02 November 2008

Things I like about winter in France

Shutters and closing them. And that includes the big shutters over the French doors between the terrace (or deck — why does the word "terrace" sound too fancy to me?) and the living room.

Does anybody in America have shutters like these? We don't close them in the summer, because it stays light until bedtime anyway. But in winter, it gets dark early and the shutters give you privacy as well as a little extra insulation from the cold and wind.

With shutters like these, you don't need heavy drapes over the windows. Or blinds. In San Francisco, that's what we had: either ugly drapes, or mini-blinds, or vertical blinds. I think shutters make a lot more sense.

When you go away and leave the house empty for a few days, the shutters are also a security feature. They make it that much harder for burglers to get in.

The only reason I can think of to explain the shutters on all the windows in France is the country's history of warfare — which goes back to pre-historic times, actually. In America, we don't have that.


  1. I think they have shutters in France because windows all open inwards which makes cutains difficult(either that, or windows open inwards because they have shutters...)

    I was told by my insurance agent that if you don't have shutters on all ground floor windows they can't insure you.

    I'm a shutter fan too - metre thick stone walls and solid wood shutters on the window and you can laught at whatever weather winter throws at you!

  2. ...as long as your roof's ok.

  3. Curtains are also more perishable and therefore not so good an investment than shutters, perhaps? The traditional "jalousie" also had the merit of shutting out both heat in summer (while still allowing ventilation if you kept the windows open) and cold and wet in winter. Maybe the more thorough modern version does reflect the security issue, though.

  4. I have always like the shutters, but it has made us too lazy to put up curtains...a lot of people have both, mind you.

  5. Shutters also exist because window glass didn't always.

    In France they are also yet another way of demonstrating what part of the country you are in. Shutter styles vary in all sorts of subtle ways.

  6. Susan, window glass didn't always exist in America either. People were too poor to have it. A friend of mine who grew up in Florida in the 1930s and '40s told me his family had oiled paper in their windows, not glass. But no shutters.

    Do houses in Australia have shutters?

    Simon, our house doesn't have shutters on the ground floor and the insurance agent has never mentioned or asked about that. There are bars on the windows, however. But the agent has never inspected the premises.

  7. I think shutters are a brilliant idea..every time we come home from our holidays, we miss them..always wish we had them at home in the UK.

    Not going to France this time, but not far, we are going to Liguria, near Genova..flying into Nice.

  8. We too have the meter thick stone walls and the heavy shutters on all windows. It gives us peace of mind for the nine months of the year when we are in Tacoma. Also, when the shutters are closed, it marks the inside space as private space, family space, and then when they are oien, we are open again to company. I can't imagine anyone knocking on our shutters when they are closed, except in the direst emergency.
    Dennis Martin

  9. Shutters are so sensible, but the fake ones that we have here in the states are useless except for decoration. We took ours down when we painted our house the last time and haven't missed them.

    Shutters give France a special touch in my memory. When I went to Montpellier in the early 60s I remember seeing the shops completely closed down with their large garage door type devices. This happened at lunch time and at night- it looked so bleak to me and it still does.

    When the houses are shuttered up they look so private and safe also. Those shutters probably helped shut out the sounds. Imagine living in some of the small villages that have car traffic right outside one's windows. Shutters would be great for noise reduction and privacy.

    I imagine that winters behind shutters must be quite cosy.

  10. There is no tradition of shutters in Australia. Old houses have hoods over each individual window or there is a veranda along one or more sides of the house which also shields windows from both solar gain and from bad weather. Modern houses mostly use blinds.

  11. Susan, Australia sound like the U.S. in regard to shutters then. As Evelyn mentioned, many American houses have purely decorative shutters, nailed to the siding on each side of the windows. They can't be closed. It's funny.

    Evelyn, yes, it is cozy behind the shutters in the wintertime. That's what I like about them, along with opening them in the morning for the surprise you get when you see how the weather is.

  12. Also, there's something about the evening ritual of closing that shutters that makes one feel safe inside. The closest thing we have in the Bay area are louvered inside shutters in place of blinds or curtains. I've always like how the look. Nice and cozy.


  13. On the island where I grew up, we had shutters for the doors and windows ( on both floors) We used to shut them only during cyclone season and the glass enclosed veranda ( it was an old colonial house) would be write-off after a big one ( when gust would be >190 km/hr).

    I always ask myself why don't people in hurricane country build concrete houses with some good shutters when I witness the devastation caused by wind ( flooding will still happen but the damage will be less). I realise it costs a bit more to build but in the long run it will be off . Just my 2 cents


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