What Are Plantation Shutters?

450 321 Melissa Hawkins

Plantation shutters date back several centuries but are still incredibly popular today due to their versatility and the way they work seamlessly with almost any interior design – modern or traditional.

They consist of louvres (slats) which are most commonly made of wood and fixed within a frame. The frame in turn is fixed to the inside of the window. The slats are adjustable and can be angled by use of a mechanism. It’s the angleability of the shutter which makes them different from fixed shutters.

Because the shutters can be closed completely, they can block out almost all light. This makes them a perfect choice for bedrooms and nurseries.

The advantage of plantation shutters over roller blinds is that blinds must be opened fully or not at all. Since they let in light from the bottom, they offer little or no privacy.

Plantation shutters, with their infinitely angleable slats, can be positioned to let in just the right amount of light whilst affording a view from the interior to outside (and blocking easy viewing from outside in!)

Contemporary full-height plantation shutters

Contemporary full-height plantation shutters

Why are plantation shutters so-called?

They have become associated with plantation houses built to serve the coffee, tobacco and sugar plantation in the historic deep south of America.

That’s not to say that all plantation houses have them – far from it. Those that still do will have been replaced from the originals long ago. They were popular in the hot humid climate of the plantation regions because of their ability to let air circulate around the home whilst affording shade. The heavy velvet curtains typical of houses from the 1700-1900s would not be very practical in the plantation houses.

Plantation shutters are very often coloured white. This is another clue to their origins, because white is a heat-reflective colour. Quite important in the blistering heat of the deep South. Nowadays, in hot climates we have air conditioning so shutters can be any colour.

Shutters themselves have an even longer and more colourful history. Thought to have originated in Greece, they became a popular window-covering before glass was practical and affordable. They are especially associated with Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece, but were affixed to the outside of the window at first.

What are the advantages of plantation shutters?

As mentioned, plantation shutters are extremely flexible. They can be fully opened to let in maximum daylight, or fully closed to achieve near-total darkness – a necessity in modern cities!

They allow air to circulate because the window can be open whilst the shutter is closed.

The adjustability of the louvres means that as the sun moves around during the day, the slats can be adjusted accordingly.

A surprising recent study by Glasgow University found that shutters can provide almost as much thermal insulation as double-glazing.

Cafe style shutters

Café style shutters

Types of plantation shutters

There are several types of plantation shutters.

Full height shutters cover the whole window top to bottom. They can be installed in one large piece, or they can be split horizontally in the middle to allow the top and bottom halves to be controlled independently of one another.

Café style shutters

Made famous by the cafés of Paris, café-style shutters offer a different privacy solution to plantation shutters. They cover only the lower half of the window. The top part of the window remains unshuttered.

This allows for maximum light ingress, but with the ability to control privacy at the bottom level where people are sitting or standing.

Tier-on-tier shutters

Tier-on-tier shutters


In a way, tier-on-tier shutters are a combination of café style and full-height shutters. They have a separate set of shutters at the top and bottom, which can be controlled independently.

This is highly suitable for bathrooms and living areas, where maximum light is often wanted but privacy is paramount.


Plantation shutters can be installed on a track mechanism to allow them to be opened horizontally very easily, as they concertina to save maximum space.

What are the parts of window shutters?

As with any product, a certain amount of industry jargon has crept in. The vertical frame bars are known as stiles. The top and bottom frame sections are called rails. The controlling mechanism is called a push rod or tilt rod. If the shutter is divided in the middle, the middle rail is called a lock rail or midrail.

What are they made from?

Today, plantation shutters are produced in a wide range of materials. From sustainable hardwoods, such as Paulowina, Ayous and teak, to inexpensive and hardwearing MDF. Plastic shutters are available and especially useful in very high moisture areas such as bathrooms, wetrooms and kitchens.

The right material for shutters will depend on the location, air moisture, interior décor and the size of the window to be covered (larger windows require lighter-weight shutters).

Several combinations of these materials can be used in the same shutter – for example, an MDF frame can house louvres made from ABS.

Why choose ShutterWise?

Now that you know all about plantation shutters, you may be thinking of having them installed. They are the perfect solution to window coverings where maximum light control and privacy are required. They suit any style of home from Victorian to ultra-modern.

At ShutterWise we have been installing plantation shutters since 2013. We’re a family-run business, providing 1-2-1 services with free initial consultation. We have brilliant Checkatrade reviews, and our customers are always happy. Above all, our prices are super-competitive!

Contact us today to discuss upgrading your windows with shutters from ShutterWise.

Image credits

Mediterranean shutters in Spain: Pixy.

Café style shutters in Sandwich, Kent: Dotwise.