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An Old World Design Element I’m Obsessed With And Tried HARD To Bring Into The Farmhouse (Hint: Interior Shutters)

When I was first pinning for the farm I was looking for ideas on how to make it feel interesting architecturally but in a classic/casual way. It’s a lot harder than you think. While we are gut-renovating this baby and yes many things will technically be new, we don’t want it to feel “new” by any stretch of the means. We need design elements that will give it the quirk and charm it honestly lacked in the first place. I found some photos of interior shutters and fell in LOVE with the idea. They bring in so much warmth and interest in a way that feels really solid, grounded totally classic, and yet unexpected. See for yourself.

design by nick gavin, katrin thormann and workstead | photo by matthew williams | via remodelista
design by nick gavin, katrin thormann and workstead | photo by matthew williams | via remodelista
via shutterly fabulous
via lonny

You would think that a flat panel would be boring, but when they are hinged like that (and again, fit the window) with exposed hinges – I think they can look so simple and pretty.

design by anna cayzer | via flickr

There is certainly a romance to them – perhaps because it feels more like a European design element.

via shutterly fabulous
design by fredendall building company

I LOVE this green one, especially for the deeper jamb which we considered but realized that it would obscure the view/light even more so we opted out. I also love how that one is asymmetrical with two small panels on the right and just one on the left.

design by karen bertelsen

I’ve also considered doing it just on the bottom panes of the windows in our main bathroom – not to the top. The one above I’m assuming is folded back on itself or it wouldn’t close all the way which is a huge NO NO.

via deVOL kitchens

They don’t have to be too fussy – I love the simpler vertical grooves of the above photo.

design by isabel lopez quesada | via habitually chic

I LOVE how modern and fresh the above shutters feel – it’s not just for older homes. Also how great is the vertical paneling on vertical paneling?? It’s so simple but looks so chic. The contrasting colors don’t hurt either:)

via shutterly fabulous

I think what most people think of interiors shutters it might conjure up ’80s interiors, not dissimilar to the one above, but if it’s high quality and they are installed to actually fit the windows then I just think they are awesome. But I might love that shot more for the styling and generally prefer non-slatted.

via nomadic decorator

SO good. That fabric would still let some light through and it certainly adds a lot of texture and softness. So cozy.

design by natascha persoone

I wouldn’t have thought to put them on doors, and definitely not on arched doors – but it really works and actually is a great window treatment solution for arched windows. The simple warm wood is stunning and likely where we would lean. The options seem kinda endless.

So in February when we were up there I was so happy to find 8 matching antique shutters at Aurora Mills. We thought they would be perfect for our bedroom.

Boom. Done. Or so we thought. They were 16″ wide by 60″. We plugged them into the rendering to see if they would work.

We weren’t sold (also the room has totally changed from this rendering, FYI). Now I know that these renderings don’t show texture/age but it wasn’t feeling nearly as good to us.

Then we did a deep dive on interior shutters to better understand how to use them – what are the rules and things to think about?

via ingredients ldn
  1. Shutters need to, HAVE TO, fit the windows when they are closed even if you never close them. Too small shutters on large windows is a thing and it’s not a good thing. You can slightly cheat it so you visually can’t tell that the size is off, but not too much. So it meant that if we used those shutters our windows would be fairly narrow – not the worst thing ever, but we had to ask ourselves if having shutters was worth having smaller windows than we wanted.
  2. Often they are installed inside the jamb (see photo above). That means that you might need a deeper jamb.
  3. They do block ALL of the light, but there will be a light leak at top/bottom. So this made us think we’d want shades or curtains in ADDITION to the shutters. Harsh light leaks affect sleep more than filtered ambient light through fabric.
  4. They aren’t exactly super easy to open and close – so they might be best for the rooms that you can leave open. I worried that it would become this cumbersome job (to be fair we are now very used to motorized shades on a remote that all go up and down at the push of a button). Having shades in addition to the shutters I think would take away from the charm and might look a little dumb.
  5. The shutters that we found I think were more exterior shutters – In all the photos above, the shutters folded back on themselves, doubled up when open – I think I prefer that look if we were to do any.
  6. If you don’t do them inside the deeper jamb you can outside mount them but it does affect your window casing – it can totally work but it’s something to consider with the architectural style of your home.
  7. Custom/new shutters aren’t cheap to fabricate. However, looking at some of these that are simpler I’m thinking that if you are into them you can certainly DIY them.

Right now we are not doing these particular shutters because we didn’t want the shutters to dictate the size and location of the windows. As you know, natural light is annoyingly important to us and we found that these shutters were making our windows smaller than we wanted and we couldn’t have as many as we wanted because when they were open they would hit each other.

design by solenne de la fouchardière and simon lee | photo by yuki sugiura | via remodelista

Now we still MIGHT try to bring in some custom shutters somewhere (maybe just on the exterior?) but designing the room with those particular shutters was feeling like we were being held hostage by this design element that maybe wasn’t THAT appropriate for a farmhouse anyway. But when I look at these inspiration images I want them SO BAD. We might be able to bring them into the upstairs bedrooms where the windows aren’t too close, or maybe have them on one side of a window downstairs, but ultimately I think that we chose bigger and more windows over those shutters.

How do you feel about interior shutters? I’m sad that it might not happen, but I promised myself that I will SOMEWHERE, someday 🙂 Just might not be this farmhouse.

Opening Image Credits: Design by Special Umbria | Photo by Kristian Septimius Krogh


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73 thoughts on “An Old World Design Element I’m Obsessed With And Tried HARD To Bring Into The Farmhouse (Hint: Interior Shutters)

  1. I really only like the photo with the green/deep jamb; I think that interior shutters look best when they are part of an interior tradition that usually comes out of a need: louvered shutters for tropical climates to keep out some of the sun/heat or solid wood shutters either in Georgian (or New England Federalist) architecture or in British houses with thick walls and deep ledges to try to keep the heat in. (I’m sure there are other places around the world with interior shutters–those are just the ones that spring to mind!) So, for me, and maybe just for me, interior shutters don’t make sense for a farmhouse in the Pacific Northwest.

      1. Cold winters in New England with only a fireplace to heat the room…Shutters to close and keep the warmth inside and reduce cold air leakage into the room.

      2. Yep, they were used as an added layer of insulation in colder climates, especially in early Georgian buildings before curtains were more fashionable.

  2. I really wasn’t feeling this one, so I was glad to get to the end to see it likely won’t happen. This seem like a “good in theory but not in practice” unless you have one of the needs Annie posted about. I think they would become very annoying.

      1. OMG yes! I moved into a house with cute shutters (louvered) on the master bedroom and ensuite windows. They were adorable. And horrific to paint, worse to clean. I’ll take them in someone else’s house, not mine, lol

      2. Ditto! Assuming louvered are the slatted ones, we have some now and it’s just one more thing to dust. I love them but would definitely go solid.

  3. In Georgia, we have interior shutters galore. Plantation shutters! I kind of can’t imagine our homes without them. Not the look you are going for in the farmhouse, but the concept is the same.

  4. I agree with Annie above – only in certain situations do they make sense. We live in a rental townhouse in Atlanta and it has plantation shutters everywhere….and I hate them! They block out all the natural light, which is very nice in this sweet little place. I have removed the kitchen and dining room shutters (with the owner’s permission) to let in light. I keep the others open all the time, even at night, as my husband and I are very boring, haha. They are very expensive, and you are pretty much married to the finish color once installed, as they are tricky to paint and keep operational. I never recommend them to my clients and actually try to discourage them (designer here). There are so many other pretty options for privacy.

  5. From the land of Brownstones with pocket shutters (Brooklyn): I’ll be honest, I don’t love their function. My firm helps clients spend thousands restoring original pocket shutters, and my experience with them is that they’re annoying to operate so they get left closed (or open) all the time. So they’re good for privacy, but even louvered ones block a ton of light, and I just prefer a nice sheer to let in light but give some screening. Less of an issue in a detached house with windows on multiple sides, but I highly suggest them only in rooms that get a ton of sunlight.

    1. I love pocket shutters and was scrolling down to post about them! Solves the problem of them being folded and taking up space and since they have walls open anyway…

  6. Maybe you could use the vintage ones in the smaller house or on some of the outbuildings at a later date?

  7. I live in North Carolina and I have cafe shutters (upper and lower slatted, bifolds, not plantation shutters, which open/close but don’t fold and have wider louvers) in our south-facing dining room. A previous owner installed them and they are probably what you would deem “80s” but they are so incredibly functional and they allow us to adjust the light to suit any mood, amount of light, and temperature. At night, they keep our very large windows from turning into big, dark, reflective pools. I would not bother with them without adjustable louvers, because that is what makes them so amazing. I don’t think that they look dated if painted a good color, sized properly, and if the rest of the room is in harmony. I love, love, love them.

    I would put them in another room if I had a room where they would make sense, but our living room has a screened-in-porch in front of the windows on the east-facing side, and the other window is on the North side, so we don’ t have any need for light control, just privacy at night, and they won’t work in our sunroom (which would benefit from something as functional) because the windows are wide and run floor-to-ceiling.

    Shutters are awesome and incredibly functional in rooms where you need control over the light and can lend a room an air of mystery and sanctuary. They immediately make a bright, glaring, hot room feel and look more comfortable and provide privacy.

    1. I agree. I like the slated shutters too and never thought of them as 80’s.

      When I lived in Italy there were no screens (or air conditioning) and all of the homes and apartments had shutters with slats.

      It was so lovely – in the afternoon when the sun was harsh you could close the shutters but a breeze would still come in (and light) because of the slats. If you’re someone who enjoys fresh air and open windows they’re a great choice.

  8. I love them when I see them in all the English interior shots of instagrammers I follow but in those old homes it makes sense. Context matters-place and era. Not that you “cant” make then work anywhere if you want to. But somehow it feels like it’s not right here. In the small cottage behind the big house I’ll bet you could use them in an utterly charming cool way and it would make sense.

  9. Forgot to mention we have white painted louvered shutters on the lower half of our bedroom windows with close neighbors. I always feel like I have privacy but also still plenty of light. They are closed all the time and we open the top of the window when we want air. If it was the entire window it would block too much light. The only problem is what to do for light control at the top. We still don’t have an elegant solution for that.

  10. I’m sure you’re watching DesignMom’s amazing reno of the Tall House in France, but her shutters are exceptionally awesome and a prime example of charm and function…

  11. We moved to Portugal 9 weeks ago, and some of the most delightful things in our apartment (bottom floor of a converted late 19th century mansion) are the solid wooden shutters. Our windows are 4′ high, and let in a lot of light when the shutters are open, but block the light (and noise!) pretty much completely when they’re closed. I don’t find them a hassle to open/close – in fact, it’s a delightful part of my morning ritual to open them and let the day in. The deep window jambs allow us to put decor items on them, so they pull double duty. I can see why they might not work for you in the farmhouse, but really, they’re just great.

    1. I don’t have shutters in my house but I agree with how opening window coverings can be a delight – beautifully put. I can see how Emily (or anyone) would get used to the push button/motorized window coverings (easy=appealing), but going around in the morning and manually pulling up 15 blinds around my house (yes I counted) is one of the best part of my mornings. Much like lighting a candle and turning on a lamp in the evening for a sense of cozy relaxation, opening the blinds in the morning for me signifies getting the house ready for the day and letting in the light. Sure sometimes I’m in a rush and it’s a drag but if you have the right mindset anything can be a calming ritual. Slow living <3

      1. I feel the exact same way. It’s like getting dressed or brushing my teeth in the morning. Daily rituals and rhythms are good! It’s because I love a light filled home that I very much enjoy opening blinds in the morning 🙂

    2. 100% – I have interior shutters and grew up with them, and it is a lovely ritual to open your shutters in the morning. It’s easier than pulling a shade or opening curtains, so I am not sure why this is a concern. LIke you I love their charm and they are super practical, privacy, noise blocking, charming architectural detail. If you have louvered, which are not limited to the south, you just want to get the appropriate slat, plenty of light comes in, so wonderful to have some privacy and still get a breeze, and then fully shut, very cozy and warm in the winter. My favorite window treatment by far. Also, great for minimizing dust and allergens (curtains, blinds, and some other window treatments really collect dust. Love them, they add so much to a room. I loved seeing all the different ideas in this post. Thanks, Emily! I encourage you to consider them – like Carol points out – they are really just great!

  12. I don’t actually love any of the versions you pinned but grew up in a 1908 San Francisco home with shutters galore and now have the natural wood version in a few bedrooms of a contemporary house. What I really appreciate about them is the way you have to interact with them to adjust light, heat etc. It feels old fashioned and mindful – an opportunity to slow down. I hope you find a way to include them somehow!

    1. Yes – they are lovely to interact with, I love how you put that. I also have solid wood and it feels grounding and romantic, and they can be adjusted to whatever you need, privacy on the bottom, light on top, partial light, closed and cozy.

  13. I like the look of shutters but really hate them daily. Where ours happen to be, on both sides of our bed, means we can’t pull them back easily because we have tall lamps on our nightstands and a snake plant. They are plantation style so we can open the slats to let light in but do not open the shutters and have a perpetual blocked view in our bedroom.

  14. We have interior shutters in the formal rooms in our house built in the 1930s in Texas. They do not have slats – they’re solid panels and I frankly love them. They’re open most of the time but great to close for temperature control. They also look formal somehow (very tailored and custom to the windows clearly) but obviate the need for expensive or complicated curtains. It’s a really clean look! We’re moving soon and I’m really going to miss them!

    (We have regular slatted interior shutters upstairs that I think look dated although a bit charming and I will not miss those a bit – mine are more like the more formal versions above – even that last pic if the windows were larger and went down almost to the floor).

  15. I think old ones do look nice, but glad you’ve decided against it for all your reasons! There’s a mega trend for adding plantation shutters to houses in the UK and they are deeply naff, especially on houses that are not of a period when shutters would have been used. I do love a proper old house with original shutters but I’ve lived in some and they are not practical for privacy during the day – great for night but they’re either open or closed, no halfway options work.

  16. I have wide slatted custom shutters on many windows, and I really love them for their clean look. When I chose them, I was looking for a hard surface that can be cleaned to avoid build up of dust. I have a dust mite allergy, and fabric window coverings are not ideal, but I do have them in several rooms where shutters wouldn’t look right.

    Above, I love the deep jambs, but I understand prioritizing light over a particular architectural detail. My favorite look is the design Patrick Bernatz Ward. He used light filtering Roman shades behind the shutters, and I love the contrast of color and soft with hard. That has been one of my favorite designs for awhile, though.

  17. I think in the Northwest, you’re wise not to block off light- it’s hard to come by. That said, sometimes the light can be intense- so say all my friends with west-facing windows, especially if they have a good, open view. The heat in the setting sun is brutal and people put up all kinds of things to block it out for that time of day. In our townhome in the Seattle area, we had plantation shutters on the inside in most rooms, and it was really the only solution that gave us privacy while still allowing light and air to pass through. (Your situation is different.) I do think that shutters would make a bedroom nice and dark, but if you wanted to open the windows, you either wouldn’t get any air, or you’d have to open the shutters. There’s only one question left to ask. WWTSD? What would the Shakers do? 🙂

  18. I would never have thought to do this, but in the house we just purchased about 2 months ago there are two rooms with interior shutters and honestly I LOVE them. They add so much charm to the rooms and they actually block light really well. Ours are white and slatted but I think I want to paint them and accept color.

  19. The main thing I see when looking at these inspiration images is all the opportunities for little fingers to be pinched! But my kids are younger than yours. I think they can look nice in the right setting, but, especially these fantasy ones aren’t appealing enough for me to get over their impracticality.

  20. One of the houses I lived in in Northern Ireland was a 19thc “gentleman’s residence” that had solid interior shutters that folded back into the jambs. I loved them, both look and function. They cut drafts in the winter, and made the room dark enough to get the disabled children I was caring for to sleep in the summer–no small feat when you realize it’s light late enough in June to read a newspaper outside at 11p.
    For your house, not so much. Nor my current house with its small modern windows.

  21. Oh my!! I simp,y love love love all of those photos!!!
    I don’t quite get how the shutters would “hit each other” if they’re concertina-ed?!? Or, do you specifically mean those old ones you found??
    Surely, ones that fold back on themselves can work anywhere?????
    Oooh, I really hope you DO incorporate inside shutters in the farmhouse!
    So much better than external ones tgat always look a bit faux and try-hard and actually never get used.

  22. I once had the privilege of staying at a friend’s 1800s farmhouse in the French countryside (swoon) and all of the bedrooms had those deep casings with perfectly fitting interior shutters. I have never slept so well in my life. I had no issue whatsoever with difficulty opening or closing them, and there were absolutely no light leaks anywhere around the window. I suppose they were just made really, really well, but they made me pledge to myself that one lucky day, I too would live in an old house with interior shutters, haha!

    1. Same, and now they fit them to eliminate light leaks. Not an issue, and agree, not only charming, great for sleeping.

  23. We have the original interior shutters on the first floor of our 1900ish house in Philadelphia. When we moved in I thought of painting or removing them, but I’ve grown to like them and am glad I didn’t. They are split into a top set and a bottom set (11 ft ceilings so this makes sense for our house), and I close the bottom for privacy at night but always leave the top open for light. In general I don’t like adding ‘quirky’ details like beams or paneling if they are not original, it always looks a little forced, especially if they serve no purpose. Shutters might work since they are functional, but it would be an expensive mistake if change your mind.

  24. Plantation shutters are huge in Australia, but probably a bit too modern for the farm ☹

  25. I am VERY into interior shutters. To your comment about making the windows more narrow–now that you mention it, it does seem like I see well done interior shutters most often on narrow windows that are really tall (and frequently have the balcony rail with no balcony). I think that’s when I like them the best.

  26. Check out the Instagram stories that were saved by Design Mom where she gives a demo and overview of the interior shutters she has on the ancient French house she’s renovating. She really made a great case for them as being super practical as well as gorgeous — made me think you would not also need curtains inside! And sounds like they are very common in other countries.

  27. Looove interior shutters! @valdirose has beautiful interior shutters on the windows of the guest rooms of her so lovely Italian B&B – both beautiful and functional! Also such a charming follow in general for countryhouse/old world/patina inspiration. 🤍

  28. Ever since “Call Me By Your Name” I’ve been obsessed with having a large old house (preferably in Italy) with big windows I could throw open in the summer and interior shutters banging together in the afternoon breeze. 🙂

  29. Oooh, my home has the cutest stained/etched glass interior shutters in the kitchen. They are a mega-pain to open and close due to hitting things, but that’s only a problem when I go to open or shut the window. They seem designed for privacy and are certainly most catching when closed. Big charm.

  30. We lived with shutters in Switzerland, and they are effective at blocking light and muffling outside noise, as well as insulating interiors from extremes in weather. I’m of the mind that if you had committed yourself to them, the sun room would be the most appropriate space in the farmhouse.

  31. My heart goes a little pitter-patter every time I hear Aurora Mills referenced in your posts. I grew up at about 10 minutes away but they didn’t open until the year i left for college. It is such a beautiful store and they have so many treasures.
    I love the idea of indoor shutters (the references provided were so charming), but the logistics do seem complicated. Maybe they would work in that small additional old farmhouse Emily has on the property.

  32. Oh my, did you not measure your bedroom windows prior to buying the shutters? That reminds me of the tiny fainting chair you bought…still cracks me up!! Shutters can be a nice look but can go way back in time if not done right. Outside shutters may be option but in the bedroom would be so annoying…you would have to go out in your jammies and bare feet to close them in the dead of winter! Nuh uh.

    1. I think they’re installing all new windows– it was more that she realized she didn’t want to live with the way the shutters would limit the window size.

  33. So timely we just put an offer on a home from 1875 with some – didn’t get the house BUT this post will remind me how much MORE I like them than a curtain! AND they are easier to keep clean!

  34. LOOOOOOOOOVE those pink shutters so much! also, the vertical groove/paneling ones. i’ve never seen those and they are so cool. we had those slatted plantation shutters that are fitted into the window in our old house and we do in our new house too. i think they are awesome! easy to dust and keep clean. highly recommend.

  35. I have folding plantation shutters in the bathroom, and I *despise* them. The only thing worse than plantation shutters is repainted plantation shutters, because then the louvers no longer want to move. I’m currently debating what I want as replacements.

  36. I grew up with interior shutters and it was my job as a child to keep them clean. It is easy to keep them clean if you dust them daily and it really doesn’t take long to run your finger between each slat. They add charm to a room and minimize the need for neat curtains that have to be washed, pressed, and hung routinely. There is nothing worse than dirty, unkempt curtains. I too love shutters and find them easy.

  37. I just thought I’d mention that the green one isn’t actually asymmetrical, as mentioned in the post. That style of shutter folds into the sides of the window opening and each side will have two panels that fold on top of each other inside the recess. The one on the left is just fully closed with a hidden smaller panel tucked away behind.

  38. Shutters! I, too, love the sage green deep sill version. I’m a huge Brit fan and you see these a lot as the houses are not “stick frame” , but breeze block . As to a comment about bring unnecessary in the Northwest…..maybe, but if you love them…do it. Most hated shutters…..LOUVERED. They are a bi!@# to keep clean. Ugh

  39. Our last two homes came with plantation shutters (can we come up with a new name for those?!), and we have removed them in both. They are impossible to clean. If you put furniture anywhere near a window, you can’t open the shutters, and while you can lift the slats, they block so much light. Also, I always like rooms better with softness and textiles, and it doesn’t make sense to do curtains with shutters. I’m glad this one didn’t work out for you.

  40. Could you cut the older shutters in half lengthwise and hinge them in the middle? Then you could fold them in half, when open, and they would take up less visual space that way, but could still open up and cover the whole window.

  41. Only in one of the photos windows have curtains. Does this mean shutters are not compatible with curtains?

  42. Emily!! I’m so excited about this! Hope you don’t mind if I borrow this idea. We have been struggling to find window coverings for the den in our 1860 farmhouse. That is where we watch TV, and want the option to make it as dark as possible any time of day. Blackout shades just don’t feel right and curtains aren’t really an option with our dogs. I have always loved places with shutters when we travel — think this might be the right solution!

  43. You just talked me into keeping my shutters in my sun room. I might paint them??

  44. My family spent a summer abroad and not only were the shutters on the windows practical, they were stunning. Hands down, my favorite thing to do was usher in a new day by opening the shutters to the street below. There are many different looks that can be achieved with shutters, and you dust them just like you would furniture. Advocating hard for installing them in our next home.

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