I have been around the window coverings industry since 1992. Over the years I have witnessed the evolution of products and consumer interests. When I started out, we were just starting to see the waning of the time of the mini-blind. The creation of the original Hunter Douglas Duette honeycomb or cellular shade had just hit the market. Verticals were HUGE. The woven wood time had come and gone. Those were those orange and brown roman shades that had large slats of brown wood interwoven with colored yarn. Admit it now, some of you not only know what they are, but you grew up with them. Some of you still have them in your kitchen… If that is the case with you, I hope you live in a rental! During this time, some 17 years ago, there was another segment of the window coverings market that was steady but not explosive. Shutters.
Nearly twenty years ago, if one wanted shutters, they usually chose wood shutters. There were some options available, but overall they had the “plantation style” with its wider louvers and the “traditional style” with its very narrow louvers of about 1”. Amongst a certain group, these were a popular choice as they exuded style, and when you installed these in a home you were separating yourself from your neighbors as one who had discerning taste.
Over the years though, there were huge evolutions in the design and material composition of the shutters that came to the market. Vinyl shutters made giant in-roads to our market. As is true with most technology, new does not always equal better. The first generations of vinyl shutters were a good attempt, but they had some flaws that made them very hard to recommend to clients. In fact, for about the first 3 or 4 years that they were available to my company, I suggested to my clients that if they were interested in shutters they should stick with wood. I had no confidence in their claims of durability or in their quality of construction. As it turns out, I was right. The first generations of vinyl shutters had huge issues, and caused some major consternation within the industry. Warrantee issues abounded. I was fortunate that I never put my clients into that product!
As is also true with most technology, as the vinyl shutter evolved, it overcame the majority of the issues that detracted from its draw. Pretty soon there were numerous companies producing vinyl shutters en masse. To be honest, these were well constructed, using quality materials, and they became a mainstay of the market. The Reno, Northern Nevada and Lake Tahoe areas became one of the highest per capita shutter markets in the country. If you were to drive down the street of a new housing tract about 2 or 3 years ago, it seemed like every house had a whole house full of shutters on their windows.
We began by discussing the design trends over the last twenty years or so. When discussing shutters, it is important to see how they fit into the conversation. Think back a number of years, maybe 15 or so, and think about how many vertical blinds were in your home. I remember doing every window in many, many homes. I don’t have specific numbers in regard to what segment of the market vertical blinds were 15 years ago, but I do know that now they are only 3% of the total window coverings market. These statistics indicate that there are ebbs and flows to interest in certain products. Now is the time in the blog where I offer a very opinionated statement! Shutters still have their place in current interior design and window coverings, but they should be used sparingly. One of the things that I have noticed is that more and more people are hoping to design their homes around their lifestyles, and shutters are not always the best way to accomplish that goal. Too many “Shutter Guys” go to a consumer and tell them that they should do their whole house in shutters. This, in no way, considers all the factors that a good designer would go over with their client. Over the years I have been consulted after the client had purchased from someone else and removed many shutters that the “Shutter Guy” had installed, due to the fact that the product does not satisfy the desires of the client. The specifics of why they don’t meet those needs are numerous, and specific to each client. Another thing that many clients notice with shutters is that they are a very hard surface, and if done in white, which is 98% of the market, they are very stark too. Many people, especially in the Reno and Lake Tahoe areas are choosing to soften the look and feel of their homes using products specifically designed for that purpose. In fact, one of the products that is out on the market now, the Pirouette Shade by Hunter Douglas has the same slatted look with a much softer feel. This is only one of the ways to handle this design concern, but there are many more available.
So, all in all, I feel like the “day of the shutter” has passed. It has its place, but there are so many other and sometimes better options to help one to get the function they require in a style they desire.