We spend lots of time and money decorating our homes inside, which makes sense because we spend more time indoors. There are fewer ways to decorate your home's exterior if you're getting your ideas from driving around your community. One of the most popular ways to accesorize a house is with shutters but that's not why window shutters were invented.
Window shutters were originally used for security when windows didn't have glass. Shutters also provided privacy from people walking by when that's how you went to work or school, walking directly there or to a streetcar. Shutters also offered a degree of insulation against the weather although it's funny to compare this to building codes today.
Today in many places exterior window shutters still play a safety role, protecting windows from flying objects during heavy winds and hurricanes. That's why houses in New Orleans (above) maintain their shutters. If you live in hurricane territory, you may want to research alternatives to boarding up your windows with 5/8″ plywood. There are lots of new solutions from hurricane fabric and aluminum panels to special glass. Here's a great video from This Old House that shows them testing each of these options.
This article focuses on alternatives to window shutters for decorative purposes. If you're going to spend money, why not take some time to explore your options.
Dressing Up Windows without Window Shutters
When picking window shutters or any type of exterior siding or trim, look at both the initial material and installation costs plus the cost to maintain the shutters. For example, solid shutters are easier to care for, than louvered shutters. Wood shutters will need to be painted while vinyl shutters just need to be washed.
Do you notice there aren't any shutters on this window? The exterior trim is amazing, and it tells a story I've wanted to share for years. We handled many different homeowner requests regarding window shutters in my handyman business. We were asked for estimates to install shutters and they're expensive. With vinyl shutters we searched for replacement shutters when a baseball damaged one. One homeowner with louvered wood shutters paid us to remove and wash the shutters to get her home ready to sell.
There are great online resources to help you find ideas for decorating your home's exterior. You've just got to know what to search for, in order to find alternatives to the standard window shutters found in most new developments. So first let me stretch your imagination and then I'll give you some places where you can find these exterior house trim components.
This front entryway illustrates the use of “window headers” that help define and highlight your windows. They add a third dimension to your home's siding, and similar to window shutters, can be done in an accent color. With this stucco and stone house, the window headers are made from stone or stucco while wood and brick sided homes use wood or composite materials. And while it's true that wood looks better, with busy lives today and my experience running a handyman business, most homeowners will benefit from using composites that require less maintenance.
Remember that amazing window that inspired this article? The first photo showed the trim over the front door, while this photo (below) was found over the garage. It's not as fancy so it's easier to see how simple the design is although my husband always accuses me of calling things simple when they're not.
- Draw your design out on paper to experiment with different ideas. This is important for any remodeling project, as there aren't any wasted materials or labor costs when you change your mind at this step.
- Measure for materials and remember to add extra for waste when installing on a diagonal (popular with tiled floors), although some of the lumber can be used in the smaller triangles.
- Assemble individual squares from a ladder, or my approach as a quilter would be to assemble the squares on the ground. In fact the four squares forming a diamond pattern on each side, could be done as a larger piece and trimmed to make it easier to lift into place.
- Install the gray siding, paint and add trim to hide the seams underneath. This is the same as trimming out doors and windows, where once installed, the trim while decorative, is used to cover up the seams where different materials meet.
The concept of adding trim to the exterior of a house for decorative purposes isn't new. The “Tudor architectural style is the final development of Medieval architecture in England (1500 to 1560)” according to Wikipedia. While you might not have any Tudor style homes in your community, you can see how the addition of vertical and/or horizontal trim in a complimentary color, is a great way to give your home some personality without using window shutters.
Builder Resources for Alternatives to Window Shutters
Would you like a glimpse into the world of builders and remodelers? Running my handyman business meant learning about contractor resources. Contractors perfer building supply companies because they vet their products and respond immediately to builder complaints. It also makes decisions easier than visiting your favorite box stores, which try to offer 7 to 10 brand choices. Building supply employees are very knowledgeable and when you drop by, you also get recommendations from other contractors.
While contractors have smart phones, they still prefer product catalogs from their favorite suppliers. They rely on these businesses for product reliability, and even though I sold my handyman business, Harvey Building Product's catalog remaines one of my best references.
So my search for alternatives to window shutters (they carry these) began with my Harvey catalog and here's what I found (ordered from front to back). What you'll quickly see is that Harvey believes they can meet all of their builder and remodeler demand for stock (versus custom) trim with just three brands – Fypon, Mid-America and Crown for columns.
- Fypon window pediments and dentil molding that goes below the fascia (under the roof line).
- Fypon door pediments that sit on top of your exterior doors.
- Fypon entrance combinations which include columns to place on either side of a front door plus coordinated pediments.
- Mid-American door headers, dentil molding and decorative trim for the corners of your house.
- Crown fiberglass columns as an alternative to wrapping decorative trim around your front door.
- Mid-America exterior wall vents in different shapes from triangles, round and oval, to an octagon, half round and round with keystones.
When shopping for exterior trim, you need to know three things which are equally important when buying window shutters.
- Siding material which will affect your material choices. For wood siding you'll want wood or a composite material that needs less maintenance … but not aluminum.
- Priorities on where you'd like to add trim to your house to give it personality and curb appeal versus today's cookie cutter approach to home building.
- Budget for exterior trim and if you're not sure, try comparing the trim you can get what you'd have to pay for window shutters? If budget is less of a concern, you can also find a local millworks that can build anything to your design.
How are you going to decorate your windows?
PS Here are some of our favorite articles on curb appeal …
- Picking Exterior Paint Colors
- Home Improvement Ideas that Boost Curb Appeal
- The Zen of Curb Appeal: Tips to Welcome Yourself Home
- Fencing for Privacy, Safety or Curb Appeal?