Why we chose shutters for our 1930s bay windows

Shutter and hinge samples from Apollo Blinds 5 x 7 - Design Hunter 2-1.jpg

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When we first viewed our 1930s house we really liked the bay windows and the character they added to the house. Bay windows are great for drawing lots of light into a room, but as we soon discovered, they also allow neighbours or passers by to look in on you from several different directions, and without the right window treatments they can leave you feeling slightly on show.

They can also be quite tricky to dress. Our interior style is fairly pared back and minimal and we had been happy with blinds in our old house, but we soon realised that they just wouldn’t work in the new house. Our curved bay windows (or bow windows as they are sometimes called) have 5 sections and we felt that it would just look too busy to have a separate blind on each of the 5 sections. Curtains can look good in a bay window, but you ideally need big sweeping curtains with lots of fabric and while that was an option for the living room it wasn’t the look I wanted upstairs in the front bedroom which I use as my office.

As a temporary measure I ordered some affordable velvet curtains for the living room. They looked OK but I knew that it wasn’t quite the right solution. Curtains don’t give you the subtle control of light and privacy that you get with blinds or shutters and we always had them either completely open or fully drawn.

Before - the curtains were OK but they didn’t allow us to adjust the amount of light or privacy in the room.

Before - the curtains were OK but they didn’t allow us to adjust the amount of light or privacy in the room.

We wanted the window treatments to give all of the windows at the front of the house a consistent look, and after looking around at other properties with bay windows similar to ours we came to the conclusion that we’d probably end up investing in shutters.

Then a few months ago an opportunity arose to work with Apollo Blinds. They wanted to film some video content of a shutter installation and offered to fit shutters in our home in return for us allowing them to use our property for a video shoot.

Full height shutters by Apollo Blinds - Design Hunter-1.jpg

Choosing the right style of shutter

The first step in the process was to meet with one of the consultants from Apollo Blinds to discuss which type of shutter would work best on our windows.

There are three main types.

Full height shutters

These cover the entire window. They offer elegant clean lines and elongate the look of your windows.

Tier on tier shutters

A more versatile option for some windows, tier on tier shutters allow the top and bottom panels to be operated independently, so you can adjust them to allow light to flood in from above while controlling the privacy level below.

Café style shutters

These cover the lower part of the window only. In doing so they maximise the amount of light entering the space while offering privacy at street level.

In addition to the above, Apollo also offer custom shaped shutters. These are ideal if, for example, you have an asymmetric or awkwardly shaped window. And if you want to fit shutters in the bathroom there is a waterproof shutter range too.

Apollo offer a free measure and quote service and a local adviser will visit your home to advise on the best solution from their extensive range of shutters, blinds and other window coverings.

If you think shutters only come in shades of white, think again. I was blown away by the choice of colours they offer as well as the different finishes for lockes and hinges. There are black, chrome or brass options if you want to match the details on your shutters to other hardware elements like door knobs or sockets and switches, but I chose pure white in the end. This gives a more seamless look as the hinges blend in rather than standing out.

Shutter sample from Apollo Blinds - Design Hunter-1.jpg
Shutter and hinge samples from Apollo Blinds 5 x 7 - Design Hunter-1.jpg

Shutters vs curtains… or both?

We still had the original 1930s pelmet on the window in the living room and it was a detail we quite liked, so when we had the room replastered we kept it intact. Then when we began considering shutters we realised that this would pose a problem. If we removed the pelmet it would leave behind damage to the plasterwork which couldn’t easily be patched up, but if we left it in place then we wouldn’t be able to open the shutters. And if we couldn’t open out the shutters then we wouldn’t be able to open the windows either, which was obviously a bit of an issue!

Luckily our consultant from Apollo Blinds was able to come up with a solution to this dilemma. He suggested tier on tier shutters with a horizontal support post to separate the panels. With this style of shutter the bottom panel can be opened independently of the top one. So when we want to open the window we just open up the bottom tier of shutters and the top one stays in its original position.

When it comes to shutters vs curtains people tend to assume that it’s an either / or choice, but there is no reason why you can’t have both. If you lean towards a clean, minimal look then shutters will look great on their own, but if you also love the colour, pattern, texture and softness that curtains can add to a space then its totally OK to dress your windows with curtains after fitting shutters.

Although our style is usually quite minimal we realised that with wooden flooring and shutters the room could look a bit devoid of texture, so we decided to keep the curtains. They add warmth, create a more opulent look and somehow make the room feel just that little bit more ‘complete’. And because we kept the pelmet the curtain track stays hidden behind the pelmet.

Living room with tier on tier shutters and oak herringbone floor - Design Hunter 1200px.jpg
Shutters in bay window - Design Hunter living room-1.jpg
Choosing the same window treatments for all the windows gives the front of the property a more cohesive look.

Choosing the same window treatments for all the windows gives the front of the property a more cohesive look.

Shutters may not be the cheapest window treatment you can choose for your home but here are 10 reasons why I think it’s worth investing in them.

1. Privacy

If you live in a property that looks directly out onto the street or is overlooked by neighbours then shutters offer a valuable level of privacy while at the same time still allowing you to look out of the window.

2. Security

As well as privacy, they also offer a degree of security. If you have valuable TV or audio equipment in your living room it’s obviously useful to be able to screen it from any prying eyes that may happen to be walking past outside

3. Temperature Control & energy efficiency

Shutters help to regulate the temperature of your home, reducing heat loss in winter and helping to control heat gain in summer. Our bay windows face south and by keeping the shutters closed during the 38 degree heatwave we had last week I was able to keep most of the heat out and maintain the room at a comfortable temperature.

We had new windows fitted in the house when we first moved in so I’m not quite so concerned about heat loss during winter, but if you have a period property with drafty old original windows shutters will be a definite plus and could even help you to save money on your heating bills.

4. Adjustability

Shutters can be quickly adjusted allowing you to control the amount of light that enters the room with ease.

5. Durability

Shutters are a significant investment, but you won’t have to replace them any time soon. They will last for years and are unlikely to date.

6. Easy to clean

They are super easy to clean. I’ve found that they tend to attract much less dust than blinds, and believe me we have had a lot of dust in our house during the renovation work so this is definitely something that I’ve been able to put to the test. I just give them a quick brush down with a feather duster a couple of times a week and will occasionally wipe them over with a damp cloth, but that’s it!

7. Protection from UV damage

Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause artwork, furniture or carpets to become discoloured. By allowing you to control the amount of light that enters the room shutters can help prevent fading caused by sun damage.

8. Child safety

Blind cords can pose a danger for babies or small children so a cord free alternative like shutters will help keep your home child safe.

9. Kerb appeal

Shutters will improve both the internal and external appearance of your home and give it added kerb appeal.

10. They can help make your home more saleable

Do shutters add value to your home? Well that’s subjective I suppose, as it largely comes down to personal taste, but we have had so many compliments on them since we had them fitted, and I do think they will probably help make the house more saleable if we ever decide to move.

Living room with shutters and oak herringbone floor - Design Hunter.jpg
Shutters by Apollo Blinds in bay window - Design Hunter living room-1-8.jpg
Shutters in bay window - Design Hunter living room-1-4.jpg
Shutters by Apollo Blinds in bay window - Design Hunter living room-1-7.jpg

To DIY or not to DIY… some thoughts from our experience

Finally, a word on choosing a full service measure and fit installation as opposed to one of the cheaper DIY options. Graham and I are pretty capable DIYers. Aside from the building work and specialist jobs like plastering and electrical work we’ve done most of the renovation work on the house ourselves, from fitting new floors and plumbing (Graham has learned a whole new set of skills relating to the latter thanks to YouTube) to installing our new kitchen. There isn’t much we can’t or won’t tackle, but I am glad we didn’t go down the DIY route and measure and install the shutters ourselves. If you have the practical skills and a relatively straightforward window then measuring and fitting them yourself probably is doable, but with a more complicated 5 sectioned bay window like ours I think it would have been a nightmare. Our installation was successful (and actually ended up looking even better than we’d hoped), because we were able to draw upon all the advice, skills and experience of the wonderful guys at Apollo to get both the choice of shutters and the fit just right. This wasn’t an easy task on such a tricky window. Even if you measure and install them yourself to cut costs, shutters are still a big investment, and I wouldn’t have wanted to run the risk of spending a large amount of money on them only to end up with a fit that wasn’t quite right because we had tried to save money on installation costs. This is one job I’d definitely recommend getting the professionals in to do.

I can’t praise the guys at Apollo Blinds enough. We were so happy with everything from the attention to detail in the initial consultation visit and measuring service, through to the install of the product itself… and the video shoot we did with them was lots of fun! The effect on the house is so transformative. We love how the shutters look internally, but I think I love the view from the outside of the house even more. They just pull everything together and even though we haven’t yet had the front of the house rendered it looks so much more finished now.

I do think good window treatments are something it’s worth investing in, and it’s important to consider how they will look from the outside as well as from the inside. Get it right and it will definitely help give your home added kerb appeal, and you’ll find yourself admiring them every time you come home to them.

Shutters in 1930s bow bay window - Design Hunter-1.jpg


All images by Helen Powell for Design Hunter.