What are Plantation Shutters?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Plantation shutters are interior blinds traditionally made from broad slats of wood mounted in a solid frame. The design of the shutters promotes the free flow of air through a structure in a warm climate, while also creating shade to keep the interior of the structure cool. You may also hear these shutters referred to as louvres or jalousies, and they come in a range of shapes and sizes to conform with variously-shaped windows and doors.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

The basic design of the plantation shutter has been used since at least the Middle Ages. Originally, the shutters were installed in structures which had window spaces, but no glass. In inclement weather, the shutters could be closed, while in warm weather, they could be opened for fresh air and ventilation. When European colonists reached the Caribbean and American South, they realized that the design was ideally suited to these climates, and many old plantation homes have these distinctive interior shutters, which explains why people call them “plantation shutters.”

Simple shutters fill an entire window, with a rod in the middle of the shutter which can be used to open and close the blinds. Commonly, plantation shutters are hinged, so that they can be pulled all the way open for additional ventilation, and some come in sets of hinged panels which are folded across the window, allowing people to fold part of all of the shutter back, depending on their needs.

Cafe-style plantation shutters only go partway up a window, creating privacy without obscuring the entire window. Louvre shutters can also be designed to fit into tricky custom spaces, like triangular or circular windows, in which case they usually need to be custom-made. In most homes, the shutters are separated from the elements by a glass window, although older and more casual homes may not have glass in place, or they may have removable windows which can be stored in good weather and installed in the winter to protect the interior of the house from wind and rain.

Although wood is the classic material for plantation shutters, it is also possible to find shutters made from plastic and various composites. People who are concerned about the ethical implications of using wood may choose recycled composite materials, which can be dyed or painted, depending on the product. Composites are also sometimes easier to clean than traditional wooden shutters, and they may be more durable, and less prone to fading or cracking in the sun.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Thanks for the history lesson. Would have liked to know more about composites and if they are all about the same though.

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