So here’s the thing. Almost nothing makes me eye-roll harder in recent, residential design than badly-deployed fake shutters. Fake shutters on ranches are even more irritating: not only don’t they work properly, they contradict the mid mod aesthetic!
What shutters used to be for
Shutters once had a real function. They were a security measure, a way to close up houses safely at night or when the occupants were away. They were used to close window openings before glass windows were common. Later, they protected expensive window glass from potential storm damage and added an extra measure of insulation and air tightness to leaky leaded glass windows. Eventually they transitioned into louvered breeze catchers allowing for windows to be left open all night.
Here’s a set of shutters that function: sized to cover the glazed portion of the window, hinged inside the trim and with operable (and adjustable) louvers to let in air and light while keeping out unwanted guests/pests.
Many of the benefits of functioning shutters had been minimized by improved housing technology as early as the mid-century. Better insulated, airtight, and heat-reflecting windows, screens, and air conditioning all meant that a modern house of any type – but particularly a ranch – didn’t really need shutters to be livable.
Frustratingly, this meant that some people just decided to stick fake shutters up beside their windows as a misguided decorating tool.
And here’s a pair that don’t work: size matched to the trim height and mounted outside the trim. These are affixed to the siding permanently and serve no purpose other than as a spider haven.
Shutters that do work
I have no problem with windows flanked by shutters if they can actually be operated. In Florida and along the gulf coast homes sometimes feature storm shutters designed to protect glass from hurricane force winds. In New Orleans people still (occasionally) sleep with over-scaled windows open and shutters closed for breezy yet secure nights.
Older existing buildings – constructed in a time when shutters were needed – often still benefit from their original functionality. Here are some (stunning) examples of functioning shutters in action.
These shutter shots are all from a 2013 visit to the lovely and photogenic city of Nice in France. I like the high/low variation and the fact that you can see people are really using them through the day for active shading.
By contrast …
… more recent, modern buildings in Nice employ more modern shading devices (along with modern HVAC systems) to serve the same functions without historicizing fakery.
shutters that don’t work
This is exactly why I find shutters on ranches so frustrating. They aren’t necessary. Shade from overhanging roofs, modern window glass and screens serve some of the same purposes. And shutters can’t properly cover wider modern picture windows anyway. That doesn’t mean people don’t try it.
Here are some egregious fake shutters on ranches in my neighborhood. Not only are they not serving shading or security functions … they just look silly.
Faux shutters are often applied inconsistently, framed around windows they would never fit or left off in odd situations. Even in the upper left image where each window has a pair, they are wildly mis-sized for the windows.
In short, if you have fake shutters on your house, start thinking now about a spring project of taking them DOWN. Your architect neighbors will thank you.