House in Virginia Manor, Mount Lebanon

Here is a house with shutters. Shutters are those things you see beside the windows. They have hinges so that, when it seems desirable for whatever reason, they can be shut—that is, they can be moved into position to cover the glass of the window.

Now here is a house with mock shutters.

House in Seminole Hills

These are advertised as things that will “add sophistication to your home,” and for a long time Dr. Boli simply could not figure them out. It was not just that they were not functional; it was that he could not understand what the people who installed them thought they were.

If they were conceived of as illustrations of shutters, the way some people wear a shirt with a picture of a jacket and tie on it, that might make sense. You cannot afford the expense of hinges, but you want your neighbors to think that you have the kind of money it would take to put hinges on your shutters.

But obviously they are not conceived of that way. Take a look at the second picture again. Imagine the shutters shutting. Imagine how much of the windows on the first floor they would cover. When you have stopped laughing, try to explain what the people who installed them thought they were installing.

For decades this mystery has bothered Dr. Boli. What do these mock shutters represent? What idea are they meant to convey to us? What is the message of the plastic paste-on shutters?

But at last a reader and friend gave Dr. Boli the explanation he had been waiting for. Shutters, she said, are air quotes for windows. They tell us, the spectators, “This decorative glass-covered hole in the wall is a ‘window.’ In ancient times, before LED bulbs, ‘windows’ were used to admit ‘light’ into the house, and some of them could even be ‘opened’ to admit ‘fresh air,’ a substance on which our ancestors placed much value, though the reason for it has been lost in the ‘mists’ of ‘time.’ Today we honor the traditions of our ancestors by placing ‘windows’ in the walls of buildings of the higher class.”

This is the only satisfactory explanation for mock shutters that Dr. Boli has ever heard. But it does bring up another question: What is the overlap between people who put mock shutters on windows where they could not possibly shut and people who constantly use air quotes in conversation? Dr. Boli has begun to suspect that a Venn diagram of those two groups could be made with one circle.

Meanwhile, now that we have made some progress in the mystery of the mock shutters, perhaps another reader will be able to explain rear spoilers on front-wheel-drive cars.

The photographs are generously provided by Father Pitt.


  1. tom says:

    The only relevant consideration of shutters vs “shutters” is how much do they add to the resale value of the house or “house.”

    • RepubAnon says:

      More precisely, how much the salesperson for the fake shutter installers TOLD you they would add to the home’s resale value.

      As to the reason for rear spoilers on front-wheel drive cars, it could be to reduce drag … but more likely, it’s to trick people into thinking that you’re driving a (less Woke) rear wheel drive car.

  2. Mary says:

    The mock shutters make nice housing for local bat colonies. Perhaps they should be marketed as such.

  3. von Hindenburg says:

    I grew up in a house from the early 1800s which no longer had shutters, but still had the heavy iron staples (easily strong enough for a 10yo to climb on) that had held shutters heavy enough to protect the inhabitants from the still not fully-evicted former owners of the land. The windows on that house were relatively *narrow*.

    Now, I live in a Midcentury Modern home with windows wider than they are tall, but which do have fake shutters (which I didn’t install and will probably remove at the next painting). We get considerably more light in the house than I did as a kid.

    Shutters look nice. It’s understandable why people want them. However, people also like wide windows. These require shutters that are either excessively wide themselves or bifolds which are complicated and maintenance-intensive. Furthermore, much of actual purpose of shutters has been superseded by air conditioning and screened windows.

    So, you like the look of shutters, but can’t easily have ones that fit over many modern windows and, since they’re not actually needed for their original purpose anymore, why put up with the expense and maintenance needs? I’m not a fan of fake shutters either, but I get why people have them.

  4. Daniel says:

    Fake shutters can be very nice unintentional bat houses. I discovered this while starting to remove the (making air quotes) shutters (done making air quotes) at the beginning of a remodeling project for which I was a hired laborer in about 1978. Almost fell off the ladder when the little cloud of fledermäuse went airborn.

  5. Jason says:

    I call these “vestigial shutters”.

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