When I shut my eyes sometimes and daydream about my time in Nice, I picture the narrow alleys of the old town dappled in sunlight , the distressed building walls’ drenched in bright cheerful hues and one important detail sticks out. The window shutters.
Or volets as the French call them.
Volets with laundry hanging in front on their wrought-iron balconies.
Volet with flower boxes.
Closed volets. Open volets. Partially open volets.
The whole nine yards.
My first night in Nice, my host bustled into my room, closed the volets stated something in rapid French, motioned to the windows and walked out. I nodded furiously, even though I had no idea what she just said.
Turns out that most houses and apartments in the South of France have volets. As the sun goes down every day, so do the volets. People shut them tight after sunset and crack open the windows and the shutters in the morning to allow the sunlight to trickle in.
As for construction, color, and style, people don’t have much of a choice. If you own a listed building in France, you have to battle with Bâtiments de France, who safeguard historic houses and monuments. They designate what type of volets you can have and what color they should be painted. Traditionally, the volets are made out of oak and are nearly indestructible. They open in the middle into two vertical panels and can be fastened back. Some even go up and down. Since most people in the South don’t have air conditioners, these simple and genius contraptions keep the cool air inside in the summer and heat indoors in the winter.
The whole world may be going gaga over French doors, but the shabbily chic window-shutters from South of France that have inexplicably captured my heart. 🙂