Why Fake Shutters Make Me Angry

By Scott Sidler • February 12, 2018

Why Fake Shutters Make Me AngryIt’s true that I have a problem with fake shutters. If you follow my instagram page you’ll see a healthy spattering of shutter fails. They give me a little bit of rage that no other architectural element does (I’ve written about the other design flaws that drive me nuts here). The purpose of this post isn’t just to vent (though it will be therapeutic for me!), but rather to explain why something as insignificant as a fake shutter flies in the face of almost every rule of design.

My hope is that more people will see the mistake that fake shutters are and it will prevent even just one more house from giving its windows a black eye and making me that much crazier. Beware that once you read this post, you will likely be cursed like me in noticing the world of fake shutters on buildings everywhere. It will be like when the lights come on at the bar at closing time and you realize exactly what that person you’ve been dancing with all night really looks like. Be frightened!

Why Fake Shutters?

real shutters
“Real” Shutters

Why do they exist? I guess because real shutters look so great that a lot of other people wanted to jump on the shutter band wagon but couldn’t afford real shutters. If your shutters don’t operate, you won’t realize just how bad they really are.

You see, real shutters…shut. It’s that simple. If your shutters don’t shut, they are fake. Shutters were designed to cover your window for a multitude of reasons. They protect against storms or other inclement weather. The provide relief from the hot summer sun and cold winter winds. They keep rain, hail, sleet and snow off your windows, and extend their life. They can provide privacy or help to darken a room for sleep. Shutters are immensely practical and useful.

But when you take a randomly sized piece of plastic and screw it to the siding next to your window and call it a shutter, you are fooling yourself and a few others, but no one who reads this blog anymore. In the title of this post I promised you the reasons why they get my goad, so I might as well dig into the details.

Reason #1 They Don’t Fit

This is the most obvious and makes it easy to spot for just about everyone. If your window is 6 feet wide and your shutter is only a foot wide, who do you think you are fooling? You may not think it’s a big deal, but proportions matter. Putting undersized fake shutters on your house is like driving a big rig with 18 donut spare tires. It’s awkward and ineffective.

Real shutters are designed to be exactly half of the window dimension so that when you close both sides they cover the window precisely. Too small and they leave the window unprotected, too large and they won’t close. If you are going to get fake shutters then at least make it hard enough that my kindergartener can’t tell.

Reason #2 The Slats Are Wrong

This one is a little harder to see when flying by in the car but walking the neighborhood it’s abundantly clear. Here’s the deal: the louvers on shutters are designed to shed water…when closed. When they are open the louvres would be angled so that they are channeling water back onto the siding instead of down and away from the building like on fake shutters.

I can only assume that the genius designers of fake shutters did this because fake shutters only have one position they can be in and that is open. You’d think that before they designed their fake shutter they would have looked at how real shutters were, but apparently that was too much to ask.

Reason #3 Wrong Design

Not every house style was intended to have shutters on it and certain house styles have shutter designs that are distinct to them. Shutters with pictures cut into a top panel were usually for Colonial and Colonial Revival houses. Board and batten shutters fit well on Mission and Spanish style homes, plantation shutters belong on southern plantation homes. When you take any random shutter design and put it on a house at random, you’re playing shutter roulette.

Just like kids need Garanimals to help them pick clothes that match, adults need a similar system for shutters on their houses. If you don’t know what style belongs on your house, then ask someone who does like.

Reason #4 Wrong Place

Not every window fits the same kind of shutter, and not every window was designed to accommodate a shutter. Just because you want a shutter on that window, doesn’t mean you should have one. Every shutter gets a window, but not every window gets a shutter. I should make that into a T-shirt.


Now that you know, start looking around your neighborhood. Are they too small? Too big? Are they permanently fixed to the building or worse yet, a part of the actual building themselves? Are they upside down, the wrong size, the wrong style? So many questions and so many fake shutters that it’s like a shutter-pocaplypse outside.

It may seem ugly out there, but now that you are aware of shutters you can truly appreciate a beautiful pair of historic shutters. A pair of real shutters added to the right window adds so much charm to a window it’s unreal. And I guess that beauty is what the fakers tried to duplicate. The truth is, nothing compares to the real deal, but you already knew that didn’t you?

And I went even further by making you guys a fun video! Check it out below for some great “advice” about vinyl shutters.

Share Away!

83 thoughts on “Why Fake Shutters Make Me Angry”

  1. OMG! I have an obsession with incorrect shutters! I researched shutters for my renovation project and once the shutter issue was explained, I got it, and now I’m so irritated when I see new or renovated homes in nice neighborhoods with skinny shutters on 3 windows!! And on and on! Why do high-end builders still make this mistake!!

  2. It’s obvious they are fake. Real ones are actually a little silly now too in most parts of the world due to their inaccessibility from the interior of the house due to screens. My point is, I don’t LOVE fake shutters, but I also don’t LOVE mascara… Just the way it’s makes me a little bit prettier. Same same.

  3. Fake shutters are everywhere in our area of California (ie Thousand Oaks) and they not only look awful, even on what sells as 1mil+ $ houses, but quite honestly, also look pretty cheap and tacky when they don’t even fit the windows they’re attached next to. As a European I always found this odd and, quite frankly, irritating when one sees how expensive houses in some parts of the US are. Possible explanations: 1. Most Americans may not even know what the real thing is supposed to do (ie they have never traveled internationally); just like I had never seen a fake shutter before visiting here. 2. It’s cheaper for the builders. 3. People just don’t care because, design (interior, exterior or simply clothing) is not something I feel most people here appear to cherish. That being said, we’d love to remove the fake shutters from our house and replace with the real thing once and for all. Any suggestion welcome :-).

  4. I actually love faux shutters. I think the people who say they are fake are missing the point. They aren’t supposed to be shutters, they are an exterior decor piece that adds a pop of color and significant relief to the exterior of a home. They are supposed to be slim, that is how faux shutters are designed. And if you look at the before and afters of their installation you’ll appreciate the interest and style that they bring… especially to a plain, flat concrete building or something of the sort.

    I think that the only reason why someone would be unable to appreciate that faix shutters are also a nice way to make a statement in dressing up the exterior of your home (regardless of how widely they are being used just for that purpose) is because they are stuck in the notion of shutters as shutters. Faux shutters, again, are not shutters. They are pretty, and that is it. Like accent walls or corner molding that isnt covering anything, or murals, or decorative trim. There is functional trim, and decorative trim. The existence of the former does not make the latter rubbish.I t’s just relief, design. Please don’t ask them for anything more and say they’ve failed. It’s not their job.

    1. Saying “faux” instead of “Fake” doesn’t make your poor taste in design any better, Nefi.

      Are you familiar with skeumorphism? It is the design idea of applying real-world principles to their digital-world counterparts. For example, the “note” app on the iphone originally had a paper-texture background to reinforce the connection to a physical note pad.

      Any designer worth their salt would realize this is all just a charade and they’re only doing this for cute points.

      Window technology and building science has evolved to the point where shutters are absolutely not necessary anymore.

      I understand your desire for a pop or accent next to a window, but do it with an authentic material. Don’t do it with some sad grasp at the past.

  5. We want to remove our shutters off our house. The top of the house is no problem since it is on siding. The lower part is on a stone facade though and it required three flat long bricks to put up each “shudder” that do not match the rest of the stone. When we take them down do you have any ideas to cover up those bricks? We’ve thought about trying to distress them but I’m worried it’ll look worse than just leaving them alone. Wonder if they make a stone cap that might cover them? Or should we leave them alone.

  6. Our 1870’s brick has the fake shudders with the exeption of one lonely window. Why the previous owners left it I don’t know so perhaps the originals were damaged and thrown out ? I’ve no clue where to purchase replacements like the originals!

    1. Hallelujah! I detest faux shutters, especially those that are the wrong size for the window & there is not much one can do to help the aesthetically challenged but for those determined to apply ersatz shutters to their houses, put them in the proper place and stick on some fake hardware while at it. On frame houses, which should have a frame around the window, that place is over the window frame, so that the edge of the shutter lines up with the edge of the window opening – not the outside edge of the window frame. On masonry houses, placement is the same, with shutter edge aligning with window opening edge. Real shutters for wide windows were made by putting 2 shutters together with hinges. The outer shutter was folded back under the shutter closest to the window and I see no reason why the same could not be done with fake shutters. Someone poo-pooed you but my mother & I want to start a company called the “Taste Police”. Don’t hold your breath waiting for franchise opportunities.

  7. Finally!! We may be soul sisters as I cringe at the sight of those ungodly fake shutters! Who thought of this? Why waste the funds? Real shutters can be such an asset, just go for the real deal!
    Great read!

  8. My 1949 brick house has cement shutters around some of the casement windows. They are part of the façade. Do you know what they are called?

    1. I travelled extensively in Europe, and particularly in Cyprus, and was excited to see buildings with REAL shutters! Not a single fake shutter did I see! I took tons of photos of real, working shutters of various designs. My favourites are the wooden ones with working louvres. It’s charm exemplified and something we’re sorely missing here in North America where fake things are all the rage. You’ve hit the nail on the head with the points you make in your very well-written and informative article.

  9. We have a 1945 fixer-upper farmhouse and it had shutters on some, not on othewo windows. So we were thinking about adding shutters to the rest. The house is yellow, white trim and grid windows. We were going to put shutters on and paint eother navy blue or forest green. Any siggestions on the front wondow which is. About 12′ wide x 4′ high. Of course, based on your article, one set on either side would definitely look too small. Thanks!

  10. So then the question becomes, what do you do about it!? We love our house, but we agree that the shutters look stupid. It is a rancher with vinyl siding. So what is your solution? I’m afraid moving is not an option and we are on a tight budget. We are comfortable doing minor renovations ourselves.

  11. We’ve been trying to figure out the proper size and mounting options for new shutters since we had our cape re-sided (vinyl). The window trim is 4 inch wide aluminum, no sill – basically a picture frame 4″ molding with multiple bends to appear like a decorative molding and the replacement windows are recessed about 4″. We are planning on going with Atlantic Premium Architectural collection full louver with faux tilt rod. Just trying to figure out if we should mount them with hardware on the aluminum trim or not? If we decide to mount them to the siding, should they still be the height of the window opening only or the height from top of the trim to the bottom of the trim?

  12. I have been looking for a home in Raleigh NC for several years. I see so many of these windows with undersized fake shutters on them. The BUILDERS put on these fake shutters and people accept them. I think the BUILDERS should be educated that you don’t slap a shutter up of random size just to add a pop of color to the front of a house. It ends up looking ridiculous. I think of the windows in a house as the EYES of the house and the shutters as the EYEBROWS. They frame the windows. They need to look like they could close over the window and cover the entire window. You wouldn’t want half an eyebrow over your eye. I would say that in Raleigh at least 70% of the houses have shutters that are either nailed or glued to the house – or are the wrong size for the windows. It is painful to look at as I am driving around trying to find a house that I would want to buy. Real shutters are not inexpensive, I know. But honestly I’d rather see a house with NO shutters than the dinky, plastic, glued down shutters i see so often that turn out to be eye clutter when you look at them. I guess Scott S and I go apoplectic over the same thing.

  13. Nice post regarding your feelings but I am not sure the shutter police are a necessary evil in our modern world. Fake shutters were never intended to “fool” anyone. They are to add a bit of bling to an otherwise plain home front. I get it. They are fake- they are useless but they do change the look of the window. Kind of a trim out that you may apply to change the boring square to be more aesthetically pleasing. Life is short and I think I will never understand how something so trivial can garner so much attention. What’s next? Fake kerchief rant?

  14. Great rant! I saw your video on making board and batten shutters, and was wondering if you were going to do one on making fixed or movable louver shutters? Also, what are you feelings on hinged shutters to cover larger picture windows?

  15. This blog post had me cracking up. My husband is grateful I read this because now I no longer want them. Mission accomplished!

      1. Thanks Scott! People are on this site because they share a commonality and are looking for solutions. Keep up the good work.

  16. I have a 1936 colonial in Detroit w/ fake shutters. I’ve always been of the same mind as in this post. I’m tempted to remove my shutters, but do you think there’s a chance that the fake shutters were original to the home in 1936? Wish I had some old pictures of the house to reference.

    1. Hard to say. Shutters are usually a planned part of the window layout so if they seem forced then maybe there originally not shutters. Though I have seen some original shutters from the 20th century that are not properly proportioned even though they are operable.

      1. They are proportioned correctly. I’m guessing fake shutters were an advent of depression-era homes in Detroit? My neighborhood is chocked full of them. It’s the norm. But again, can’t be too sure they are original to the house since I don’t have a historic photo. What would you do??!

  17. I have and old pioneer home, but it’s now stucco in s warm yellow shade. Lots of trees and truly a sanctuary. My windows have 6″ white frames. Just plain 1/2″ cedar and my windows are paned in a cottage style. I have a dark brown roof, and s cranberry fr ok n door. 2 questions, do I apply to the wood frames ( the right width of course). I think it would look more authentic and should I match the roof po r the door. It’s an investment and i want to do it correctly. Thank you for any pointers.

  18. I think they all look ugly. It makes a house look old. I guess if I were to have an old house like a Victorian or Colonial it could look nice, but I’d make sure they were real, or rip them off and put real ones on. On a newer house, they’d screw up the look.

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