How to Make Exterior Shutters Look Functional

Exterior shutters have been a staple in architectural design for centuries. They once served as functional elements, swinging open and closed, to protect windows and provide privacy. Modern shutters are often used purely for aesthetic purposes. Making exterior shutters appear functional can be a fantastic way to add an extra touch of authenticity and charm to the home. There are various techniques and tips to create the illusion of historical accuracy and embellish the appearance of exterior shutters.

Choose the Right Shutter Style

This is the easy step. All exterior shutter styles are crafted around a core functional design. Louvered and raised panel shutters are the most common styles and are widely installed in all 50 states. Board and batten and shaker style shutters can just as easily have hinges attached for the same decorative appearance.

Bahama shutters that attach at the top and open at the bottom are rarely installed in an immovable position. Even if they are secured without hardware, there is very little that can be done to further enhance the outward appearance of functionality.

Choosing the Right Material

If the goal is to actually make exterior shutters functional, only wood is appropriate. However, to achieve the objective of only making exterior shutters appear functional, any material offered by ShutterLand can be used. It is good to research the best material for buiding exterior shutters before making a selection.

Add Shutter Hinges

The right choice of hinges and hardware can greatly contribute to the illusion of operable shutters. Wood shutters and composite shutters should use metal hinges. Most metal hinges are designed to allow the panels to swing open and closed. These hinges can be attached to a stationary shutter to make it appear operational. Installed butt hinges are less desirable for this approach because when the shutter is positioned next to the window only the barrel of the apparatus will be slightly visible. The best way to embellish an exterior shutter is with a strap hinge. Some strap hinges are designed to attach to the back of an open shutter which would defeat the purpose. Order a strap hinge that will be affixed to the face of the shutter when it is anchored in a fixed position.  

Metal “dummy hardware” is manufactured specifically to mimic the look of genuine mounting hardware. It attaches only to the shutter (not to the building) and is a more affordable way to dress up an exterior shutter. The configuration of “dummy hardware” perfectly disguises that it does not actually operate.

Vinyl shutters don’t have the internal fortitude to permit the installation of metal hardware. However, vinyl “faux hardware” is lightweight and specifically made to attach to vinyl shutters. Each packet includes four hinges and two shutter dogs, which is enough “hardware” for a pair of shutters.

Size and Placement of Outdoor Shutters to Look Functional

Proper sizing and placement is crucial to make outdoor shutters appear functional. Height needs to be accurately measured from top to bottom of the window. Width should be close to half of the window width to appear authentic. If your windows are too close together or are too large to accommodate full-sized shutters, consider using quarter-width shutters that simulate stacked shutters. Place the shutters close to the window frame to create the illusion of functionality. Proper measurement of windows for exterior shutters is vitally important.

Stationary shutters typically lay flat against the siding. Some homeowners install solid shutters at a slant with the window side slightly forward of the far side. This additional alteration provides a little dimension but is not necessary and may provide less structural support.

Include Shutter Dogs

The apparatus at the bottom edge of a functional shutter is called a shutter dog. The task of the tieback is to hold the shutter in an open position. This simple device can add loads of character to the exterior shutters as well as the overall home. Shutter dogs come in countless designs to put a personal stamp on the project. In fact, the use of shutter dogs without hinges is a distinct option.

Consider Shutter Color

Exterior shutter hardware is black. Contrast between the dark hardware and the shutter will accent the distinguishing features of both. Black shutters make the addition of hinges and shutter dogs less apparent and will diminish the detail.


The addition of operable shutters can transform the exterior of any home, adding charm and character. While making functional shutters may not always be practical, utilizing these techniques and tips will enable you to create the illusion of operability.