As a Joiner and a Preservation carpenter I always enjoy studying interesting architectural details. On a recent trip to Old Quebec I found a lot of interesting French influenced shutters that I wanted to share with you.
Living and working in New England and the mid-Atlantic the majority of what I come across are English, Dutch and some German inspired shutters.
In Old Quebec many of the buildings date to the 17th and 18th centuries. Shown below is a great example of a board and batten (or sometimes called a ‘ledge’) shutter with ‘Z’ bracing. I like how the ‘Z’ brace was properly let into the batten (horizontal member). What was unusual to my eye was how the the nails used to clinch the boards to the batten were relatively large nails and relatively few in number compared to English versions of this type of shutter.
Wandering around Place Royale Square you can visit many beautiful and historic buildings. The earlier 17th century French buildings had smaller panes in the windows and the 18th century English buildings had larger windows with larger panes as technology advanced and styles changed over time.
The doors, windows and trim on many of these buildings are painted in vibrant colors. The tour guide for our group said many of these colors were reminders of the villages they came from in France where towns often had many buildings painted in the same color to help aid ships navigating — by the color they could tell what town it was. (I have nothing to back that statement other than her word, but interesting if true)
These beautiful bright yellow shutters had nice breadboard ends and decorative cutouts to dress up the otherwise relatively plain look and let in a bit of light so occupants could tell if it was day or night from inside the building.
On this building the shutters also sport breadboard ends to help keep the vertical boards flat. These shutters were made from particularly thick stock and the outer edges are also fielded a bit which adds a nice detail and likely helps the shutter sit flush when closed.
Wandering around Place Royale Square there were many great buildings to admire including some with traditional raised panels but we’ll skip those English style shutters since we’ve talked about them before in other posts.
Here is were things really started to get interesting for me. The building shown here has tapered sliding dovetail battens to help keep the boards flat. A shutter is exposed to extreme conditions of sunlight, heat, weather, cold etc which will cause the boards to move a lot with the seasonal changes. If you look carefully at the photo above you can see how the sliding dovetail allows for that seasonal movement without any metal hardware to secure the batten to the boards.
Also note how the middle batten is tapered the opposite way compared to the upper and lower battens. This helps keep the battens and boards flat and keeps the boards from sliding off the battens.
In another part of the city we saw the same style of tapered sliding dovetail battens that are flushed with the rest of the shutter. If you look carefully at the paint lines you can see how the battens were set into these nice thick boards.
On that same building was a very nice butted panel door with a large transom above it that I had to share with you. Again the lines are very neat and plan, only dressed with a simple V-joint to accentuate the defect of the narrow panels meeting the rails and stiles.
What really grabbed my eye was this detail on the bottom of the door that helps she snow away from the threshold during the harsh Quebec winters. This year in Boston we set local records for getting 10+ feet of snow this year. When talking to folks in Quebec they said they had over 20 feet of snow! So with larger snow piles reaching up to your door this detail presumably will help keep some of the snow from getting in.
It was great to see some architectural details that were uncommon to my area. If you live in an area with interesting shutter and door details, please share them in the comments.
P.S. If you want to learn more about traditional New England and Mid-Atlantic style shutters you may want to check out this earlier post here or an upcoming session of that workshop. During the course I talk about stylistic and regional variations we have here in New England, New York and Northern Virginia.