of wood organised in diagonal to form tiny open diamond spaces. These are not common and will be seen only in areas of ancient moor influence, whether regionally (say Southern Portugal) or in city areas that were, in medieval times, consigned to people of this religion. The architectural tradition remained after the last moor disappeared. But it's still not common.

In Portugal, these exterior shutters that work like 'doors' are a species in sharp decline. Most people prefer exterior shutters that are large strips of PVC and can be rolled up and down at will, whether to just make way to little openings to let air and a bit of light in, or to shut close completely. They often have a little crank that allows the homeowners to lock the shutters and avoid anyone from coming in.

Link to traditional shutters; in English

Link to PVC shutters; in Portuguese, but just click on the images to see what they look like.

In short, the traditional shutters are a protection against intruders, interested neighbours' eyes and the sun and go back to when houses didn't have window panes. To still use them depends on a love for traditional things and not having a good practical and estetic replacement.


I'm sorry, but I may have been a bit off on the reasons for keeping the shutters 'alive'. It has since dawned on me that privacy might be one of the main reasons. In Portugal (and most of France) houses are pretty close by and, unless you want your neighbours to see what's going on inside your house (you don't want it), you'll need some form of protection: shutters and curtains.

During the day, when shutters aren't used, windows are protected by a light curtain that allows homeowners to see what's happening outside but doesn't let the others look in. In the evening, when lights are on, people outside can see through the light curtains into the home. Therefore, you either add heavy curtains to the mix or you add shutters.

One thing that I find extremely uncomfortable in 'anglophone' houses as seen in films and TV shows is how vulnerable the homeowners are in terms of privacy. Any curious neighbour will be able to spy them as they go about their private life since the houses in such films / shows never have shutters and rarely have curtains. It's unsettling.

So perhaps keeping the shutters is also in direct relation to how many peeping-Toms a society expects to find amidst one's neighbours.

I live in Pennsylvania in the USA and most old houses I have seen have exterior window shutters.

The advantage of exterior shutters is that while shut they protect the windows from shattering.

The disadvantage of exterior shutters is that you have to go outside to shut the ones on the lower floor and open the upper story windows and reach out - possibly falling to your death - to shut their shutters.

The advantage of interior shutters is that you can shut them easily while safely and comfortably inside - if you don't have stuff in the way.

The disadvantage of interior shutters is that they don't protect the windows from being shattered.

The best form of shutters would be exterior shutters you can shut from inside by turning a crank or pressing a button.

So where are interior shutters common? I believe some were mentioned in a Sherlock Holmes story.


In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Speckled Band" Holmes and Watson examine the Window's at Stoke Morton from the outside and then Holmes tells Miss Stoner:

Now, would you have the kindness to go into your room and bar your shutters?”

Then Holmes reaches through the open window and tries to open the shutters.

This proves that in the late 19th century some English buildings had interior shutters.


In The Fellowship of the Ring, chapter 10, "Strider", in a room at the Prancing Pony Inn at Bree: "He then closed and barred the heavy inside shutters and drew the curtains together."

Franck Demoncourt may be surprised to see exterior shutters in France, but I as an American am only familiar with exterior shutters. The quotes from those two classic stories may be the only times I ever heard of interior shutters before reading this question.

New Orleans Shutters

A walk through New Orleans is like a walk back in time. The culture is so unique and vibrant. The cuisine – beignets, jambalaya, po’ boys, gumbo – is all rich with flavor and steeped in tradition. The bold music is everywhere, full of life and excitement. And the homes have their own specific beauty that truly speaks of old-world charm and elegance and feature New Orleans shutters. They are one of the most obvious elements on both humble and grand homes in the area and around the Gulf Coast. Exterior shutters are almost ubiquitous around the city, with an abundance of different styles, color combinations and methods of installation put to great use.

What grille pattern is best for your home’s style? Let us help!

Colonial or Cape Cod

A Colonial or Cape Cod style home will typically have divided light, double hung windows. If you’re choosing to stick with the historic style, you will see six individual panes of glass separated by muntins in both the top and bottom panels of the windows. However, you have the option of choosing the number of glass panes in each sash. Looking at this photo, the windows seem right on, but the shutters are a complete disaster. Read our blog on shutter house fails to find out why!


A Prairie style is a type of Modern home. Straight lines and a simple grille pattern open up the viewing area of the window. Casement style window is usually used.


A Farmhouse window grille allows for clean and sleek lines. There doesn’t need to be a lot of window trim or hype. Think simple! This features two panes of glass separated by a muntin on both top and bottom sashes of double-hung windows. This results in a four-pane glass window when closed. That said, some farmhouse windows do a 2 over 1 design. That means there are two panes of glass on the top and one large pane of glass on the bottom of the double hung window. Both styles are beautiful and completely appropriate for a farmhouse.

Craftsman or Bungalow

Craftsman and Bungalow style homes feature double-hung windows with muntins dividing the upper sash into four or six sections. The lower sash remains unobstructed for a clear view of the outside. Also, more commonly, Craftsman and Bungalow homes go for a more updated look with elongated grille panes on top sash of the window and continue with a clear view and no grille on the bottom sash.

Contemporary or Mid-Century

Contemporary is sometimes confused with Mid-Century Modern architecture. A Contemporary home means what’s happening now and in the future. A Mid-Century Modern home refers to an era and home style that lasted from the mid 1930’s to mid 1960’s. Both have similar window style. As with mid-century, contemporary homes let in the light! The windows are usually casement and aren’t obstructed with grilles to block the view.

Overall, choosing the correct window style and grid patterns can be a tad overwhelming. There are just so many options to choose from. Windows can make or break curb appeal so you want to be sure you love your windows. That said, many homes are a combination of architectural style… so window styles and grid patterns can be interchanged depending your likes and dislikes as well. Can you have a Modern Farmhouse? Yes. Can you have a Craftsman Bungalow? Yes. Can you have a Mid-century Art Deco? Yes. Just one more thing to consider when choosing window styles and grid patterns….and one more reason our brick&batten designers can help when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Before there were windows, there were shutters. Now as then, shutters serve a number of useful purposes when they’re functional. Closed shutters block searing sun, howling winds, and pelting rains insulate in the winter and deflect prying eyes year-round. The use of operable shutters has largely been lost in the United States, however, where nonfunctioning replicas have become the norm. If they’re installed well, though, even inoperable shutters can add a layer of architectural detail to a house.

Shutter style was born of function

Traditionally, shutters were found on colonial, Georgian, and federal-style houses, but they fell out of favor during the Victorian Era as drapes and blinds took their place. When colonial-revival styles sparked renewed interest in classical architecture in the late 1800s, shutters experienced a resurgence before again losing ground to storm windows, awnings, and mechanical HVAC.

Early-18th-century American homes featured simple board-andbatten or solid-panel shutters that provided maximum protection for fragile and pricey glass panes. In the late 18th and early 19th century, fixed-louver shutters became commonplace. They allowed fresh air to circulate while still ensuring privacy and protection from the elements. Finally, in the mid-1800s, operable louvered shutters were introduced, offering homeowners complete control of visual privacy, light admittance, and air circulation.

Avoid these common shutter blunders

Let’s start with a few things you should never do if you want shutters to have an authentic appearance. First, don’t install shutters that don’t fit the window openings. An all-too-common sight is a tall, slender shutter abutting an enormous picture window. Shutters should be sized and shaped to cover the window opening completely when they’re closed. Properly sized shutters fold tightly between the exterior window casings, leaving a narrow gap at the perimeter.

Next, don’t install louvered shutters backward. Shutters are designed to shed water away from the window when they’re closed. To accomplish this, the louvers must be sloped to the outside of the house when they’re pulled shut. This means, of course, that in the open position, properly installed shutters have louvers with their leading edges pointing up. Many molded vinyl shutters violate this obvious rule, and builders frequently install shutters in the wrong orientation in a good-faith effort to keep water off houses. That leads to another common shutter blunder: shutters mounted flat to the house, directly against the siding.

Shutters attached directly to a house can collect water and debris, leading to premature deterioration of the siding. If shutters are mounted using authentic, operable hardware, however, they are spaced far enough from the house to allow air circulation and swing away from the siding for easy maintenance access.

Surface-mount shutter hinges are ordered according to their offset, the dimension between their pivot point and mounting plate. The larger the offset, the larger the total swing, or throw, of the hinge. A large offset is required for deeply recessed windows, such as those that sit in a brick facade. Measure from the hinge mounting surface to the deepest portion of the window casing to determine the minimum offset required for your window. Deep shadowlines are a pleasant visual consequence of this spacing.

Finally, don’t omit shutters from a window due to interference from nearby objects. Frequently, a window is tucked tight to a chimney or located at an inside corner where the shutter won’t fold flat to the house. Don’t let this deter you from installing a shutter at the opening. After all, half a pair of shutters never did a window any good. The idiosyncrasies of mounting shutters in these locations is part of what makes an authentic installation so appealing. At pairs of windows where there’s little room to install hinge hardware on the mullion, consider bifold shutters.

Even fake shutters need authentic hardware

Operable hardware is critical for an authentic appearance, even if the shutters will rarely swing after they’re put in place. Early hardware was crafted with wrought iron or cast iron. Iron is still available today, though powder-coated steel often takes its place. For homes near the ocean, consider upgrading to bronze or stainless steel.

With decorative spade or bean-shaped ends, strap hinges are the most popular type of hinge. L-shaped hinges are another frequently used style that reinforces shutter corners. Either hinge type can be mounted to the front or the rear of the shutter. Both strap hinges and L-shaped hinges mount to a pintle. Early pintles were nothing more than spikes hammered into wood framing. Today, pintles can be purchased with lag-screw ends or with flat plates mounted to the window casing or mortised into the jamb.

Shutter hold-opens, tiebacks, or “dogs” keep shutters from flapping in the breeze. Shutter dogs come in many shapes and sizes, from simple metal plates to decorative cast figures. Most popular is the scroll, or S-shaped shutter dog. An alternative to the traditional rotating tieback is a long hook and eye that props open the shutter.

In addition to hinges and hold-opens, hardware such as pull rings, slide bolts, or hook-and-eye closures can further enhance the authenticity and visual appeal of shutters.

Authentic Details

Operable hardware: In the correct orientation, shutter louvers slope toward the house when they’re open. Properly sized hinges swing the shutter away from the window opening and over the adjacent siding and trim. Even if shutters are fixed in place, you can add authenticity with shutter dogs. Match the window: Select shutters that have the same size and shape as the window when closed. As with the archtop design shown here, if shutters have dividing rails, line them up with the sashes of the window. Never split a pair: Where a window abuts a chimney or other obstruction, insist on installing both shutters even if the one closest to the obstacle doesn’t open past 90°.

Three Traditional Shutter Styles

Shutters must match the style of the house. These three early-American architectural styles show how using appropriate details can accomplish an authentic appearance, even if shutters are now more decorative than functional.

Board and batten: The simplicity of board-and-batten shutters makes them suitable for many historical building styles. Authentic board-and-batten shutters have boards that fit tightly, with no gaps between them. Paneled: Solid raised-panel shutters offer the highest degree of visual privacy and protection from the elements. Accessory hardware such as ring pulls, slide bolts, and shutter dogs adds authenticity to a shutter installation. Louvered: Louvered shutters are particularly well suited to warmer climates, where they admit fresh air while deflecting the sun’s rays. Some shutters have tilt rods to allow adjustment of the louver angle throughout the day.

Shutters gone wrong

On today’s houses, it’s all too common to see undersize shutters installed hard against the house with siding revealed between the shutter and the window trim. Even inoperable decorative shutters should be large enough to cover fully the opening they’re intended to protect when closed. When installed with operable hardware, shutters overlap the window trim instead of sitting next to it. Real hardware is also offset to hold the shutters away from the siding for pleasing shadowlines.

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Why do French houses have exterior window shutters? - History

Early 18th Century Residential Casement Window

Location: Drinker House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Courtesy of: Independence National Historical Park, National Park Service, and Charles E. Peterson, FAIA

Among the earliest operable windows in the seventeenth century English colonies were hinged casements the design being carried over from England. Typical frames were both in iron and wood arranged with one or two sash that opened outwards on hinges attached to the jambs. Glazing for these windows consisted of small rectangular or diamond-shaped panes held in the sash frames by lead cames or wood muntins and reinforced with wood bars. Available glass included broad or cylinder glass which came from glass blown in a cylinder, split and rolled into a flat sheet and then cut into panes. The best quality, however, was crown glass which was blown into a disk and then cut into panes. Windows were small in size and few in number, due to the cost of glass, which mostly had to be imported, and in northern climates, for greater protection against the harsh winter weather. Following the introduction of vertical sliding sash early in the eighteenth century, the casement window fell from favor in this country.

Different crafts were involved in the construction of windows. The frame and sash were usually prefabricated by a sash maker in a shop installation of window panes was the job of the glazier and the hardware was made by the blacksmith.

The casement window frame show above from the Drinker House in Philadelphia dates to the turn of the eighteenth century and was found sealed in what later became a party wall. Missing both casement sash, the frame structure is characteristically out of the wood plank frame.

Early 18th Century Residential Casement Window

Location: Christian Duryea House, Brooklyn, New York

The six-light wood casement sash comes from the Christian Duryea House in Brooklyn, New York (circa 1740). The sash opened inward toward the room. Note the typically wide early eighteenth century wood muntins, the proportions of the stiles and rails, and the hand-forged hardware. Physical evidence suggests that the sash was installed in an addition to the building around 1800 with the window simply being relocated from another area of the house.

1740s Window Shutter

Location: Deshler-Morris House, Germantown, Pennsylvania

Size: 15-3/8" x 69" (one of a pair)

Courtesy of: Independence National Historical Park, National Park Service

Wooden shutters have been a prominent feature on many American buildings since the eighteenth century. Paneled shutters—particularly associated with the Georgian style—predominated until the end of the eighteenth century, when the “Venetian” or louvered variety gained favor. The latter, which admitted air while excluding the sun’s rays, were especially appreciated in summer months. Paneled shutters, on the other hand, were more effective in excluding icy blasts of wintry air. They also provided an extra measure of security, being practically impenetrable when properly hung, closed, and secured from the inside. In the nineteenth century, there was the frequent practice of placing solid shutters on the ground floor and louvered ones on the upper stories. By the late nineteenth century, shutters with louvers were mass produced and predominated over paneled shutters.

This late 1740s shutter is one of a pair of window shutters from the Deshler-Morris House in Germantown, Pennsylvania, and consists of three stacked panels. The two strapped hinges are hand-forged and the hinges are riveted to the horizontal rails of the shutter and seated on an iron pintle attached to the window frame.

Deshler-Morris House in Germantown, Pennsylvania

1760s Georgian-Style Residential Window

Location: 236 Delancey Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Courtesy of: Independence National Historical Park, National Park Service

The double-hung window as we know it today developed from vertical sliding sash first used in the American colonies at the turn of the eighteenth century. The early “single-hung” windows had only one moveable sash, supported in an open position not by counter weights, but by a pin inserted through holes in the frame and sash. By mid-century, features typical of a modern sash, such as two sash moving in vertical tracks counterbalanced by weights, were in use. They proved durable, practical and adaptable during the next two centuries.

This window frame was set into a masonry wall at 236 Delancey Street in Philadelphia in the 1760s. The frame is termed “plank front,” being fashioned of solid planks of wood rather than built up of thinner sections. The frame has applied moldings, hand chiseled weight-boxes, fruitwood pulleys with metal axles, and jamb tenons extending from the sill to anchor the frame to the building’s masonry. The frame would not have had a parting bead.

The upper fixed sash is one of the same period, but came from a neighboring building. It has ovolo shaped muntins and matching ovolo moldings. Both the upper and lower sash would each have held nine panes of glass. The missing lower sash would have moved in the vertical sash run, counterbalanced by lead sash weights attached by sash chords run over the two pulleys.

Installing Shutters

There is so much hardware available for shutters that it difficult to know what to choose. My recommendation is to go to House of Antique Hardware and pick out some hardware you like, then call their customer service department and ask them what size and offset you’ll need. That’s what I ended up doing because it was so confusing. I’ve only repaired shutters and prior to this post had never actually built and installed new ones. The options are endless, so let them help you find the right stuff.

I went with 10″ offset strap hinges for my shutters and a simple hook and eye latch with shutter dogs. The strap hinges are simple to install with just 3 screws. I centered them on each of my battens and screwed them easily. Once the straps are on, you have to install the lintel part of the hinge to the trim on the building. This lintel is not hard at all, simply take the shutter and place it where you would like it to rest when closed in the window opening. I used a couple shims to keep it off of the sill during installation.

With the shutter in place, insert the lintel into place and set one screw to hold it in place. Then remove the shutter and set the remaining two screws. Repeat that for the top lintel and then set your shutter in place on the lintels to check the operation. Should be smooth as butter! Repeat these steps for the other side.

Now, for the shutter dogs. Open your board and batten shutters all the way and locate the shutter dog below the shutter so that it will prevent the shutter from closing when in the vertical position. Install the screws that hold it into place. On stucco buildings, it is usually a leg bolt used for installation rather than a few wood screws. When you want the shutter to open, you turn the shutter dog horizontal, which allows the shutter to swing past it.

Then, close your shutters and attach the hook and eye on either the inside of outside of the shutter, whichever you prefer.

How to Hang Exterior Shutters

So what if you want to crank up the Bob Seger, slip on the dark sunglasses, turn up your collar, and slide across the living room floor in nothing but your underpants and oxford shirt? Go right ahead—what you do in the privacy of your own home is, frankly, nobody's beeswax. Just do the neighbors a favor and shutter the windows.

Functional exterior shutters, which swing shut when you need them to, will do the job quite nicely. As This Old House technical editor Mark Powers shows on the following pages, you could put several pairs up in a weekend. Then, aside from privacy from prying eyes, you'll also get relief from the summer heat, a barrier against storm winds, and a sure defense against arrow attacks (if you're a 17-century colonist, that is).

The bonus: Studded with hammered-iron hardware and a bright coat of paint, shutters will dress up the front of your house and add to its curb appeal. Which, we're guessing, is a better way to attract attention to your house than your half-dressed homage to Tom Cruise.

Step 1

Hanging Exterior Shutters over

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Functional exterior shutters attach to the trim around the window (the casing) and swing into the window opening, resting flush with the casing when closed and latched. When open, the shutters stand proud of the house, held in place by a pivoting metal tieback (also called a shutter dog), a hook, or a catch.

Provided with measurements, companies will custom-make shutters to fit your window openings. Taking the measurement is a critical first step - there should only be a 1/4-inch gap on all sides of the shutters when they're closed, leaving little margin for error. Positioning the shutters so they sit this way is where most homeowners run into difficulty, says This Old House general contractor Tom Silva. "Shutters are meant to fit inside the casing," he explains. "Many people think they're supposed to hang outside the casing, but that would make it impossible to close them properly."

Give yourself a day to get the shutters painted and the windows prepped. Between coats, count the hardware pieces to make sure you have enough of everything for each window. Remove any old shutters on the windows, expecting that you'll need to touch up some paint, fill with caulk, or just clean out the cobwebs and dead bugs you'll find back there. You will also need to remove storm windows if you want the shutters to operate.

With everything prepped and ready, the biggest challenge you face is positioning the hinges so the shutters swing straight and close smoothly. This may take some trial and error on the first pair, but the work gets easier once you get the hang of it.

Step 2

Paint or finish the shutters

Paint or stain and finish the shutters before installing them.

When painting paneled shutters, use a small roller to coat the panels first, then tip off the paint with a brush. Next use a brush to paint the horizontal rails, then the vertical stiles, with long, feathered strokes.

When painting shutters with movable louvers, make sure to open and close the louvers after you paint them to keep them from sticking.

Always paint all six sides of the shutters—including the top and bottom edges—to protect them against moisture infiltration.

Step 3

Shim the shutters in place

Place one shutter in the window opening. Have a helper hold it as you shim it tight at the top and bottom. Position the other shutter the same way.

Once both shutters are firmly in the window casing, carefully reposition them so they're centered and surrounded by a ¼-inch gap on all sides. Shim them all around

TIP: A shutter's wider rail always goes at the bottom. On paneled shutters, the simpler panels should face out when the shutters are closed. On louvered shutters, the louver openings should face down when the shutters are closed.

Step 4

Install the upper hinge pintles

Hook the two parts of a hinge together and position them at the top of one shutter. Center the strap on the top rail and the pintle (peg) on the casing. Using a level, check that the pintle is plumb. Mark the locations of the screw holes for both the strap and the pintle on the shutter and casing.

Set aside the strap. Using a drill/driver fitted with a drill bit sized for your hardware's screws, drill pilot holes at the marks for the pintle. Screw the pintle to the casing. Repeat this step for the other upper pintle.

Step 5

Install the lower hinge pintles

Using a level, draw a plumb line down the casement from the top pintle to the approximate location of the lower hinge. Use this as a reference for positioning and marking for the lower hinge, centered on the bottom rail, in the same manner as above. Screw the two lower pintles to the casing.

NOTE: This process works for the strap hinges shown here. Check the manufacturer's literature for instructions for other hinges.

Step 6

Fasten the hinges to the shutter

Remove the shutters from the window opening and place them on sawhorses. Using a drill/driver, bore pilot holes at your marks through the strap on the top and bottom rails. Screw the strap hinges into position with the screws provided.

While you have the shutters on sawhorses, position and fasten one pull and the bolt for the latch to one of the shutters. Place them just below the middle of the shutter, where they can be reached through an open window (see photo at Step 8).

Hang the shutters in place. Make sure they swing comfortably and close all the way.

TIP: To keep your drill bit from going all the way through the shutters, wrap a piece of tape several times around the bit at the depth of your screw so you know when to stop.

Step 7

Mount the shutter dogs

Assemble the shutter dog and the lag bolt that holds it away from the house. Open the shutters all the way. Position the dog on the siding under the shutter, 4 inches in from the shutter's outer edge and 1 inch below the bottom edge. Holding the bolt up against the house, check that it has enough contact with the shutter to hold it open. Then spin it sideways and check that the shutter can clear it to swing closed.

Once you're satisfied with the dog's position, mark the bolt's location. Drill a pilot hole at the mark. Using a wrench, twist the bolt into the siding. Repeat the process for the other dog.

Step 8

Attach the locking hardware

Close the shutters and move to the inside of the window. With a helper holding the shutters closed, position the other pull in line with the one you attached above. Mark the screw holes, drill pilot holes, and attach the pull.

Position the latch in line with the bolt and the pull below it. Slide the bolt into the latch to make sure the shutters will lock properly when closed. Mark the screw holes, drill pilot holes, and attach the latch.

Step 9

Attach the copper capping

Squeeze a bead of silicone adhesive on the underside of the copper capping and slide it over the top edge of the shutter

Why do French houses have exterior window shutters? - History

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Posted by Things That Inspire at 9:35 AM  

I remember the year we spent renovating our home and all the small details that we had to decision on a daily basis. It takes so much thought and care and some ten years later I am benefitting from my research and careful thought. Personally, I like the windows to swing out, especially in the kitchen but you should also consider how windows that swing in will interfere with window treatments.

Is your concern authenticity? It seems like it makes a lot more sense to have them swing out, because a big window takes up a lot of space.

Although pondering it, I can see how if you used a screen that didn't swing, opening the windows in would be easier. That said, we have screens we can push up or down, so if you had movable screens, I'd prefer opening out.

We have had both and when you mentioned bugs I remember how easy it was to put screens on the inswing and how impossible on the outswing!!
The inswing windows were narrower, even so there were some bruises as we tended to bump into them more.
We currently have double hung windows and lots of French doors as they are called in OZ.

I agree that the window decision is one of the most important if not the most important decision to make when building a house. I studied a lot and looked at a lot of windows when picking mine. The other important factor is in the architect's court - the scale of the windows to the house - the correct scale makes all the difference! I have 42 windows in my house - a lot. The light is fantastic and our architect got the scale just right.

Here's a post about my windows from my house building blog:

One thing I notice is that many of the windows is the French homes have the space for the windows to swing in because they are recessed. Are you doing this? I think the inswing are so charming.

When space allows, we like to use triple casements at the kitchen sink so when standing at the sink, your view is centered on a window instead of a mullion.

Thanks for sharing - I have had indoors on my mind lately for our new house reno.

Well Holly, you must have put alot of time and research into this post, but its worth it - very interesting.
I would just like to stick up for inward swing windows. In all my years living with them, I don't remember anything being knocked off a table by an open window. Especially in an old house where the walls are very deep, so the window, when opened, doesn't extend that far into the room.
Glad to have been included in this post, thank you.
My French Country Home

Beautiful inspiration post! We have inswing casements in the attic of our 105-year-old home. It was previously unfinished space, so they were probably just for ventilation and are not very pretty in their current state. When we had our quote for replacement ($1600 for four 1'x3' windows - yikes!), the window guy indicated that an outswing was the only choice. I don't know if it's a code issue or if they just don't make them swing in or what.

so charming! I have the outswing casements over my kitchen sink and I love opening them and getting a fresh breeze off the patio. heavenly

We are putting casements in our soon to be renovated English countryside style home. We are planning on them swinging out and are now trying to decide on hardware. Would love to hear a continuation of this discussion to incorporate hardware. Cranks, slides, recessed cranks (shown in photo #2 above).

Holly, this was a very interesting and informative post! This is a hard choice--pros and cons for both. One thing to consider is whether windows which open out would interfere with a walkway or patio when open, just as those which open inward can interfere with furniture placement. We have the same dilemma with our "french" doors as people call them here. Most of the back of my house opens to a large deck, and we have 5 french doors in the family room, dining room and living room. Since the doors are quite large I need to leave a great deal of space for them to open, and furniture arrangement is quite difficult as a result. If I could open them out I would. (But they are not so bad that I would ever consider sliders instead!!) Good luck with your project. Linda

there is a reason for the difference between northern european (british, scandinavian) and southern european (greek, italian, french) windows and that is to do with climate.

In france italy greece etc many windows are shuttered on the outside. The glazing is on the inside and opens inwards so that the external, usually louvred, shutters can be closed, blocking out light for sleeping and heat control and maintaining security, while the glazing remains open allowing cooling breezes through. The glazing therefore HAS to open inwards.
In the UK any shutters would be on the inside and made of solid wood, as they fulfill insulation (and security) functions in our colder climate. Accordingly the glazing is on the outside so the windows can be kept shut, while the internal shutters are opened and closed from the inside to help keep the howling drafts out, as well as blocking light at night and being good security.

Shutters were common on 17th - 19th century houses in the UK but have pretty much vanished from later houses now that we all have central heating. Whereas in southern europe external shutters still have an important part to play in blocking the sun/managing heat/managing light etc and so are still commonly installed on most residential properties today.

Maybe that helps you decide?!

Oh,my, we have a 100 year old tudor and just replaced the original casement windows. Authenticity is one thing. convenience quite another. I LOVE my new outswing casement windows (we have lived in our home 40 years) so I've dealt with both. franki

We just placed our window order last week for our own home and 3 others under construction. All of them have casement windows with the exception of one home that has a more modern design to it, so the awning was a better options aesthetically.

In regards to in-swing vs. out-swing I know for myself the decision is easy. out-swing. Yes there is a charm and more character to an in-swing window but in my opinion there are many reasons why I would not go for them.

The main reason is the cost upgrade. Majority of suppliers have standard casement that swings out, so there would be an upgrade cost associate with the in-swing window (most of the time), and I know on our homes we average over 80 windows per with half of them having at least one pane that is an opener. To be honest, most people will not see the added cost associated with that as a benefit. Where a cedar roof or a solid slab marble shower would display the value more in your home.

Another main factor for me is the lost real estate when the window is open inside the home. I wold now have to think about the little ones running around and even myself not paying attention with the sharp corners. Like you mentioned, the furniture placement, not something I want to have to worry about when I want some fresh air running though the house. As well, as one poster mentioned they are not an issue in older homes with deeper walls, but most home built in North American have 2x6 exterior walls and you being in GA might even be speced for a 2x4, so the sash is not that deep, maybe 2".

So many factors yes, but for us with all of our homes there is no question, they all get casement and that is pretty standard in the price point of the homes that we build as well, when you are getting into the starter home market or even the mid-rage ($500K here) then the sliders.

Can you tell windows are important to me as well, LOL. Most are not aware that the window package is the single most expensive items that you purchase when building a new home. And your quote from the book in your first paragraph is right on. Too many overlook the importance, style, and use of windows. Glad to see you have taken the time to make the right decision for your own home.

None of the American manufacturers carry inswing casements, they are all outswing. Outswing windows are more weatherproof, probably accounting for their use in "rainy" England. Inswing windows have to come from Europe or be custom built, which really extends the ordering time. If you want to use screens, inswing windows require the screens to be on the outside of the house, which detracts from the appearance. We have used both, and in Atlanta where we don't open windows a lot, the decision is typically made on cost and aesthetics.

Forgot to say in my earlier comment that I have casement windows in my casual eating area and they are outswing. We wouldn't have had room for the inswing windows in the space. I do love the look of casement windows. I didn't put screens on them b/c it would block the view. During the time we open them bugs aren't a problem.

Can't wait to see your home when it is built. Love these images. I prefer the outward swing, but they are both beautiful.
Have a nice weekend, Holly.

Designing landscapes, everything I see in windows falls within my realm.

Many interior decorators forget there is a view in. No matter the window type.


The two overall types of window blinds are ready-made blinds and made to measure. Made-to-measure blinds are made to fit a given or measured window size. Ready-made blinds are manufactured in set sizes that can be cut down to fit any window.

These blinds can be classified broadly into six different categories: roller blinds (which do not have slats but consist of a single piece of material), Roman blinds, pleated blinds, Venetian blinds, Shoji Japanese blinds, and vertical blinds.

Many window blinds are made with slats of fabric, metal, plastic, or wood that are adjusted by being rotated from an open position (in which the slats do not overlap) to a closed position (in which they do). Metal window blinds are often used outside of a home or business to protect against theft, temperature, onlookers, glare, bad weather, or fire (in fire-prone areas) often, these blinds are machine-operated, rather than hand-operated. [ citation needed ]

Horizontal blinds use a thin woven corded "ladder" system to suspend the slats and enable them to be closed or opened via a rotating drum to which each upper end of the woven ladder is wrapped and attached. A lift cord allows the blind to be pulled up and stack tightly to the top of the window when desired. [ citation needed ]

One of the earliest patents for a window shade was filed in 1888, by George L. Castner. [2]

Vertical blinds use a generally wider slat and one can pull a cord to stack the slats together, to one side, or to separate them in the center and stack them on each end. The slats can be rotated via a rotating shaft in the upper head rail housing, which runs through independent geared carriers that convert the twisting of a tilt rail to a rotation of each individual slat in synchrony. The original vertical blinds were invented in Kansas City, Missouri by Edward Bopp and Fredrick Bopp, who held the original patent. The company name at the time was Sun Vertical. In the 1960s, the patent and company were sold. [ citation needed ]

Shoji blinds are based on Japanese 'Shoji' screens and slide on a conventional panel blind track so the panels stack one in front of the other. They can stack to either or both sides of the window, inside or outside the recess, and are frequently used as room dividers or wardrobe doors.

The term window blinds is also sometimes used, somewhat inaccurately, to describe window coverings generically—in this context window blinds include almost every type of window covering, including both curtains and blinds for homes and commercial premises, such as bars/pubs, offices, and shops, e.g., Plantation Shutters/Jigsaw Shutters, Roman blinds, roller blinds, and vertical and horizontal blinds. [ citation needed ]

In Britain, awnings and window shutters are often categorized under blinds, which are so named because they limit observation and thus “blinds” the observer to the view. The main types are slat blinds which can be opened in two ways, and solid blinds, which can only be raised or lowered, and are sometimes called shades. [ citation needed ]

Some types of blinds, such as Holland blinds and woven-wood blinds, have small spaces between the slats. Others, such as pleated shades, have no spaces, because the slats are sewn inside fabric. [ citation needed ]

Window blinds reduce the heat from sunlight. Ancient Egyptian pharaohs had blinds made of reeds. The most inexpensive blinds in the 19th century were homemade roller blinds, made of cloth. [ citation needed ]

Window blinds can be manually drawn using a cord, or automated through motorization. Controls for motorized blinds can be from a wall switch or keypad, remote control, or computer, eliminating the need for cords and allowing control of otherwise inaccessible windows. A number of modern homes are integrating blind control with central C-Bus solutions. This control provides ease of use and is effective for controlling blind operation to reduce heat loss during winter or minimize heat from the sun during summer. [ citation needed ]

Persian or slat Edit

The most common window blinds are Persian blinds, which consist of many horizontal slats, usually of metal or vinyl, connected with string such that they can be rotated to allow light to pass between the slats, rotated up to about 170 degrees to hide the light, or pulled up so that the entire window is clear.

Venetian Edit

A Venetian blind has horizontal slats, located one above another. Venetian blinds are basic horizontal slats made of metal, vinyl, PVC, or plastic. Wood slats are sometimes used but in the US these are now usually referred to as wood blinds. Venetian blinds are suspended by strips of cloth called fabric tapes, or by cords (i.e. Ladders), by which all slats in unison can be rotated through nearly 180 degrees. The slats can be rotated such that they overlap with one side facing inward and then in the opposite direction such that they overlap with the other side facing inward. Between those extremes, various degrees of separation may be effected between the slats by varying the rotation. There are also lift cords passing through slots in each slat. When these cords are pulled, the bottom of the blind moves upward, causing the lowest slats to press the underside of the next highest slat as the blind is raised. A modern variation of the lift cords combines them with the rotational cords in slots on the two edges of each slat. This avoids the slots otherwise required to allow a slat to rotate despite a lift cord passing through it, thus decreasing the amount of light passing through a closed blind. Slat width can be between 16 and 120 mm, with 25 mm being a common width.

Related patents were taken out in England by Gowin Knight in 1760 [3] and Edward Beran on 11 December 1769, [4] but Venetian blinds were known to the French long before then. In 1761, St. Peter's Church, Philadelphia had such blinds. [5]

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Venetian blinds were widely adopted in office buildings to regulate light and air. A large modern complex in the US that adopted Venetian blinds was Rockefeller Center's RCA Building (better known as the Radio City building) in New York City, completed in the 1930s. One of the largest orders for Venetian blinds ever placed was to the Burlington Venetian Blind Co., of Burlington, Vermont, which supplied blinds for the windows of the Empire State Building in New York City. [6]

In the last few years, some companies reinvented the traditional Venetian blind placing it inside the double glass unit of the window [ citation needed ] . This new type of blind overcomes the problems related to damaging and fouling. Usually, magnets are used for motor transmission in order to preserve the sealing inside the insulating glass.

Vertical Edit

Unlike horizontal blinds, vertical blinds are less likely to collect dust because they stand vertically. Since they draw to the side rather than lifting and lowering, they are easier and faster to operate. They operate best on patio doors and sliding windows that slide from side to side. In the 1970s there were few choices of fabric- usually beige or white, which had to have stiffener embedded to prevent fraying, rather like on roller blinds fabric but using a thicker textile.

Vertical blinds became available in flat plastic (PVC), fabric, embossed PVC, also S-curved slats. A more modern modification is to offer them with wood trim at the top and bottom- sometimes midway as well- and these are usually described as 'Japanese Vertical blinds' because they are often coordinated with Japanese style Shoji blinds using the same timber. Vertical blinds were most popular in the UK during the 1990s, since then sales have slowed as they lost popularity with a younger generation.

Stationary vertical blinds are hung in the doorways of some homes and businesses which generally leave the door open. Movement of the blind may signal a change in airflow, or someone entering the doorway. More commonly, however, these vertical blinds are made of thick plastic. In the cold rooms of food businesses, this slows the heat leakage into the cold room. In warmer climates, vertical blinds discourage flies and some other insects from entering the building. In certain areas of the UK window blinds are used to disguise the fact that offices have PCs in them and are used as a burglary deterrent.

Roman Edit

Roman shades are a type of window blind used to help block out the sun. Although often called blinds, these are actually referred to as "shades" in the window covering industry. They are often referred to as Romans or Roman blinds in the UK. When opened, the Romans stack up evenly when covering the full window height, they are smooth without overlapping.

Roman blinds can be purchased with a blackout lining on the back to fully block out sunlight. However, there will always be small light gaps on the edges of the blinds if mounted on the inside of the window frame or peaking out from behind the blind if mounted on the frame around the window.

Unlike other blinds, such as certain fabrics used for Roller Shades, Vinyl Vertical blinds, or Vinyl Horizontal blinds, Roman Shades are not an ideal option for areas with a lot of moisture, such as bathrooms or windows above the kitchen sink.

Shoji Edit

Based on Japanese shōji, shoji blinds are normally thinner so they can be top-hung on a panel-blind track- 17mm thick consisting of a laminate of Obeche timber for lightness and strength. The wood has to be air-dried for stability as the slightest warping will distort the whole panel. No bottom track is required and almost any fabric or paper can be employed, although 90% of all shoji blinds use white polyester to imitate 'washi' Japanese paper. [ clarification needed ]

Others Edit

Other varieties of window blinds include mini blinds (typically aluminum, Venetian-Style blinds with very narrow slats, usually 1 inch (25 mm) wide), micro blinds (usually 1 ⁄ 2 inch (12 mm) wide), louvers, jalousies, brise soleil, Holland blinds, pleated blinds, and roller shades.

Blinds can be made in a variety of materials some expensive and some less so. Less expensive blinds are usually made in polyester, aluminum, or PVC. These are inexpensive materials that are all easily accessible and yet durable at the same time.

A window blind is a means of screening a window, achieving similar results to those obtained by fitting curtains. Blinds are typically the same width and height as the window itself or slightly wider and taller—depending on whether they are fixed inside (Recess) or outside (Facefix) the window's reveal (i.e. the wall recess within which the window itself is fixed).

Window blinds have varying thermal effects: they can block unwanted heat of the summer sun and they can keep in heat in cold weather. But in both of these applications, they also reduce light to varying degrees, depending on the design. Many kinds of blinds attempt varying balances of privacy and shade. Blinds can be made of a number of different materials and manufactured in a number of different ways. This usually determines the name by which the blind is commonly known.

Fabric Edit

Blinds (otherwise referred to as "shades") made of fabric can either be rolled up (on a tube Roller shades), folded up (Roman shades) or pushed up in an accordion style (Pleated and Cellular shades). Many fabrics are used including cotton, polyester, wool, viscose and silk to create these shades. A silk cloth can be present or embroidery stitch, which will give tissue varied terrain.

Roller shades/blinds Edit

Custom made roller blinds come in blackout, room darkening, light filtering and sunscreen/solar fabric options. They are mounted on a metal headrail and operated with a side chain or spring mechanism. Cheaper and ready made blinds often come with a PVC pole instead of a metal headrail. They are widely used in Australia, Spain and many other countries.

Wood Edit

Wooden blinds (Venetian blinds) Edit

Wooden blinds are generally known as Venetian blinds. A number of horizontal wooden slats are joined together by corded pulleys which can either gather all the slats at the top of the window to reveal the view or simply angle the slats while allowing some light to travel through the blind yet retaining some level of privacy. Wooden blinds come in a number of finishes (determined by the type of wood used, which ranges from painted to most types of solid oak varieties) and sizes (determined by the width of each slat which is usually available in one of three widths—25 mm, 35 mm or 50 mm). Wooden Venetian blinds are also available as vertical blinds. These are usually made up of wider slats and operate in virtually the same way as their horizontal counterparts (i.e. instead of being drawn upwards to reveal the window, the draw to one side gathering in a vertical bunch).

Pinoleum blinds Edit

Pinoleum blinds are made up of small wooden twigs laid horizontally which are joined together by vertical threading. The resulting weave is, as a result, only flexible vertically and can be drawn upwards once manufactured as a roller blind or in a similar fashion to a Venetian blind. Conservatory blinds are often made with Pinoleum.

In Malaysia, an outdoor blind is sometimes called a "chik". The word was carried over from India by the British during the colonial times.

Faux wood Edit

Faux wood blinds are an alternative to real wood blinds. Faux wood is also known in some countries as Plaswood (Plastic & Wood). Made of a composite of man-made materials and natural wood particles, faux wood can be a less expensive choice than natural wood. These blinds have become more popular as the products have matured, becoming cheaper and more versatile at the same time offering more of a natural wood look. Current faux wood blinds are warp resistant, have UV ratings as high as 500 and come in colors that would be hard to find in natural wood blinds. Because of their resistance to warping, faux wood window blinds are suitable for areas with extreme temperature swings or high moisture, such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Raised panel shutters

Consisting of only a single or in some cases a double raised panel, these shutters are inconspicuous, blend in nicely with the surrounding structure, do not stand out like a sore thumb and thus are very elegant.

They are one of the most common types of outdoor shutters and are suitable for most homes i.e. Victorian, Ranch, Colonial, Georgian, Cape Cod or Greek Revival.

This is a versatile yet affordable option for the majority of homeowners out there.

4 Answers 4

Paint the shutters. You say that the shutters you have are faded gray, and that's not going to add much interest to your windows. I think almost any color would be better than that. Black or white would be good if you want something that stands out more, but is still very traditional in appearance. If you want actual color, a muted red, green or blue can work without calling too much attention to itself. (Or go with a non-muted color. There's no HOA to tell you no.)

Add a trellis with a climbing plant. This can provide some visual interest, and most climbing plants are fast growers because they don't need to support themselves. (They can't do much to brick that's in good condition, but if your brick is just a facade, or if the mortar is crumbling a bit, I'd skip this.)

Add window boxes with flowers. These can also be painted to add a splash of color, on top of the flowers during the appropriate part of the year.

Add architectural foam trim to the windows. There's a lot of options here, but I suggest not going overboard it's easy to end up cheap and tacky.

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