Renter’s Dilemma: Covering a Large Doorway

My friend Christine has a dilemma. She’s renting a charming studio apartment with a kitchen that’s open to the rest of the space through a large double doorway. This doorway creates great flow in the small space, but it also allows the kitchen smells to permeate her whole home. Well, I would never want to slow Christine down in the kitchen, as I have tasted her cooking, and it’s yum!

Here’s the opening she’d like to be able to close off when creating something delicious in the adjacent kitchen.

Renter's dilemma: how to cover a large doorway.  Jewels at Home.

Renter’s dilemma: how to cover a large doorway?

I love a challenge, so here are four ways to cover a large doorway, including several I want to try or have tried myself!

1) Install salvaged or new doors in the opening.

Christine mentioned she was thinking of using some antique doors, and I love that idea! I definitely have my eye out for ways to use those, too. Some great sources include local antique stores, antique markets, craigslist, eBay, and in San Francisco,Building REsources, a non-profit that sells salvaged building materials.

Using vintage materials is a beautiful way to honor an old home or bring character to a new one. I love the look of antique Chinese doors built into a new space, and I would like to incorporate something like this when we redo our kitchen and create a new opening to the dining area. Here’s a beautiful example spotted at Builder magazine.

antique Chinese door built into a new space.  Builders magazine.  Photo by Duncan Livingston.

antique Chinese door built into a new space. Builder magazine. Photo by Duncan Livingston.

Go to Builder magazine

My reservation about DIYing this beautiful idea is that it would require quite precise carpentry to make the doors fit and operate well. In a small space, swinging doors could also take up valuable space when open. If you are handy, check out these instructions from This Old House on how to fit those old doors.  I think I will be better off leaving that job to professionals.

2) Install salvaged or new doors as sliding barn doors.

Another way to use old – or new – doors is to hang them sliding on rails in front of a doorway.  I would like to incorporate this ideas when (if?) we renovate, perhaps in our basement or in a kitchen-great room transition. It’s particularly well-suited to a large opening and has a casual charming feel. The advantage of using doors on a sliding rail is that they will take up less space when open. There are plenty of resources online for building your own barn doors and setting up barn door hardware.  It’s still a pretty advanced DIY project, but perhaps more forgiving than installing hinged doors. Also, for Christine’s purpose, this arrangement would let more odors through, but it should be an improvement on the current set-up. Here’s a beautiful example of sliding vintage doors from Lavender and Lilies.

Salvaged doors installed to slide on a rail.  Shown at Lavender and Lilies.

Salvaged doors installed to slide on a rail. Shown at Lavender and Lilies.

3) Install tall shoji screens fixed in place.

Christine and I must be on the same wavelength! Well, we do have quite a few things in common, you know… and now you can add that black shoji screen to the list. I bought a couple of these screens in a taller height from Overstock.  These are harder to find and more expensive but available in various heights up to 8′, which makes them very versatile. I installed them as a “wall” in our basement, which has a small living space that was completely open to the garage. I wanted to separate the two areas while still allowing light through. I also wanted something that would be economical, since, as mentioned just a moment ago, I dream of someday renovating that space and possibly incorporating some stylish sliding barn doors.  Please excuse the completely blog-unworthy photo below, as I did not clean up at all before snapping this picture.  On the left side of the screen is a small rec room type space for Steve and the boys to play games, etc..  On the right is our garage, and I have set up a rough mudroom area at the entrance.

Shoji screens in extra-tall heights can be used to create a floor-to-ceiling room divider that lets light filter through.  Jewels at Home.

Shoji screens in extra-tall heights can be used to create a floor-to-ceiling room divider that lets light filter through.

For now, I have these screens fixed in place with L-brackets on the back side. I left some panels free, so we can fold the wall open in certain areas. Installing tall screens would be an easy change to make at Christine’s place, and while it also would be permeable, I think it would still create better separation than a standing screen.  These screens fold very flat, so that would be another advantage for city living.

Shoji screens in extra-tall heights can be used to create a floor-to-ceiling room divider that lets light filter through.  Install by using L brackets screwed into the screen and the top of the doorway.  Jewels at Home.

Install an extra-tall shoji screen by using L brackets screwed into the screen and the top of the doorway.

4) Hang a heavy curtain.

Perhaps the easiest improvement of all would be hanging a heavy curtain over this doorway. It would take up little space, require minimal DIY skills, and be economical, too. Something heavy, like these grommet blackout panels would definitely cut down on air flow. You could hang these on a tension rod in the doorway or on a regular curtain rod on either side. I like grommet panels for the way they stack neatly.

Well, there’s some food for thought. Please share any other ideas for Christine in the comments!

“Jewels”

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