This is part 2 of a 2 part series. View Buyers Guide to Blinds and Shutters, Part 1 here.

Shutters - essential info
Sales of shutters have grown an impressive 40 per cent in the last two years,' says Fiona Kelly, managing director of The Shutter Shop. 'People appear to be leaving curtains behind in favour of the clean, minimalist lines of shutters.' Some shutter companies provide a completely bespoke service, where a consultant measures up and fits the shutters for you, while others can make something for you to fit yourself (only advisable for those confident with their tool kit).

With lots of materials to choose from, from MDF-based wood to the more expensive solid woods, Mark Carter, company director of Shutterly Fabulous points out: 'It's worth investing in the best your budget will allow as shutters are, in reality, furniture for your windows.'

Taking their name from the sprawling 19th-century mansions in America's deep south, the most versatile are plantation-style shutters. These feature louvres that open and close to minimize heat from the sun. They provide ventilation and privacy when needed and come in an impressive array of colours and materials. Shutterly Fabulous, Shaftesbury Shutters and The New England Shutter Company will all colour match or stain shutters to Farrow & Ball, Dulux and many other well-known paint colours. They will also treat with a UV sealant so touch-ups aren't necessary. The New England Shutter Company also offers hand-stitched faux leather, suede and fabric finishes in a huge range of shades and textures.

You can now choose the width of your louvres too. 'Larger louvres allow in more light when the shutter is open,' says Harriet Shackleton, sales manager at The New England Shutter Company, 'so it's worth bearing this in mind when you're making your decision.'

The traditional method of opening and closing louvres is with a rod on the outside of the shutter, but many companies now offer designs that feature hidden mechanisms or even remote-controlled shutters (good for hard-to-reach windows) for a contemporary finish.

Solid shutters were originally installed in pre-Edwardian houses and were only used a couple of times a year when the owners decamped for the season. They weren't designed to be opened and shut daily like our present designs, which is why so few remain today. As well as traditional wood, they now come in a number of materials, so try Parma Lilac for an acrylic version or Draks for Japanese-style canto shutters with hardwood frames and a bespoke central panel of non-reflective acrylic, glass or even a fabric of your choice.

You can also source antique shutters at salvage companies such as Lassco. 'Shutters can be cut down, just make sure they still work proportionally,' says Francis Lee, design consultant at Lassco. Or you can add an extra leaf to make them fit, but measure up carefully to find a pair as near perfect as possible.

Types of Shutters

Café-style shutters are hung only on the bottom half of the window and are more cost effective (as they only cover half the window). They are ideal if you live at street level and need privacy, but still want to allow light in, but no good if you ever want to black out the room completely.

Tier-on-tier or double-hung shutters are the most versatile shutters you can opt for, with two sets hung one above the other, working independently. This gives great flexibility as you can have the top open and the bottom shut, or vice versa, and both sets can be open or shut too. The only disadvantage is that they can look a bit fussy on some types of windows.

Full-height shutters are best for taller windows. There is usually a dividing rail either halfway up, or at a natural break in the window (i.e. at the level of the sash). This makes taller shutters more sturdy and enables the louvres in the top and bottom half to move independently, so you could open the top set to let in light but keep the bottom shut for privacy.

Solid shutters give a clean look and come with various centre panels such as raised, moulded and Shaker styles. Solid-based shutters are a combination of louvre panel at the top and solid panel at the bottom.