The house that I grew up in had shutters on the windows. To be precise, these were wooden slatted frames screwed into the wall beside the windows and served simply as decoration. In fact, every house that Bill and I have lived in, both in the US and in France, has had them as well but with one major difference: here the shutters open and close so you get window protection as well as ornamentation. And it doesn’t stop there since the hot summer sun is prevented from streaming into your home, meaning that in many situations there’s no need for air conditioning to be comfortable. For the two of us who came from Atlanta where it seemed that we were in cooled air buildings 24/7, that’s been a pleasant change.
There’s a Facebook group, Everything French, that highlighted an article from the website French Today about L’histoire des Volets or The History of Shutters. Knowing that in 600 BC the Greeks founded the city of Marseille, known for lots of sunshine and warm temperatures, it was no surprise to learn that they are attributed with introducing shutters to this country. They were made of marble but with fixed louvers that were eventually replaced with moveable wooden ones for better control of light and ventilation.
Next came interior shutters that were initially covered with translucent paper that in the 13th century was changed out for glass. Once Louis XIV adorned the palace of Versailles with volets, the feature became commonplace throughout the country, as the accompany photos show.
According to the US Department of Energy, the ideal summer thermostat setting that balances energy savings and comfort is 78℉/26℃. The Carrier company says that air conditioners are designed to lower the interior of a home by about 20℉ from the exterior temperature. In our house that would be a difference of around 11℃ meaning that the average summertime high of 28℃ in Carcassonne could drop to 17℃ inside our home. When we close our shutters each morning once that August sun comes pouring through, we stay quite comfortable at 23℃/73℉ the rest of the day without turning on that air conditioning that we don’t have. I’d say that those Greeks were pretty smart.
Photo note: The featured photo is Bill’s choice of a village house in St. Jean de Côle.