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New England shutter horns on exterior shutters above the Broad Arrow Tavern.

Exterior Shutters Horns & Tails

There is a proud architectural tradition that exists in the New England region of America. Small details are important to the authentic look and feel of homes in these states. Homes benefit from exterior shutters which incorporate historic elements that resonate with the culture. One important exterior shutter design feature integrates long side stiles that extend above the top rail or below the bottom rail. “Shutter horns” are common throughout the Northeast on both raised panel and louvered exterior shutters.

New England shutter horns on exterior shutters above the Broad Arrow Tavern.

New England Shutters

Side stiles are the vertical wood components that run the full length of either side of an exterior shutter panel. A standard side stile is cut even with the top of the top rail and bottom of the bottom rail. Shutter horns lengthen the stiles beyond the top rail. Stiles that extend past the bottom of the panel are sometimes called “shutter tails” or “shutter feet.” Panels with either horns or tails have also been labeled “Boston shutters” or “New England shutters.”

Boston or New England style exterior shutters with horns or tails.

Historic Shutter Horns

The reason for shutter horns on exterior shutters remains a bit of a mystery. There is speculation that expanded stiles were integral in positioning the outdoor window shutters in an open position with simple shutter hardware. Early shutter dogs may not have worked as effectively as they do today, or the shutter tails were designed to trigger the shutter dogs to open. Another theory figures shutter tails allowed for air to pass between the shutter and window sill, providing additional ventilation when closed. This would be particularly valuable with solid panel shutters which generally obstruct air circulation and allow the house to grow stale.

Exterior shutter tails on a yellow house.

Shutter tails and horns are now functionally obsolete and are purely an ornamental accessory.  Home restorations in New England states require that small details meet preservation regional society guidelines and maintain historic shutter accuracy. This small detail is prevalent in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maine.

Buy Shutter Horns & Tails

ShutterLand can construct exterior shutter horns or tails on request. There is a small fee for the additional material and labor. We are equally concerned about craftsmanship and architectural integrity as the homeowner.

Only exterior wood shutters can be made with extended stiles. Other materials, such as composite or vinyl, have limitations that prevent this element.

Wood exterior shutters with tails and horns.

Horns, tails, or both will add $25 to the price of each shutter panel.

To order wooden exterior shutters with horns or tails, specify the measured shutter height from the top of the top rail to the bottom of the bottom rail. In the comments section of the order form notate which panels need “horns”, “tails”, or “both horns and tails”. The typical length is 2″, but they can be made up to 4″.