Add Architectural Character with Doors and Windows
Doors, whether internal or external, can make an immediate difference to the feeling and ‘stature’ of a home. Luckily, it is not very difficult to change them. You can choose from a large range of standard and custom-made designs which can be painted, left natural, stained and/ or sealed to suit a particular scheme. There is also a growing choice of insulated French doors and both single and double interior doors with glass panes which, substituted for the solid variety, can totally change the feeling of light and airiness in a room.
You can find old doors in demolition yards, at antique dealers specializing in architectural elements, or at demolition sales. These latter are especially useful if you are carrying out a renovation or conversion where the ceilings are high enough and enough walls are down that you can dictate your own terms as regards door openings. A handsome pair of double doors or a collection of pediments and beautiful door-cases might well dictate the entire style of your conversion.
Existing doors can, of course, be embellished. Mouldings can be superimposed on flat surfaces to give the impression of panelling. Conversely, unattractive mouldings can be stripped off and better ones put in their place. Doors can be veneered, stripped or wood-grained, or they can have their mouldings picked out in subtle gradations of colour. Undistinguished flush doors can be painted or papered in with the walls — or painted, for example, pastel colours in an otherwise all-white room. Door-cases can be painted in a colour that contrasts with that of the door itself, or left white to frame pine or mahogany panels. In an old house, it is always worth scraping away at a painted door to see what type of wood lies underneath. You may find a series of beautiful old pine doors in a particularly felicitous mellow tone lurking under a shabby coat of white paint.
Good, although often quite shockingly expensive, might well give pleasure long after the shock of the price has worn off. Such can make an enormous difference to the feeling of quality in a home. It is well worth making a careful choice. Alternatively, you might consider sending off old hardware to be cleaned. On modern flush doors, coloured or matt chrome hardware can add a cheering note.
A window is a lot more than a source of light and air, a base for good window treatments, and a view. Quite apart from how you treat the window — your decision to leave it alone to stand on its own merits, or to put up curtains, shades or shutters — do not forget the decorative potential of the window itself. There is no reason why a pedestrian frame should not be imaginatively treated, as long as it fits in with the general design of the room; after all, window frames are part of the background. Extra trims of wood can be added to make frames seem more substantial. Frames and surrounds can be stained to match the floor, or they can be painted in a contrasting colour and left to stand on their own. A window with an especially pleasing view can be treated like a painting in a frame. Short windows can be made to appear long and graceful by giving them a floor-to-ceiling frame, perhaps with a window seat stretched across, and softening the sides with long, caught-back curtains, or drapes.
Windows, too, can make excellent frames for glass or perspex (plexiglass) shelves which can be used to display glassware or plants. Windowsills are also useful for displaying all kinds of objects, such as china and flower arrangements.
Do not forget that windows are just as visible from the outside as from the inside. Do not decide to alter their structure in any way until you have made sure that the outside view of the building will not be adversely affected and that your new window will not clash with the old ones. In addition, you must remember to obtain permission from any local authorities.
Another important point to be considered is how problematical the windows are. How do they open — inward or outward? How are they set in the wall? Are the windows all the same size and regularly spaced, or of different sizes, asymmetrically spaced? All these points should be thought about before you plan any kind of window treatment. How should pivot, French, arched, corner, clerestory and dormer windows be treated, quite apart from those awkward varieties with odd-shaped or sloping tops?
But, just as elegant doors can give an entirely different look to a room, so can more appropriate windows. And remember that well fitting, well insulated windows make a lot of difference to your general comfort.