Create a room with a view

Tricks using doors can increase your sense of space

By Rebecca Keillor, Vancouver Sun, 2015
Create a room with a view

A top-hung, aluminum-glazed sliding door installed by Slung Doors for a Salt Spring residence allows for openings up to 24 metres wide.

Photograph by: Handout photo , Vancouver Sun

As people are craving more connection with the outside world from inside their homes, doors are getting in the way. They're necessary of course; we need them to access our homes, for warmth and protection, but we just don't want to see them.

"There's a trend toward large glazed areas in houses and once people have become familiar with the pleasures of bringing these doors in and vice versa they aren't going to want to go back and live in a cave, or have a port hole," says Dal Brickenden, whose New Westminster company Slung Doors specializes in large leaf hung and sliding doors, installing them everywhere from New York to Idaho.

There is an ongoing tug of war, says Brickenden, between a desire to have low energy inputs, to heat and cool buildings and provide maximum exposure to the outdoors.

As we are moving into smaller spaces, with more people living in condos and the size of these condos getting smaller all the time, Brickenden says putting in a patio door with too many panels (and dividers) can make people feel like they're living in a honeycomb, or looking out at their view through a picket fence.

To alleviate this, Slung offers large glass door panels that are hung from the ceiling, carrying their weight on a welded steel core frame, which is then covered in wood or aluminum, depending on your interior preference.

"If you're trying to create a sense of space, you need to have a flush or integrated (door) sill," says Brickenden. "A flush sill just means at the floor level nothing extends above the finished floor."

If it's a sill four inches or smaller, your eye will skip over it, says Brickenden, but much more will interrupt your sight line. To achieve the flush sill outside, says Brickenden, the walking surfaces of patios or balconies can be raised to the level of the door but it must have an adequate drainage system.

Using doors to maximize your sense of space applies to interior doors as well, says Chad Falkenberg of Vancouver's Falken Reynolds Interiors.

"It's always fascinating going into a condo building that's about 20 years old and you think, 'Wow, people really lived and functioned differently in their daily life.' I think the biggest change is that we used to live in a lot of small rooms and now we want to live in one big room and that's because our lifestyle is a lot more casual, a lot less formal," says Falkenberg.

To achieve this open effect, Falkenberg says his company works with Canadian hardware suppliers such as Richelieu and C.R. Laurence to figure out which door applications will work best in a space.

"We're doing a project right now in Yaletown with giant floor-to-ceiling glass doors so when they're open it feels like the room and the bathroom continue on and when they're closed the glass goes all the way up to the ceiling. There's not even a frame around the glass so it's like a floating panel," he says.

Floor-to-ceiling applications are the way to achieve a greater sense of space in any place, says Falkenberg, but particularly in smaller spaces.

"A lot of people in smaller spaces like condos tend to use smaller things," he says. "So smaller doors, maybe even smaller pieces of furniture and what we've found is that that makes the space feel even smaller. So if we can use larger doors that will go all the way to the ceiling, that helps make a small space feel bigger because there's less lines and trim pieces and all of those things."

Another inexpensive trick, says Falkenberg, is to paint the doors of your wardrobes the same colour as the walls and go for doors that have as little detail as possible on them.

"So when they're all closed it just feels like it's a big wall," he says.

Industrial-style doors have also found favour in Vancouver, says Union Wood Co. owner Craig Pearce, who gets regular requests for interior barn-style doors. "People seem to be liking these because they are a fun and interesting way to add some texture to a room," he says.

"We build them to suit and it is simple to coordinate the materials and hardware to match the rest of the space. Doors are an important detail in finishing a space; they can be subtle or bold."

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Diane Cameron

Diane Cameron

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