Thursday, July 11, 2019

Interviewed Mark Morales of Shutter Source Houston about Custom Made Shutters

Custom made bedroom shutters manufactured and 
installed by Mark Morales - Shutter Source Houston

"...Caesar would have looked through shutters to scrutinize torch lights below, while augurs read a sheep's liver for indications of trouble..." ( - Virginia Billeaud Anderson interviews Mark Morales about his custom made shutters. Article includes fun history of shutters used by ancient Persians, Greeks and Romans.)

Interviewed Mark Morales of Shutter Source Houston about Custom Made Shutters

As a kid craving aesthetic fulfillment, I hankered for wooden window shutters. How neat it would be, I imagined, to stand at a window and open and close the slats, to block or admit sunlight. I was too ignorant to know slats were called "louvers," yet it seemed brilliant to use louvers to modify light and ventilation. My desire was inspired by the "Plantation" style shutters that were a common south Louisiana architectural element.

This moment is imprinted in my psyche. I am in Kritsa, a tiny village in eastern Crete which has existed in one form or another since Minoan times. I watch an old woman open her shutters and look at me, and feel linked to something timeless.

Donnie got us a place near Marsala with floor to ceiling
 shutters opened to a garden

When we traveled in Sicily, Donnie got us a place near Marsala with floor-to-ceiling shutters that opened to a patio garden with olive, lemon and pomegranate trees. Visible in the distance was a large villa surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. We spent a great deal of time sipping wine on that patio, and enjoying the view. By then, however, I knew that the ancient Greeks had invented shutters.

Naturally, the Romans stole the idea.

Practicality appealed to the Romans. Utilitarianism aside, you can’t separate shutters from architecture, and it is architecture more than anything that draws me to the Mediterranean and Aegean. Same with the Adriatic, where I gawked at shutters on a Venetian-Gothic façade in the Croatian village of Stari Grad. Located on Hvar Island and considered one of the most ancient towns in Europe, Greek colonists from the island of Paros inhabited Stari Grad in 384 BC. The shutters that spoke to me covered arched windows flanked by hand-carved stone columns topped with Corinthian capitals.

Rome is a pain in the ass. The heat is unbearable, the hills are steep, cypresses and oleanders block precious courtyard views, scooters are satanic. Yet, I tolerate, to see shuttered medieval buildings on ridiculously narrow streets, such as Via del Governo Vecchio, or on Vicolo del Piede where laundry hangs above my head, and shutters appear lovely against crumbling peach-colored plaster, further, if you need booze this street provides many options. Very near, I took a picture of Donnie in the Piazza of Santa Maria de Trastevere, behind him an expansive shutter-lined architectural façade.

When I gallivant around the Palatine’s grassy ruins, I imagine its prestigious dwellings. There, Romulus built the city’s first houses, later Republican aristos and statesmen, the bucket-mouth Cicero for instance, constructed lavish residences. Then rose imperial palaces. More than one paranoid Caesar would have looked through shutters to scrutinize torch lights below, while augurs read a sheep's liver to forewarn of trouble, which makes me wonder if Mussolini could have avoided being hung upside down if he had used competent soothsayers. Residents on the Palatine Hill needed shutters to overcome the fact that, in summer, Rome is hot by 9am.

Shutters in Italy. Can't remember where
New Orleans French Quarter shutters. Spanish brought
 shutters to the Americas

The Persians had shutters.
 I don’t know if Alexander brought shutters to Persia when he hammered them and stole their wealth in 330 BC, or if shutters entered Persia with earlier Greeks. I do know however the Spanish brought shutters to the Americas, which is the reason I was familiar with shutters in south Louisiana. Recall that after French colonists founded New Orleans in 1718, and named it for King Louis XIV’s nephew, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, the city was ceded to the Spanish Empire in 1763.

One day Donnie announced it was time to replace our house’s original 1925 windows. Installing new windows gave me the chance to decorate them with the Plantation-style shutters I wanted when I was a kid. Desiring a traditional style with narrow louvers instead of a contemporary style with wider louvers, I found Mark Morales of "Shutter Source," who manufactures and installs traditional shutters. Admittedly, I’m no architect or interiors expert, but I do know a beautifully crafted architectural feature when I see one.

Bedroom shutters custom made by 
Mark Morales - Shutter Source Houston

I contacted Mark Morales and asked a few questions.

Virginia Billeaud Anderson: Years ago when we met, you told me you learned shutter-making by working with your father. Elaborate on that.

Mark Morales: I started working for my father when I was 12 years old. I worked after school, weekends and summers. My father had a company here in Houston on Post Oak Road, just north of Main Street. I worked for him from 1972-1983. My father learned to make shutters on the fly. He grew up in South Texas and did a little bit of everything, mostly carpenter work. He enlisted in the Air Force and was a mechanic. When he left the Air Force, he settled in California and worked in an areo-space tool manufacturing plant as an inspector. We moved back to Texas in 1970, my father and my two uncles started a construction company, but the company didn’t last long. My father started doing shutter installations to make ends meet. He then started to manufacture shutters.

VBA: As you know Mark, it was your having studied traditional plantation style shutters in historical homes in New Orleans and Galveston that attracted my attention. Your knowledge of historical shutter design interested me enormously.

MM: We did a lot of historical home projects over the years. We had the capability to manufacture our own louvers, rails and stile profiles which came in handy when we had to match only one or two panels in a home. Today, we still make exterior panels for jobs in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and surrounding areas.

VBA: Say a few words about your factory, a manufacturing facility in the Missouri City area of Houston which custom builds to customer requirements, how many people are employed. I know you work with solid wood. Do you manufacture all the wood components?

MM: Currently I have 22 employees. We use basswood for all our interior shutters and mahogany for all our exterior shutters. We no longer mill our own components. It saves money and time to buy pre-milled components.

VBA: The basswood can be sanded to a very smooth finish, which is why the dark wood stain I chose covered the wood so elegantly. Your attention to matching shutter stain with my window moldings blew me away. Did you study design or art?

MM: I never studied design. I've learned how to design special shapes by trial and error.

Mark Morales
Shutter Source
281 403-2012

(Selected Articles on

Consciousness Screwing with Us: Rice University’s 2023 Archives of the Impossible Conference

Garland Fielder Weighs In on Architectural Design and the Creative Process
A Talk with Angie Dumas About Her Blog "Da'Stylish Foodie" - Interview

Discovering S.P.Q.R. and Miraculous Oil at the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere
Eating Oysters at Topwater Grill in San Leon at Galveston Bay

A Tribute to Legendary Wildcatter Jim Bob Moffett

A Talk with Food Guru George Graham about - Graham’s New Cookbook “Fresh From Louisiana: The Soul of Cajun and Creole Home Cooking” - Interview

Ryan Baptiste - The Light Beyond The Blight - Redbud Gallery - Echoes of New Orleans

Martha Stewart Visits Lucullus Antiques - Patrick Dunne - New Orleans

Jimmy Domengeaux Chats about His Louisiana Wetlands Photography Exhibition – Interview

Notes on van Gogh’s Irises, Walter Annenberg, Louisiana Politics - Essay

Hôtel Lauzun, Hôtel Lambert - Charles Baudelaire, Alexis de Redè on Île Saint-Louis - A Closer Look

A Closer Look - Beef Empanadas with Olives - Seco’s Latin Cuisine - Essay