Fake Shutters: The Redundant Facade Design Flourish that Critics Love to Hate

From too-small balconies that don’t really work to faux shutters on facades, form without function drives some design enthusiasts over the edge. On websites and twitter accounts like Crappy Cheapo Architecture, McMansion Hell and The Craftsman Blog, such superfluous features are regularly named and shamed.

A popular sub-category of faux shutters are sets that would not even theoretically span across adjacent sets of windows, making them seem especially out of place. In fairness to fake shutter fans: they do at least liven up a facade (arguably … maybe), but ultimately, one has to wonder if there is a better way to animate domestic architecture.

Such shutters aren’t unique to the United States, but seems especially popular here. Some argue that they’re an expression of American culture excess, coupled with a kind of misguided contemporary eclecticism — a tendency to just pick, choose, and mix various styles.

But whether or not you’re into design theory, fake shutters are one of those housing features that (once you notice them) it’s hard to stop noticing. The more you see them, the more you’re inclined to look for more examples, some of which are especially wild, spanning multiple stories or flanking glass block rather than clear fenestration. That is precisely what happened to the founder of The Craftsman Blog.

In addition to creating his design-centric website, Scott Sidler runs a restoration company. “As a preservation contractor,” he explains, “I was constantly called in to fix mismatched windows and poor replacement shutters and I started taking pictures of the worst offenders to educate people about what a real window and real shutters should look like.” For more examples like this, check out Sidler’s Instagram account.

  1. Fred

    I have fake shutters on my house, they look okay to me. Taking them off wouldn’t really make the house look any better. Maybe even a little plainer.

  2. Sharon

    My across-the-street neighbor has urged us to get the fake shutters. I have resisted the idea because they are useless, but as Fred has pointed out in his comment, the house is left looking pretty plain.

  3. Thisfox

    I’m sure real shutters must be useful in tornado country. Fake shutters mostly just make the owner look ignorant and the house look fake, it looks like the inside will be made of paper cut outs and the walls of pasteboard. We marvel at them, and the other random odd house decoration, whenever we visit the US. Good to see 99% calling fake shutters out for what they are.

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