Home & Garden

These doors use your space wisely

No matter how small your dwelling’s footprint, you can always eke out a little more space. Novel interior doors such as pocket doors, barn doors and bifolds let you accomplish that with charm and flexibility.

Pocket doors slide into the adjacent wall when opened, eliminating the space lost to accommodate the door swing. Popular in grand Victorian parlors, these doors are making a comeback, cordoning off closets, pantries, home offices, bathrooms and laundry rooms.

Tamara Leicester of Tamara Heather Interior Design in Charlotte made clever use of the concept when adding on to her 1925 Plaza Midwood bungalow. Pocket doors separate the older, front portion of the house from the new kitchen and family room and offer “the perfect solution for our narrow hallways and limited floor space,” she said.

Leicester rescued a pair of antique French glass doors to match the style and age of the home and ran them on a track fastened underneath the door header.

Pocket doors keep pets and toddlers where you need them. They’re also handy for people in wheelchairs, said Barbara Green, principal of the Charlotte-based Sensibly Chic Designs for Life. A wheelchair can move through pocket door openings more easily than the typical door frame, unencumbered by door, hinges and thresholds.

Pocket doors aren’t suited for retrofitting existing door openings. The walls aren’t typically wide enough, and plumbing and electrical lines often get in the way. “The wall has to be built to accommodate a pocket door,” said Leicester.

Trendy barn-style sliding doors can be used anywhere there’s enough adjacent wall space to hang the doors when they’re in the open position. The doors – whether off the shelf or salvaged from a junk heap – are hung from barn tracking on the exterior of the wall and slide across an entryway to close off an area.

Like pocket doors, barn doors require minimal space to open and close. “They’re great for traffic flow and the placement of furniture,” Green said. Plus the door and exposed hardware make a statement – whatever style you chose, from rustic and funky to sleek and modern.

“Barn doors make a space more flexible,” Leicester added. “You can close them off and create private zones when you need them.”

There are limits to that privacy, however. Barn doors leave at least a quarter inch between the door and door frame, so sounds may carry. “They don’t give a tight fit like a regular door,” said Green. “But they have so many other benefits, I can look past that wart.”

Even bifold doors, “the red-headed stepchild of doors,” as Green put it, are being retooled. Unlike the ubiquitous feature among suburban ranch houses of a certain age (remember louvered closet doors?), new varieties are more stylish and have improved mechanisms and materials that keep them from sticking or coming off the track.

High-quality exterior glass bifold doors are also making their way onto the market, offering easy access to outdoor spaces. “These aren’t just useful but beautiful if you have a view you don’t want to obstruct,” said Green.