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For her eyes only

I’m a natural light fanatic. After a few overcast days, I morph into Mr. Grumpy Pants. And this whole daylight savings business is a load of bollocks. Who cares if it’s dark in the morning when you’re groggy anyway? Given my innate craving for natural light, it’s only with great reluctance that I install window coverings in my place of residence. It took nearly two years for me to put blinds in our last house, even though the bedroom was ground level and street-facing.

At the Ordinary House, I’ve spent more time removing window coverings than installing them. But we face a similar visibility problem in our new master suite. It’s upstairs, but nearly every window has a line of sight to the street. This means that we either tuck into a corner to get dressed, or fumble around in the dark in an effort to avoid scandalizing the neighborhood. But, sometimes you want to shuffle around the bedroom in your boxer shorts and Bugs Bunny slippers with complete confidence that the neighbors aren’t watching.

master bedroom

Add in Weezie’s need to catch Z’s during daylight hours after overnight shifts, and it’s clear that our need for privacy and light control wins out over my craving for sunlight. Late this summer, when Louis was rousted by sunrise at 4:00 a.m., sleep deprivation forced the issue.

Our desire for permanent, effective and easily controllable window coverings led us to one obvious solution: shutters. Rather than face the hard sell and inflated prices of local dealers, I decided to order our shutters online from The Shutter Store. I was attracted to the site by reasonable prices and extensive customization options. The day after I submitted the order, a real person called to confirm the details. Then, we waited…

…and waited…

…and waited, and waited, and waited. Nearly ten weeks after clicking “order”, the first pair of shutters arrived. Now, I realize they were probably shipped on the slow boat from Guangdong Province, but two-and-a-half months is insufferably long in the age of streaming video and Amazon Prime. Sadly for us, we only ordered one pair of the five we need so that we could be sure we liked them before committing to the full order.

Fortunately, the shutters were worth the wait. They’re solid poplar, painted a crisp white with chrome hardware. The installation was quick and relatively straight-forward.

shutters unhung

The first step was to assemble a three-sided frame with bowtie-shaped plastic pegs.

corner peg

Then, I lifted the frame into place and screwed it to the window jamb, using nickels to space the frame away from the sash to maintain operability of the window.

frame install

The shutters were affixed to the frame with hinge pins. A few shims here and there to adjust to the old house wonk, and voilà! Beautiful plantation shutters.

hinge pin

The two-and-a-half inch louvers are large, allowing decent views out and plenty of natural light in. When closed, they do a good job of knocking down the light levels. One option that The Shutter Store offered that was important to me was the ability to adjust the height of the mid-rail. Our upstairs windows have unequal sashes – note how the rail aligns with the meeting point of the sashes on the window.

shutters after

With any luck, in just ten more weeks, we’ll be able to turn our room from sun-drenched to somnolent with the flick of a tilt rod.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. mom #

    love them! now if only we could solve the death of the incandescent bulb problem! (from the person who passed her need for “good” light to you!)

    November 11, 2013
    • jrh #

      The new LED bulbs, CREE in particular, are pretty nice. No 100W equivalent from them yet, but it can’t be long now.

      November 12, 2013
  2. Well, Reid, Those look wonderful. Like you, both Herve and I sort-of-really-loathe elaborate window dressings/curtains/etcetera. In my younger & more physically-confident days, there were a number of times when concerned Durham neighbors (always ladies) would murmur something about my perhaps closing (or just getting?) the curtains?….folks could see straight through the dining-room/street windows when I was dressing in the adjoining bedroom?….and I’d simply say “Good…just FINE with me….I’ll nail a can to the windowsill, and they can just drop a quarter in for every peek they take. It’s cheaper than their paying for cable-service porn, you know”.

    These latter days (and, like you, we spent the first three months in this old house getting RID of overly-fussy window “treatments” left by the previous owners), I simply assume that any one staring through my windows is a hopeless and probably irretrievable masochist, so why worry over the issue?

    I did like your line “Now, I realize they were probably shipped on the slow boat from Guangdong Province,,,”. I recall the afternoon, about four years ago, when I’d giddily scored two long, grillwork-iron benches (at only 35$ apiece), two matching tables, and ten chairs (at only 20$ apeice). I’d furnished my entire back patio for only about 300 bucks. I was thrilled.

    A couple of hours later, one of my more dour, feminist/gender-theory friends from Duke stopped by, and I gleefully showed her my new pride&joy. She sat on the steps, looked at all the furniture, admitted that this WAS indeed a bargain, and then glumly announced “Just think of how many hours women spent in Chinese prison-camps to make all this inexpensive furniture for you….”.

    As ever, I suppose it’s good to have at least a few friends to curb your enthusiasm.

    —-david terry
    117 E. Queen Street

    November 12, 2013
    • jrh #

      Always a delight to read your comments, David.

      November 12, 2013
      • Just for the record?….the chairs, benches and tables were all from Our Local Friendly COSTCO.


        November 12, 2013
  3. Fran McCullough #

    Speaking of louvers…some friends have a winter house in Key West that was a cigar
    maker’s house from the 1920s. It still has the original louvers in the window frames – metal
    ones about 3 inches wide with a handle mechanism to open and close them. These are
    highly prized in Key West because they apparently save the house when hurricanes arrive.
    You leave the louvers OPEN, and the wind passes straight through the house without
    doing any damage. Not made anymore, of course.

    A similar system was used at the Bonnet House in Ft. Lauderdale – a very cool, quirky
    artist’s house by the beach, built in 1920 around a courtyard. You wouldn’t be surprised
    to see Frida Kahlo walk through those doors, and there are wild monkeys and parrots on
    the grounds. During big storms, the very wide doorways would be left open, and they were
    designed to let the wind through in the same way. Since the house was never damaged in
    a storm, and others around it were, it’s a system that seems to work.

    I’m very tempted to try this breezeway idea, but these aren’t wooden houses, so maybe it
    wouldn’t work here….

    November 17, 2013
    • jrh #

      I’ve seen louvered glass “jalousie” windows before, but never the metal ones your friends have…very interesting.

      And I don’t see why a breezeway couldn’t work in a wood-framed house. I say go for it!

      November 18, 2013
  4. You make it sound so easy to install. I’m not mechanically inclined so I don’t think I could do this or at least do it to a point I would be satisfied. I think I’ll let the experts handle this project.

    July 19, 2017


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