Is France losing the colour from its shutters? volets colorés…

Colourful French shutters were commonplace in France but today the tradition is fading fast.

Coloured shutters FranceColoured shutters FranceColoured shutters France

The Identity of France

All too often I see the iconic colourful array of shutters adorning homes (volets battants)in France dwindling! Call me nostalgic but it has long been considered a part of Frances Identity and heritage for centuries.

So why have shutters lost their colour?

Today there are many factors which have seeded the reduction of colour.

  • Politics
  • Fashion
  • Geography

Colour has become Political?

The “Colourfully Painted Wooden Shutters’ otherwise known as ‘Volets’. The French people are slowly becoming ‘Toned Down’ and less favourable but some town councils. Search for ‘Shutters’ in Google or Bing and you will see thousands of images depicting the colourful shutters that dress up the stone built homes but the reality is less than romantic. I feel the French Iconic is being hampered by circumstance and narrowly minded legislation brought about by conservatism. Sounds political? but our right to express is being controlled just to keep us from upsetting the masses.

Fashion Influence

We don’t like to admit it but we are being influenced by industry and others. These outside forces in the form of

  • Media
  • Marketing
  • Store market forces

We are constantly being bombarded from all directions of what is considered hip. This fashion Influence can then provoke desire, want and need.

Quality is associated with natural finishes so there is a increase in brown colours. We build shutters and too many people stain them with some dark water based wood stain. This is so uninspiring and frankly depressing for me. Soon we will see all shutters being painted brown in a futile effort to replicate wood.

Geography and Regions influence

France is a large country with diverse cultural habits. Rural areas are more stuck in their ways but towns and cities can have a huge impact on our choices. Regional influence is also controlled by politics in the form of local planning code set by the authorities.

Why Volets?

Well, that is French for shutters after all but teaching you French is not the purpose of this blog paragraph. ‘Why’ is a question and that is the purpose of this Blog so I will try to answer it but first let’s talk about the purpose of shutters in France and how they have become a part French culture.

blue shutter house 01

The industry seems to have a say!

I feel the supply of modern paints and finishes which are easy to apply as aimed at the DIY’er have allowed you to colour stain with coloured acrylic varnishes which after a few coats just look like different shades of Brown! These horrid products just mask the real beauty of the timber and actually provides poor protection from the elements. In my opinion, if you are going for a natural wood appearance then tint first then follow with a clear varnish which will enhance the wood and not just covers the grain it up.

To be honest I still dislike Varnishes but if your shutters are made from Oak such as the ones we make then a good oil finish looks great. I personally would still go for colour as it can really add character and it will extend your own personality through the exterior facade of your home. Oils are available in various colours and can be applied to Oak or Fir.

You may have no choice?

ledge and braced shutters in france, volets sur mesure dan la limousin

ledge and braced shutters in france

Your Marie may have rules regarding the colours you are allowed in your commune which seems a little odd if your home is in a rural location but it could be prudent to (permission du conseil) ask first. Otherwise, get those colour swatches out and start getting creative. You should avoid the French equivalent to Magnolia ‘Ton Pierre’ at all costs or you risk looking like everyone else and being labelled as boring! My Heart sinks when I see these blank canvases painted with a stained varnish in an obvious Brown or painted plain White when there are so many opportunities to demonstrate the versatility of colour. Security is also important

Size Matters?

During the middle ages, the shutters were much smaller with basic perforated shutters fitted to the inside and covered with a form of a translucent oiled parchment. It did let in a bit of light but impossible to see through. A few hundred years later the miraculous development of glass was soon becoming far superior to the early glass of the 1300s.

This was a breakthrough and windows themselves became more elaborate, let alone bigger because glass construction was more usable. The development of other materials and techniques allowed for masonry to span greater distances providing the possibility of larger windows.

Exterior mounted shutters like the ones you see today were readily becoming common around the 1750s and were soon seen as the prefered option. Many of the shutters were not painted but some were oiled with linseed or other oils to keep the water out of the timber but most were just left to the elements.

It’s Whitewash!

Early paint was chalk based and commonly white as it was easy to make by anybody with the recipe book and called ‘lime wash’ or ’whitewash’.Later pigments became available such as ‘Cobalt Blue’ and ‘Lapid Lazuli’ (Ultramarine), These blues are seen in the form of the French colour ‘Chariot Bleu’ and widely used on the shutters or Volets across the continent as it was thought the light blue colour repelled flies.

Even the Cavemen had Colour

The famous ‘Lascaux Caves’ in France just south of our workshops in the limousin is well documented for the Neanderthal cave wall paintings. These ancient men used the technique of burning animal fats to produce soots for pigments of the colour ‘Lamp Black’ ‘Yellow Earth / Ochre’ and ‘Red Earth / Ochre’

So Why Have Shutters?

Primarily they have a purely functional purpose and have become a way of life for the French people. For security, they fend off the prying eyes of the un savouries wanting to know more about you or those villains who want to rob you.

Shutters Insulate

In this modern age, we are told how we should save energy by insulating our homes with materials that frankly pollute our threatened environment. Shutters insulate and our wooden shutters made from sustained wood from managed forest certificated by the PEFC & FSC also have insulating qualities.

The Strategy

It is not uncommon to control inside temperatures by shutting the Volet when very hot or very cold and opening at strategic times.

bright green shutters. vert volet

Why Vibrantly Paint your Shutters because Colour Makes you Happy, not SAD

Apart from looking great? paint your shutters with vibrant coloured paints or stains that reflect your personality and look good on your home.The Kaléidoscope of colour adorning French homes creates an ambience that feels welcoming.  It is a fact of life and surrounds us all everywhere we look we see more colour. I’m not complaining as it makes me feel ‘Happy’ and not ‘SAD’!

Lets get technical!

According to wikipedia Chromotherapy otherwise known as color therapy, colorology or even, cromatherapy should be percieved as a pseudoscience and is wideley accepted as an alternative wellbeing treatment. The mental affect of colour should not be ignored and is well documented in a positive or negative.

“You are not SAD?”You Say!

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing you know and it is proven that colour can make you feel happy or sad … even hungry or chilled out. We as human beings are subject to our environment and the influences it puts upon us so it isn’t hard to comprehend that colour makes an impression on our wellbeing. During the long winter months where the Sun has less time in the Sky SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder affects so many people and their sensibilities.

Which Colours Affect our Wellbeing

When start to decide on the colour for your new shutters it may never of come to mind that the colour you choose can affect your emotion. A good decision here can have a designed effect on your mental health. I know this sounds like some Voodoo madness but it is scientifically proven

When we drive through French villages or small towns there is nobody around and the houses look deserted as though they were abducted but the truth is they are hibernating!! If you listen carefully or sometimes there is no need as you will hear conversations or other hustle and bustle while they go through the routines of French life.

In an attempt to keep warm or to cool down. In France the people use their shutters as a manual control of temperature but the younger generation with their busy lifestyles are starting to see this as a chore and with modern windows and doors it is less necessary.

Our Coloured Conclusion

So Why is France losing the Colour from it’s shutters? Maybe we have all lost the conviction to be different and find it just too easy to follow the message of ‘not to be different’ that floats around our day to day existence. That sounds a little deep but there may be some truth in it but is it just that fashions and our desires have changed?

So why, so how am I supposed to know? But one thing I am sure of is that people in general have changed. What I mean by that is that we as individuals are becoming creatively lazy relying on others to think creatively for us and it is leaving a void in our mental well being and our ability to express ourselves.

When I was a kid I had to entertain myself or collectively with friends but these days our children have too many toys and computer games. When they are not bashing the trigger button developing their ‘Carpal Tunnel Syndrome’ they are surfing the net or making worthless conversations with people who disguise their real identity. So this is the route of the problem, not only for the obvious but also laterally affecting many other social scenarios, “but what do I know?” I find this lack of realising the obvious a sad state of affairs which can only be neutralised by re introducing colour to the world.

The myriad of colours that adorned the french architectural horizon that must survive the politically correct colour management that our beloved Marie’s approved neutral colour palette that can be found furnishing their filing systems. Wow! A mouthful? ‘Yes’ that might be but true nonetheless!  If we dont change our approach to creativity we will be cloaked in white with hint of Magnolia AKA ‘Ton Pierre’ and that will be terrible.

We all have a responsibility to bring back the colour and make the architectural skyline ‘Great Again!!’ Lets change our mental aptitude and creative capability and step clearly outside the box and do something you may consider risky. ‘Risk provokes Emotion’ & ‘Emotion Stimulates Creativity’.

We make wooden shutters that lend themselves to be painted and thus we may be biased! but when I see those roller shutters mounted on French new builds and some traditional builds I despair! Roller shutters should be left on garage doors and commercial buildings but I do understand the design cosmetic when installing on modern architectural designs just not these old stone built homes.

You are here at

We don’t currently provide a painting service (volets de peinture) with our made to measure (volets sur mesure) service but we are considering it but no ‘Ton Pierre’ or horrid thick brown varnish will be offered.

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By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989

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Malcolm the Boat ‘RIP’

Woodworking for me is in my blood as a son of a traditional boatbuilder. My Father Malcolm Kett was highly skilled and inventive individual often referred to as ‘Malcolm The Boat’.

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Marcus Kett and my Mortar!

Although I have spent a considerable portion of my life seeking further education and gaining qualifications in woodworking, electrical installations, bricklaying and to top it a degree in photography.

Yes, it is a medley of possible career choices but the one that I felt truly at home with was Woodworking. Woodworking has been my staple career choice that has given my family stability.

Why do I write these guides?

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Well that’s Me

We started to write these guides to help our customers. The idea was to provide the information needed to install our made to measure wooden products that we sell on this website and directly to our local customers.

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About Wallybois

wallybois mascot christmas

Wally is the middle one

We have lived and worked here in the Limousin Nouvelle Aquitaine since 2010, building window shutters and external doors. Our Volet manufacturing business is based at our home property as a ‘Cottage Industry’. We are a small business operating partly (60%) off the grid and try our best to practice our woodworking ethically.

How did we come up with the trading name ‘Wallybois’? Well, it is simple really, my best buddy ‘Wally’ and the fact that ‘Bois’ is French for wood and we live in France.

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By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989

Based in the Nouvelle Aquitaine of France