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Remodeling 101: Interior Shutters


Remodeling 101: Interior Shutters

June 8, 2017

What happens when a new homeowner with an aversion to window coverings moves into a period flat in London adorned with shutters? She falls in love. I speak from firsthand experience. Until then, shutters had conjured up images of Southern plantations and retirement community homes; in other words, I didn’t think they were for me. But my time in London set me straight. More versatile than shades and curtains, shutters allow you to filter light at exactly the level you want while offering privacy, insulation, and air circulation. Can this time-honored, low-tech window treatment do it all?

Remodeling 101 Interior Shutters portrait 6
Above: Original window shutters in a remodeled 1890s Brooklyn brownstone. Photograph by Carl Bellavia, courtesy of ICRAVE and featured in Two Young Architects Tackle Their Own Brooklyn Townhouse.

How did shutters come to be?

Shutters were originally used on the inside of windows before glass was affordable to keep out light, noise, pests, and the elements. After plate glass was developed, shutters continued to be used to provide privacy and protect the glass (it was expensive). Early shutters were typically flat wood or board-and-batten panels. Louvered shutters, which provide both ventilation and privacy, arrived in the mid 18th century and adjustable louvers were developed in the mid 19th century.

Interior shutters, common in houses in Europe and in early America, lost favor in the Victorian era, when heavy interior drapes became de rigueur. Shutters made a comeback with the revival of classical architecture, but the development of new building technologies (storm windows, screens, and HVAC systems) and the popularity of postwar building materials, such as aluminum and plastics, relegated them to a mostly decorative role in the 20th century. Of late, as green building efforts gain momentum, these old-style architectural features are again on the rise.

Remodeling 101 Interior Shutters portrait 6
Above: Solid-panel shutters in the warm gray bedroom of a London remodel. Photograph courtesy of design firm Berdoulat, featured in Out with the New: Reinventing the Past in a London Remodel.

What are the benefits of interior shutters?

  • Offer flexible light and privacy control that you can’t get with curtains, shades, or blinds.
  • Allow ventilation in warm months—unlike drapery, they let in breezes while providing privacy.
  • Act as a sunshade and light reflector, keeping interiors cool.
  • Provide a layer of insulation in cold months.
  • Protect interior furnishings and floors from sun damage.
  • Can be custom designed to fit virtually any window.
  • Take up very little space, both physically and visually, making them a good solution for windows with little adjacent wall real estate for curtains.
  • Available in different styles and configurations.
  • Fit a range of architectural styles, from classic to minimalist.
Remodeling 101 Interior Shutters portrait 6
Above: Shutters are an effective window treatment when wall space is tight. This London living room has solid-panel cafe shutters that fold up to let light in during the day, and close to offer privacy at night. Photograph courtesy of Light Locations.

What are the different types of shutters?

Shutters differ in how they’re mounted and how they’re made.

Solid Panel

The ultimate privacy screen, solid-panel shutters are also good insulators against cold and are effective at dampening noise from outdoors.

Remodeling 101 Interior Shutters portrait 6
Above: Like drapes, solid-panel shutters are best in rooms where you want either full daylight or darkness, and are not worried about the in-between. Photograph courtesy of Berdoulat.


Adaptable to different light, privacy, and air-circulation needs, louvered shutters are the most flexible option. They can be adjusted for maximum privacy while allowing light and circulation. Louvered shutters are generally classified as traditional or plantation. What’s the difference? Plantation shutters have wider blades, allowing for more flow of light and air.

Remodeling 101 Interior Shutters portrait 6
Above: The brightness of your room when the louvers are fully open depends on the slat width, so consider the size that will be right for you. Photograph by Francesco Lagnese, courtesy of Vendome Press, featured in Island Life: At Home with Tom Scheerer.

Tier on Tier

Tier-on-tier shutters have stacked upper and lower panels that function separately. They offer the most flexibility in light and privacy control. You can open the top level to let in light while keeping the bottom panels closed for privacy.

Remodeling 101 Interior Shutters portrait 6
Above: London stylist Sara Emslie fitted all of the windows in her tiny Victorian in Richmond outside London with wooden shutters in “a classic, understated Shaker style that marries form and function.” Tier-on-tier shutters were the choice for the bedroom. See more of Emslie’s house and work in her book, Beautifully Small. Photograph by Rachel Whiting, courtesy of Beautifully Small.


Cafe shutters cover only the lower portion of the window, providing privacy as well as loads of light.

Remodeling 101 Interior Shutters portrait 6
Above: Cafe shutters are a good solution for rooms that don’t require full darkness and for street-level windows. I can attest to their effectiveness; they cover the lower half of my street-facing living room windows in San Francisco. Photograph courtesy of the New England Shutter Company.

Full Height

Remodeling 101 Interior Shutters portrait 6
Above: Full-height, solid-panel shutters in a Ladbroke Grove, London, house. Photograph courtesy of Light Locations.

Where can shutters be used?

They work anywhere that there’s a window, whether living room, kitchen, bedroom, or bath. When selecting shutters consider the architecture of the window itself. For example, if your window has two panes, it will look more balanced with a two-paneled shutter.

Remodeling 101 Interior Shutters portrait 6
Above: Shutters offer a great alternative to shades (especially in markedly damp settings) and frosted glass. Having a center hinge connecting two shutters enables them to fold open to allow in light while providing privacy, as shown here in a bathroom at the White House Hotel in Daylesford, Australia. Photograph courtesy of the White House Hotel.
Remodeling 101 Interior Shutters portrait 6
Above: Full-height slatted windows open the living room to the outdoors in this converted 17th-century barn. Concealed shutters close for privacy. Photograph courtesy of The Modern House and featured in The Brick Barn: A Modern English Farmhouse.

How are interior shutters mounted?

As far as we’re concerned, the only shutters worth considering are the ones that are operable—forget about the faux variety—and installation is easy. In historic construction, shutters typically were attached to the window casing and given their own specially constructed pockets next to windows to tuck into when open. Most windows don’t have such deep-set surrounds anymore. Instead shutters are generally attached to the outside of the window casing, so they can swing a full 180 degrees when open (the hinge fold needs to sit just outside the casing for full range of motion). Sometimes this requires an additional frame set into the window opening. Panels can also be hinged together, creating a space-efficient folding shutter mounted to only one side of the window. This Old House offers a thorough tutorial on Hanging Interior Shutters.

Remodeling 101 Interior Shutters portrait 6
Above: So-called pocket shutters disappear when open. Photograph courtesy of The Modern House and featured in A Compact Apartment in London by a Craft-Oriented Architect.
Remodeling 101 Interior Shutters portrait 6
Above: High-quality shutter hinges are a must to prevent shutter sag and the resulting poor window fit. Photograph courtesy of Back Bay Shutter Co.

How much do shutters cost and where can I get them?

Shutters come in a wide range of sizes and prices, from ready-made versions you install yourself to custom designs. Average prices for shutters run between $20 and $35 per square foot, depending on the wood selection, whether they’re stock sizes or made to measure, and painted or unfinished. Carpenters will be able to fashion solid or plantation shutters for you, but it can be cheaper to instead use a specialist company. There are a lot of shutter businesses out there, ranging from large national chains, such as the Shutter Store, that offer a variety of stock sizing and materials options, to Colonial Shutterworks, which handcrafts all orders. Many companies have easy-to-use pricing calculators on their sites.

liddicoat goldhill warm wood floor shutters cat
Above: Architects Liddicoat & Goldhill, members of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory, remodeled a 19th-century terraced house in London for a collector. The designers created a palette based on the client’s antiques and the house’s wood-paneled shutters and other woodwork. Photograph by Tom Gildon, courtesy of Liddicoat & Goldhill.

Interior Shutters Recap


  • Allow flexible control of light and privacy.
  • Insulate against winter cold and summer heat.
  • Take up little space.
  • Provide an affordable alternative to drapery.
  • Are easy to clean and maintain.


  • Don’t offer the soft look of curtains.
  • Solid-panel varieties lack flexibility for light and circulation control.

For more window treatment ideas, see:

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Frequently asked questions

What are interior window shutters?

Interior window shutters are a type of window treatment that typically consists of a solid frame and adjustable louvers or slats for controlling the amount of light and privacy in a room.

What are the benefits of using interior window shutters?

Interior window shutters provide a classic, timeless look that can complement any interior design style. They also offer excellent light control, privacy, and insulation benefits.

What materials are interior window shutters made of?

Interior window shutters can be made from a variety of materials, including wood, vinyl, composite materials, and even metal.

How do I measure for interior window shutters?

To measure for interior window shutters, measure the width and height of your window opening and subtract 1/8 inch from each dimension to allow for proper fitting.

Can interior window shutters be customized?

Yes, many interior window shutter manufacturers offer customization options, including paint or stain finishes, louvre widths, and frame styles.

Are interior window shutters easy to install?

Installing interior window shutters can be a DIY project for those with basic carpentry skills and the proper tools. However, professional installation is recommended for those who are not confident in their abilities.

How do I clean my interior window shutters?

Cleaning interior window shutters is easy with a damp cloth or mild cleaner. Simply wipe down the louvers and frame to remove dust and dirt.

How long do interior window shutters typically last?

The lifespan of interior window shutters varies depending on the material and quality of construction. With proper care and maintenance, they can last for many years.

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