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How to Select an Interior Door that Matches Existing Architectural Elements

Behind Every Great Man Stands a Woman Rolling Her Eyes

I was naked . . . and stepping into the shower when she started, “What are you talking about?!”. . . but she continued, “I mean – do I really have to have you run every decision by me?” They were rhetorical questions (I think) — but she was irritated. We were “discussing” which door style we would place on the now, almost-completed primary bath. The 8×8 room, until that moment, never had a door associated with it.  Or at least that was the case in the time that we have owned this house.

The Door Styles I was Eyeing

 (from Simpson Door Company):

Single-panel (raised or flat and in a shaker style):

Or this (a 4-Panel):

The rear portion of our house – the original kitchen (the one which I have absolutely zero “before” pictures of), an adjoining sitting room, and a once-mold-covered bathroom were fitted with 4-panel doors. And I decided to keep these (pictured at bottom). These rooms sit at the absolute opposite other end of the house.  (After pics here > Laundry Room Powder Room Office Remodel.)

Searching Salvage for Antique Coffered Doors

However, most of the other doors in the house are cherry-veneered (or birch-veneered at friend Paul points out) and coffered, as I have come to describe them.  (My guy Kevin at National Lumber had another name for this style, but I have since misplaced those notes.)  Our (master) bedroom door opening, which sits approximately five feet away from the bath in question, has this type of door.  Really no reason to touch these (immediately). And anyway — I like ’em (example picture below.)

Now, I know I could have gotten the existing door-style matched/made, but it really wasn’t an option for me on my *ahem* budget.  Could have done something a little more “off the wall” like a screen or a curtain. But the wife probably wouldn’t have gone for that and you also always gotta think resale.  A trip to the salvage superstore Second Chance also yielded no results. Close, but each I found would have required significant elbow grease. In the end, no, no and no.

(I wrote about Second Chance for Traditional Home magazine (now part of BH&G apparently).

Understand the Home’s Existing Interior Details

Since the single-panel door I would purchase would not match exactly, and considering until this point — the use of the 4-panel door style was limited to the back of the house (where it feels somewhat random), I could work now to integrate it more into the rest of the house and help give it, the house, *more* … balance. Never mind, I could match this style nearly exact.

And the idea even, that I was entertaining such a thought (OK, in fact I *was* leaning towards it) – seemed absurd to my wife.  If the single-panel door would not match exactly, it may do all too much to accentuate its own out-of-placedness. As if it, the door, were trying just. too. hard. to fit in.  Many smarter than I have had to incorporate such disharmonious details, and often working only to pull it out. As if to say instead, “Yeah I’m different – what’s it to ya?”

But I guess I couldn’t summons that, for this discussion. I mean – I was naked; I only had one cup of coffee in me. And I was at a total loss, when it came time to argue my point.  More lucid now, though, as I find myself writing it down. And again there is that balance and the going with a house’s general vibe thing, which I have discussed in a few places on this blogsite.

Selective Salvage

It does occur to me – and I know, I really don’t have the easiest house to deal with, or maybe — as my wife would have it – I’m not the easiest. But I’ll save that rant for an Outtake on Old Houses at the bottom of this post.  And this all really comes down to the approach we have taken with this house. “Selective salvage” or “selective saving” – I’ve used those terms around here before — it is the overreaching method we have used in tackling *this* house.


Thanks for reading, and oh, btw, which door style did you think I ended up ordering?  You can leave a comment below if you are so motivated, or if you have knowledge of my existing door style.

With those things said, this really is one of my more favorite topics, the dynamics created by varying personal styles, and how relationships work around/through/near them. 


More Moxie (Let’s Talk Old Houses)

“Difficult” — I say this not so much because nothing is square and/or level (thanks to 120+ years of load) but mainly because the house was built prior to the application (and even before the birth of many) of today’s ways and means.  Plaster to drywall (two completely unique systems), balloon vs. platform framing, and these two are just the low-hanging.

Identifying Interior Trim Style

Add to this, the variety of molding (and their profiles) found in and on this house.  Things such as thickness and widths of moldings – most framing is exactly a true 2 inches (not the 1 ½ inch actual width we get today).

Bead and other exterior trim has a thickness that varies from between 7/8” and 1”.  For a true one by – actual thickness for today’s (and due to the milling process) is ¾”.  Corner beads on the exterior of the house, and this is where I ran into problems recently – *errmmmph* one of the other man’s guys – with widths of 3 ¾” in some cases, up to 4 or 4 ½” in others — today’s standards – 3 ½” and 5 ½” from a 1×4 and/or 1×6 respectively.

So, in a lot of cases, it’s not like I am pulling anything off the shelf.  And for the record — I only had a partial inkling of how much more work this adds to even a half-hearted “restoration” process.

I should note too that much of the material still found on this house, I believe, was milled right at the location on which our now dilapidated garage sits (and that’s a project I still haven’t figured a plan of attack on).  I wrote a little bit about that here > My Life is a Home Project, and I know . . . excuses, excuses.

For more on restoring this Victorian Farmhouse, and what I have learned from working on this old house, see our Category – Old House.

And for reals, thanks! I’m out.  ~jb

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