Bay windows are possibly the most difficult of windows to dress. Curtains never quite hang right, bunching up in the two corners where the window panes meet (not to mention the dilemma of short or long), blinds can look a little messy and often block off much of the top window, while translucent films can bubble and start to peel away at the corners. Window shutters might be just the answer – made to measure, they fit neatly into almost any size window, no matter how old and crooked, and offer flexibility in terms of light and privacy.
If you saw my living room makeover in my previous post (here) you may have noticed that we didn’t have anything on the windows to begin with. On visits to Scandinavia I’ve been amazed how few homes have curtains, blinds or shutters – they think it’s mad that you would want to cover a window and prevent what little light there is coming in. Great for those who love to peer into peoples homes when they walk past (like me!), but I think us Brits are a little bit more reserved. With recommendations from friends and fellow bloggers, I turned to Hillarys, the UK’s leading supplier of made to measure window dressings, to help me transform my living room window from bare and exposed to effortlessly stylish and smart.
Our living room looks right onto the street – one metre or so away is the road, and a busy, noisy one too. The bay window is quite big and I felt like I was living in a goldfish bowl, with people able to look in as we were sitting on the sofa or through to the kitchen when we were eating our dinner. Most people did actually walk straight past without a backward glance, but I couldn’t help feeling like our lives were on show to the world. Especially at night when the room was illuminated all the brighter.
Being south-facing, the living room could be overwhelming bright, especially in the mornings. The noise and view of the traffic was also distracting to the ambience and feel of the living room. The space was outward-looking when it should have been inward-looking, cosy and cocooning. Just in terms of how the room felt, something was needed on the windows to help create an interior that was a retreat from the world, a space to escape to and nest in.
Blinds and curtains are either open or closed, there’s no in-between, but shutters offer a little more control. While I wanted privacy, I didn’t want to completely cut off all the light and views out either. You might think that shutters belong in the realm of pretty French cottages and old-fashioned farmhouses, but Hillarys offers so many different styles, colours and finishes that I was able to find something to suit my contemporary, pared-back, scandi-style space.
For my first in-home appointment, Hillarys expert, the cheerful Enda, talked through the different options and offered practical tips on how I could get the look I was after. At this point the room was still a building site. I didn’t realise there was so many options for the windows – tier-on-tier shutters, full-height shutters, cafe-style shutters that fit just the bottom half of the window and solid shutters that add a warm, insulating layer to a window. I decided on tier-on-tier-shutters, so that I could open the top and bottom sections independently of one another. It means that I can have the bottom sections closed so people can’t look in, but the top sections open to let lots of light in.
Once that was decided, the next decision was where to position the bar that moves the slats up or down. There are five different Louvre widths to choose from. As a general rule, I was told that thinner slats look better on smaller windows, while wider slats are ideal for bigger windows. Holding samples up to the window really helped visualise what they would look like in the space. I opted for a medium sized width without the bar, for a cleaner, more minimal look. With a hidden mechanism, the slats can open and close all together just by tilting them up or down. Hillarys’ custom colour service also allows shutters to be finished in almost any hue, tone or shade, I went for a simple, classic white to match the paintwork and new column radiator. Decisions made, the fitting was booked for a few weeks later and I counted down the days until they would add the final finishing touch to the room.
Enda came back at the beginning of February. Fitting was surprisingly quick and easy, taking less than 2 hours from start to finish. The frame went onto the window frames first, then each door is screwed on with hinges, and its as simple as that, no mess, no stress. Magnets in the frame neatly secure the shuttered doors when they are closed and they’re good to go.
And I’m really pleased with the result. I love the versatility of the shutters – on sunny days I can tilt the shuttered slats to prevent glare, while on cloudy days I can open them all up to maximise light. Enda also showed me which directions to tilt the slats to prevent overlooking, I hadn’t even thought of the windows on the upper floors in the homes opposite. On most days we have the bottom shutters closed and the top two on the left and right open.
I also had no idea that shutters can also help to insulate windows in the colder months – research by the English Heritage and Glasgow Caledonian University shows that shutters can reduce the amount of heat lost through windows by 62%. So they not only create a cosy setting, they also make the room feel warmer and more inviting.
Now I look forward to going down to the living room in the mornings and looking out to see what the weather will be like that day. If someone comes to the front door, I can also tilt the shutters slightly to see who is there without them seeing me.
Our new shutters are the perfect finishing touch to the room, completing the space and bringing everything together. Our living room is still light and bright but it’s now properly dressed to make the room a better space to spend time in.
You can see more inspiration for lovely, light living rooms dressed with wooden window shutters on my Pinterest board:
All images: Cate St Hill. Disclosure: I was gifted the shutters by Hillarys for the purposes of this post, all thoughts and opinions my own