As part of my Historic New England homeowner membership I can ask two questions per year for evaluation. My first question was regarding appropriate interior shutters. In Marblehead’s Historic District we can only have single-pane windows; my house is cold and I hope adding interior shutters will keep us a bit warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer months. We had insulation blown in this summer but I think interior shutters will be a great benefit too. In my den which has decorative molding on all four walls; paneled shutters will add even more to the space. Below the note I received back from Historic New England. Plus, three resources to purchase custom shutters.
Historic New England: Contrary to their common name, 18th century interior shutters were not installed for defense against Indian attack, but for security, privacy and a measure of insulation. Exterior shutters, which in period nomenclature were called blinds, were not a feature on houses until the very end of the 18th century and did not become common until the early years of the 19th century.
There are several different types of interior shutter, including paneled shutters that slide into a recess adjacent to the window (these are the earliest type), paneled bifold shutters that are hinged on the window casing and fold into an embrasure (or recess) in the wall, and paneled bifold shutters that are hinged on the window casing fold out over the casing and onto the adjacent wall. The appropriate type of restoration shutters for the Mugford house would depend on the evidence in the framing and walls of the house. Evidence for the type of panel appropriate to the window shutters would be found on any surviving paneled doors or fireplace paneling in the room. Ms. Elliott’s blog illustrates fielded paneling on some interior doors in the house, so shutters with fielded panels would be appropriate for the windows.
Hardware for shutters often consisted of H-L hinges on the shutter panels and butt hinges on the window casing. At the Mugford house, some evidence of interior shutters may still be present on the window casings in the window openings of the major rooms. Careful use of a raking light (i.e., a strong light, in a carpenter’s clamp lamp or even a flashlight) with the light held at an angle from underneath can highlight shadows or marks of prior hardware installation.
Note: The old windows were removed when we bought the house.
For further reference, see Plate XL of the sixth edition of Asher Benjamin’s The American Builder’s Companion (Dover reprint) for a hinged shutter in an embrasure (first edition of TABC was 1806). An example of the hinged “outside” shutter is enclosed in a photo from the Benjamin Lincoln House. Also enclosed are relevant sections of Garvin’s Building History of Northern New England.
For more information on shutters, see “Window Dressing: Shutters and Blinds in Historic Houses,” Historic New England magazine, Winter/Spring, 2004.