If I were the shutter patrol collecting $1 fines for every house within a 20 mile radius that committed shutter foul, I'd be taking a pretty lavish vacation right about now.
What is “shutter foul,” you ask? Have you ever seen a house with shutters that aren’t large enough to actually close over the window? Of course you have - they’re everywhere! Three windows joined together (also known as “mulled” or “married”) making nine feet of glass area with two 12-inch shutters on either side. No, no, no!
Oftentimes, adding shutters is how homeowners (and sometimes professionals) choose to add a pop of color or visual interest to the look of their home. Many homes built today are covered in one of the more than forty different shades of white or beige, forcing the use of shutters as a last resort for incorporating color. Most homeowners are desperate for color—and end up sacrificing good architecture in favor of shortcuts.
What can a homeowner or builder do instead? Add color to the main body of the house! Think about exterior color differently. Instead of just three colors (body, trim and accent), think four: main body, secondary body, trim and accent. If your house has siding, you can vary the siding profile and the color – even incorporate stone – to give it dimension. For a Craftsman-style house, try light brown siding (main body) and rustic red shakes (secondary body). If your house is a Folk Victorian, consider a warm gold siding (main body) and a slate blue board and batten (secondary body).
With color on the main body, the accent shades can be on the front door and gable vents instead of slapping on a brightly-colored shutter that doesn’t fit the window.
Now, I'm not saying shutters are bad. Some styles encourage them! Just be sure to limit them to single (not married or mulled) windows and select shutters that are one half the window’s size. So: a 3 foot window gets a pair of 18-inch shutters.
Odds are, we will never completely eradicate shutter foul from our communities. But I hope that we can at least raise awareness of the issue and offer an alternative. I believe that if, as homeowners and professionals, we can recognize shutter foul for what it truly signifies—a plea to add life and vibrancy to your home—then we will be one step closer to improving our streetscapes and communities!