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Architect's Viewpoint

Select Interior Doors That Reflect Home's Basic Style

September 15, 2002|ARROL GELLNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Your basic door. It's a simple enough thing, yet it packs such a visual wallop that architects and homeowners alike can spend hours or even days looking for just the right choice.

What size? What style? And should it swing or slide?

Setting aside the front door, which is a subject in itself, here are some guidelines for picking the right kind of interior door from the huge array available.

Hinged doors are, of course, the most common. In these froufrou-crazy times, flush doors--the plain, smooth kind--long ago lost out to recessed-panel designs molded out of hardboard. Of these, the common six-panel style is generally the best choice for neotraditional homes built during the past two decades.

Other panel designs having Italianate arches, Colonial-style split pediments or narrow Victorian panels are best restricted to newer homes corresponding to those styles.

However, molded doors are not a good choice for prewar traditional homes, which should have genuine wood doors. Nor are they appropriate to postwar ranches or other Modernist-era homes, which should have flush doors.

If you're simply dying to get rid of those cardboardy hollow-core doors in your postwar home, consider replacing them with good-quality solid-core flush doors rather than molded neotraditional ones.

As for size, the doors to major rooms are usually 32 inches wide, while 28-inch doors are customary in secondary rooms such as baths. You can buy doors as narrow as 18 inches, but they're meant for closets, not room entrances.

Double doors, for all their elegance, don't really provide a wider passage in everyday use, since one leaf is usually latched in place. Choose double-door widths with that in mind.

Glazed doors--better known as French doors--provide one of the easiest ways to distinguish an interior. They're available with any number of panes ("lites," in trade lingo), from a single large one to 10, 15 or more.

Glazed doors will fit with both traditional and modern designs as long as you choose the right kind of "sticking"--the strips of wood that hold in the glass. For traditional homes the sticking can be molded, but for modern styles it should be rectangular, or the door will look too ornate.

In accordance with current fashion, most of the doors at your local home improvement center will have molded sticking, so you may have to special-order the plain kind.

Glazing provides another outlet for creativity. Clear glass is usually standard, but patterned, etched and colored glass are also available. Frosted glass doors can be used for bedrooms and even bathrooms to let light into dark hallways.

In restricted areas, or where doors will be left open most of the time--say, between a kitchen and dining room--a pocket door (often mistakenly called a sliding door) is the solution. Since it retracts into the wall and virtually disappears, it won't clutter up the room like a hinged door will.

Strictly speaking, the only thing that distinguishes a pocket door from a hinged door is the hardware, so any of the designs available for hinged doors will also work as pocket doors, including glazed ones. Naturally, there has to be a solid wall on one side for the door to retract into, and there can't be any kind of sticking or ornament protruding beyond the door surface. Make sure you get good, smooth-running hardware too, because once installed, a balky door is no fun to repair.

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Arrol Gellner is an architect with 23 years' experience in residential and commercial architecture. Distributed by Inman News Features.

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