by S. Smith

One of my favorite choices for window treatments is the plantation shutter. They are versatile, less expensive than custom draperies, and can increase the value of your home. They are the only window treatment that can be financed into the purchase of your home. Why? Because they are highly desirable and usually stay with the home when it's sold. 

Plantation shutters are a popular choice for kitchens. When shopping for interior shutters, it's important to know if you are buying custom shutters truly built for your windows or if the company will take stock panels and cut them down to fit. Often, the prices are very similar.

"Traditional" shutters are not the same as plantation shutters. They have the smaller, narrower louvers and are more often found in the New England states.  Traditional Shutters are rarely installed today since the trend is toward letting in lots of light and keeping the view open to the outside.

The Spanish introduced shutters to the Americas. Large plantation homes in the South often used the wider louvered style shutters, giving them their name. 

Today's plantation shutters come in many different styles and louver sizes. The most popular louver size where I live is 2 1/2 inch but in a lot of the country the 4 1/2 inch louver is taking over in popularity.

The shutters depicted here in this room appear to have the larger 3 1/2 inch louver style. What size louver you choose is really a personal decision. The 2 1/2 inch louver is more traditional and is a great choice for average size rooms with normal ceiling heights. If you have huge rooms with soaring ceilings, the 3 1/2 inch louver may be a better fit.

When shopping for plantation shutters, there are important features to look for. A custom shutter company will measure your window exactly and build your shutters to fit.

Shutters designed with a divider rail or in the double hung fashion are a popular choice in bathrooms. They allow for closure of the bottom louvers for privacy while the top louvers can be left opened for a view and light. It's harder to get that kind of function with curtains, drapes or wood blinds.

Sometimes a half shutter is all you need, but I would caution you on buying half shutters. They cost almost as much as full length shutters. You won't get as much insulation or sunlight control. Full window shutters beautifully let in lots of light and view while protecting your furniture and rugs from sun damage. So weigh the advantages and disadvantages before making the decision to go with half shutters.

When shutters are are built specifically for your windows, you will have lots of choices regarding how they are designed. 

If you never plan to actually open the panels back against the wall, having them open from the center is fine. But if you plan to throw open the panels and there is something in the way on one side then bi-fold is the way to go. They work similarly to bi-fold doors, folding one on top of the other, off to the side.

How your shutters are designed will depend on your needs/wants and the style of your windows. 

Plantation shutters can be custom built to fit any shape or size window.

These panels fit around the handle of the door. This room would just not look the same if a fabric treatment had been placed on the door.

When shopping for shutters, ask about: 

1. Tension adjustment screws (to prevent issues with drooping louvers later) 
2. Self Mortised hinges (looks better in a frame install and from the outside on bi-fold panels) 
3. The wood from which they are made (never buy pine shutters, bad to bleed sap) 
4. Rabbited and Astragal edges (prevents light gaps through the center where panels meet) 
5. Stiles need to be engineered wood not solid (prevents warping of panel) 
6. References (and check your BBB). All shutter companies are not created equal.

I love the uniform look when all the windows on the front of a home have plantation shutters. Great curb appeal! 

If you want to soften the look of your shutters in some rooms, such as bedrooms, feel free to add drapes or a valance on top of your shutters. They'll give you all the sun control and privacy you need and leave you free to add whatever decorative treatments you like. 

Good luck and enjoy your shutters for a lifetime.