How to Choose the Right Interior Shutters

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated October 5, 2021
A woman reading a book on sofa
Toby Mitchell via Getty Images

Let there be light (or not)—it’s your choice with the right shutter

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We get it—not everyone is a  morning person, and some people really don’t need bracing, bright sunlight hitting them in the face at 6:30 a.m. Luckily, there’s a range of indoor shutter options for those of us who need to sleep (and subsequently wake) in the dark and others who may prefer the sun’s brilliance and want to let it all in. Here’s our guide outlining all the different interior shutter styles so you can make the best choice for your home (and preferred style of waking up).

How to Choose Interior Shutters

Choosing interior shutters is different from choosing between the various types of exterior shutters. These shutters live in your home, and therefore reflect your interior design. You should consider these factors:

Your budget: Some shutter materials are much more expensive than others. Compare the costs and how many windows you’ll need window coverings for.

Your lifestyle: You may have a green thumb and need lots of natural light for your houseplants, or you may place privacy as a top priority. Different shutters offer varying levels of openness.

Installation: You may find it easier to install certain shutters.

Design: Some shutter materials are more customizable than others to match your home’s decor.

Types of Interior Shutters

Choose from a range of interior shutter styles, each with its own pros and cons.

Café Style

Reminiscent of bistros in Paris’ 5th arrondissement, café style shutters only cover the bottom half of your windows, letting in lots of natural light. They can cover the full half or only a portion (one-third or two-thirds are other common options); some people also like to use curtains to cover half of the window, with the shutters covering the bottom portion. These shutters might work best in areas of the home where you want lots of sunlight but don’t mind less privacy.

Pros:

  • Lots of natural light

  • Many design options with optional curtains

Cons:

  • Less privacy than other options

Tier-on-Tier

A bright living room with 18th century furniture
Andreas von Einsiedel/Corbis Documentary via Getty Images

Tier-on-tier shutters (sometimes called double hung shutters) are sort of like the aforementioned café style, but doubled; there is a panel on the top as well as the bottom, so you can decide if you want the top open, the bottom open, or both, allowing for the best of both worlds when it comes to privacy and natural light. You can also opt to keep the bottom portion semi-permanently closed or open to accommodate an air conditioning unit, a light-hungry plant, or a piece of furniture.

Pros:

  • Options for more or less sunlight with its two-panel structure

  • Great to accommodate small spaces, as you can keep the bottom panel open for other objects

Cons:

  • Can overwhelm smaller windows

  • With double the number of panels, installation can be more complex

Full-Height

Full-height shutters cover the entirety of the window, with one panel fitted from top to bottom. This style offers lots of privacy while also allowing you to control the amount of light that comes in; you can opt to install a mid-rail, giving the option of controlling the upper and lower slats independent of each other.

Pros:

  • Better insulating properties

  • Offers excellent light blocking and privacy Cons:

Cons:

  • Might block too much light in dark or small rooms

  • Minimal flexibility with regards to light control

Tracked Shutters

This style is fitted, top-to-bottom, on a set of rails that fold up, concertina-style, when not in use. In addition to window coverings, these shutters can also function as room dividers or to conceal small spaces, like pantries, if designed to accommodate that need specifically. They’re typically available as bi-fold or tri-fold.

Pros:

  • Can function as doors

Cons:

  • With more complex hardware, the shutters are prone to damage

  • Not suitable for windows with sills

Solid Panel

Solid panel shutters on a window looking out at country view
Catherine Falls Commercial/Moment via Getty Images

If you have a room that requires complete light blockage and privacy, you can choose solid panel (sometimes called Shaker style) shutters which typically do not have louvers; as the name suggests, they use a solid block of wood. Solid panels are usually tier-on-tier, with the top half operating distinct from the bottom, and some options allow for one half to include louvers with the other half being completely solid. Solid panels might be a great choice for bedrooms, especially if you are sensitive to noise and light.

Pros:

  • Highest level of insulation

  • Maximum light control for light sleepers

Cons:

  • Not very flexible—you can have them open or closed, but nothing in between

Types of Interior Shutter Materials

Once you’ve decided which style is best, you’ll want to consider the material they’re made from depending on the room and your budget.

Hardwood

Sitting area with chairs and a window with internal shutters
TerryJ/E+ via Getty Images

Typically made from North American basswood, hardwood shutters are very sturdy (and also the most expensive option presented here—mahogany and walnut cost even more) and offer an unparalleled luxurious, classical look. You can choose from various colors and stains to match your floors or furniture and is ideal for larger windows. Hardwood shutters aren’t optimal in moisture-rich areas like bathrooms or kitchens as the wood can warp.

Cost: Expect to pay $200–$350 per panel

Solid Vinyl

You can purchase solid vinyl in various colors to match your decor, but you can’t stain vinyl like you can wood. Relatively inexpensive, it’s easy to care for but better for smaller windows as it isn’t as strong as wood.

Cost: Typically, $100–$300 per shutter

Engineered Wood

Engineered wood is exactly what it sounds like: shutters that look like hardwood, but made of composite wood, sometimes combined with a PVC material. They are easier to install (lighter than hardwood) and often used in spaces with higher humidity levels.

Cost: $80–$300 per panel

Polywood

A dining room with the shutters being closed
stevecoleimages/Ε+ via Getty Images

High-density polyethylene, or HDPE, is made from recycled milk jugs. It is an eco-friendly option that requires little maintenance.

Cost: $100–$300 each

Thermalite

More insulating than wood, thermalite (high-density polymer foam) shutters are water-resistant and easy to maintain.

Cost: Expect to spend $100–$300 per panel

Interior Shutter Comparison

White wooden shutters in a bedroom
jodiejohnson/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Picking the right interior shutters should be based on several factors and your particular priorities, weighing cost, lifestyle, and rooms where the installation takes place.

Best for Warm Climates

Full-height or solid panel shutters are your best bet to keep hot weather out of your home.

Most Sustainable Materials

Polywood is an environmentally-conscious choice made from recycled materials.

Best for Small Windows

Café style shutters are excellent for smaller windows if you can sacrifice a little privacy; they’ll offer you the most light despite the small window size.

 

Best for Light Sleepers

Opt for full-panel shutters to minimize exterior noise and light from getting in.

Best for Kitchens and Bathrooms

For these high-moisture spaces, choose engineered wood or thermalite to prevent warping.

Easiest to Install

We recommend hiring a local window professional to install your shutters, but if you plan to DIY, full-height shutters made of engineered wood will likely pose the least amount of trouble.

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