Plantation shutters were popularized through the 18th century in the American deep south but, while the name might suggest this was where the window coverings originated from, actually the plantation-style of shutters has a far longer, more varied and considerably more interesting history.
Today, the benefits of plantation shutters are numerous; they add not just security and privacy to homes but also considerable aesthetic appeal. With advances in glazing technologies, many of today’s popular shutter products are added more as a design feature than to offer any particular protection. Nonetheless, plantation shutters can still regulate temperature and light, offerprivacy and help control ventilation in our homes. They remain popular the world over.
A rich history dating back to ancient times
Although it’s common for people to make the association between the USA and plantation-style shutters (partly because of the name), actually their history goes back almost 3,000 years to the times of the ancient Greek and Roman empires.
It’s believed plantation shutters first appeared around 800 BC in Greece as a way to secure properties while still allowing light, ventilation and protection from the elements. The Mediterranean climate can see blisteringly hot summers but much cooler winters with varied weather. Shutters were the perfect solution to maintain coolness and ventilation through the hotter months but protection and warmth through the substantially colder winters.
Originally, shutters were crafted from marble slabs with a simple pivot mechanism to offer sturdy protection against both the weather and unwanted entry. Gradually, craftsmen hit on the idea of fashioning louvres into their designs – a style that would become an early precursor to the shutters we commonly see today.
A building tradition exported partly by empirical colonization
It’s widely accepted the defining moment in the demise of the Greek empire came when the Romans defeated the conglomeration of the Greeks and the Achaean League in 146 BC at the battle of Corinth but afterwards, they would go on to adopt much of Greek culture, including their technology and building techniques.
The Roman empire would end up successfully colonizing almost all of continental Europe, much of northern Africa and a considerable portion of western Asia. Perhaps more importantly, the Romans exported their language, knowledge and religious beliefs through extensive trade routes – coincidentally alsoleading to the widespread adoption of what we now call plantation shutters.
History shows us empires come and go but not without first creating considerable societal change across the nations they colonize and the Romans would go on to influence the majority of the known world of their time.
Plantation-type shutters would soon become the most commonstyle of window covering across most of Europe. Indeed, their popularity mushroomed in nations like France, where they remain a prevalent feature on most homes today – albeit now commonly paired with more modern, glass interior windows.
Over the centuries, the complexity of shutters would slowlyincrease but it took the Victorian period and the rapid rollout of industrialization to see plantation shutters take on a more familiar style of operation and the versatile slanted, sliding partitions we see in use today.
A second great exportation to America and a new name
As European explorers began taking to the seas to the west – in turn, discovering the American continent – they too would end up exporting their cultures and knowledge. European settlers in the US naturally built homes in the styles they knew best, and plantation shutters happened to suit the sultry weather conditions experienced in the deep south particularly well – hence the reason the style was widely used.
Today, homes in the south built during the plantation era are still considered some of the grandest, most elegant and ornate in the whole of the USA – which, perhaps, goes a long way to explaining why the ‘plantation’ connection and name has prevailed for so long.