Tall House Updates

Let’s talk about shutters! In France, shutters are very functional. Households will open them each morning, and shut them in the evening. They use shutters for privacy, black-out light control, and to manage heat in the summer. And it’s not just France. Many European countries use shutters daily — Portugal, Spain, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Switzerland and more. Interestingly, shutters are not common in the UK or Scandinavia.

In Instagram Stories, I shared updates about our shutters and did a demonstration of how the shutters work and the differences between our wood shutters and metal shutters. I ended up getting tons of questions from Americans who have not used shutters and were curious about all sorts of things (screens? curtains?). So I answered some of the questions in Stories as well.

And then, I started getting questions from Europeans who were confused why Americans didn’t know about shutters, (hah!) and also wondering what “screens” were (because they’re not common in every part of Europe). So I answered those questions too.

Here are the slides I first shared:

Here is the demonstration of how the shutters work, plus more Q&A:

It’s been such a fun cultural exchange! I’ve learned a ton — like how there are a few places in the U.S. that do have functional shutters, but they are mostly used for hurricanes. I also learned shutters are common in Argentina, Brazil, and Japan. I learned that in the south of France, where there are more bugs, screens are becoming more popular. One of the most interesting things I learned is that in the Netherlands (maybe just in Amsterdam?), it can be common to have NO window coverings at all and people can look right into your home. I was told if you are covering your windows, apparently it implies you are hiding something.

I’d love to hear: Have you ever lived in or visited a place that had functioning shutters? Did you embrace the morning/evening shutter ritual? Or just ignore the shutters? (I received quite a few messages from Americans who studied abroad in Europe and said their host family thought they were strange because they never closed the shutters to their bedroom. Hah!) Do you think you would enjoy shutters? Or do they seem like a bother? I want to hear your shutter stories.

P.S. — More Tall House updates.

15 thoughts on “Tall House Updates”

  1. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

    I would love both the shutters and screens… I’m having shutter envy. Well, Tall House envy. In Minnesota we’d get eaten alive by mosquitos if we didn’t have screens. We’d also have chipmunks and squirrels in the house. This conversation made me smile. Just genuine curiosity. Love it.

  2. I used to work in an 1818 historic house museum that had functioning shutters – this was in the American South so they would have been used to try to keep the house cooler in the summer. Since I live in the South with lots of bugs, screens are a must! I remember being surprised when I visited Quebec City a few years ago – screens are not really used there either.

  3. My best friend has lived in Basel and Edinburgh and I visited both places many times for weeks at a time. In both places there were functioning shutters that they closed each night. They made the room totally dark in the morning. Not sure if this is true, but I think my friend told me that a lot of europe has shutters because during the world wars they served to black out the light she cities were not so visible to bombing planes. I

    1. I wonder if there’s a good history-of-shutters book out there. I know shutters have been a staple here long before the war, though I’m sure they were super helpful for blackouts. I remember hearing shutters were commonplace in France because centuries ago taxes were based on what the tax collector could see through the windows. But of course that could just be a legend!

  4. i love the working shutters! so unamerican! hah!

    i’d love to also know how they keep those beautiful old windows, and what they did to insulate them. in america, windows don’t seem to last more that 20 years.

  5. We had shutters when we lived in Germany. No screens. There were no bugs (just bees in June and they didn’t really come in), which always mystified me. We did have a bat fly into our apartment once. My sister in law is German and now living here in America and has blinds and room darkening curtains and misses dearly her shutters. She cannot understand how we live without them.

  6. I enjoy small, easy rituals that signal the beginning of work and the beginning of rest, so I would love the shutters. Screens are great to have in places where mosquitoes are an issue, but thankfully where I live I don’t need screens.

  7. We were surprised when we moved to California to find that most houses didn’t have screens because the dry summers mean few bugs. Now living in Switzerland and luckily high enough (6th floor) not to miss screens but think I’d want them, though you never see them. We have the kind of shutters you crank down with a handle and are not big fans of them only using them to cut down the heat in the summer. Another joy of living high up where most of our neighbors can’t see in!

  8. @Andrea, it’s true that new vinyl windows often don’t last more than 20 years, but well made wooden windows can last 100 years or more! There are lots of good reasons for people who have old wooden windows to keep them, rather than replacing them with vinyl that will need to be re-replaced pretty quickly anyway. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, Stacey at Blake Hill House (@blakehillhouse on instagram) is doing a lot of window restoration in her historic home.

  9. I lived with a family in France for 5 months. They had metal shutters that they did not open and close each day; they were left open. However, when they left town for the weekend, they closed and locked them.
    They lived along a canal where there weren’t a lot of neighbors, but there were a number of people walking by or fishing.
    It was really interesting to me because closing and locking the shutters is like advertising that you aren’t home, but there’s also increased security. It’s also visible to the neighbors from a distance that you aren’t there, so they might notice if people were around your house who shouldn’t be.

  10. I always think of shutters for homes near coastlines. I’ve never seen shutters like on your home. They almost look like mini school lockers. I love your door and had no idea how massive they were. “Battening down the hatches” comes more clear to me now. All your ideas sound fantastic.

  11. In Rome our 1940’s apartment has roll down shutters that hide in the wall above the windows and glass doors going out to the balcony. We raise and lower them with a built in pull strap of sorts. The smaller shades on the windows tip out for a sun shade, important in the summer. No screens. In the summer there are plenty of mosquitos and flies inside if we keep the windows open. One day we even had a pigeon in the living room. It came in through the kitchen and couldn’t find it’s way out. Poor bird.

  12. I live in the UK in an old-ish house with shutters (London terrace, pre Victorian, but not sure by how much), but they’re inside the window, and don’t quite cover all of it, there’s a small gap at the top.

    I’ll miss them when we move, they’re not common anymore, but I love how secure they feel and how good they are at insulating.

  13. the shutters and color….absolutely stunning! So beautiful!

    Did I hear you right? You can only open the shutters from the inside when they are latched shut? I am concerned for your safety! How do the firemen get in if need be?

  14. Joan Broderick

    we had a gothic italianate house built in 1868 in Chicago. shutters were built in to look like woodwork and would then unfold to be working louvered shutters. they were lovely opened and closed.

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